For anyone deciding to take CBD for the first time, knowing whether it will improve your health is an almost impossible question to answer. The internet is filled with inaccurate articles making all sorts of claims and giving false hope, while scientists are still trying to work out how CBD even works on the body.
In this article, we’re going to give you some guidelines on researching CBD, which will make it easier to decipher all the information out there. Then you can go off, do your own investigation, and come to an informed decision.
CBD - a Molecule Like No Other
CBD, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, is one of over 100 compounds found in cannabis, called cannabinoids. Scientists originally thought CBD elicited little effect on the body because unlike THC, it’s not psychoactive.
However, over the last twenty years or so, it has become apparent that CBD is not as inactive as originally thought. We now know from preclinical research that CBD reduces inflammation, can lessen feelings of anxiety, lowers seizures in epilepsy, and may even be antitumoral.
But how can one molecule bring about such a variety of effects? So far, scientists have observed that CBD activates different receptors in the body such as the 5-HT1A Serotonin, TRPV1 Vanilloid and PPARs Nuclear Receptors. They also know that CBD has an indirect action on the body’s own endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down one of the main endocannabinoids, Anandamide. They suspect this means CBD may in fact strengthen the endocannabinoid system, but this still remains a theory.
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Will CBD Help My Health Condition?
This is all well and good if you have a degree in molecular biology, but most people just want to know whether CBD will help improve their health. Unfortunately, this is often where one meets a brick wall of information.
CBD companies are not allowed to make any medical claims about their CBD products as they are sold as nutritional supplements, not medicine. This means if you go to a website of a reputable company, you will only find general information and nothing that talks about CBD and specific illnesses.
We understand this is frustrating if you want to find answers to your own health questions, but it reflects CBD companies acting responsibly and refraining from making false marketing claims.
It is at this point then that CBD companies will usually instruct a potential customer to do their own research. And this is actually where the fun starts.
CBD Research - Where to Start
1. Get to know your own health condition
Before you start researching CBD, it is imperative that you understand your own illness, thinking about possible reasons why this condition has started in the first place. Take anxiety for example. I started with anxiety when I had a stressful job working in television. I constantly compared myself to other people, worked long hours, and never trusted in my own abilities. This provided the perfect circumstances for anxiety to start.
Now I know that simply taking some kind of medication is never going to ‘cure’ my anxiety, because there are a whole bunch of emotional and behavioural factors that also need to be addressed. I also know that introducing lifestyle changes, such as doing mind/body exercises like yoga, will calm down my nervous system. So in my case, if I took a nutritional supplement for my anxiety like CBD, I would also combine it with other key lifestyle changes.
So think about your health condition. Does it have chronic inflammation at its root? Is there a direct link to your lifestyle habits, such as smoking, diet and alcohol? It’s now commonly acknowledged that emotional trauma can have repercussions on our physical health, so is there an emotional issue that might need to be addressed. All these factors should be looked at before considering taking CBD.
2. Understand the difference between preclinical and clinical studies
I can’t tell you how many times I end up with steam coming out of my ears when I see yet another article making false claims about CBD or cannabis.
Take cancer for instance. Just the other day I came across an article listing a whole bunch of ways that cannabis cures cancer. Only they were almost all based on preclinical evidence, i.e. research carried out in the lab on animal models, usually rodents or cell cultures. So while it’s certainly promising when a cannabinoid like CBD reduces the size of a tumour in a petri dish or on a mouse, this does not mean it does the same in a human.
Top cannabinoid and cancer researcher Manuel Guzman explains the difference in a past interview with Endoca:
“One has to consider when one cures cancer in a mouse, it’s not really cancer, it’s a model of cancer which has only part of the characteristics of human cancer. So the gap between curing the cancer in a mouse and curing the cancer in a human is enormously huge.”
He goes on,
“But even in a sophisticated cancer model in mice – in the end mice are mice. It’s not just a 25 gram human. Mice have a much simpler biology than ours and mice are much stronger than we are. They have a strong capacity for tissue regeneration, they have a very strong immune system, much more than ours.
