What do we know about Cannabinoids and Cannabidiol? Most people that are not acquainted with the term Cannabidiol (abbreviated as CBD) assume that it must be "something related to marijuana or hashish", and rightly so. They also often reckon that if it has anything in common with the cannabis plant, it must be "something illegal and suspicious when it gets a mention in a conversation of wellness and health. And this is where prejudice stands in the way of opening one's mind to something new. We would like to not only prove this misconception invalid but also shed some light on the numerous advantages of using cannabidiol for wellness and health purposes. Many studies claim that CBD will potentially become the next best remedy and become a direct competitor for traditional painkillers. Quite ambitious, isn't it? The assertiveness and exponential growth of CBD products manufacturers and researchers sparked our curiosity, so we've decided to put together our own research and explore this subject further. The main centre of attention will not only be on the topic of CBD and its effects, but we will also discuss in details how it can be used in matters of pain management specifically.
What is Cannabidiol anyways?
Before we even begin talking about CBD, let's introduce a little bit of terminology to clear the air. Cannabis is a plant that has a reputation for being used to create drugs such as hashish and weed. The reason why a user experiences euphoria, or a so-called "high" effect of using marijuana is due to a certain amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that is also found in cannabis. The Cannabis Sativa plant family carries a negative connotation and is strongly associated with illegal status and drugs all due to one compound. However, people often underestimate cannabis that has more than a hundred of other compounds that are not only non-toxic but are actually unique and have a lot of useful properties. Nowadays, scientists conduct many studies and experiments examining cannabis compounds. Some of these compounds find wide application in modern medicinal practices and used to create natural products, such as pain relief remedies, diet supplements, acne and eczema creams, and even pet products. The compound that deserves special attention and the one we would like to discuss in more details is CBD, short for cannabidiol. Unlike the other well-known compound THC, it does not have any psychoactive properties and therefore doesn't cause altered consciousness. In other words, it will not get you "high" even if you consume CBD products in large quantities.
Why is CBD considered so useful?
Now that we understand that CBD is one of the numerous compounds found in cannabis plants let us discuss what it can be used for. Extracted CBD comes in oil form. Manufacturers come up with all kinds of variations of products using CBD oil as an active ingredient: beverages, edible sweets, capsules, creams, drops, you name it. The studies demonstrate substantial improvements in different types of conditions, such as mental disorders (insomnia, anxiety, depression), and physical discomforts and diseases (inflammation, cancer pain and many other types of pain, such as distresses experienced from having injuries).
What constitutes pain?
First of all, we need to define what constitutes pain and injury in order to discuss how it can be treated using CBD. Pain refers to an unpleasant feeling that is often caused by injuring stimuli when a person encounters damage of tissue. The unpleasant sensation of pain is an exchange between nerves, brain and the spinal cord. One of many possible reasons for a person to experience this type of distressing feeling is a result of having an injury. Injury is defined by a mild to severe damage to the body caused by an extreme outside force, such as breaking a bone in a car accident or dislocated knees or shoulders in an intense football game.
Why the feeling of pain is vital to our life
It is safe to say that no one enjoys the feeling of pain (perhaps except for masochists). However, it is vital for our life that can be explained evolutionary. If people didn't receive the signals of a tissue being damaged and consequently didn't feel the sensation of pain, we would not be able to acknowledge that something is wrong with our body. Imagine if your skin didn't have thermoreceptors; for example, it would be impossible to understand when the skin is in contact with something hot enough to cause a burn. The process of how pain receptors work is a lot more complicated, but the main principle and the evolutionary purpose of having them remain the same. Therefore it is an essential indicator that lets us know to treat the injury with either practice, such as massage, or medication, be it a gel or a cream in case of a burned skin or a cut, or a painkiller to relieve pain internally.
Types of pain relief
In order to find a suitable pain relief product or a treatment, you need to identify what kind of pain you are feeling and where the source of a sensation comes from. The list of remedies for pain treatment that are available on the market is endless. The most conventional and well-known solution is a painkiller drug that usually comes in forms of pills and capsules. There are also pain-relieving or numbing creams that can be applied topically to affected areas. For example, there are creams and sprays with Lidocaine as the main active ingredient; these products can provide local anaesthesia and a numbing effect to relieve pain sensations temporarily.
Pain can be short term or long term, acute or chronic, and can be classified as mild, moderate and severe. Identifying pain with accordance to these classifications will already provide the basis for choosing a type of painkiller to suit your particular needs. A less invasive type of painkiller is non-opioid that usually contains paracetamol, and stronger drugs that are used to help with severe pain sensations are called opioids; these drugs often include ingredients such as morphine.
How do the painkillers work?
To put in simple terms, we acknowledge that we feel pain because the cells that are injured or damaged release prostaglandins. We understand - it is hard to read, even harder to pronounce, but bear with us. When prostaglandins are released, our nerve endings detect it and instantly send a message to the brain with the information of where exactly a damaged tissue is located and how severely it was damaged. As soon as the brain receives this signal, it causes a pain sensation. When you take a painkiller drug, it doesn't interact with the particular spot that has been damaged or injured, but rather with the cells, brain and your body's nerve endings. For example, paracetamol prevents damaged cells from releasing prostaglandin and consequently stops the flow of signals that contain information about the pain coming through to the brain.
