So when people began touting the benefits of CBD for pain, it was a big deal. A non-addictive substance that can ease pain without making you feel high or groggy? It’s easy to see why CBD has been making so many waves. In fact, cannabis plants have a long history as a pain reliever. Whether or not it’s true that Queen Victoria took CBD-rich cannabis to help with menstrual cramps, it is certainly true that her royal physician, Sir J. Russell Reynolds, listed cannabis as “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Victorian doctors aside, there are also ancient Assyrian and Ayurvedic manuscripts that recommend cannabis for pain.
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a phyto-cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. However, it does not cause the same psychoactive effects as other naturally occurring cannabinoids (such as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC). CBD induces feelings of sleepiness and tranquility, making it suitable for insomnia and other sleep disorders; CBD can be used to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, diabetes, and anxiety disorders, as well. Legality is an issue for some; all 50 states have laws governing the sale, possession, and use of CBD, and they vary significantly (see the table below for a full analysis).
Many people are tempted to believe that products that contain CBD only are the best, thinking that using just CBD alone is a more effective treatment. While products that contain single-molecule CBD, meaning that you won’t find any other compounds, are already provided as medicines, they are not exactly more efficient than whole plant extract CBD oil, when it comes to therapeutic effects.
That leaves those touting CBD’s effectiveness pointing primarily to research in mice and petri dishes. There, CBD (sometimes combined with small amounts of THC) has shown promise for helping pain, neurological conditions like anxiety and PTSD, and the immune system—and therefore potentially arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and more.
Most human studies of CBD have been done on people who have seizures, and the FDA recently approved the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, for rare forms of epilepsy. Clinical trials for other conditions are promising, but tiny. In one Brazilian study published in 2011 of people with generalized social anxiety disorder, for example, taking a 600-mg dose of CBD (higher than a typical dose from a tincture) lessened discomfort more than a placebo, but only a dozen people were given the pill.
CBD is a chemical found in marijuana. CBD doesn't contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that produces a high. The usual CBD formulation is oil, but CBD is also sold as an extract, a vaporized liquid and an oil-based capsule. Food, drinks and beauty products are among the many CBD-infused products available online.
Although CBD oils aren’t regulated by the FDA, purchasing products stateside from one of the nine states where recreational and medical cannabis use is legal will likely result in a higher-quality product than buying one made with hemp-derived CBD oil imported from abroad, says Martin Lee, director of Project CBD, a nonprofit that promotes medical research into CBD.