Some studies suggest compounds derived from hemp & marijuana plants could have health benefits, including anti-cancer properties.

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a product that’s derived from cannabis. It is a type of cannabinoid, which are the chemicals naturally found in marijuana plants. Even though it comes from marijuana plants, CBD does not create a “high” effect or any form of intoxication — that’s caused by another cannabinoid, known as THC.

Controversy exists around cannabis products like CBD oil because of recreational marijuana use. But there is growing awareness about the possible health benefits of CBD oil. A number of states have legalized the sale of CBD oil, which is being used (and studied) for a range of health problems. Here is what you need to know about a few of the potential medical uses of CBD and where the research stands:

Anxiety relief

CBD may be able to help manage anxiety. Researchers think it may change the way the receptors in the brain respond to serotonin, a chemical linked to mental health. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical messages and help your cells respond to different stimuli. One study found that a 600mg dose of CBD helped people with social anxiety give a speech. Other early studies have shown that CBD may help relieve anxiety by:

  • reducing stress

  • decreasing physiological effects of anxiety, such as an increased heart rate

  • improving symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • inducing sleep in cases of insomnia


In June 2018, the FDA approved the drug Epidiolex, an oral preparation of pure CBD for treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in children. The drug is made by the GW Pharmaceutical Company and was tested in three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, including 516 patients. It was found to be effective in reducing the frequency of seizures.


Researchers are looking at a receptor located in the brain to learn about the ways that CBD could help people with neurodegenerative disorders, which are diseases that cause the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time. This receptor is known as CB1.

Researchers are studying the use of CBD oil for treating Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and stroke. CBD oil may also reduce the inflammation that can worsen neurodegenerative symptoms. More research is needed to fully understand the effects of CBD oil for neurodegenerative diseases.

Pain relief

The effects of CBD oil on the brain’s receptors may also help manage pain. Studies have shown that cannabis can offer some benefits when taken after chemotherapy treatments. Other pre-clinical studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health are also looking at the role of cannabis in relieving symptoms caused by arthritis, chronic pain, MS pain, muscle pain, and spinal cord injuries.

Nabiximols (Sativex), a multiple sclerosis drug made from a combination of TCH and CBD, is approved in the United Kingdom and Canada to treat MS pain. Researchers suspect that the CBD component in the drug may be contributing more with its anti-inflammatory properties than by acting against the pain. Additional clinical trials of CBD are necessary to determine whether or not it should be used for pain management.


The effects of CBD on receptors in the immune system may help reduce overall inflammation in the body. In turn, CBD oil may offer benefits for acne management. A human study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that the oil prevented activity in sebaceous glands. These glands are responsible for producing sebum, a natural oily substance that hydrates the skin. Too much sebum, however, can lead to acne. Before you consider CBD oil for acne treatment however, it is worth discussing with your dermatologist. More human studies are needed to evaluate the potential benefits of CBD for acne.

Cancer treatment

Some studies have investigated the role of CBD in preventing cancer cell growth, but research remains in its early stages. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) indicates that CBD may help alleviate cancer symptoms and cancer treatment side effects. However, the NCI does not yet fully endorse any form of cannabis as a cancer treatment. The action of CBD that is promising for cancer treatment is its ability to moderate inflammation and change how cells grow and divide. CBD has the effect of reducing the ability of some types of tumor cells to reproduce.

How to use CBD oil

CBD is extracted from marijuana or hemp plants as either an oil or powder. These can be mixed into creams, gels or oils. They can be put into capsules or oils to be taken orally, or rubbed on your skin. The multiple sclerosis drug nabiximols is sprayed as a liquid into your mouth. How CBD should be used depends largely on what it’s being used for. Talk to an integrative medicine doctor before using CBD. CBD is currently only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for epilepsy, and it can have side effects.

Unfortunately, buying CBD oil online is problematical. A 2017 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that almost 70 percent of products sold online do not contain the concentration of the oil listed on the label. The researchers analyzed 84 products from 31 different companies and found that more than 42 percent were under-labeled - meaning that they contained more CBD than indicated. Another 26 percent were over-labeled, with less CBD than indicated. In addition, the researchers reported that several of the products analyzed contained a significant amount of THC, which can cause undesired effects.

What’s New?

The recent FDA approval of Epidiolex is poised to accelerate cannabis research. Epidiolex is currently being tested for the treatment of tuberous sclerosis, a disease other than epilepsy that often causes seizures. And beyond that, there is now political capital with US regulators such that approval for Sativex is currently being sought, a THC and CBD mouth spray for cancer pain and multiple sclerosis, which has been available in the UK since 2010 and in other European countries like Germany since 2011. If that product is approved, American scientists will finally have a relatively easy, legal way to test the effects of dosed THC for many disorders.

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