I. Introduction

Although marijuana is still technically illegal in the U.S., a 2018 bill changed the status of hemp, the Cannabis sativa plant from which CBD oil is extracted and produced. This change in legal status opened the doors to mass production of CBD-related products, in forms as diverse as chocolate bars and bath bombs.

It also means that researchers can now begin to fully understand and verify the therapeutic benefits that CBD proponents have long promoted. Despite the lack of research proving efficacy, people are increasingly willing to give CBD oil a try. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 14 percent of Americans have used CBD products

II. What you should know about CBD oil

Because research capabilities were limited while hemp was illegal, there is still a lack of scientific data proving CBD oil’s effectiveness. Research into CBD’s medicinal and therapeutic benefits is starting to increase, and for this list, we only included benefits that were demonstrated in preliminary studies.

Additionally, the CBD industry is largely unregulated, meaning companies can make false or exaggerated claims about their products’ efficacy, safety, purity, dosage, and more. This does not inherently mean CBD products are unsafe or ineffective, but the onus is on consumers to make sure they are getting CBD products from trustworthy, reputable companies.

There is currently only one CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, that has been evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Any other remedies marketing themselves as FDA-approved should be regarded with extreme caution.

Read more: Best CBD Oils of 2020

III. Benefits of CBD Oil

Pain Relief

Fifty-seven percent of Gallup poll respondents said they used CBD oil to treat some type of pain, including arthritis, headaches, and muscle soreness.

CBD oil’s efficacy for relieving pain is likely linked to the way cannabinoids interact with humans’ endocannabinoid system. Preliminary studies show that cannabinoids bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system in much the same way that other analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs do, helping to reduce inflammation and disrupt neurotransmitters signaling painful feelings to the brain.

CBD oil’s versatility may contribute to its success in treating pain. CBD oil can be consumed orally; once absorbed into the bloodstream, it can relieve headache or muscle pain like other oral pain medications. For those who want targeted relief, CBD oil can be mixed into topicals that can be applied directly onto the area of discomfort.

Anxiety and depression treatment

CBD is also a popular treatment for symptoms of anxiety and depression, two common mental health disorders. While psychotherapy is effective in treating anxiety and depression, many individuals also combine medication with their therapy.

However, pharmaceuticals that treat anxiety and depression can come with negative side effects. Additionally, some prescription anti-depressants can be addictive.

Therefore, some individuals have turned to CBD to help treat their anxiety and depression. Early evidence indicates that CBD reacts positively with serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood, including our sense of happiness and well-being.

Furthermore, according to a review of studies on the effects of CBD in animals, CBD has “a clear anti-stress effect after either acute or repeated administration.”

Anyone who suffers from anxiety and/or depression should speak to a licensed mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. However, these studies show promise for CBD as an effective aid in relieving symptoms associated with these conditions.

Sleep aid and insomnia treatment

A lack of sleep is a significant public health problem in America, with up to 40 percent of adults saying they regularly do not get enough sleep.

The endocannabinoid system helps regulate sleep, and anxiety, depression, and pain can all contribute to trouble falling or staying asleep. Therefore, it’s not surprising that CBD oil has gained popularity as a sleep aid.

A small clinical study of 72 adults struggling with anxiety and poor sleep found that 66.7% of study participants saw improvement in their sleep patterns after using CBD. A 2016 study using mice also found that CBD had a positive impact on regulating sleep stability.

Epilepsy treatment

As previously mentioned, the FDA has only approved one CBD-based drug to treat seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two forms of pediatric epilepsy.

Although more research is needed to fully understand how CBD can treat the broad range of neurodevelopmental disorders, it is believed that CBD helps reduce seizures because of the way it interacts with the nerve cells in the brain.

This is good news for the roughly 30 percent of epilepsy patients for whom conventional treatments do not work. While the Epilepsy Foundation has not fully endorsed the use of CBD oil, they urge individuals with epilepsy to explore it as a possible treatment in consultation with their physician.

Neuroprotective properties

CBD oil may also be effective in treating other neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2019 study found that CBD can slow the effects of these neurodegenerative diseases by counteracting the build-up of iron that is thought to contribute to these conditions. Other studies have shown that CBD can protect against neurodegeneration by reactivating brain receptors and protecting against neuron collapse.

Relief for cancer-related symptoms

There is a growing body of evidence that CBD can help mitigate cancer symptoms and side effects from chemotherapy, including neuropathic pain, nausea, and vomiting, raising its profile as a complementary therapy for cancer patients.

A 2006 study showed that CBD can help reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Meanwhile, a study published in 2014 found that CBD was effective in inhibiting neuropathic pain, while showing a low potential for abuse. This makes CBD a viable alternative to opioid-based pharmaceuticals, which have a high risk of dependency and abuse.

While there is still no evidence that CBD can cure cancer, there are studies that suggest that it may slow growth of certain types of cancer cells grown in lab dishes. The American Cancer Society advises patients against using CBD alone as a treatment.

Opioid abuse treatment

Opioid addiction is a significant public health crisis in the U.S. Preliminary studies have shown that CBD may be effective in helping to curb cravings among those addicted to opioids like heroin and Oxycontin.

While there are currently drug therapies available to help treat addiction, they carry their own risks of dependency and abuse. CBD may represent a non-addictive and less stigmatized treatment, but more research is needed to confirm its efficacy and safety.

Acne treatment

Two percent of respondents to the 2019 Gallup poll said they use CBD oil as part of their skincare routine. This may be based on a 2014 study that found that CBD inhibited the production of sebum, a naturally occurring substance that leads to clogged pores and acne when produced excessively. The same study found that CBD oil also has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce acne.

CBD’s other benefits, like stress relief and improved sleep, can also help prevent acne, which can be triggered by high levels of anxiety.

IV. CBD Oil Side Effects

Regardless of why you want to use CBD oil, you should always consult your doctor before trying any new remedies. Potential side effects of CBD oil include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Interactions with other medication
  • Potential for products to contain THC, through cross-contamination or mis-labing. This can result in intoxication, and failing drug tests.

V. Additional Resources