CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabis compound that has powerful health benefits without any psychoactive effects. People have used cannabis medicinally for thousands of years, but research in the last few decades has started to reveal exactly why CBD is so effective.
The past year has brought about some particularly groundbreaking discoveries and breakthroughs for medicinal CBD. A World Health Organization report from November 2017 stated that CBD is safe and causes no negative public health effects. In June 2018, the FDA approved the first marijuana-derived CBD drug, Epidiolex, which is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy.
Medical cannabis is still often stigmatized, but every new study on CBD brings the general public closer to accepting the compound as a safe and effective treatment. Here are five of the biggest research breakthroughs on CBD in 2018:
1. CBD May Counteract Psychosis
Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality. It’s a symptom of several mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophreniform disorder. During psychosis, people often experience delusions, or false beliefs, as well as hallucinations, or sensory experiences that aren’t real. Psychosis can be extremely difficult to deal with and can lead to depression, anxiety, and social isolation.
THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, can cause psychosis in rare cases. Researchers have known for years that ingesting CBD along with THC can prevent these psychotic symptoms. However, a new study has found that CBD can counteract other cases of psychosis, too, not just those caused by THC.
The study examined 33 individuals at a high risk of psychosis who received a single oral dose of CBD. The results were compared to a control group of 19 healthy individuals who received no drugs. All of the participants completed a memory task that engaged three brain areas that are linked to psychosis: the striatum, the medial temporal cortex, and the midbrain.
Brain scans done during the memory task showed abnormal activity in those who were experiencing psychotic symptoms, but those who took a dose of CBD showed fewer abnormalities than those who took a placebo. The researchers believe that CBD might “reset” the abnormal activity that results in psychosis.
This was a small study, and CBD may only provide short-term effects on psychosis. The results are promising, though, and research in the coming years will hopefully provide more information about what CBD can do for psychotic symptoms.
2. CBD May Reduce Inflammation Related to Multiple Sclerosis
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, but long-term inflammation can cause damage and pain. CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and new research suggests that it can be especially beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system. It causes damage to the myelin, which is the protective coating around the brain and spinal cord. This damage can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, numbness, and a variety of other symptoms.
Researchers have known for a long time that CBD can be helpful for reducing inflammation caused by multiple sclerosis, but until recently, they haven’t known why. A recent study from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine found that CBD decreased the creation of inflammatory molecules in mice with an experimental model of MS.
The researchers also found that CBD increased the production of myeloid-derived suppressor cells, which significantly decrease inflammation. They administered daily doses of CBD for 25 days and discovered that the myeloid-derived suppressor cells were in particularly high quantity around day 10. This study shows that CBD has a powerful, measurable effect on inflammation, which can be helpful for multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory diseases.
3. CBD May Help Treat Pancreatic Cancer
CBD is a popular treatment for managing the side effects of cancer and chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting. Some studies also suggest that CBD can prevent tumors from growing by causing cell death and inhibiting cell growth without affecting healthy cells.
One of the most important CBD research breakthroughs of 2018 was related to pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer has remained at about 5 percent for the last 40 years, and few discoveries have been made about effective treatments. However, a study published in the journal Nature recommends CBD as a treatment.
In the study, researchers tested the effects of CBD combined with GEM, a common pancreatic cancer treatment, on mice with a genetically engineered model of pancreatic cancer. These mice survived about three times as long as mice treated only with GEM.
The study hasn’t been replicated on humans, so researchers aren’t sure whether the effects of CBD would be as prominent in real clinical situations as they were in the study. This is a major discovery for pancreatic cancer treatment, though, and the results of this study are promising.
4. CBD Helps Reduce Epileptic Seizures
Epilepsy treatment is one of the most well-documented uses of CBD. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes abnormal brain activity, which leads to unpredictable seizures. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds, and it can take a serious toll on an individual’s quality of life. Most people with epilepsy take anticonvulsant medications, but they can have uncomfortable side effects.
Another treatment option is medical cannabis, which has similar anticonvulsant properties with fewer side effects. CBD has the strongest anticonvulsant properties of all the cannabinoids. Researchers aren’t yet sure exactly why cannabis is an anticonvulsant, but some believe that CBD targets the neurotransmitters involved in seizures.
On June 25, 2018, the FDA made a major breakthrough by approving Epidiolex, a marijuana-derived CBD medication that can treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two of the most severe forms of epilepsy. Shortly after, a groundbreaking study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham was published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior.
The study involved 132 participants of all ages with epilepsy who did not respond to traditional medications and therapies. The participants took two oral doses of Epidiolex per day, and the researchers analyzed data at the baseline and after 12, 24, and 48 weeks of the CBD treatment. After just 12 weeks, the average number of seizures decreased from 144 every two weeks to 52 every two weeks. The participants also experienced a decrease in overall side effects, which suggests that CBD can be a powerful treatment with few or no adverse effects.
5. CBD May Help Treat Depression
Medications can be very effective for treating depression, but they usually take a few weeks to make a difference. It also usually takes a few tries for an individual to find a medication that works well for them. New research supports the use of CBD to alleviate the symptoms of depression much more quickly than traditional medications.
A study from São Paulo State in Brazil discovered that one dose of CBD in rats with depressive symptoms was highly effective. The researchers administered different doses of CBD to the rats and performed a swim test. All antidepressant drugs lengthen the rats’ swimming time, and CBD had a similar result. The effects of the CBD doses were fast-acting and lasted for up to seven days.
The researchers are now investigating whether CBD will have a similar effect on humans, especially for people who don’t respond to traditional medications and therapy. They’ve discovered that CBD can enhance the effects of SSRIs, which are some of the most common antidepressants. This means that individuals with depression could take lower doses of SSRIs when combined with CBD, which can reduce side effects while maintaining the same benefits.
CBD research is on the rise, and there have been many exciting discoveries in recent years. Some studies and trials are still in progress, too, so even more information will be revealed in the near future. As experts continue to learn about the many health benefits of CBD, its medical use will become more widely accepted, and people with a variety of conditions and disorders will be able to benefit from it. If you think you might benefit from CBD, be sure to check out our list of the best reviewed CBD oils.