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CBD Oil: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects
As the use of cannabidiol (CBD) and CBD oil becomes more widespread, there is increasing curiosity among consumers about its various uses, efficacy, safety and even sometimes just what exactly it is.
This article will unpack some of the answers, as well as give some insight into the various uses of CBD oil. And rest assured, CBD oil is completely legal in NZ and is available for purchase at pharmacies, with the correct prescription.
What is CBD oil?
Because of its relationship to cannabis, there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding CBD oil. Although CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, it doesn’t result in the ‘high’ that taking cannabis does. The ‘high’ is the result of another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
According to the World Health Organisation, CBD has little potential for dependence or abuse. In effect, CBD provides many of the benefits of the cannabis plant without the risks. CBD oil has been used effectively for a wide range of illnesses, so let’s take a look at some of the common conditions that it can be used to treat and what the evidence is for its efficacy. If you’re thinking of adding CBD oil to your current treatment, you’ll need to speak to your GP who will then give you a prescription for CBD if the benefits outweigh any risks or side-effects.
Benefits and uses
CBD has a variety of uses, including providing relief from pain and anxiety, reducing seizure frequency, and potentially helping treat or at least reduce side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Here are a few of the many potential benefits of CBD.
Chronic pain is common, especially in cancer patients or people with nerve trauma, and is notoriously difficult to treat. Many chronic pain sufferers find themselves on a cocktail of medications but with little relief. CBD oil shows some promise in the management of chronic pain.
An article in the European Journal of Pain in 2016 showed that topical CBD (in a balm format) could help lower pain and inflammation in animals. In an article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, CBD oil was shown to have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects in patients with pain that was unresponsive to traditional pain medications, however, the findings came with the caveats that each individual patient needs to be carefully considered and that the quality of the CBD oil needs to be regulated.
Anxiety is common with our high-paced modern lifestyle and even more so with the fall-out from COVID. Economic and other stressors are widespread and impact negatively on people’s health. CBD oil is well known to relieve anxiety. A study in The Journal of Psychopharmacology showed a significant reduction in anxiety levels in patients diagnosed with generalised social anxiety disorder (GSAD) treated with oral CBD compared to a placebo.
Another study in Neuropsychopharmacology showed a decrease in anxiety in people with GSAD who took CBD oil prior to speaking in public. People who are struggling with anxiety often find it difficult to sleep, but CBD oil has been shown to be an effective way to treat insomnia. A drop of CBD oil before bedtime may be the secret to a good night’s sleep!
One of the areas in which the benefits of CBD has been most studied is epilepsy. As a result we have a number of well-controlled, good-quality studies that show CBD to be beneficial in the management of certain types of epilepsy. Dravet syndrome is a form of childhood epilepsy that is particularly resistant to traditional medication.
CBD was shown to significantly decrease the number of seizures in patients taking oral CBD versus a placebo, and 5% of patients actually became seizure-free on CBD during the treatment period. Obviously, because epilepsy is a very serious disorder, if you are considering adding CBD oil to your treatment, this needs to be discussed with your general practitioner or neurologist and then prescribed according to best practice.
CBD has traditionally been used in cancer sufferers to alleviate pain, treat nausea (CBD has strong antiemetic properties) and stimulate appetite; however, it could have a far more powerful effect directly on the cancer itself. Cannabinoids, including CBD, have been shown to have some tumour-modulating effects.
In simple terms, what this means is that cannabinoids can interfere with the rate at which tumour cells replicate. Further studies are needed to determine more accurately which tumour types respond to CBD and what dose of CBD achieves optimal anti-tumour effects.
CBD oil has many other medical uses, many of which are still in the early stages of study. Preliminary studies have shown CBD to be effective in the management of acne because it decreases inflammation and sebum production. Some early studies show promise in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, although further studies need to be done.
CBD seems to have a positive influence on blood pressure and heart health, probably due to its stress-relieving properties. As our knowledge of CBD grows and more studies are undertaken, CBD may become recognised as a management option for more and more illnesses.
How to use CBD oil
CBD oil can be used in various formulations, but the form you use will be dependent on what is locally available. Here, the most common form of CBD is as an oil that is ingested. CBD needs to be prescribed by a doctor and can then be purchased from a pharmacy, however, if it is a pharmacy that does not regularly dispense CBD products it may be expensive, so do some research before buying.
As CBD use becomes more accepted, you may find that the options for different formulations become wider. In New Zealand, all CBD prescription medication will be GMP compliant (meaning it’s produced under Good Manufacturing Practices).
Gel capsules are a popular oral form of CBD oil. Ingested CBD takes slightly longer to work—about 30 minutes—and the effects are very predictable. Oral CBD is generally well tolerated.
CBD oil can be inhaled, ideally by vaping. Inhalation provides a high dose of CBD that acts almost instantaneously; however, there are cons to this method: we are not certain of the long-term effects of vaping on the lungs, it requires some specialised equipment and the effects can be unpredictable.
Taking CBD oil in the form of a balm or salve is a great option for sore joints or muscles and for acne. It takes a little longer to provide relief, but the side effects are also minimal.
CBD oil tinctures that are used under the tongue are rapidly absorbed, and the effects are long-lasting. This is an easy way to take CBD; however, some tinctures contain alcohol, so check out for this if you are trying to avoid alcohol.
Side effects and drug interactions
CBD is generally well-tolerated; however, it does have some side effects, and it’s prudent to be aware of these. The most common side effects are dry mouth, fatigue, drowsiness, reduced appetite and dizziness.
Less common side effects are decreased sperm count, reduced coordination, cough and red eyes. Sometimes the side effects are related to the delivery method and the dose, so before stopping CBD, consider changing the delivery method or decreasing the dose. Be careful when taking other medications with similar side effects to CBD, as the side effects could be compounded.
CBD is metabolised by the same liver enzymes as certain medications, so it can increase or decrease the blood levels of some drugs. CBD should be avoided or used with caution in people taking the following common drugs:
- Warfarin (blood thinner)
- Some statins (atorvastatin and simvastatin)
- Certain antidepressants
- Certain antipsychotics
To be safe, if you are on any chronic medication, it is best to check with your regular doctor to determine whether or not it is safe for you to take CBD oil.
The bottom line
Considering taking CBD oil? There is increasing evidence that CBD oil can be used safely and effectively for a wide range of conditions, and more and more studies are being done to explore new areas of potential use. CBD oil is generally well-tolerated, and side effects can be minimised with appropriate dosing.