Cannabidiol (or CBD) is one of the many active substances of the cannabis plant. In many cases, a condition needs to be treated with the entire plant (i.e. Pure cannabis oil – otherwise known as Rick Simpson oil), because of the synergistic effect of THC, CBD, CBN and approximately 80 more substances in the plant, including terpenes. However, studies show that CBD has a great healing potential, with applications in: inflammation, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, autism, neurological pain, arthritis, diabetic cardiomyopathy, oxidative stress, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia etc.
The mechanism of action of cannabidiol is complex. It would be better described as an adaptogen, therefore aiding the body's homeostatic mechanisms, helping the body reach a balanced state. In some cases, a specific mechanism of action towards certain receptors has been identified, but there is not one specific receptor or one specific binding mechanism.
There are too many studies, so it would be great trouble to link them all here. However, if you would like to search for yourself, you can go to Google Scholar and type cannabidiol plus the condition you are looking for and you will see a vast amount of academic studies
Let's look at some specific conditions.
1. Neuropathic pain
Cannabidiol has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain, compared to both placebo and conventional medication, without the side effects of commonly prescribed neuropathic pain medication (and without causing any cognitive impairment).
CBD has tremendous medicinal applications in epilepsy (including Lennox-Gastaut syndrome), reducing the frequency, intensity and duration of epileptic crises (seizures), significantly more than placebo, with high tolerance and minimal drug-drug interactions with other anti-epileptic agents. It is still recommended that if CBD is used concomitantly with other antiepileptic medication, a 2-hour before-after window should be kept between CBD and medication, to avoid potential absorption issues. (First reference is an extensive review of CBD in several neuropsychiatric disorders, I highly recommend reading the entire review)
Cannabis has been highly blamed for psychiatric disorders, however studies show that THC can trigger psychiatric conditions only to patients that are predisposed to such conditions and only in excessive, uncontrolled use (i.e. Abuse). Cannabidiol seems to combat these effects, acting as an anti-psychotic agent, showing promising results for treatment of many psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, acting through novel mesolimbic substrates.
4. Alzheimer's Disease
To this day there is no complete treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, but studies prove that cannabidiol, used together with medication, can slow the progression of the disease, especially if the diagnosis of the disease is conducted during an early stage. Essentially CBD acts as a neuroprotective agent, combating oxidative stress and reducing the apoptosis (programmed cell death) of the brain cells, which could potentially be used as a treatment for dementia (further studies needed)
This is one of CBD's most studied and most effective areas. Personally, I use CBD as I have chondromalacia patellae (inflammation and softening of the knee cartilage) and the results have been clear; decreased pain and inflammation – tested for CRP, one of the inflammation markers, and dropped from 18 to 6 within 2 months).
Since CBD reduces overall inflammation, the effects can be helpful in many conditions such as sports injuries, arthritis, brain damage, multiple sclerosis etc. The dose of CBD varies depending on the condition and the patient, therefore titration of dosing is used to reach an optimal dose. Studies show that CBD is free from the common side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as stomach lining damage, blood pressure elevation, stomach aches.
Apart from being used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug, CBD can reduce the swelling and discomfort of arthritis, through its selective immunosuppressive properties. However, more studies in humans needed to establish whether transdermal (i.e. Patches) or oral (i.e. Capsules, oil) use is better for arthritis treatment.
7. Multiple Sclerosis
In many studies, THC has been proven an effective agent against the many symptoms of multiple sclerosis, with THC/CBD combination being a highly effective treatment. However, CBD alone can also aid in multiple sclerosis. A study conducted in rats showed both pain reduction but also significant motor improvement.
8. Diabetic Cardiomyopathy
One of the complications often present in diabetic patients is diabetic cardiomyopathy (i.e. Increased risk of heart failure, coronary artery disease and hypertension). A 2010 study showed that CBD can be used as a treatment for diabetic cardiomyopathy, due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-apoptotic (reducing programmed cell death) properties.
The majority of cancer cases are treated with a combination of THC and CBD or a whole plant hemp oil (such as the Rick Simpson oil), as the synergistic effect of those substances seems to be the key for its anti-cancer properties. However, CBD alone has also been tested and proven to have selective pro-apoptotic (i.e. Induce cell death but selectively for tumour cells), anti-proliferative (i.e. Reducing tumour cell growth), but also anti-migratory and anti-metastatic (reducing the spreading of cancerous cells to other tissues) properties.
To conclude, cannabidiol is not a panacea, but it cannot be denied that its applications are vast and since its legal status is changing in many countries, this provides an easier way for academics to proceed in further studies, especially in humans, to investigate the full healing potential of this substance.
I am not a medical doctor. Always consult your doctor or physician before implementing any changes to your diet, medication or supplementation. Do not act on your own.
At the time of this article being written, I do have an affiliate link for a website that sells CBD products. However, I did this as I already used CBD and have found numerous studies on its efficacy.