A little over two years ago, my relationship with cannabis was entirely transformed after I was introduced to CBD oil.
I’ve always been a bit of a health nut! Having completed an undergraduate degree in nutrition, fallen down the wormhole of detox diets and explored a plethora of vitamins, you could say I’m open to trying new things. Cannabis for wellness was not at the top of my list.
Due to the legalisation of cannabis in multiple countries, clinical studies are now supporting anecdotal stories and CBD is being adopted by health practitioners. Slowly but surely, CBD oil is making its way into the limelight.
CBD oil Australia is currently being used to treat symptoms related to anxiety, depression, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, skin disorders, pain and cancer.
This article will explain the benefits of CBD and discuss the ways people are consuming CBD oil to assist with such conditions.
What exactly is CBD?
When I first landed in Vancouver, Canada in 2017, I had never heard of CBD oil and didn’t know what it was or that it was found in the cannabis plant.
So, when I saw that CBD products were widely available on the market it seemed strange that people were using it to improve their health. I had never explored ‘weed’ during my teenage years because I’d often become paranoid after consuming it.
At that time, numerous shops – that looked like pharmacies – stocked medicinal cannabis products. As someone who was exploring a new country, it was hard to ignore all the cannabis paraphernalia floating around the streets.
So, what is CBD oil?
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the 113 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and is found in high concentrations in industrial hemp plants, it’s also found in the marijuana plant but at a much lower concentration.
CBD oil is enticing consumers because it does not cause a ‘paranoid’ feeling after consumption but still offers medicinal benefits (2). A different part of the cannabis plant which can give you that ‘high’ effect’ is called THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is often described as being psychoactive and has made a name for itself as the component in cannabis that affects your mind.
Emerging research surrounding CBD and THC recognise the health-enhancing benefits of both plant components, however, CBD is being preferred by people who are not comfortable with the effects of THC as it’s generally well tolerated.
If you’re interested in exploring a combination of CBD and THC it’s important to do research and seek medical consultation. A doctor can prescribe a balanced dose of CBD and THC which can produce medicinal benefits without the hallucinogen side effect. Emerging research suggest that CBD and THC when used in tandem can be beneficial for certain conditions.
How is CBD consumed?
There are many different methods people are choosing to try CBD; ingesting edibles, dropping a tincture under their tongue, inhaling it with a vape (looks kind of like a classy pipe) or even applying it as a topical cream. It’s important to note that buying CBD oil has different rules and regulations depending on where you live in Australia.
Personally, I think it’s important to explore what works for you.
CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis plant to produce a concentrated liquid. This liquid is then used for consumption in its pure form or added to a carrier oil like coconut oil.
When I first started trying CBD oil, I discovered that edibles and tinctures were a great way for me to monitor and control the dose of CBD. This allowed me to try small amounts and be mindful of how different amounts of oil affected my body.
CBD oil benefits
It’s exciting to learn that CBD may be used as a treatment option for a vast number of conditions. Even though more research is needed, medicinal cannabis is becoming widely accepted by people in Australia.
So what are some of the benefits of CBD oil that are being explored by scientists, health professionals, and the public?
CBD oil for anxiety
CBD is being used to treat symptoms of anxiety. It is being labelled as an anxiolytic agent which means that it may have the ability to inhibit anxiety-related behaviour because of the calming effect it has on the body.
As someone who experiences regular feelings of overwhelm and worry, in Vancouver, I began taking a small capsule of CBD oil (about 10mgs) before going to work. And then on some days, after work, before I went to bed.
A little while after I consumed the oil, I could feel my body relax, my mind became clearer and because I felt calm, my ability to focus improved.
I describe it to people as ‘taking the edge off’ because that is how it felt for me. Kind of like a glass of wine but without the altered state of mind. If I’m anxious, I find it hard to focus, but what I noticed was that CBD helped settle my flight mode, allowing me to calmly get on with things.
CBD is being used to help with a variety of anxiety-related disorders such as generalised anxiety, panic, social anxiety, obsessive anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (3).
Just like my own experience, studies document how CBD may help reduce episodes of fear, or panic in social situations (3,4), and also help specific conditions such as public speaking phobias (5). The University of Sydney is currently conducting studies to further assess CBD’s effect on adolescent anxiety (6).
You might be asking yourself why people are searching for alternative medication when there are many anti-anxiety medications available.
But many anxiolytic drugs come with both long and short term side effects. CBD, on the other hand, is recognised as safe to consume, all-natural, causing minimal side effects and being a non-addictive alternative (3). The effects of CBD can be profound.
CBD oil and depression
Studies have shown that CBD has been used to elevate mood and in some cases showing similar effects to antidepressant medications on the market (7,8). It has also been documented to reduce stress response and positively impact neural pathways which are areas related to risk factors for depression (8,9,10).
