CBD its being touted as the panacea of the natural medicine world. In my 20 years as a dietitian I can’t seem to remember a substance that’s gained so much popularity and widespread use. It’s being proposed as a cure-all for a wide range of conditions from arthritis to anxiety and is being used as part of many treatment plans from cancer to neurologic conditions. While the research does not quite support CBD as a cure all, it does demonstrate that it can be a powerful substance in supporting health, especially regarding inflammation control.
WHAT IS CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the many phytonutrients found in the Cannabis sativa plant, better known as marijuana. It is important to note that CBD does contain THC [though in minute levels- less than 0.3 percent THC], the psychoactive plant component that gives the sensation of being “high.” This makes it a great option for people seeking to reduce pain and inflammation without the mind-altering effects of the entire plant, or prescription pain killers for that matter1,2.
Humans have what is called an endocannabinoid system, which is part of our body’s nervous system, and the molecules in CBD bind to receptors in this system. It is through this mechanism that CBD produces its anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects3.
DOES CBD HELP WITH INFLAMMATION AND PAIN?
Interestingly, CBD’s use dates back to 2900 BC where the Chinese used it for pain and inflammation and there are several modern day studies demonstrating its effectiveness in pain management4. Numerous animal studies have shown that CBD plays a role in inflammation by modulating inflammatory markers, helping reduce symptoms of diseases often associated with inflammation such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease2. Human studies demonstrating the role of CBD in inflammation are currently underway with some current research suggesting that cannabis may be an effective way to reduce pain and inflammation4. It is unclear yet if this is due to CBD alone or the other active phytochemicals within the Cannabis sativa plant such as THC.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT CBD?
Due to the popularity of CBD, products containing it are popping up everywhere. It’s sold in small retail stores, at farmers markets and will soon be carried in national chains such as CVS Pharmacy. You can find it in many forms – from oral tinctures to body ointments and even coffee infusions choosing a product to try can be overwhelming.
Consumer Reports put together a great article to help you navigate the murky waters of CBD. They point out that to sell CBD, the product must have less than 0.3 percent THC (the psychoactive component) and it is not legal in all states5. According to the report the two most important factors when choosing a CBD product are
- ensuring that there are no toxic chemicals which may have been in the soil the plant grew in, and
- consider how much THC may be in the product.
You can do this by purchasing CBD products that are grown in the United States and ask the company for a certificate of analysis (COA), which will disclose the amount of CBD, THC and contaminants.
As more companies start producing CBD products and more states start legalizing the use of marijuana I believe more and more research will emerge, helping us to come up with better dosing and safety guidelines. Until then, if you’re curious and interested in trying it, reach out to the company and ask for their COA so you can ensure you are getting a safe product. And who knows…for you it just may be the cure all.
- National Academies of Sciences E, Division H and M, Practice B on PH and PH, Agenda C on the HE of MAER and R. Cannabis. National Academies Press (US); 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425762/. Accessed July 3, 2019.
- Burstein S. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 2015;23(7):1377-1385. doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2015.01.059
- Lu H-C, Mackie K. An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516-525. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028
- Hill KP, Palastro MD, Johnson B, Ditre JW. Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):96-104. doi:10.1089/can.2017.0017
- Gill LL. How to Shop for CBD. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/cbd/how-to-shop-for-cbd/. Accessed July 6, 2019.