It seems as though CBD oil is everywhere now. Some claim it’s the miracle cure for any ailment, ranging from anxiety to pain relief, and even to shrinking tumors. Some of these claims are supported (with some caveats), while others seem to be stretching the truth a bit.
I’ll start by talking about what CBD oil actually is and where the research currently stands when it comes to some of these health claims.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol and comes from the hemp plant. The “cannabi” in cannabidiol may sound familiar because you’ve likely heard of cannabis. Cannabis is a fancy word for the marijuana hemp plant, specifically. But CBD is a bit different from cannabis (marijuana) in that it is chemically different from some of the psychoactive compounds found in cannabis.
In fact, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is found in marijuana, is believed to be most responsible for these psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, does not contain THC and is not believed to change perception or behavior.
But here’s where it gets very interesting: CBD oils specifically are made from the seeds of the hemp plant. These hemp seeds actually contain very little CBD. In fact, the flowers of the hemp plant contain most of the CBD. This means that CBD oils contain very little CBD.
ConsumerLab, an independent 3rd party company that tests for the purity and quality of supplements, found that many CBD oils sold on the market contain less than 1 mg of CBD per serving. And, as you’ll soon hear, less than 1 mg of CBD per serving is unlikely to have any health effects.
Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 790 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
I should quickly mention where US laws currently stand regarding the use of CBD oil. Many US states allow products containing CBD to be sold. These products must be low in THC (that psychoactive compound found in cannabis or marijuana). To further complicate things, even though a product may contain CBD and is low in THC, this doesn’t mean that anyone can legally sell and use these products.
Use of CBD oil often requires the recommendation from a licensed healthcare provider first.
Also, beware of a type of CBD oil called 4-CCB. This is usually found as a synthetic form of CBD. This version was found to cause some unpleasant side effects.
Does CBD Oil Help with Pain and Anxiety?
Does CBD actually help with certain ailments? I’ll start by discussing the more popular forms of CBD — those applied topically. This means these forms of CBD oil are found as lotions, creams, or gels and can be applied directly to the skin. The claims are that these forms of CBD can help relieve joint or muscle pain. This is based on studies performed in animals, where it was found that CBD oil helped reduce inflammation. But when the effects of topical CBD were studied in humans, it didn’t seem to help ease pain or reduce inflammation. In fact, dry skin was the most commonly reported outcome. Whoops!
What about consuming CBD as a supplement? Does that help with pain? The consensus right now seems to be that there is not enough evidence to know whether consuming CBD oil helps ease pain. Part of the reason for this is that many of these studies did not actually use pure CBD as part of their tests. Instead, they used a combination of CBD and THC. Therefore, we don’t really know whether it’s the CBD that helps ease pain, the THC, or the combination of both.
Consuming CBD Orally
So CBD applied directly to the skin likely doesn’t help reduce pain or inflammation. But what about consuming CBD orally — does that help relieve any conditions? It does seem that CBD oil, when consumed, may help reduce feelings of anxiety. Many of these studies were small, but a CBD dose between 300 to 400 mg seemed to be the most helpful. However, we need to remember that since most forms of CBD available for purchase contain less than 1 mg per serving, this is quite a large dose.
On a related topic, researchers have tried to answer the question whether CBD helps folks sleep better. Unfortunately, consuming CBD oil doesn’t appear to be all that helpful for improving sleep.
Does CBD Help with Cancer?
Finally, what about CBD oil and cancer? There was a well-publicized case of a man living in the UK shrinking the tumors in his lungs after consuming CBD. The problem with cases like these is that we don’t really know whether it’s the CBD that shrunk the tumors or something else entirely. That’s why researchers like conducting controlled experiments. At this time, we simply don’t know how CBD oil affects cancer cells.
When it comes to CBD for relieving certain ailments, it seems that higher doses of CBD oil — when consumed in the 300 to 400 mg range — may help with anxiety. But when it comes to other conditions like pain and inflammation, especially when applied to topically (to the skin), it probably doesn’t help.
Is CBD Oil Approved by Healthcare Professionals?
Naturally you might be wondering whether CBD oil is approved by medical professionals. This one is more difficult for me to answer. This is because it really depends on the health professional and their assessment of the patient.
For example, if a nurse or physician believes that consuming CBD oil or applying it topically won’t hurt the patient, then they might be perfectly fine with the person using it. Their thought process might look something like this: If this patient is unlikely to be harmed by using CBD oil, but it might make them feel better, then it’s worth giving it a try. This is what’s often called a “placebo effect” — in this case, it means that a person feels better simply because they are using CBD oil — not because of the compounds found in CBD oil itself, but because the patient BELIEVES it’s helping them feel better. Other health professionals may feel that using it could cause harm or feel that since it is illegal, it’s not worth recommending.