The new “cure all” chemical has made its way into our fast food burgers, body lotions, tinctures, vape juices, edible treats, and even tampons. The recent enthusiasm for CBD has lead to a multibillion-dollar industry and a plethora of products. But does this controversial cannabis component live up to its claims related to chronic disease management?
What is CBD?
CBD is the abbreviated version of cannabidiol, a chemical that comes from the cannabis plant — also known as marijuana, hemp, hashish, and ganka. and used for a variety of purposes, depending on the part of the plant that is used and what is extracted.
Cannabis is derived from the hemp plant, used for centuries, for healing and recreational purposes. Currently, cannabis is being studied for its medical properties, such as chronic pain control.
Medical marijuana has shown to be used for:
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound that is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. Its presence in marijuana plants is the unique characteristic that distinguishes them from hemp. Standard marijuana contains about 25-30% THC.
CBD is the non-psychoactive portion of the plant, so it is not associated with euphoria effects. It is a cannabinoid found in the seeds, flowers, and stems of the cannabis plant. It’s natural and can be extracted in oil form.
CBD has shown to provide many of the same benefits of THC but without any of the mind-altering effects associated with THC:
- Decreased short-term memory
- Change in sense of time
- Increased anxiety
Cannabis contains cannabinoids, molecules which are similar to what you have in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in your body. The ECS system is a complex system that plays important roles in central nervous system.
Scientists aren’t completely clear on how CBD or THC affect the body, but they do know that the ECS appears to keep various functions of the body in balance including: regulating sleep, mood, memory, pain response, appetite, and inflammation.
Both types of cannabinoids also stimulate the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which might explain why they may be useful for managing mood problems like anxiety and stress, as well as gut function.
The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate pain and gastrointestinal motility. It’s receptors are located throughout the brain and body, including the gastrointestinal tract. Some research has suggested that an imbalance in this system may be related to irritable bowel syndrome.
CBD for IBD: What the Studies Say
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to the conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) differs from IBD in the way that IBS does not cause inflammation, ulcers, or damage to the gastrointestinal system.
Epidemiologic data and human studies have shown that cannabis can help with symptoms of IBD. However, it’s uncertain whether there are anti-inflammatory effects or if its due to the effects to “cover” difficult symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, and stress and anxiety.
Unfortunately, very few studies, reviewing the effectiveness of CBD for IBD treatment, have been conducted. Most studies have tested cannabis which contains THC in addition to CBD.
- There’s no definitive evidence that shows that currently CBD products can control inflammation. However, the use of cannabis has been associated with improvements in nausea, abdominal pain, and appetite.
- About 10% – 12% of IBD patients (US, UK, Israel, Canada, Spain) are active cannabis users with the intention to decrease abdominal pain, appetite, and decrease diarrhea.
- Several studies have shown improvement in symptoms associated with IBD, leading to an improvement in quality of life.
CBD Side Effects
Side effects of CBD are rare but possible. If you take too much, you may experience dry mouth, low blood pressure, dizziness, depression, nausea, and tiredness. The long-term safety of chronic cannabis use has not been well defined.
The supplement and CBD industry is not well regulated. This means that anyone can make a CBD supplement without formal regulation or testing. Many companies violate federal law by spiking their products with unnatural or even dangerous ingredients.
If you’re interested in trying CBD, do your research when looking for a product and always consult your physician before trying any new supplement or drug.
Studies do confirm CBD may be a good option for managing stress, pain, insomnia, and nausea. There have been a few small studies that have shown an improvement, however, the medical use has been limited by lack of quality research and concerns about cannabis’s potential cognitive and respiratory effects.
CBD, and nothing for that matter, is a cure all — it’s important to balance supplements with a healthy lifestyle, that supports your medical condition and personal needs. Since CBD is an unregulated supplement, it’s essential to research the quality of the product, your state or country’s laws, and to check with your doctor before giving it a try.
This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietitian and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.