“In mice there are hundreds of molecules that can cure cancer, but there are very few molecules that can do that in humans.”
When a drug is tested on humans this is known as a clinical trial and for it to be given approval, the drug must pass through 3 key stages. The first phase tests the drug’s safety and dosing range on a small group of healthy volunteers. Stage 2 tests for side effects and efficacy on patients with the condition the drug is designed for. Then if this phase is passed, the drug continues to a much larger patient group for the final stage 3 trial. This third phase is normally a randomised, double-blind placebo study, so neither the patients nor the doctors know whether they are receiving the drug or the placebo. If this third stage is passed showing the drug to be safe and significantly more effective than the placebo, it will almost certainly be approved and go to market.
3. Be aware of the restrictions placed on medical cannabis research
The entire process of developing a drug from preclinical to approval can cost as much as $1 billion. Understandably then, it’s only the big pharmaceutical companies that have the funds to invest and only if they are guaranteed big bucks in profit.
Unfortunately, when it comes to cannabis, the odds are stacked against research ever reaching the clinical trial stage. Firstly, the Schedule 1 classification means that as no therapeutic benefit is acknowledged, it is a bureaucratic nightmare to get the funding and the permission required to study the plant. In the US for example, much past research has been into the harmful effects of cannabis and not its benefits and even today, the plant material supplied to scientists is substandard, making research extremely difficult.
Dr Guzmán knows these challenges first hand:
“It’s really complicated nowadays to do clinical trials with cannabinoids, but little by little we are entering a more flexible period. It’s also true that they are natural compounds and so many companies are not interested in them as they cannot patent compounds that belong to humankind, and that also detracts the attention of investors to do clinical research.”
But the fact remains: until CBD has gone through the three phases of clinical trials for a particular condition, it cannot be conclusively claimed an effective treatment for any illness.
4. Consult reliable sources
Hopefully by now, you know your phase 1 pilot study from your elbow, so it’s time to start the hardcore CBD research. A good place to begin is the Project CBD website - an independent non-profit organisation that educates about the potential uses and properties of CBD and other cannabinoids. When I’m researching an article about a particular illness, I always hit their comprehensive conditions guide, which breaks down current research by health condition. Here it’s up to you to remember the difference between clinical and preclinical trials, and not get carried away by a seemingly favourable result in a petri dish. Also, unless you’re a research scientist with a PhD, just stick to reading the abstract which usually explains the background to the study, the methods used and, most importantly, the results.
It is quite likely that if favourable results have been shown in preclinical trials, there may be a clinical trial happening somewhere in the world. Clinicaltrials.gov list all the clinical trials that have taken place, are happening at the moment or are in the initial stage of recruiting.
5. Be cautious about CBD miracle stories
We are all unique beings and for each of us, illness starts due its own unique set of circumstances. Therefore, just because in one corner of the world someone has reported a miracle cure with CBD, this doesn’t mean the same thing will happen to you. Of course, for anyone with a debilitating or life threatening illness, seeing a success story where someone is now free from their disease gives tremendous hope. And who are we to take away these seeds of optimism for the future.
But just keep your feet on the ground and see if there other similar anecdotal cases or scientific research to back up these CBD successes. Peer review sites such as TrustPilot, where CBD users leave comments about their own experiences, are also good places to try.
6. Find a trustworthy CBD company
They say information is power, so if after taking all these steps you feel confident CBD is for you, then the final piece of the puzzle is finding a reliable CBD company selling quality whole plant CBD oil products. Look for CBD made from from organically grown hemp and extracted using state of the art the Supercritical CO2 method. This should mean that it is free from any noxious substances, mold or heavy metal. But always choose a CBD company that can back up its claims with third party lab reports.
Endoca fulfils these criteria and more, with its Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification guaranteeing quality CBD products every time.
But don’t just take our word for it: check out our Trustpilot page or consult the Endoca blog, which is packed full of informative articles about CBD, the endocannabinoid system and general well-being topics.