The 11 Most Important Studies on CBD

CBD Research Round-Up

It’s an exciting time for CBD enthusiasts who are interested in science, as new research is coming out almost every day. With all the hype surrounding CBD, it can be a bit overwhelming to try and make sense of it all. That’s why we’ve rounded up eleven of the most important studies on CBD. We’ll go over what the science says and what it means for users. Keep reading to learn more about the science of CBD.

#1: CBD is non-psychoactive.

The cannabis plant features two major cannabinoids: THC and CBD, among many other minor cannabinoids. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, and it’s responsible for the euphoric high. But CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive.

This is because CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors in the brain like THC does. Instead, CBD acts in an indirect way to increase levels of anandamide, a cannabinoid found naturally in the human body.

Scientists have long believed that CBD is non-psychoactive. However, there has been some debate in the scientific community about whether CBD is truly non-psychoactive.

A 2016 study appeared to show that CBD was converted to THC in simulated gastric fluid -- a chemical concoction meant to simulate the fluids in the human stomach.

However, a 2017 review argues that the simulated gastric fluid studies are inaccurate, and that in vivo evidence (evidence from human bodies) suggests that CBD is not converted to THC in the stomach. The authors argue that the metabolites of THC are not found in the blood of people who take CBD, and that CBD users do not experience the same effects as THC. The current scientific understanding is that CBD is non-psychoactive.

A 2018 study found that CBD had “no observable effect on cognitive [and] psychomotor tests”.

#2: CBD is an effective pain reliever.

Many people prefer to use CBD over THC when possible, because CBD is non-psychoactive. This means users can go about their days normally while experiencing relief of their symptoms.

It is a well-known fact that THC is an effective pain reliever. But a number of studies have shown that CBD is effective for pain relief, too. This is important because pain is most often treated with opioid medications, which can be risky and addictive. While doctors have long known that THC is effective for pain, they are hesitant to prescribe medications containing THC, because many people do not wish to experience the psychoactive high it produces. CBD could offer an effective, non-psychoactive alternative to opioid medications.

A 2007 study found that CBD reduced the pain response in rats. A 2006 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials in human adults found that CBD was effective for treating pain in MS and cancer patients.

More recently, researchers have determined some of the possible mechanisms for how CBD helps treat pain. In a 2019 study, researchers suggest CBD may reduce pain via its effect on serotonin neurons.

A 2018 study of CBD users found that 62% were using CBD to treat a medical condition, and pain was the most common medical condition treated.

#3: CBD may be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders.

A 2011 study made waves when it found that CBD reduced symptoms of social anxiety in patients who completed a public speaking task. In addition to measuring self-reported feelings of anxiety, the researchers also measured physiological markers of anxiety, including heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance, a measure of stress. The authors suggest that CBD could someday be used as a treatment for social anxiety.

A 2015 review article on CBD and anxiety concludes: “Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”

In a 2018 study of CBD users, anxiety was among the three most common medical conditions users reported using CBD to treat.

#4: CBD may help treat certain forms of epilepsy.

CBD made headlines when it helped reduce the number of seizures a young girl named Charlotte Figi was experiencing. Figi suffers from Dravet syndrome, a treatment-resistant form of epilepsy. She was experiencing upwards of 300 seizures a week. Her parents used high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil to treat her, and her seizures reduced to 2 to 3 times a month.

Today, GW pharmaceuticals manufactures Epidiolex, a full-spectrum CBD oil available by prescription only. Their trials showed significant improvements in epilepsy patients. It is approved for the treatment of early-onset, treatment-resistant epilepsy in the United States.

A 2018 survey of physicians in Europe found that 45% of physicians treating children for epilepsy had prescribed CBD before. Of those who had not prescribed CBD, 70% reported they would consider using it for treatment if it were legal in their area.

#5: CBD may reduce the side-effects of THC.

Some of the most common side-effects of THC are anxiety, paranoia, and disturbed thinking. A groundbreaking 1982 study found that volunteers who received CBD alongside THC experienced less anxiety than those who received only THC.

A 2011 review suggests that the many chemical compounds in cannabis, including cannabinoids and terpenoids, work together to produce an entourage effect. This is also why we recommend full-spectrum CBD products that contain minor cannabinoids and terpenoids.

A 2009 article suggests that giving CBD alongside THC can help patients experience the benefits of THC while reducing psychoactive side-effects.