Although CBD is being tested to minimise symptoms of depression, the research presents mixed results and it’s important to understand that CBD should not be regarded as a miracle cure. It is also not a one size fits all remedy.
There are many clinical, long-term trials still underway and some studies also suggest that heavy cannabis use may be associated with an increased risk of developing depressive disorders (11). As this area of research is still developing, it’s important to consult your doctor before making any decisions.
CBD oil and pain
CBD for pain is definitely a topic I hear and read about a lot. CBD oil is being revered for its ability to target inflammation which acts to alleviate chronic pain.
Although my own experience trying CBD aimed to address symptoms of anxiety, for minor pain I have tried a topical balm. This balm combined THC and CBD which I used on my neck and back after a long day on the computer gave me quite noticeable relief.
A study conducted this year assessing knowledge, beliefs, and personal experiences around CBD found that participants reported reduced symptoms of pain after consumption. Participants reported improvements in relation to back pain, nerve pain, neck pain, migraines, limb pain and fibromyalgia (12). These participants also reported reduced consumption of opioid pain medications (12).
Many studies, like the one above, highlight two interesting points about CBD and pain. Firstly that its anti-inflammatory effects are being used to reduce pain throughout areas of the body. And secondly, that it’s being considered an alternative medicine used to reduce the need for opioids. Using CBD as a preferred and natural medicine is especially prominent among people with arthritis who suffer from chronic pain.
Some other interesting ways people are exploring CBD for pain is in relation to sports injury or recovery. Some athletes are now jumping on board (or in the bath) and using CBD topicals, edibles or even bath bombs to relieve pain after a long workout.
While CBD by itself (without the THC component) can assist with pain relief, studies suggest that the combination of CBD and THC offer more effective results (12).
CBD OIL AND AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
T-cells are a type of lymphocyte that work to protect the body against foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. These cells can sometimes be triggered to go a bit haywire which results in the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy cells.
Examples of autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and thyroid disease, and there are even studies suggesting that multiple sclerosis begins as an autoimmune disease .
The instigator of autoimmune conditions has been cited as genetics, diet, environment, leaky gut and parasites, all the way through to physical and emotional trauma.
Mounting evidence suggests that both THC and CBD may act as an immunosuppressant in the body by inhibiting T-cell function and reducing cytokine production. THC specifically has shown promise as a novel treatment for conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Chrohn’s disease .
Additionally, CBD may offer health benefits to those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis by reducing spasticity, neuropathic pain and sleep disturbances.
The cannabis-based medicine known as Sativex contains a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. Sativex was used in five randomised controlled trials of people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was found to significantly reduced symptoms associated with the disease .
CBD OIL AND EPILEPSY AND SEIZURES
Approximately one-third of people who take medication for epilepsy still suffers seizures .
There is research suggesting that CBD can be a helpful adjunct therapy to control seizures in children, specifically in difficult to control forms of epilepsy such as Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Furthermore, a 2014 study that included 214 people suffering from treatment-resistant epilepsy found there was a median 36.5% reduction in monthly motor seizures of participants with very mild side effects, often not even associated with the CBD .
There is mounting scientific evidence for the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of seizure disorders, and the research suggests that both THC and CBD may offer some excellent health benefits.
This research is exciting for anyone who is trying to manage the debilitating symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis.
CBD OIL AND HEART HEALTH & BLOOD PRESSURE
Heart disease is a broad term that includes a group of diseases such as arrhythmias, coronary heart disease, heart failure and valve disease.
Research suggests that CBD may help maintain healthy cardiovascular function via a number of mechanisms such as lowering blood pressure, reducing the hardening of arteries and also reducing the incidence of arrhythmias.
Medical literature suggest that CBD and THC are vasodilators, meaning they increase the size of blood vessels, this, in turn, has a powerful positive effect on blood pressure.
In a 2017 study, a group of male patients received either 600mg doses of CBD or a placebo. Their blood pressure was monitored at rest and again after a stress test that would normally increase blood pressure.
The single dose of CBD reduced the participants’ resting systolic blood pressure by 6 mmHg, and they also had less of a spike in blood pressure in response to the stress test than their counterparts who received the placebo .
CBD oil and cancer
Much like CBD’s role in assisting people with depression, the use of CBD to improve outcomes of cancer is still developing. What we do know is that there are multiple studies currently underway in Australia assessing CBD’s anti-cancerous properties (14). These mostly focus on CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
For therapeutic purposes, CBD oil is currently being used to help manage chronic pain, increase appetite during the chemotherapy treatment, reduce nausea and in some cases prevent cancer (13).
CBD oil and skincare
Well, if it’s showing great signs for the inside of your body, it must be beneficial to the outside too, right?
