What Is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol oil (CBD) is an oil made from cannabidiol, one of the active chemical compounds found within cannabis, which reacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and effects the release of neurotransmitters. CBD doesn’t have the intoxicating effect on the brain that tetrahydrocannabinol does (THC) but it may have the effect of treating epilepsy and inhibiting anxiety and disordered thinking.

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Though CBD is a non-psychoactive substance, it is claimed that the compound has a therapeutic effect for a variety of health problems. CBD is probably most commonly consumed in the form of an oil, though it can also be consumed in a vape pen or even through food injected with CBD like gummy candies.

Possible Benefits Of CBD

CBD oil or other forms of CBD may be able to provide stress relief or relief from certain mental health issues. CBD’s effects mimic the effects of other antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, according to Virginia Thornley, a neurologist from Sarasota, Florida. Research suggests that CBD can decrease anxiety in those who have mental disorders like social phobias, according to a study done in 2017 at Sao Paulo University in Brazil. The journal Schizophrenia Bulletin also suggested that CBD can have benefits for those in the early stages of psychosis.

Photo: Ryan Bushby(HighInBC) via Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.5

Research conducted by Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, implies that CBD could help treat people with addiction. Hurd and colleagues conducted studies on both animals and humans to see if they could reduce symptoms of addiction and results seemed positive. Hurd explains:

When we looked at CBD … it decreased heroin-seeking behaviors… There’s no miracle drug. But this could be helpful for at least some aspects of craving.

CBD oil could help treat pain, especially for those who suffer from arthritis. A 2016 study examined the effect of CBD on rats with arthritis and found that it reduced pain and inflammation in the joints of the rats. More research will have to be done to see if the effect holds true in humans. It is also claimed that CBD oil can provide relief from epilepsy seizures, chronic pain, and cancer treatment. However, more research will be needed to confirm these claims.

CBD oil may also help treat those who suffer from sleeplessness, as CBD oil seems to have a mild sedative effect and create a feeling of sleepiness. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and sleep specialist explains that CBD’s ability to ease anxiety and stress can be beneficial for those who suffer from sleeplessness.

While CBD seems to have potential benefits, an issue with the drug is that since it isn’t currently approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration it isn’t regulated for correct dosage and purity like other medications are regulated. This is a problem because any time someone takes a medication, they must know the correct dosage for their safety.

Possible Drawbacks To CBD

There are also, like any drug, side effects to the usage of CBD. The drug may cause nausea or irritability and as well as excessive sleepiness and diarrhea. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently advises against the use of CBD oil in children because its effects on brain development aren’t fully understood. On the whole though, Hurd explains that CBD doesn’t have that many side effects and there seems to be a fairly positive benefit to side effect ratio.

Others have pushed back against the benefits of CBD, arguing that there’s still relatively little evidence for the benefits of CBD. Timothy Welty, the department chair of the Clinical Sciences division at Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, says that CBD’s ability to treat epilepsy is really the only therapeutic claim backed by a large amount of evidence. Large-scale studies done on children with epilepsy seems to corroborate the claims made about CBD in this respect.

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CBD is even sold in beverage form. Photo: Deceptitom via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0

The evidence is less clear for CBD’s therapeutic benefits when it comes to the treatment of anxiety, with Marcel Bonn-Miller, assistant professor of psychology at psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, saying that there’s a “decent gap” between the evidence amount of evidence for epilepsy treatment and the evidence available for anxiety treatment. Some clinical trials regarding anxiety have been conducted on adults, but the subject pool was substantially smaller than the number of subjects involved in the epilepsy studies.

Bonn-Miller says that the other trials which found purported benefits in the treatment of schizophrenia, depression and sleeplessness have mainly only been done on animals with only a few studies looking at the effect in humans. What’s more, the human studies are often case reports or studies which didn’t feature a control group, making it difficult to ascertain if the drug had a genuine effect or if the effect observed was simply the placebo effect.

Industry Regulation

Bonn-Miller also raises concerns about the lack of regulation of the industry, saying the the current state of the CBD industry is the “Wild West” and that because there is so little regulation of the product it is difficult to be sure you’re getting the right dosage. Bonn-Miller conducted a study on a sample of CBD products and found that 7 out of 10 of the products contained either dosages of CBD that were significantly under or over the suggested clinical dose. Approximately 1 in 5 of the CBD products Bonn-Miller and colleagues tested were also found to contain THC, which can actually make seizures worse because it can increase anxiety in some people.

The legal status of CBD is complicated. CBD may still be defined as an illegal substance in some regions of the country, and the US federal government still considers cannabis a Schedule 1 drug which means that there are no “currently accepted medical uses” for the drug and that it has a “high potential for abuse”, according to the DEA.

Despite these complications, the CBD industry seems to be growing. Currently, it’s estimated that the manufacture and trade of CBD oil and other CBD products constitutes a 1 billion dollar industry. Companies involved with the CBD industry are eagerly awaiting a decision at the end of June regarding a new CBD-based drug called Epidiolex, formulated to help treat epilepsy. While the Food and Drug Administration won’t make their decision for another week or so, experts think the drug is likely to be approved which would set the stage for better regulation of the industry and a shift in the classification of marijuana-derived CBD to either a Schedule 2 or 3 drug. If this happens, the industry could grow even faster than it currently is, with CBD products no longer existing in a legal limbo.

Daniel Nelson

Freelance writer, blogger and programmer. I obtained my BS in Communications and I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction. I hope to work on projects which bridge the sciences and humanities. My background in education and training is diverse including education in computer science, communication theory, psychology, and philosophy. I aim to create content that educates, persuades, entertains and inspires.

Cite this article as:
Daniel Nelson. What Is CBD Oil?, Science Trends, 2018.
DOI: 10.31988/SciTrends.17271
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

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