CBD seems to be everywhere. Once upon a time it was the preserve of the informed few, but these days everyone from infants to grandmothers are taking the cannabis compound. And yet, the companies selling CBD cannot make any claims about its health benefits. So what’s driving CBD’s mass appeal?
It could be part of the global movement towards natural health solutions. Or the plethora of media stories in which patients claim CBD to be the cause of their recovery from illnesses as diverse as cancer, epilepsy, and autoimmune disease.
As headline grabbing as these are, anecdotal accounts will never stand up to rigorous, peer reviewed scientific studies, so another factor contributing towards CBD’s popularity has been the recent publication of several clinical trials. That’s not to say all of them have progressed beyond stage 1 or small pilot studies, but their results have been encouraging enough to add additional weight to what could be considered less than watertight claims.
So in honour of the many strides taken into researching CBD, here are the 6 most promising areas of clinical research.
The use of cannabis to quell seizures dates back to as long ago as the 11th Century. But it wasn’t until cannabis pioneer Raphael Mechoulam headed up a team researching epilepsy in 1980 that CBD came into the frame.
These days, it is the pure CBD extract Epidiolex that will almost certainly be the first cannabis based drug to be approved by the FDA in the United States for the treatment of rare epilepsy syndromes Dravet and Lennox Gastaut. Epidiolex has already reached the third stage in its clinical trials and was found to be sufficiently successful in reducing seizures with limited side effects.
It’s fitting then, that CBD for epilepsy will almost certainly be the illness that breaks CBD into the mainstream. Especially when one considers the high profile stories of Charlotte Figi and Ava Barry who have famously found the non-psychoactive compound helpful for their own epileptic conditions.
A selection of our products
Another area where CBD has come under the spotlight in a clinical setting is for studying its effect in reducing anxiety. Historically, cannabis has been prescribed as a nerve tonic, and many recreational users enjoy its welcomed benefit of ‘taking the edge off’. CBD while producing no psychoactive effect, has been found to reduce feelings of anxiety. Scientists have realised that this effect comes from CBD’s interaction with the 5TH1a serotonin receptor and its ability to stimulate neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the area responsible for memory, emotion and the autonomic nervous system.
Small clinical studies have taken place on subjects with social anxiety, who when exposed to a simulated public speaking test, found “CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech’. A clinical trial is currently recruiting to test a sublingual CBD tincture for the treatment of anxiety, as well as another trial comparing high CBD and high THC strains for army veterans suffering from PTSD.
3. Autism Spectrum Disorder
The safe and non-toxic nature of CBD is increasingly making it an interesting target for difficult to treat conditions in children. Autism Spectrum Disorder, characterised by difficulties in communication, an apparent inability to form human relationships and abnormal sensory issues, is often treated with antipsychotic medication in severe cases. Some children with autism also have epilepsy, which is why many of their parents turn to CBD oil. A resulting positive side effect experienced by some has been an improvement in their children’s social interactions, communication, and ability to connect with others.
Israeli pediatric neurologist Adi Aran is currently leading a clinical study comparing CBD, medical cannabis containing THC, and a placebo. Time will tell how CBD fares compares with its psychoactive cousin, and whether the cannabis compound becomes recognised as a proven treatment for autism.
4. Psychosis and Schizophrenia
Weed madness is the negative propaganda that has dogged the cannabis plant since its prohibition in the 1930s. Indeed studies today show that high THC strains taken by young developing minds can make them more likely to develop psychosis. It seems counterintuitive then to suggest that a cannabis compound might actually improve psychotic episodes in cases of schizophrenia. But, CBD does just that.
In a double blind, randomised clinical trial on 42 subjects with acute schizophrenia, CBD was compared with Amisulpride, a potent antipsychotic. CBD was found to be as effective as the conventional antipsychotic medication, but with the bonus of having less side effects. Scientists found that on administering CBD, the subjects had more of the body’s endocannabinoid anandamide in their spinal fluid, which they concluded accounted for their improved symptoms.
Yes you heard it right. A cannabis compound is being tested in clinical trials as a way of treating addiction. That’s because CBD has been found to reduce the cravings associated with quitting an addiction, be it nicotine, cocaine, heroin or even cannabis itself. The anti-anxiety effect of CBD is also considered of clinical interest, as well as its neuroprotective and antioxidative nature, which could repair the damage caused to the brain through years of addiction.
CBD along with its psychoactive stablemate, THC, is classed as neuroprotectant and antioxidant. These qualities are of particular interest in the light of the dramatic increase in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, MS, and Parkinson’s. While a drug already exists on the market combining THC and CBD for MS, so far it’s Parkinson’s that shows the most promise for CBD.
A study on 21 Parkinson’s patients were given either a placebo, 75mg of CBD or 300mg of CBD a day over 6 weeks, with the higher dose improving quality of life. A further clinical trial is currently recruiting to test CBD on the tremors associated with the disease.
More work to be done
For many of these clinical trials, it’s early days, and follow up research on much larger study groups needs to take place before any conclusive results can be claimed.
Encouragingly, right now research into other illnesses is also making its way from a preclinical setting on animal models to human subjects. At the time of writing, there are clinical trials in their initial stages testing CBD as treatments for cancer, pain, IBS, and Crohn’s Disease amongst others.
So it’s exciting times for research into CBD. We’d love to know what illnesses you would like to see investigated in clinical trials for CBD? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.