CBD has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in Australia as a natural support for health and well-being. Underlying this rapid increase in interest surrounding CBD is the health benefits it purports to provide. The health benefits of CBD are so broad and varied that it’s almost hard to believe they could be true. Yet clinical studies into cannabinoids like CBD continue to build the base of evidence for their incredible effects and uses. In many cases, it’s even well-positioned as an alternative solution to pharmaceuticals such as NSAIDs for many conditions, with fewer side effect risks. The benefits CBD offers cover arthritis, sleep, anxiety & depression, pain, focus, gut health, dry skin & psoriasis, cardiovascular health, acne, epilepsy, addiction, stress, weight loss and inflammation. Its broad spectrum of effects means it is well suited as a daily well-being promoter or even in mitigating certain health conditions. Let’s look at the top benefits of CBD, in addition to evidence for these effects, so you can understand why you might use it.
- 1 What is CBD?
- 2 Top Benefits and Uses of CBD
- 2.1 Neurological Benefits
- 2.2 Bodily Benefits
- 2.3 Metabolic & Immune Benefits
- 3 Do Experts Recommend CBD?
- 4 FAQs
- 5 Conclusion
What is CBD?
CBD is simply a compound produced by hemp, which is extracted from the plant and diffused into mediums like carrier oil for consumption. It’s a cannabinoid, a class of chemicals produced by the plant that the body can naturally absorb via its endocannabinoid system. CBD works on this system, a network of receptors and nodes throughout the brain, CNS, and body. It plays a role in all bodily functions, including homeostasis, brain function, sleep and metabolic processes. Additionally, some cannabinoids like CBD can interact with neurotransmitter receptors, including the GABA, serotonin and vanilloid pain receptors, where it can modulate some neurological processes.
Why its Benefits are So Broad
In many ways, CBD is a holistic and ‘broad-spectrum’ health compound. It holistically promotes overall wellness through many complex and interrelated metabolic pathways. Due to the complexity of how cannabinoids are metabolised, absorbed and used within the body, we are still learning how they work, plus what their effects are. Discoveries continue, and wider-scale research into compounds like CBD reveals new, previously unknown uses. Initially, it was thought that cannabinoids primarily acted through two receptor types. In the brain and CNS, CB1 receptors were theorised to stimulate the majority of neurological and mental effects of CBD. Simultaneously, most of its physiological benefits throughout the body, immune system and peripheral organs or nerves were thought to be from CB2 receptor activation. But the truth behind how cannabinoids work is significantly more complicated.
Cannabinoids like CBD have many interactions with non-cannabinoid receptors such as serotonin and GABA, meaning they can directly alter neurotransmitter levels. We still yet to fully know their full benefits for the brain and mind, but these neuron interactions are intricate. Additionally, the body produces its endogenous cannabinoid compounds called endocannabinoids in response to the absorption of cannabinoids like CBD. These compounds, such as Anandamide and 2-AG, have complex metabolic interactions, conferring powerful anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and pain-mitigating benefits. Beyond this, cannabinoids are known for their antioxidative properties and capacities in modulating metabolic processes at a cellular level.
The hugely varied, complex and interrelated pathways that cannabinoids like CBD act on or within are responsible for its ‘full-spectrum’ benefits. To recap on these pathways, CBD has:
- Neurological health benefits through the brain’s CB1 receptors and neurotransmitter receptor interactions;
- Bodily health benefits via the body’s CB2 receptors throughout the organs, tissues and peripheral nerves;
- Metabolic, antioxidative, and immunity health benefits are obtained through complex endocannabinoid activity at the cellular level.
Top Benefits and Uses of CBD
Today, we know of many of CBD’s proven benefits and uses, many of which have substantial scientific evidence backing them through clinical studies. Research is still ongoing, though, and there is still much to learn about the therapeutic properties of this cannabinoid. Let’s look at some of the top benefits and effects CBD can offer and the evidence for them.
