If there’s one thing we can all rely on, it’s that every few years, there’s a new thing that enters the zeitgeist. One day the world is spinning along as usual, and the next, it seems that the latest phenomenon is the only thing on everyone’s mind. Sometimes these phenomena are hardly life-changing (remember slap bracelets?), and sometimes they alter the course of basic societal norms, like Facebook. But sometimes, as in the case of hemp plants and cannabidiol—or CBD, as it’s now commonly known—the story is a little more complicated.
A brief history of hemp
Here’s the thing about hemp (also known as cannabis sativa): it’s a really, really useful plant. Take away all the debate about potential mind-altering tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and the negative connotations of the word “marijuana” and you’re left with a plant which has been in use since at least 10,000 B.C, and has been proven effective in treating all manner of conditions.
Hemp in the Old World
Because of the durability of hemp fibers, the ancient Chinese found all sorts of uses for it: they wove it into clothing, used it to create paper, and even grew it as the first war crop because bowstrings made of hemp were so much more durable than those crafted from bamboo.
Hemp was soaked and boiled to soften its fibers, and people quickly realized that the resulting broth or tea was an effective remedy for aches and ailments of all kinds.
Eventually, this news made it to Europe, where hemp was used to treat coughs and tumors.
Hemp in the New World
Robert Burton’s Anatomy of the Melancholy recommended it as a treatment for mental disorders, while “The New England Dispensatory” and the “Edinburgh New Dispensatory” recommended it for pain, skin inflammation, and coughs. Colonists also used hemp paper for homespun clothing.
Into the shadows and back out again: hemp’s long journey into daylight
It was all going so well, and then W.B. O’Shaughnessy began experiments with cannabis indica (the THC-rich marijuana plant). Hemp extract was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia and then was made illegal by laws like the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Essentially, it stayed that way across most of the country (with some leeway for medical marijuana) until President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 into law on December 20th.
The 2018 legislation allows for widespread commercial hemp cultivation, providing the plants have less than 0.3 percent THC. It also removes the restrictions around the transportation of hemp-derived products across state lines. The legal status of the plant has altered hugely in the last few years!
With this new legalization, scientists and researchers were freed to publish their research on the health benefits of CBD without fear of repercussion. And now, what we’re learning about what well-produced CBD “medical” products can do for the human body is truly amazing.
How CBD works in the body: the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
The ECS is one of the central nervous system’s critical communications structures that works to control our physical and mental actions, reactions, and even moods. It’s made up of three elements which work together to keep the body and mind in good working order, or homeostasis:
These are chemical compounds which are found, produced and synthesized naturally within the body. Not to be confused with cannabinoids, which are plant-derived from hemp, and mimic or recreate the effect of our nervous system’s own endocannabinoids.
These live within our central nervous system where the ECS is also located and bond with both endocannabinoids and cannabinoids. But, then comes the tricky part…
Their job is to break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids, but they’re much less effective at neutralizing the effects of cannabinoids. So the plant-based compounds can do their jobs for much longer and more effectively than can our natural endocannabinoids, which means that they’re also very effective at returning the body to homeostasis.
CBD and neurological issues
As we begin to develop a more thorough understanding of the ECS, exciting possibilities are emerging as to how CBD products could have direct effects on our neurological health. For example, research suggests that CBD has a promising impact on major neurological infirmities like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and general memory issues not associated with aging.
A now-famous 2011 study by Australian researchers Tim Karl and Carl Group found that CBD promotes the growth and development of brain cells; this can slow the decline of memory and other brain functions.
A 2016 study by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) found that activating CB1 and CB2 (cannabinoid) receptors in the brain helped recover better blood flow to the brain. Activating the receptors with CBD has increased brain cell activity and helped reduce brain cell damage commonly associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
CBD and psychological disorders
Many mental health issues are acknowledged to cause people both physical and psychological pain. Patients are often prescribed highly addictive drugs with alarming potential side effects to deal with both types. An estimated 38.6 million Americans (16 percent) have a mental health disorder, and they account for 51.4 percent of the total number of opioids prescribed in the U.S. every year.
Studies have shown that people with mental health issues are also nearly twice as likely to stay on them as people without. So, take our current opioid epidemic, add people desperately searching for real relief from their pain. It’s no wonder that the news that CBD acts at the ECS’s GABA transmitters like benzos do was life-saving for people with psychological and mood disorders including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder (including panic attacks)
- Sleep disorders like insomnia
There’s even hope on the horizon that CBD can help with one of nature’s most-feared foes: cancer.
CBD and cancer: early days, bright future
Although we’re still learning how CBD may—in the future—be able to fight the disease itself, it’s equally important to recognize how hemp oil can help with the side effects of cancer and its treatments.
Depression and anxiety
As we’ve discussed, CBD is widely regarded as an effective, safe treatment for depression, anxiety, and fear. This can be a merciful relief to both patients and loved ones as they battle the disease together.
Although over 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain, cancer patients bear more than their fair share of this condition. And because of CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects and inhibition of neuropathic pain, there’s now an FDA-approved CBD-based drug—Sativex—to directly combat chronic pain.
More help is on the way
Researchers are working to develop CBD-based medications to combat nausea and neuropathy chemo patients suffer. There’s even promising early evidence of antitumor effects from CBD, as shown by clinical trials in mice and rats, as well as some results indicating that CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading.
The final word
As we learn more about the power of CBD, scientists and the public are becoming more excited about the potential future uses of this healing plant. CBD For Life is in your corner and provides the best in CBD health products. Still have questions? Reach out online, or leave a comment below!