If you’re on any sort of social media, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about the supposed health benefits of CBD and hemp products. All sorts of claims have been made about their properties, and millions have claimed they’ve experienced the benefits themselves. Dozens of studies have been done as well, further affirming the cause of pro-CBD folks.
Now, we’re pro-CBD too, so we’d love for everything they say to be true. Unfortunately, though, many proponents of CBD will sometimes resort to exaggerating their claims. Some do it for snappier headlines, and others do it out of a genuine desire to help people improve their health, using strong language to call people to action. Either way, however, it’s dishonest and misleading. Here, we’ll be taking a look at some of the main claims people make about CBD, examining the reality behind them in turn.
What is CBD? A Brief Overview
Now, before we get too carried away, we should go over what CBD, or cannabidiol, exactly is. Essentially, it’s one of the main two compounds present in cannabis, alongside tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is the one that gets you high, while CBD has no psychoactive effect. Both are referred to as cannabinoids, though, which are compounds that interact with endocannabinoid receptors in the body. There’s a lot of nuance to these interactions, but a discussion of these would take up a whole other article, so we’ll be moving on.
What Can CBD Do?
Now the question arises: If all these studies have been done, but there’s so much misinformation around, what canCBD do? Well, as said studies have found, there are many potential uses for CBD that can and have been explored. The keywords here, of course, are “potential” and “explored.”
Contrary to what many enthusiasts would have you believe, very little has been set in stone. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the myths surrounding CBD, and bring some truth into the discussion.
Claim: CBD is a Proven Pain Reliever
All across the internet, you can see article after article recommending CBD products specifically for pain relief. You’d think, then, that someone’s outright proven that CBD is a pain reliever. If you’ve been on the internet long enough, though, you’ll know that the internet is filled with people making bold claims with shaky evidence.
The Reality of CBD for Pain Relief
The fact of the matter is, while studies have been performed, and positive observations have been made, many questions remain. One review from the Department of Veterans Affairs (2017), for example, noted researchers observing doses of 1:1 and 2:1 THC-CBD product relieving neuropathic pain to some degree. As far as any other type of pain, though, there was insufficient evidence to claim efficacy.
Another review, coming from Cochrane (2018), found that even the evidence of CBD as a neuropathic pain reliever is questionable. Namely, they note that the studies they reviewed excluded people with significant comorbidities such as substance abuse history. Additionally, they acknowledged the small sample sizes of the studies they found, with only 1750 people being observed across 16 studies.
On the flip side, going back to a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, researchers observed CBD as an effective treatment against incision pain for the tested group. It should be noted, however, that said tested group consisted of rats, rather than humans. These positive findings in rat studies are a good sign, yes, but they are not proof of anything concerning the effects on humans.
This is far from the end of the story, though. These studies have mostly used pure CBD, while CBD-rich cannabis flower contains hundreds of chemicals (like terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and flavonoids) that should be tested in their own right. In turn, their combined effect in the cannabis flower form still needs to be thoroughly tested.
Claim: CBD Can Heal Inflammation
Battling inflammation is probably one of the most popular uses for CBD. Given how much talk there’s been about its efficacy in those sorts of treatments, we’re not surprised that many have elected to try it for themselves. However, before you drop money on a month’s supply, we suggest you consider the sorts of studies that people use as proof.
The Reality of CBD for Inflammation
If you’re a rat and you’re reading this, we first want to congratulate you on learning how to read! Secondly, we’re happy to tell you that many studies have been done on your kind that suggests CBD has great potential to fight certain types of inflammation. When it comes to human studies, research on CBD for inflammation is scarce. What is known does suggest some benefit, but ultimately the efficacy of retail CBD products in humans is unknown.
Back in December of 2017, the scientific journal Pain released a study performed on more than a dozen rats with osteoarthritis. After observing significant improvement with the introduction of CBD treatments, they noted: “CBD may be a safe, useful therapeutic for treating OA joint neuropathic pain.” Another study, published in the same month by Experimental Neurology, tested female mice with brain inflammation and gave them CBD to treat it. They observed a notable reduction in brain inflammation, specifically in brain inflammation caused by virus activity, along with an increase in early apoptosis (the controlled death of malicious cells).
Oh, you aren’t a rat? You’re a human, you say? Well, then this gets a bit more complicated. Virtually no reliable human studies on CBD and inflammation have been published in recent years. In fact, the only thing close is a test on human T-cells in vitro all the way back in 2003. That, even, only utilized ajulemic acid, which is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid acid. They were able to observe the same apoptosis that the mice experienced 14 years later, but this doesn’t reflect what would happen if CBD were used instead.
Long story short, while it’s not out for the count at all, CBD has a lot more testing to go through before it’s truly proven to fight inflammation. Getting human test subjects wouldn’t hurt, either.
Claim: CBD Can Resolve Skin Issues
By now, most of us have that friend who lets everyone try their CBD lotion. It goes to show that CBD-infused lotions and similar topical products have become quite popular. But why? It might seem weird that CBD companies put the compound in lotion, but the idea that cannabidiol can help with skin issues isn’t totally unfounded, albeit a bit flawed.
