Some people suffering from pain and discomfort use topical CBD products, in particular CBD oil, to manage their symptoms. CBD oil may help reduce:
- overall discomfort related to a variety of health conditions
There is limited evidence from human studies to support the benefits of CBD oil, due to restrictions on the use of and research on cannabis. As cannabis is becoming legalized in various regions, research is gaining momentum and shows some promising results.
Effects of CBD
CBD is one of more than 100 compounds found in cannabis, called cannabinoids. Many plants contain cannabinoids, but people most commonly link these compounds to cannabis.
Unlike other cannabinoids — such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — CBD does not produce a euphoric “high.” This is because CBD does not affect the same receptors as THC.
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that receives and translates signals from cannabinoids. It produces some cannabinoids of its own, which are called endocannabinoids. The ECS helps regulate functions such as sleep, immune-system responses, and pain.
When THC enters the body, it produces a “high” feeling by affecting the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors. This activates the brain’s reward system, producing pleasure chemicals such as dopamine.
Does CBD make you high?
CBD is an entirely different compound from THC, and its effects are very complex. It does not produce a “high” and does not impair a person’s functioning, but it influences the body to use its own endocannabinoids more effectively.
According to a 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics, CBD influences many other receptor systems in our body and will influence the ECS in combination with other cannabinoids.
For example, CBD can increase the body’s levels of anandamide, a compound associated with regulating pain, which may reduce pain perception and potentially improve mood.
Cannabidiol may also limit inflammation in the brain and nervous system, which may benefit people experiencing pain, insomnia, and certain immune system responses.
What is CBD oil?
Different varieties of cannabis plants — such as hemp and marijuana — contain different levels of chemical compounds.
How people breed the plant affects the CBD levels. Most CBD oil comes from industrial hemp, which usually has a higher CBD content than marijuana.
Makers of CBD oil use different methods to extract the compound. The extract is then added to a carrier oil and called CBD oil.
CBD oil comes in many different strengths, and people use it in various ways. It is best to discuss CBD oil with a doctor before using it.
While CBD is a promising option for pain relief, research has not yet proven it safe and effective, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved CBD for treating pain.
Although some research reports that CBD might have benefits for relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation, more evidence is needed to determine the therapeutic potential of CBD and to determine safe and effective dosages for pain.
The FDA does not regulate CBD for most conditions. As a result, dosages are currently open to interpretation, and people should treat them with caution.
Anyone who wishes to use CBD should first speak to a doctor about whether it will be beneficial or safe, and how much to take.
The FDA has approved a purified form of CBD for some types of epilepsy, with the brand name Epidiolex. People using this medication should follow the doctor’s advice about doses.
Most people tolerate CBD oil well, but there are some possible side effects.
According to a 2017 review in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the most common side effects include:
- changes in appetite
- weight gain or weight loss
In addition, using CBD oil with other medications may make those medications more or less effective.
The review also notes that scientists have yet to study some aspects of CBD, such as its long-term effects on hormones. Further long-term studies will be helpful in determining any side effects CBD has on the body over time.
CBD might also interfere with an enzyme called cytochrome P450 complex. This disruption could affect the liver’s ability to break down toxins, increasing the risk of liver toxicity.
Always consult a doctor before using CBD, as it may interact with certain over-the-counter dietary supplements and medicines, as well as some prescription medications — especially those that warn against consuming grapefruit.
Almost all research on CBD oil and pain comes from adult trials. Experts do not recommend CBD oil for use in children, as there is little research on the effects of CBD oil on a child’s developing brain.
People should not use CBD oil when pregnant or breastfeeding.
People should use caution when taking CBD products by mouth alongside high-fat meals. High-fat meals can dramatically increase the blood concentrations of CBD, which can increase the risk of side effects.
The FDA does not regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs or dietary supplements, so companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products. That means it’s especially important to do some research and find a quality product.
While many studies have suggested CBD oil may be helpful for pain, more research is necessary, especially long-term studies with human subjects.
However, CBD oil does show promise as a treatment for pain. Some scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help people manage chronic pain in various contexts.
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.
People should discuss CBD oil with their doctor if they are considering using it for the first time.