Counteracting Anxiety & Depression
Studies have demonstrated both the anxiolytic and antidepressant qualities that CBD and similar cannabinoids can provide. It’s well known to aid in normalising mood, promoting calmness, suppressing anxious feelings and helping to lower mental distress. Multiple clinical studies have proven it can reduce symptoms of differing forms of anxiety. This includes social anxiety and general anxiety disorders. Furthermore, its serotonin-modulating properties enable it to assist in balancing mood and preventing negative emotions from worsening depressive symptoms. While not as powerful, CBD is thought to have similar properties to antidepressants like SSRIs without causing dependence. Often, these compounds can cause insomnia and irritability and be hard to wean off from, making them unsuitable for long-term use.
Several trials have demonstrated CBD’s capability to mitigate anxiety. In one study, a group of people with social anxiety were given moderate 200mg dosages of CBD oil before a public speaking presentation. Their anxiety symptoms were compared to a control group given a placebo. As expected, the test group showed markedly lower levels of anxiousness during the presentation while displaying lower symptoms of cognitive and physiological anxiety. Physical symptoms such as sweating, heart rate increases, pulse changes and stress were all lowered. Endocannabinoids like Anandamide were theorised to provide these anxiety-alleviating benefits by downregulating stress activity in the brain’s hypothalamus.
Supporting Sleep Health
Enabling better and longer sleep is another significant benefit CBD offers. It’s thought to assist people with their sleep in multiple ways. Firstly, it allows for those who suffer from chronic stress or anxiety to get to sleep more easily. Overactive thoughts and cortisol release at night from anxiety can be highly detrimental to sleep patterns, causing alertness and delaying the onset of sleep. Taking CBD an hour or two before bed helps many to avoid their night anxiety symptoms so they can sleep properly.
In addition, CBD’s endocannabinoid activity is thought to help with circadian rhythm, REM-stage length and overall sleep quality promotion. Users typically report having more regular sleep-wake cycles and normalised sleeping patterns within weeks of using it for sleep. Boosting the amount of deep sleep and REM stage sleep at night is a potent way CBD helps the brain and body recover. These are the most vital stages of sleep, where neuron and tissue repair is maximised. Its best application is amongst those with anxiety-related insomnia, though, based on current research. In a 2018 review amongst a cohort of people who have insomnia due to anxiety, more than two-thirds of the group saw substantial increases in their sleep quality after taking a nightly CBD dose.
Mitigating Stress & PTSD
CBD is handy for those who are overly stressed because it can help with relaxation and mental calm. It reduces our susceptibility to stress symptoms by lowering the hypothalamus’s stress response activation. Those who are chronically stressed tend to suffer from overactive stress responses, leading them to become ‘stuck’ in heightened sympathetic nervous states. When this occurs, it can be hard to calm down. It is often experienced as constant alertness, raised heart rate, racing thoughts and sweating. Sleep can become impaired, and weight gain usually occurs through stress-eating as a side effect.
Counteracting this naturally with CBD is an excellent way for many with high stress levels to regain mental composure and minimise avoidable stress symptoms. The cannabinoid achieves this via CB1 receptor activation while helping to stimulate GABA neurotransmitter production. GABA is inhibitory and helps suppress other neurological pathways. In particular, its role in downregulating the hypothalamus in those with chronic stress and preventing stress response activity is indispensable for stressed individuals.
These benefits could even extend to mitigating symptoms of PTSD, which presents as highly acute stress or panic attacks. For example, in 2018, a study was done on 11 subjects with PTSD. Each was given CBD as a complement to psychological treatment and counselling. Across the group, marked improvements in symptoms were recorded, with no side effects reported. Evidence for CBD’s benefits in treating PTSD is still early, but the initial signals are promising for this stress-related condition.
Helping Break Addictions
Those who suffer from addictions are finding CBD benefits them in suppressing cravings while helping minimise stress-related addiction triggers. While it doesn’t cure addiction, CBD helps support users to stay composed and curb the emotions that lead them back to their addictive behaviour. All addictions relate to disorders in the brain’s dopamine neurotransmitter, which is responsible for motivation and reward-seeking. Habits form when a particular behaviour is rewarded, which can lead to addictions where these habits become compulsive. Many such habits relate to stress or specific emotional states, like smoking in response to feeling stressed out. Promoting calmness via anxiolytic relaxation in the brain helps users of CBD to resist the urges or cravings from addictions due to stress.