#6 CBD may be able to reduce nausea.

Cannabinoids are known to suppress nausea and vomiting. In fact, the drug Nabilone, a form of THC, was developed as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. However, patients found the psychoactive side-effects to be unpleasant.

Studies have shown that CBD also has anti-nauseant effects in rats. Although rats don’t vomit, they have a similar reflex known as conditioned gaping. CBD reduced conditioned gaping significantly when rats were given a nauseant chemical.

Numerous anecdotal reports in humans support the idea that CBD may reduce nausea. For many people, CBD is a preferred treatment compared to THC because it’s non-psychoactive.

Research shows that the endocannabinoid system is related to nausea and vomiting, and higher activity in the endocannabinoid system suppresses nausea, while lowered activity encourages it. Since CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system, it makes sense that it would reduce nausea.

#7 CBD may reduce symptoms of depression.

A 2014 article reports that studies show CBD causes antidepressant-like effects in rats. Scientists have developed ways to measure depressive symptoms in rats -- for example, measuring how long they will swim before giving up (the forced swim test). Rats who were given CBD swam significantly longer than those who were not.

A 2016 study found that CBD reduced symptoms of anhedonia -- the loss of interest in activities. Rats who were given CBD were more active, more interested in exploration, and were more interested in a pleasant, sweet drink.

While human trials are still lacking, anecdotal reports confirm that many humans find CBD to be an effective antidepressant, as well.

#8 CBD may be able to reduce acne.

In addition to a myriad of other potential benefits, scientists are considering whether CBD might be a potential treatment for acne. One of the causes of acne is overproduction of sebum. It turns out that sebaceous glands in hair follicles express cannabinoid receptors.

Research shows that CBD inhibits the production of sebum, and also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Together, these two facts suggest that CBD might be useful in treating acne, since acne is an inflammatory condition.

Another study showed that CBD helped regulate cell death among sebaceous gland cells. The scientists think CBD should be researched more in the context of acne.

In a 2015 study researchers asked participants to apply a “3% cannabis seed extract” cream to one side of their face. They measured the amount of sebum produced on both sides of participants’ faces, and found that the amount of sebum decreased on the side of the face where the cream was applied.

#9 CBD may reduce the risk of psychosis from THC, and also acts as an antipsychotic when administered alone.

One of the most concerning risks of THC use is the risk of developing transient psychosis, or worse, a psychotic mental illness. People who are vulnerable to psychotic mental illnesses like schizophrenia may experience psychosis when they use THC.

Remarkably, CBD does not increase the risk of psychosis. In fact, evidence suggests it can block the psychotomimetic effects of THC when administered at the same time.

CBD may also act as an antipsychotic in its own right. Both animal and human studies have confirmed antipsychotic effects of CBD.

A 2012 study found that CBD significantly reduced symptoms of psychosis in adults with schizophrenia. When it was compared with a traditional antipsychotic medication, CBD was as effective, but with far fewer side effects.

#10 CBD may be helpful for treating addictions.

A 2015 literature review suggests that CBD may be helpful for treating a variety of addictions.

The authors state: “A limited number of preclinical studies suggest that CBD may have therapeutic properties on opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addiction, and some preliminary data suggest that it may be beneficial in cannabis and tobacco addiction in humans.”

In other words, there is animal evidence that suggests CBD could help with opioid, cocaine, and stimulant addictions, and human evidence that suggests it could help with cannabis and tobacco addiction.

In a 2013 study, researchers gave people who were quitting smoking either a CBD inhaler or a placebo. They were instructed to use the inhaler whenever they had the urge to smoke. Those who used the CBD inhaler reported smoking 40% fewer cigarettes than those who used the placebo.

Since CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, some people may be wondering if it is addictive itself. A 2018 study concluded that therapeutic doses of CBD had a low abuse potential.

#11 CBD is considered relatively safe.

If you have ever heard a commercial for a pharmaceutical drug, you’re aware of the laundry list of side-effects many drugs can have. Unlike traditional pharmaceuticals, the list of side-effects from CBD is fairly small. Studies have shown that CBD is overall very well-tolerated and that adverse events are rare.

A 2018 randomized, placebo-controlled trial concluded that CBD was “generally well tolerated”. The side-effects were minimal and no serious side-effects occurred.

This, coupled with CBD’s non-psychoactive effect profile, explains the growing enthusiasm for CBD in the medical community.