Cannabidiol – or CBD for short – is an ingredient of the hemp variety Cannabis sativa L. In contrast to THC, it does not cause a state of intoxication when ingested, as is often experienced when smoking marijuana. In addition, it has numerous effects that give hope for diseases that have so far been insufficiently treatable. For example, CBD shows promising results in the therapy of certain types of epilepsy.
- CBD is one of the central ingredients of the hemp plant. In contrast to the more prominent and well-known THC, cannabidiol has no psychoactive effect. This makes it attractive for all applications where this is an undesirable effect.
- Despite the above, there is even less data from studies on CBD than on THC, mainly because CBD has not been the focus of (medical) research for a long time. The reason for this is that it does not act as an agonist at the known cannabinoid receptors. Its mechanisms of action were long unclear and more challenging to measure than those for THC. The effects were also less spectacular in animal experiments.
- CBD is believed to inhibit the growth of tumor cells. However, this effect has not yet been sufficiently researched.
- Experience with CBD is primarily based on individual applications and animal experiments. The broad evidence base required in medicine is missing.
- CBD is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect, for example, in Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
- The anticonvulsant function of CBD for epilepsy forms Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome has been relatively well proven. The drug Epidiolex is approved in the USA. Approval for Europe should follow soon: The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use issued a positive assessment report on the marketing authorization for Epidiolex under the centralized marketing authorization procedure on July 25, 2019. Thus, the granting of a central marketing authorization by the European Commission can be expected within the next two months. The CBD-containing drug is to be used only for the forms mentioned above of epilepsy and in combination with Clobazam in children aged two years and older.
How does CBD work with epilepsy?
Unlike THC, CBD only acts to a limited extent at the receptors of the body’s cannabinoid system. But, CBD has been shown to have another function unrelated to cannabinoid receptors: it regulates the calcium concentration in nerve cells and controls some hormone systems – the means of communication between cells.
Serotonin and adenosine are two of these messengers that are influenced by CBD. The reasoning behind this having an antispasmodic effect is not yet known precisely. CBD has an impact on many different receptor systems in the organism and is a powerful antioxidant due to its chemical structural formula (fights free radicals that can be responsible for changes in the cells).
In any case, CBD – sometimes also in combination with THC – has an alleviating effect on the severity and frequency of epileptic seizures. This has also been shown in clinical studies and is considered its most established medical use at the time. This fact has been extensively proven in the application in animals or cell cultures. In the USA, CBD has been approved as a finished drug for rare forms of epilepsy since June 2018.
CBD as a supplement to other therapies
In infants with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome – severe forms of epilepsy, which usually occur from around six months of age and for which “normal” anti-epileptic drugs are generally not sufficiently effective – the frequency of seizures with this cannabinoid is reduced by almost half. CBD is given in relatively high doses in addition to conventional anti-epileptic drugs.
Other very diverse epileptic diseases also respond well to CBD. In many cases, the combined effect of CBD and THC is also something to bring up with a physician. Mainly where conventional anti-epileptic drugs fail, the use of CBD (and sometimes THC in combination) is worth considering. However, the current study situation only refers to a few types of epilepsies. Whether CBD can also be applied to the many other forms cannot be deduced from the studies conducted to date. Successful individual cases and initial studies are in any case indications that CBD is applicable. Many records exist anecdotally about the effects CBD has had in these applications and more.
The therapy should only be carried out under medical supervision. Conversely, there are often interactions with other anti-epileptic drugs, which requires a dose adjustment. but, epilepsy treatment requires an exact dosage. Given an exact dosage is required, this cannot be ensured with self-treatment using preparations from the Internet or other sources (see below).
CBD has other side effects
Despite its proven noise-free effect, CBD is not free of side effects. Fatigue is one of the possible side effects. As discussed on our CBD for Cancer page, CBD is appetite-suppressing – and thus contradicts a common effect of the intoxicant THC, which is mainly used to accompany cancer treatments to prevent loss of appetite, so using them together in this situation can be counter-productive.
CBD is particularly versatile
CBD is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. Up to now, this experience has mainly been based on individual successes, cell experiments, or animal experiments. Nobody knows in which dosage CBD has to be used in humans. Another big question is if a full spectrum CDB will work or if you need to isolate different parts of the cannabidiol. How about whether a combination with THC might be more or less effective in cancer. Also, the response to CBD and THC could be quite different in different types of cancer. There is plenty we don’t know yet, and we hope that more studies come to light soon.
Experts also hope to achieve treatment success in psychotic states and the treatment of schizophrenia. Sufficiently large-scale studies on this are still lacking. From today’s point of view, there is a justified hope that CBD can be used for various diseases in the future.