It’s important to note that the research on CBD’s addiction-mitigating benefits is sparse and has been mixed. Some studies have highlighted the cannabinoid’s ability to stem smoking cravings when provided to subjects in high dosages of around 800mg. In these studies, smokers were shown pictures of people smoking or drinking to stimulate their addiction and the cravings it causes. Among the subjects given CBD, cravings were nearly non-existent, and the urge to smoke was nullified. Some preclinical animal trials also suggest CBD could help treat opioid addiction. A study was conducted where CBD was given to people with opiate addictions. Over several weeks, CBD significantly reduced craving, withdrawal anxiety, resting heart rate, and cortisol levels from stress in opiate users. CBD has also been found to be beneficial in alleviating various withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and pain in patients who stop using addictive substances like heroin. More human trials are needed to corroborate these early findings and replicate their results.
Extensive research has been conducted on CBD for its ability to reduce seizures in individuals who have epilepsy. Approximately 1% of Australians are affected by epilepsy, which causes involuntary and often dangerous seizures. In 2017, a double-blind study with a control group was carried out on 120 children and adults with epilepsy using CBD medication. Nearly half of the test group reported a 50% reduction in seizure frequency and severity, with some even experiencing a complete cessation of their epilepsy symptoms. The optimal results were observed in high doses of 500mg or more per day of CBD. However, this dosage range increases the risk of side effects, such as drowsiness or upset stomach.
CBD is now even available in Australia as an anti-epilepsy medication, such as Epidyolex. The TGA authorized the use of CBD under this brand name in 2020 for treating seizures related to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two diseases that cause epilepsy. This approval was based on three clinical studies in which over 500 patients with one of the syndromes received either Epidyolex or a placebo in a double-blind experiment. Those given the medication displayed a significant decrease in seizure frequency and length. The CBD-based medication was also very well tolerated across subjects and showed few side effects.
Enabling Focus & Concentration
CBD can aid users with concentration and has positive effects on focus. It helps create a mental balance, preventing disruptions to thought and distractions. This can be particularly useful for people with ADHD or those who need to maintain focus for extended periods. Unlike potent nootropics such as modafinil, CBD doesn’t appear to modulate dopamine or cognitive centres responsible for concentration directly. Instead, its ability to calm the mind and reduce stress helps to enable mental clarity. Many find it aids them in delving into their work, finding a flow state and staying on task to heighten productivity. Even those with ADHD tend to find a large amount of benefit when using CBD daily, particularly as it can be combined with other focus or ADHD medications. Trying it before a challenging study session or long, mentally taxing workday is an excellent idea if you want added mental acuity.
Aiding Cardiovascular Health
High blood pressure is a severe health issue that can lead to stroke, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases. Stress is a significant cause of high blood pressure because it triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases heart rate and stimulates vasoconstriction. Too much cortisol can raise blood pressure over time and weaken blood vessels. CBD’s ability to suppress the stress response helps individuals lower their blood pressure and limit the cardiovascular risks of cortisol.
When it binds to the endocannabinoid system, CBD stimulates the release of Anandamide, an endocannabinoid known for calming and relaxing feelings. Research on endocannabinoids has revealed that they are vasodilators, aiding blood pressure by widening blood vessels. This could represent a new path for mitigating cardiovascular disorders and hypertension, a high blood pressure disorder. In a recent study, CBD was given to two groups of hypertensive and non-hypertensive subjects over five weeks. Daily use of CBD lowered blood pressure across both groups compared to placebo.
Supporting Weight Loss
A surprising benefit of CBD is its power to assist users in losing body fat. It does so through CB2 receptor activity in adipose tissue. When it stimulates these receptors, it modulates lipid signalling in the body, changing the metabolic state of adipocytes. The body responds by ‘browning’ fat cells more readily, making them more available as fuel. Fat cells can be white, brown or beige. White fat is the most stubborn and difficult to burn.