The Reality of CBD Skin Benefits
As excited as many writers are to tell you that each study is a massive leap towards definite proof, the road there has been quite slow. Yes, there are studies dating back to 2005 citing endocannabinoids as a treatment for itchy skin. However, CBD isn’t mentioned once, and the conclusions that can be formed from it are theoretical at best.
It wasn’t until 2014 that a notable CBD-specific study was released, and even then the circumstances were questionable. Coming from the Journal of Clinical Investigation, these researchers were trying to determine the effect of CBD benefits on human skin samples, specifically those with oil-producing glands. They observed that the treatment quelled inflammation in said glands, along with reducing oil production.
The catch, though, is that only four samples of human skin were used in the study. No need for a statistics degree to see the issue there.
The prospects, however, became more promising in 2019, after the release of a study from the University of Modena and Reggio. They observed 20 people that either had psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or scars resulting from either disease. After regular topical application of CBD, researchers saw their subjects experience significant healing with no notable side effects.
While it’s taken some time to get there, this study shows that there is a good path forward for CBD as a topical product or cosmetic ingredient. That being said, bigger sample sizes, and more studies, are still needed to form a definite conclusion.
Claim: CBD Can Cure Cancer
Out of all the myths surrounding CBD, we can get why this one has spread far and wide. Everyone wants a cure for cancer, right? Even when there’s no research around a supposed cure, people will try it anyway. So imagine, then, how people get when articles link to research papers and call it definite proof. We don’t want to see anyone spend all their money in the hopes of a miracle, so let’s look at the facts.
The Reality of CBD for Cancer
We don’t want to give off the impression that no real research has been done; that’s actually quite far from the case.
In fact, going as far back as 2004, studies were being released detailing CBD interactions with human brain tumor cells. These were in vitro tests, meaning test tubes and similar apparatus were used instead of rats or people. However, the results were intriguing; researchers saw CBD stop the proliferation of two types of brain cancer cells, specifically U87-MG and U373, by inducing apoptosis.
Then in 2006, the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics published a study in which researchers observed CBD inhibiting the growth of human breast cancer cells. However, the tumors they tested were not on human bodies, but were instead grafted onto rats before the tests. They were still human cells, though, so this was a good sign.
That same year, another study was published by Molecular Pharmacology, this time detailing how researchers observed CBD inducing apoptosis in leukemia cells. The study hypothesizes that this treatment, even if proven successful, would still be “highly selective,” and not likely an option for everyone.
Four years later, studies were done on CBD’s interactions with A549 (human lung cancer) cells. Like the other study, this was conducted on rats injected with human cells, but researchers noticed CBD treatments could significantly inhibit lung metastasis caused by A549.
In 2011, the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics journal released another study concerning CBD and breast cancer cells. This time, however, no mice were involved; they were instead recording the direct interaction between the compound and cells. In short, they observed CBD-induced breast cancer cells experiencing apoptosis and autophagy (in which cells remove damaged and unnecessary components) at the same time. Even then, though, the researchers make it clear that this is a call for further investigation into CBD as a treatment, rather than proof that it’ll work for everyone.
Is CBD classified as a drug?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definitions, retail CBD and hemp products are not be classified as a drug, medicine, or therapy (The prescription CBD isolate Epidiolex is). This means that CBD and hemp companies are legally prohibited from making medical claims. For customers, CBD and hemp companies cannot advise you on how to use their products or what “effects” their products may or may not have!
THC vs CBD Legalization
While hemp and CBD are federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabis itself remains a federally illegal Schedule 1 Substance. However, it is subject to state-by-state exemptions. THC, in the form of traditional marijuana, is sometimes legally used at the state level for medical or recreational purposes.
THC is not as readily available for widespread use like the CBD because it is illegal under federal law. THC differs from CBD most apparently in the fact that THC can get you high. The two cannabinoids also have different receptors in the body and have different effects that stem from the activation or suppression of those cannabinoid receptors.
Difference Between Hemp vs Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana belong to the same species- Cannabis sativa. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC (the main psychoactive compound in the plant). Hemp is used in the manufacture of textiles, biodiesel, and CBD extracts.
Marijuana is a variety of cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. The term marijuana can include both Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. These varieties are used both for their psychoactive effects and for health purposes in states with medical marijuana programs.
Final Thoughts on CBD Benefits and CBD Claims
If further research is done, especially on humans experiencing these health issues, it may very well become apparent that CBD is a beneficial health compound. However, there is a long way to go before we get to that point.
Many of the studies out there are promising, yes, but we have to be careful to separate promising results from what’s actually proven. We love CBD just as much as your friend that says it cures everything. Our love, however, translates into a demand for further clinical trials involving humans, rather than rats or isolated cells.
We’ll leave you with this. If you want to try using CBD to treat a health issue of yours, please consult your doctor beforehand. Beyond that, we can only wish you the best of luck in your journey towards health.