Updated: Aug 2, 2019
This compound derived from marijuana may have real health benefits.
Everywhere you click these days, it seems like someone on the internet is talking about cannabidiol—also known as CBD, a chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant.
Online retailers market the extract (also known as hemp oil) as a remedy for a variety of ailments, celebrities swear by its healing powers, and the ingredient is popping up in nutritional supplements and beauty products, as well. There’s even a new FDA-approved drug derived from CBD.
CBD itself is non-psychoactive—meaning that it doesn’t get you high the way smoking or eating cannabis-related products containing THC (the plant's psychoactive compound) can. Still, there’s a lot doctors don’t know about CBD and its effects on the body, and a lot consumers should understand before trying it.
It helps to quit smoking
There’s been some buzz about CBD oil being helpful to people trying to quit cigarettes, and one small, short-term study published in 2013 in the journal Addictive Behaviorssupports this idea.
A group of 24 smokers received inhalers with either CBD or a placebo substance and were encouraged to use those inhalers for a week whenever they felt the urge to smoke. Those with the placebo inhaler did not reduce their cigarette consumption at all during that week, but those with the CBD inhaler reduced theirs by about 40%.
The results “suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction
CBD oil does show a lot of potential for pain relief. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can be used to help manage chronic pain in many cases. CBD oil is especially promising due to its lack of intoxicating effects and a possible lower potential for side effects than many other pain medications.
In skincare products
CBD appears to have anti-inflammatory properties, which is one reason the beauty industry has championed it as a new anti-aging ingredient in many skincare products and spa treatments.
CBD oil is a rich source of fatty acids and other skin-healthy nutrients, and that it may improve hydration and minimize moisture loss. A few studies have also suggested that CBD oil may inhibit the growth of acne, although this hypothesis has only been tested in laboratory cell cultures—not in actual humans.
To treat seizure disorders
CBD can be helpful for rare childhood seizure disorders. Clinical trials have shown that the drug Epidiolex—a derivative of CBD—can help reduce seizures in children with two rare forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
In June, the FDA approved Epidiolex as the first prescription drug made from marijuana, for the treatment of these two conditions.
To fight cancer
When Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2017, the actress’s daughter Chloe Rose Lattanzi posted on Instagram that her mother was using CBD oil as a treatment. Lattanzi also wrote online that cannabis “has scientifically proven properties to inhibit cancer cell growth.”
In other words, the mainstream medical community doesn't recommend marijuana or CBD products as a remedy for cancer. While these substances may relieve some side effects of cancer or of chemotherapy (like pain, nausea, and vomiting), they should not be used as a replacement for conventional, research-proven treatments.
As a stress and anxiety buster
Actress Busy Philipps recently told Health that she’s a “strong proponent” of CBD and THC gummies, which she takes to help fight anxiety and panic attacks. Today's consumers can also buy "calming" foods and beverages like hemp-oil tea and CBD-infused almonds; there's even a brand of CBD biscuits for nervous dogs.
Informally, people have been using cannabis to relieve anxiety for years, says Dr. Clauw, although it was generally assumed that it was the THC—and the “high” that it produces—that was responsible for its stress-relieving effects. Recent research, however, suggests that CBD alone may have some anxiety-fighting power.
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