Endocannabinoid activity helps to shift this type of fat cell into ‘beige’ fat that can subsequently be transitioned into the most accessible brown fat and burned. In other words, CBD can help people burn fat more quickly and mobilise stubborn fat regions. It’s also associated with appetite control and reduced stress eating through modulating hunger hormone production via the hypothalamus. For many, CBD offers a way to control their calories better while burning body fat more efficiently.
Suppression of Pain
CBD is not practical in treating severe or acute pain types, but it is highly effective in reducing the perception of certain kinds of pain. It’s instrumental in treating soreness and aches that result from arthritis, minor injuries or exercise. Doctors often prescribe opioids like Endone for pain relief, but these drugs are highly addictive and can cause various side effects for many users. Moreover, these pharmaceutical solutions aren’t well tolerated and can cause drowsiness and constipation.
Recent studies suggest that CBD is significantly helpful in managing neuropathic pain, especially when combined with THC. Although anecdotal feedback also supports this, further research is needed as experiences and studies are still inconsistent, likely due to the wide variance in pain types, severity, and people’s perception of pain. The cannabinoid can be usefully applied using creams to painful sites in the body, which enables it to stimulate CB2 receptors in a targeted region. This application can better counteract sources of pain and help users dampen their perception of it.
Metabolic & Immune Benefits
CBD can help reduce inflammation by suppressing the production of inflammatory compounds like cytokines and prostaglandins. If overproduced, these compounds can cause metabolic disarray and contribute to chronic health conditions. CBD can additionally interact with the PPAR-gamma receptor, which plays a critical metabolic role in regulating the inflammatory response. Studies have shown that the cannabinoid’s CB2 receptor agonism also caused a decrease in TNF-alpha levels in rodents. TNF-alpha is a cytokine that plays a significant part in many autoimmune conditions. It can contribute to atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Lowering its levels helps to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Antioxidative properties of cannabinoids like CBD also support and defend cells from damage while bolstering their function.
Acne is a prevalent skin condition that can be caused by various factors such as genetics, bacteria, inflammation, and overproduction of natural oil in the skin. It causes frequent ‘breakouts’ of pimples, boils or skin blemishes that can be unsightly and cause infections.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory help to reduce sebum production, making it an effective treatment for this frustrating skin disorder. A study conducted in Australia found that full-spectrum CBD oil prevents sebum glands from producing excessive sebum and has anti-inflammatory effects similar to drugs used for treating acne. CBD stimulates CB2 receptors in the skin, which help to regulate hormone levels, fatty acid balance, and skin moisture through the layers of the skin. CBD helps the skin self-regulate and avoid becoming too oily or dry. Applying CBD cream to acne-prone skin for several weeks can effectively prevent and manage acne while restoring skin moisture.
The potency of CBD’s acne-preventing potential was revealed in a 2014 study. Researchers tested the cannabinoid’s ability to modulate sebum activity in human skin cells in vitro. The results showed that CBD downregulated the creation of pro-acne agents in the skin that caused excessive sebum. In addition, it aided with hormone balance and offered anti-inflammatory effects that helped soothe skin irritation. The researchers concluded that CBD is an effective means of treating acne and helping the skin to better self-regulate fatty acid and oil levels to avoid dryness.
Mitigating Arthritis & Joint Aches
CBD has capacities to limit the inflammation and pain caused by arthritis. This painful condition of the joints leads to the degeneration of joint tissues, leading to irritation and stiffness. Often, this is treated with NSAIDs or corticosteroid drugs to help calm the inflammatory reaction experienced in the joints and mitigate pain. Long-term use of these compounds is dangerous due to their accumulation and toxicity in the liver, kidneys, plus other organs. A natural alternative being used by many is CBD for arthritis. It offers both analgesic and inflammation-combatting effects, making it well-suited to tackling the condition. Unlike pharmaceutical painkillers or anti-inflammatories, CBD can also be taken daily, even at high dosages, without side effects.