CBD for your skin is well and truly becoming a trend thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory and potent antioxidant properties. Whether you’re seeking a moisturiser or hoping to target eczema, scarring or acne, many studies have recorded topical CBD ointments as safe and effective for improving skin disorders (15).
In some cases, for people suffering from inflammatory skin disorders and cutaneous scars, CBD enriched products provided a therapeutic effect (15). A study assessing self-initiated use of topical oil reported the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of cannabinoids (CBD and THC) assisted wound healing, blisters, and skin itching (16).
I pay tribute to the positive effects a combination of CBD and THC balm had on my eczema during the winter months in Canada. Usually, I’m flat out trying multiple natural therapies to stop my skin from itching and flaking off (it’s bad). The topical balm that I was using (THC topicals do not get you high) not only relieved the itching but healed my skin, and reduced my eczema outbreak. I noticed an added hydration effect too.
Research supporting CBD for acne is still ongoing but so far CBD oil has been identified to help inflammation and lower the production of sebum, which can lead to acne (17). Because there are varying types of acne, severity levels and different break out areas all over the body, individual results vary.
To give you an idea of what’s out there, some CBD infused topicals on the market in Canada include face creams, bath bombs, soothing serums and more recently a THC infused oil targeting skin cancers.
CBD Oil side effects
Alongside the long list of positive reviews, CBD is receiving from the medical world, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation of Australia do note that medicinal cannabis can cause unwanted side effects. These symptoms may include drowsiness, dizziness, and problems with thinking or concentrating.
Having said this, CBD is a remarkably non-toxic medicine. We recently spoke with two prominent Australian cannabis practitioners to understand more about the safety of CBD oil.
CBD OIL AND DRUG INTERACTIONS
THC and CBD may increase or reduce the effects of certain medications when taken together. It’s important to have your medications medically reviewed to ensure there won’t be any unwanted side effects.
THC, CBD and some pharmaceutical medications are all metabolised in the liver by a group of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (CYP). CBD can increase CYP activity and THC can decrease CYP activity, conversely, this can increase or decrease the amount of other pharmaceuticals in your body at any one time.
Medicinal cannabis products may interact with the following types of medications:
- Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Opiate-based pain medication
- Insulin medication
- Blood thinners
This isn’t an exhaustive list and patients should take care to consult with a practitioner who can provide medical advice regarding the consumption of medicinal cannabis in conjunction with pharmaceuticals.
The effects of CBD can be wide-ranging and beneficial for so many health conditions, but THC or CBD may have unwanted effects and monitoring doses in accordance with your doctor’s guidelines can lead to successful treatment outcomes.
Exercise caution and do your own research
CBD is showing promising signs that it can help treat a growing number of conditions and/or symptoms of those conditions.
• Multiple sclerosis
• Cerebral palsy
• Parkinson’s disease
• Mitochondrial disease
• Any chronic or debilitating disease or treatment for such diseases, which produce persistent muscle spasms, seizures, nausea, chronic pain and neuropathic pain
While we are very slow to adopt Cannabis as a widespread medicinal treatment option in Australia, other countries are leaps and bounds ahead.
It’s obvious from the research that CBD has beneficial effects on the endocannabinoid system and overall health and wellbeing, and the evidence will continue to grow in favour of CBD as a treatment option with further clinical trials. At this stage the scientific and anecdotal evidence is undeniable.
If you’re interested in exploring CBD oil, we’d strongly recommend doing your own research and consulting a medical professional.
While it is virtually impossible to overdo CBD, everyone is different and the market overseas can be very unregulated so it’s important you are gaining access to the best quality products.
What should I look for in a CBD oil?
The top three things you should look for in a CBD oil are:
- Full-spectrum products
- Organically grown hemp
- Independent 3rd party lab reports verifying the product’s quality and chemical breakdown
Is CBD oil legal in Australia?
In Australia, although cannabis is considered illegal for recreational use, CBD can be accessed if medically approved by specific health professionals. The Australian government allows medical practitioners under the Therapeutic Goods Administration Special Access Scheme to supply individuals on a case by case basis.
For me, my relationship with CBD oil is part of a bigger story. I consider cannabis sativa a plant and compare it to other plants known for their essential oils that are used for self-care. Like all natural medicines, they should be used with mindfulness, respect and monitored by the individual consuming them.
It’s not a silver bullet that fixes all health problems, and like any label on a vitamin supplement, CBD should be consumed in addition to but not replace a healthy diet and balanced lifestyle.
While the scientists and researchers are working away figuring out the entire spectrum of benefits this plant has to offer, it’s important we take it slow, continue to reduce stigmas around cannabis and get excited about what is being discovered in both animal and human studies, as well as anecdotally.