The controversy surrounding medical cannabis continues even in 2021, and it doesn’t show signs of fizzling out anytime soon. Its decriminalization remains the subject of many heated debates since its therapeutic potential is still being studied. Currently, cannabis is still illegal on the federal level. On the state level, however, it has been legalized in 33 states and in Washington, D.C.
The dispute boils down to two of its active chemical components, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Their healing properties are attributed to their interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates internal balance. However, THC is a psychoactive compound. When it gets broken down by heat and absorbed by the body, it can give a psychological effect, which recreational users refer to as a ‘high.’
CBD, on the other hand, isn’t psychoactive. This makes it a popular choice among people seeking alternative or organic treatment for ailments. But what most people don’t know is that its history goes a long way. According to Leaf Nation, the earliest known medicinal usage of CBD was recorded in China in 2734 BC. It was infused in tea served to the emperor to treat the symptoms of his arthritis.
Many centuries and scientific studies later, CBD is now being extracted and made into oil, which is then infused into different products. In recent years, CBD oil is steadily gaining credibility in the treatment of physical and mental problems. That being said, below are some of its known medical benefits:
Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, which means that they may help maintain and regulate brain health. Such an effect results from the cannabinoids’ actions on the brain, such as the removal of damaged cells and the improvement of the mitochondria’s efficiency.
The endocannabinoid system, which the cannabis components interact with, mainly deals with the central nervous system, including the brain. This is why scientists also believe that CBD may ease the symptoms of neurological diseases.
In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a medicine, Epidiolex, made from purified CBD oil to treat rare and severe types of epilepsy back in 2018. It’s the first and only cannabis-derived medicine to be authorized by the US federal government for prescription use.
Apart from epilepsy, patients of other neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, also showed lower risks of seizures, tremors, and muscle spasms.
Cannabis may also help reduce glutamate toxicity, thanks to the antioxidant compounds inside it, including CBD. Extra glutamate stimulates nerve cells found in the brain. When there’s overstimulation, glutamate causes cells to fire, which could ultimately lead to cell death, or, at least, cell damage.
However, while there are existing anecdotal pieces of evidence regarding the protection that cannabinoids provide to brain cells and their ability to keep the brain functioning correctly, it’s important to note that formal research about CBD in this field is still new and limited.
CBD may help reduce oxidative stress by working as an antioxidant. Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s antioxidants find it hard to neutralize free radicals. Take note that it’s a comparatively recent health problem due to the environment’s rising toxicity.
Free radicals are partly the cause of neurodegenerative diseases, like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Separate studies showed CBD’s antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities help ease neurological damage that results from too many free radicals.
CBD interacts with receptors in the brain, including serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for modulating a person’s mood. It also directly affects social behavior and other psychological processes.
Studies published in 2011 and 2019 found that people with social anxiety disorder experienced less severe stress and anxiety after taking CBD. Because of this, scientists believe that CBD may also have the potential in treating panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
There’s also existing research on how CBD affects stress-related sleep disorders, such as insomnia. According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 1 out of 10 people who use CBD sleep better. The majority of this sample population reported that they got their desired results.
Altered bowel movements, spasms, gastrointestinal pain, and discomfort often characterize irritable bowel syndrome. The modified bowel movements could either be diarrhea or constipation.
IBS attacks correlate significantly with anxiety. Dietary indiscretions like eating specific foods or overeating trigger IBS episodes. The attacks may persist indefinitely if food poisoning, antibiotics, and other gastrointestinal insults are significant.
The ECS (endocannabinoid system) modulates gastrointestinal propulsion, secretion, and inflammation in humans. That makes considering CBD as an IBS treatment rational among those suffering from the illness.
Unfortunately, while many patient reviews indicate CBD’s benefits in treating IBS symptoms, there’s only little clinical work that can establish that it can help IBS patients. However, the gut endocannabinoid system’s modulation may help provide a potent and useful IBS therapeutic target.
As an effect of its ability to regulate anxiety and stress, CBD may also prevent high blood pressure. A controlled study demonstrated that a moderate dosage of CBD lowers blood pressure while at rest. When the subjects were subjected to mental stress tests, those who took dosages of CBD exhibited lower spikes in blood pressure than those who didn’t.
The same stress-reducing properties help manage inflammation and cell damage in the circulatory system, which could lead to heart diseases and stroke.
New bones replace old bone material every year during the bone metabolism process. Cannabinoids may help facilitate this vital process of maintaining healthy, strong bones over time.
Furthermore, CBD blocks an enzyme responsible for the destruction of some of the body’s bone-building compounds, so it may also help reduce the risk of developing age-related bone diseases, like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. These diseases prevent the body from creating new bone and cartilage cells.
Another medical benefit of CBD involves helping with skin conditions, especially acne. A study conducted in 2014 found that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may suppress the production of acne-inducing sebum in the skin’s sebaceous glands. With this in mind, CBD may also have the same effect on other inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis and eczema.
The cannabis plant itself is rich in antioxidants and antibacterial properties. Therefore, its oil may help soothe infections, itching, dryness, and may even slow down the process of skin again.
Apart from the five main items elaborated herein, CBD has still more potential health benefits, although a lot of factors still remain unexplored. Some of these benefits include:
Remember, most CBD-infused products don’t have FDA approval. Although it’s natural and may be considered safe, it could have harmful effects when taken in the wrong dosage or mixed with other supplements.
Some side effects may include fatigue, sudden weight loss or gain, diarrhea, liver damage, and sexual dysfunction. Teenagers may also exhibit mood swings, erratic behavior, and memory gaps from regular use.
It’s important to note that medical cannabis is only used to manage symptoms or prevent certain conditions. It’s not a certified treatment in itself. A lot more research still needs to be done from both the medical and legal perspectives. While researchers and lawmakers are sorting things out, it’s best to consult a medical professional before exploring the potentials of CBD.
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