It’s potent at mitigating this uncomfortable joint condition through CB2 cannabinoid receptors around and within the joints. When activated by CBD, these receptors release compounds that help soothe inflammation by reducing cytokine production in the region. Cytokines are inflammatory proteins that worsen arthritis symptoms. CBD is associated with reduced joint pain, better mobility and lower swelling or stiffness. It can help reduce the joint’s pain nerve signalling while alleviating the underlying inflammatory response the condition is triggering.
Promoting Gut Health
The gastrointestinal system’s health is vital for overall well-being and affects the absorption of nutrients, plus the regulation of metabolism. CBD has been studied for its effectiveness in treating gut-related inflammatory conditions such as colitis and IBS. It supports mitigating these conditions through the gut’s CB2 receptors, helping to normalise immune health in the gut and preventing overactive immune responses that lead to gut irritability.
Recent studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system is vital in regulating digestion. An experiment conducted in 2010 tested the effects of CB2 receptor activation in the gut for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The study involved 36 participants who were given a solution containing THC and CBD over several days. The study found that cannabinoids helped in normalising colon movements, bowel emptying, and alleviating discomfort from IBS. These results demonstrate that CBD and other cannabinoids have the potential to promote better gut regulation and gastrointestinal calmness.
Reversing Dry Skin & Psoriasis
CBD can treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and counteract symptoms of excessive skin dryness. Inflammation caused by allergens triggers conditions like psoriasis to display symptoms. For those with sensitive skin or psoriasis, their body will overreact and trigger red patches, dryness or skin cell buildup in response. CBD can soothe the inflammatory response underlying this skin irritation, helping to prevent its occurrence. CB2 receptor activation in the skin’s oil glands also helps the body balance sebum naturally throughout each layer of the skin. Poor sebum balance leads to dry, flaky, irritable skin. Promoting sebum and skin oil levels is a crucial way that cannabinoids like CBD aid in reversing the symptoms of dryness.
Due to being derived from hemp, CBD oil contains nutrients such as gamma-linoleic acid, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and vitamin E. Each of these nutrients helps to moisturise and nourish the skin. Natural fatty acids balance the skin’s pH levels, keeping it healthy and hydrated. Many cannabinoids like CBD are also antioxidative, protecting skin cells from environmental damage like sun exposure. CBD cream can help restore the skin’s natural defence barrier, moisturizing and enriching it with essential vitamins. It effectively prevents psoriasis or skin dryness and may even promote the reversal of skin aging and damage. Research into CBD’s skin benefits is still early but indicates it will increasingly form part of a range of skin health treatments.
Do Experts Recommend CBD?
Many health practitioners and experts on chronic conditions like arthritis or epilepsy are rapidly forming views on CBD as a multi-target, broad-spectrum treatment option with powerful therapeutic applications. All the while, CBD is safe, not addictive, has minimal risk of side effects, plus is plant-based and entirely natural. These characteristics reflect the changing nature of regulations on CBD in Australia. For example, recent changes to rules around buying CBD mean it can now be purchased in Australia over the counter without a prescription.
Doctors are increasingly prescribing higher-potency CBD for conditions like insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, pain and arthritis. It is frequently prescribed for Dravet syndrome and epilepsy in the form of the Epidyolex medication. Amongst those with chronic pain or nausea, medications containing a mixture of THC and CBD are often prescribed to combat symptoms. The combination of these two cannabinoids is synergistic and amplifies the abilities of each to lower pain or counteract nausea through cannabinoid receptor agonism. Increasingly, psychiatrists are employing CBD as a natural method to help those with anxiety or insomnia to relax and sleep more easily. Dermatologists are now also recommending CBD-infused topical products for skin conditions with an underlying inflammatory cause. Cases of acne, eczema, or psoriasis are more commonly treated with CBD-based topicals because of their anti-inflammatory effects.
Across the board, CBD products offer a robust natural alternative to pharmaceuticals and many prescription medicines, such as NSAIDs, corticosteroids or antidepressants in many cases. The heightened interest in it amongst experts and the rapidly growing clinical evidence for its effects are signs that it works and is coming into mainstream adoption. No matter why you’re considering it, ensure you speak to your physician before trying CBD. They’ll help you form a treatment plan, obtain the right product, and avoid potential risks from medication interactions or side effects.
