Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound found naturally in cannabis and hops plants. It is rapidly gaining popularity for its potent anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-depressive, and pain relief effects. A recent poll conducted by Consumer Reports found that 13% of American adults had used CBD for a health issue, and of those; 90% of those said it helped. The Hemp Business Journal has estimated that the CBD market will grow to $2.1 billion in consumer sales by 2020. Some vendors are promoting CBD as a cure-all miracle supplement. While that may not be entirely true, here are four claims about CBD with clinical evidence to help support them:
CBD Can Relieve Muscle Soreness
Cannabis extracts have been shown in scientific studies to reduce the intensity of muscle spasms. When regular CBD oil is applied directly onto the skin, it does not absorb into the bloodstream—so it shouldn't cause any psychological effects. But CBD can activate receptors in the skin and surrounding tissues—providing spot relief for soreness in the immediate area. CBD is widely sold in the form of topical creams, balms or even as medicated massage oils. Some therapists even offer their clients therapeutic massage sessions with CBD-infused oils. Be sure to confirm massage practice laws & the legal status of CBD in your state before trying it.
CBD Lowers Certain Types of Inflammation
Many types of pain are actually caused by inflammation: such as arthritis, sprains, or post-exercise muscle soreness. When the body is aggravated by a injury or an infection, the immune system releases chemicals called cytokines to mobilize a response. Some cytokines directly cause swelling and pain and CBD prevents some inflammatory cytokines from increasing. Notably, CBD powerfully inhibits the COX-2 cytokine—which is also the key action of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen, Aleve, and asprin. But CBD has a much more favorable safety profile in humans and the risk of liver toxicity from CBD appears to be far lower than taking Tylenol long-term.
CBD Can Reduce Some Types of Pain Sensations
THC binds directly to the body's natural cannabinoid receptors but CBD does not. Instead CBD activates the TRPV1 "hot pepper" receptor, which is known to be involved in pain transmission—and this indirectly activates the body's cannabinoid receptors. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, CBD also binds to alpha-3 glycine receptors which can "significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance."
I witnessed CBD's effects on pain when my 80-year-old neighbor had agonizing lower back pain after a spinal surgery. It was so intense that he was miserable and hunched over when walking. After taking a dose of homemade CBD oil he reports that his back pain is substantially reduced for several hours. His posture and walking gait have visibly improved.
CBD Helps Take the Mind off Pain
CBD can help balance GABA and glutamate transmission in the brain. When glutamate levels are too high, you are more likely to feel anxious & obsessive. The 19th-century-born mystic Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag told his students that when a small organ (e.g., a toe) becomes sore, some of the suffering comes from the organ but a majority of it comes from the person's mind & heart. According to Indiana physician Dr. Matt Andry, cannabidiol is especially helpful for taking patients' minds off the pain. While CBD might not relieve pain as strongly as morphine, it gives some patients relief by allowing them to focus less on the pain and more on other things in their life.