CBD is arguably the most trending thing in the 21st century. The legalization of cannabis swept the world and throughout that process, the technology of cannabis product manufacture has advanced exponentially. One of the outcomes of that technology was the ability to isolate cannabinoids — and that’s how we got CBD-only and THC-only therapeutics.
Before this quantum leap in the cannabis world, cannabis was plain and simply, cannabis. There was very little interest in the myriad cannabinoids, terpenes, and other biologically active compounds in the cannabis plant. Now that we are discovering those compounds might have therapeutic properties, it’s become one of the fastest growing bodies of research ever.
But there’s a lot of hype about CBD.
How much of it is just hype and how much of it is true? It’s a question on so many people’s lips and the answer isn’t all that complicated when we break it down. Just like every other drug on the planet, there are certain health conditions for which CBD seems to work extremely well, and others for which it doesn’t have a pronounced effect.
Harvard professors seem to feel the same. Let’s have a look at what they think about the hottest cannabinoid on the market.
Not a panacea, but a therapeutic for certain conditions.
There is a mountain of evidence supporting the use of CBD in a multitude of different conditions, but that doesn’t make it a panacea. For example, even though CBD is anti-inflammatory, it’s not the recommended drug for a stomach ulcer or pancreatitis.
According to Harvard professor, Dr. Levy, the greatest “benefit [he] has seen as a physician is in treating sleep disorders, anxiety, and pain.” Appropriately, there has been a lot of research on the use of CBD for insomnia, anxiety, and chronic pain. These are also the most common reasons for people to self-medicate with cannabis.
As we know, CBD is also hugely on the radar as a treatment for epilepsy. In fact, there already exists a CBD-based, FDA approved epilepsy drug called Epidiolex.
As well as this, CBD is being investigated for its potential in treating other treatment-resistant conditions such as fibromyalgia, IBS, and migraines.
Separating CBD’s qualities from its affinities.
Just because CBD is anti-inflammatory, doesn’t mean that every single inflammatory condition can be treated with CBD. For example, CBD might be able to reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis, but it will probably have zero effect on inflammation caused by a localized infection or conjunctivitis.
While CBD has the quality of being anti-inflammatory, it doesn’t have an affinity for every single organ in the body. CBD doesn’t even have much of an affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors, as we now know, which means that we have to look at it differently to THC. It also means that to understand where and how it might be used, we have to look at where it goes once it gets into the body.
Now, all of that is a lot of really complicated scientific language about receptors and what not. For the purpose of this article, it’s not all that important. In our blog, we talk about the different ways CBD and THC work in different medical conditions and we go into much greater detail.
For the purpose of this article, it’s important to understand the difference between a quality and an affinity. In another example, we can look at Milk Thistle, a common herb used in herbal medicine. It has the quality of being an appetite stimulant, but it does this through an affinity for the liver. It doesn’t exert this effect through brain chemistry, for example (which is what THC does). It exerts this effect by targeting the liver.
A quality is the effect it’s likely to have, and the affinity is where it’s most likely to take place.
Why all the controversy?
There’s no doubt that all the controversy into the effectiveness of cannabis stems from the fact that for the 100 years prior to legalization, cannabis got nothing but bad press. But we also have to acknowledge something fundamental about the study of plants that is very different to the study of drugs.
As part of my studies in herbal medicine, I was required to study Western drug pharmacology. In pharmacology, a drug has one or a number of active ingredients. The drug is designed to target a specific receptor or kind of cell in the body, and it carries out its processes.
In herbal medicine, a plant has at least a dozen pharmacologically active compounds. So which one should we study? And how should we know if the compounds interact with each other once they get into the body? There are many more complexities in studying herbal medicine, which is also often why there’s inconsistencies between study results. Another thing that creates complexity when studying CBD, cannabis, or other herbal medicines is that the preparation (such as dose, extraction form, quality of the herb, its phytochemical profile, etc.) varies greatly between studies. At this stage, nobody really knows what the ideal dose of CBD is for a certain condition — when studies are being designed, it’s mostly guesswork.
If studying pharmacology of Western drugs is kind of like following a recipe, studying herbal medicine is kind of like doing a sudoku puzzle. In pharmacology, a drug is designed to have a specific effect. In herbal medicine, we’re looking for what specific effects a whole multitude of compounds might have.
Medicinal CBD is just that — medicinal. And in medicine, doctors don’t just throw around prescriptions. If you’ve got cardiovascular problems, you probably don’t need to be taking cancer medication. It’s the same for CBD. It can be used for many wonderful things, including just to stay healthy. But taking CBD thinking it’s going to cure every disease you have is naive and a complete misinterpretation of the entire concept of medicinal cannabis.
Stay up to date with our blog for in-depth articles about the research surrounding CBD and other cannabinoids with respect to certain health conditions.
What have you used CBD for? Did it work? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!