CBD appears to be gaining more popularity nationwide. CBD stores can now be found all across cities in free standing stores, airports, and malls. But what is it? What does it do? And is it safe? If you’re like me, you might be left asking yourself these important questions when encountering these products. In this article, I intend to provide you with research and data that has been collected regarding the effects that CBD can have on an individual or perhaps the lack thereof. It is not my intention to sway you to one side or another, but rather to inform you on what is known about this unregulated FDA product in order for you to decide whether or not it is a suitable option for you to improve your overall wellness.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient derived from the hemp plant that is found in cannabis (marijuana). It is the second most prevalent ingredient that makes up marijuana, but alone, it is not strong enough to cause a “high” like marijuana would (Harvard Medical School, 2020). CBD can be derived directly from the hemp plant or synthetically developed. It can be found in various products like oils, sprays, creams, pills, e-liquid or balms (Gamelin et al., 2020).
What Does It Do?
It has been determined that the CBD compound can activate various receptors in the body, including serotonin receptors (an important hormone that affects one’s mood and happiness) and receptors that detect and regulate body temperature, metabolism, and other cellular functions like anti-inflammatory responses and the alleviation of chronic pain (Gamelin et al., 2020).
Because of these effects, it has been thought that athletes and other individuals could benefit from using CBD to assuage pain, inflammation, and swelling. However, due to a lack of research in this area, the final verdict is still out. Gamelin et al. advise individuals to be cautious of using CBD due to the lack of research on athletes specifically, and because the FDA has only approved specific botanical CBD for the use of certain rare, untreatable types of pediatric epilepsy. They also advise individuals to be mindful of dosages because things like anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective responses can be affected by the level of CBD administered.
Other studies, focusing on osteoarthritis, reveal that CBD was able to reduce some inflammation and reduce the spontaneous pain that is often caused by the degeneration and inflammation of the joints (Gamelin et al., 2020). Additionally, researchers have also found that CBD can assuage one’s anxiety and fear. This is because CBD has been studied to affect the 5-HT1A receptor in parts of the limbic system (the area of the brain that is involved with anxiety) (Gamelin et al., 2020). Interestingly, a 2019 study focusing on mild traumatic brain injury in mice revealed that repeated exposure to CBD helped to alleviate the negative side effects from brain injuries including pain, aggressiveness, and depressive-like behavior (Belardo et al., 2019).
Is It Safe?
While CBD has been proven to have positive effects on individuals regarding stress and anxiety management, insomnia, and chronic pain, it is important to still err on the side of caution given that CBD is not federally regulated. Due to the lack of regulation, CBD is sold as a supplement and not as a medication, and the exact ingredients and their exact doses may not always be properly identified. Therefore, proper dosing is not entirely known and its interactions with other medications might also not be entirely understood either. Researchers note that common reported side effects from previous studies include tiredness, diarrhea, and change in appetite and weight (Gamelin et al., 2020). Additionally, CBD could perhaps interfere with other physiological processes or systems like metabolism and the cardiovascular or musculoskeletal systems (Gamelin et al., 2020). Therefore, before using these products, it is important to consult with your physician.
In a 2020 meta-analysis study, Chesney et al., analyzed the data from twelve different studies, comprising 803 total participants, to investigate the effects that CBD had on individuals who were using it as a remedy to help treat several different medical disorders. Specifically, these researchers were looking at the adverse effects CBD has been observed to have. From these studies, the researchers did not seem to find significant adverse effects in individuals using CBD. Specifically in regards to childhood epilepsy studies, where CBD is used as an added remedy, researchers found some adverse effects including abnormal liver function, abnormal drowsiness, and pneumonia. However, these effects are thought to be a result from the CBD interacting with the other epilepsy medications (Chesney et al., 2020). Much like Gamelin et al., these researchers also advise their readers to take caution when using CBD with other medications. Furthermore, from this meta analysis study, the only significant side effect noted associated with the CBD use is diarrhea. Chesney et al. also feel like additional research and studies are needed to solidify that the conclusions made from these previous studies are accurate and beneficial to all individuals.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that CBD’s prevalence in today’s culture is still relatively new, therefore there is not a lot of research out to determine the actual effects it might have on our bodies and overall health. Preliminary clinical data does suggest that CBD might have some positive effects on things like anxiety, stress, and pain, but more research focusing on the long-term effects of CBD should be conducted to solidify these findings. Before trying these products, it is important to consult with a physician first to ensure the CBD won’t interfere with other medications.
As the CBD market continues to gain more and more attention, it is projected to reach $25 billion by 2025, a $21 billion jump from 2019’s reported value of $4 billion (Single Care, 2021). While it may prove, in time, to be a nice tool to have in the toolbox, it is vital that we not aim to replace the established benefits of consistent exercise with a magic pill (or cream). Spending billions of dollars on something that still struggles to demonstrate a fraction of the positive effects that even marginal amounts of physical activity can elicit seems to be misguided. Not only has regular exercise been proven to help with things like anxiety, stress management, chronic pain, and sleep (all purported benefits of taking CBD), it also brings to the table a myriad of additional benefits that no amount of CBD has been scientifically shown to provide. Perhaps individuals should look to exercise first to help cope with these difficulties before turning to CBD. Only time will tell what the true long-lasting effects of CBD are, but for now, we can’t lose sight of exercise and the known plethora of positive effects it can have on the health of individuals.
Yours in Wellness,