CBD has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties in some studies. These effects are primarily the result of endocannabinoid activity that the cannabinoid stimulates. Endocannabinoids such as 2-AG modulate immune function to reduce inflammatory compounds from being produced by the body. They also act on nerve cells to alter their signalling and dampen pain sensations. While it won’t work for all types of pain or inflammation, CBD is increasingly being applied as a natural method to help with symptoms of many conditions that cause these problems.
While effective for rheumatoid arthritis, CBD is less effective for joint degeneration that occurs with osteoarthritis, as it isn’t caused by inflammation. The capacities of CBD to stimulate CB2 receptors in joint tissue enable it to soothe rheumatoid arthritis inflammation symptoms. In addition, it offers some properties in analgesia or pain reduction that can aid people living with arthritis to suppress their joint aches, regain mobility, plus counteract discomfort.
CBD oil offers convenience and highly accurate dosing, plus it can be absorbed more rapidly than CBD pills if taken sublingually. CBD pills, on the other hand, tend to be higher priced but mean you can avoid the flavour of oils or tinctures, which can be advantageous for those who don’t enjoy the taste of CBD. Both CBD product forms can be effective, and choosing either depends on your preferences.
CBD’s effects can be cumulative, which means consistently using it daily helps amplify the results you can achieve. Over time, the endocannabinoid system becomes more active in the presence of cannabinoids such as CBD, promoting better endocannabinoid production. Taking CBD daily may be beneficial for individuals seeking more significant effects, especially for managing chronic conditions like arthritis or pain. Start with a low dose to begin with. Maintain consistency for a few weeks and monitor how your body reacts before establishing a daily routine at high dosages.
CBD and Ibuprofen serve different purposes but can be interchangeable in specific scenarios. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to lower inflammation while reducing certain forms of pain. CBD’s mechanisms in the body are distinct due to its functioning via the endocannabinoid system. It stimulates several similar effects to NSAIDs in downregulating excess immune activity and lowering prostaglandin production to improve inflammatory symptoms. The choice between CBD and Ibuprofen depends on the individual’s inflammation symptoms and sensitivity to each compound.
Several natural substances have anti-inflammatory properties, including turmeric, ginger, green tea, CBD and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. The effectiveness of each may vary, and it’s advisable to incorporate a variety of anti-inflammatory foods into a balanced diet. Cannabinoids such as CBD can help complement these compounds through their abilities to help promote immune function, lower inflammatory markers and prevent inflammation from occurring via endocannabinoid activity. Incorporating CBD products alongside other dietary sources of anti-inflammatory compounds can be an excellent method to counteract inflammation throughout the body.
The actual benefits of CBD are still being researched, but existing evidence suggests it has therapeutic effects for conditions like anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, sleep and chronic pain. CBD also has antioxidant and neuroprotective properties that help it protect neurons and immune cells. More research over time continues to uncover additional use cases, therapeutic effects and applications of cannabinoids like CBD.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, influencing various physiological processes. It may modulate neurotransmitter release, reduce inflammation, promote circadian regulation for sleep, lower anxiety symptoms and affect receptors involved in pain perception. The specific effects depend on an individual’s reaction, including dosage, method of administration, and overall health. CBD is generally well-tolerated, but side effects can occur, such as fatigue, changes in appetite, or interactions with certain medications.
CBD is a natural cannabinoid extracted from hemp that has a wide range of benefits for our health. It has full-spectrum neurological, metabolic, bodily, and immune benefits. Because of its versatility, it has numerous potential applications. In the brain and central nervous system, it can help alleviate anxiety and depression, prevent epilepsy, improve sleep, and soothe those suffering from chronic stress. CBD’s properties within the body make it practical for weight loss, blood pressure, and certain types of pain. It’s also helpful for several inflammatory or immune disorders, including acne, arthritis, IBS, and psoriasis. Moreover, CBD is natural and highly safe, making it an excellent choice for anyone seeking its benefits.