How does CBD help relieve pain?
Let's try to put the finger on why CBD is used for pain management. We all have a cell-signalling system called the endocannabinoid system, abbreviated as ECS. According to researchers, CBD interacts with a primary component of ECS called endocannabinoid receptors that are located in our immune system and the brain. The receptors are responsible for receiving chemical signals to create a response in our cells. The impact of CBD on our system encourages an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is one of the causes of experiencing pain, which is why anti-inflammatory effects caused by CBD help us to experience pain relief as a result. Additional research conducted on a few human trials also gave the scientists grounds to assume that CBD can be used to alleviate neuropathic pain, which is the type of pain caused by nerve damage.
Types of pain
Pain management always needs to be considered individually because it may vary from person to person. For two people, the same injury may cause different levels of sensation intensity depending on whether one has high or low pain thresholds and about a million other different reasons. Nonetheless, when faced with physical discomfort and picking a remedy for pain management, it is essential to classify your pain first and get an understanding of where it comes from specifically.
Let us examine how CBD may be used to treat different types of pain.
As it has been mentioned above, the ECS receptors interact with CBD elements in one's brain and immune system. These receptors work in a way where they receive signals from different stimuli (usually from damaged tissues) and help cells respond. This response helps to create an anti-inflammatory effect and as a result, leads to pain relief. Due to this discovery, scientists assume that it is a useful approach to chronic pain management.
There is rather fascinating research that was conducted in 2016. In this study, scientists used rats with arthritis and aimed to find out whether CBD would decrease their level of pain. Another objective of the study was focused on determining the amount of CBD needed to provide relief. They used a CBD infused gel that was applied topically to rats in amounts of 0.6, 3.1, 6.2, and 62.3 mg per day. The rats partaking in the study received the lesser two dosages (0.6 and 3.1) didn't experience any improvement in their pain levels. The ones that were treated with 6.2 and 62.3 mg of CBD had a significant reduction in inflammation and swelling, and overall pain sensations in the joints. Fortunately, there were no visible side effects from either amount. The scientists concluded that an increase of dosage after a benchmark of 6.2 mg showed no differences in pain reduction, which allows for more precision in determining the amount needed for CBD to be effective.
The researchers have every reason to assume that CBD has great potential to help people with arthritis manage pain. However, there is still a gap in research and a need for a similar type of experiment being implemented on humans to claim this theory valid.
Another common source of pain experienced by people is cancer pain. A lot of research has been conducted to examine whether CBD can be useful in treating such distress. A study on mice showed that CBD is potentially capable of shrinking cancerous tumours. However, similarly to studies of rats with arthritis, no such research has been conducted with humans trials.
Additionally, the National Cancer Institute has also named CBD useful in the reduction of chemotherapy side effects such as fatigue, vomiting and lack of appetite.
So far, the research has been focused on pairing CBD with THC, which is also a popular combination in the conversation of wellness and health. The findings of a 2017 research suggest that these products infused with both compounds, CBD and THC, can be used in acute moderate pain and migraine reduction.
In similar experiments, the percentage of THC is usually very insignificant in comparison to the use of marijuana as a drug, such as smoking a joint. However, the allowed THC levels are still relatively controversial and a point of negotiation among official bodies in different countries. Because of the complications that come with THC concentrations in products, it is a bit more challenging to buy products that contain this compound legally.
Can CBD be a full-fledged substitute to a painkiller?
Although CBD does not possess the properties of a conventional painkiller drug to block transmission of signals indicating that you should be feeling pain, it is often used systematically to prevent acute pain impulses. Scientists claim that it is a much safer solution for pain management rather than using painkiller drugs. The reason is obvious: it is much more effective to cure the source of pain, especially if it is chronic or often recurring rather than blocking the information from nerve cells coming through to the brain. This way, you deal with the core of the problem and prevent the pain sensation from recurring rather than eliminating the symptom. However, if the feeling of pain is acute rather than chronic or recurrent, especially if it is severe to the point of being unbearable, it may not be your prefered option for a quick fix.
Challenges of CBD research
Having discussed the benefits of using CBD, we must take into account the fact that it has only been tested on animals. The reasons for the gaps in research are mostly due to cannabis and medical marijuana being illegal in a number of countries. However, the response that the scientists received from their lab tests on mice was promising and led to relatively mild side effects, which allows them to assume that it will have a similar impact on humans. The researches have also conducted surveys and focus groups asking dozens of thousands of people that have experience using CBD infused products for a variety of wellness-related problems to give their opinion about their encounters. Their findings of consumers' feedback were mostly positive with a visible trend of CBD products providing effective pain relief or even a full-fledged substitute to antidepressant drugs and many more.
Things to consider when choosing a CBD product
Each year as the research covers more and more sides of CBD usage on people with different conditions, CBD proves itself to be a well-tolerated and safe compound, unlike THC or opioids, which can lead to dependence and abuse. However, there are still a few rules that need to be considered and followed for a harmless and successful experience.
First of all, before you make a decision to give CBD products a try, it is essential to pay very close attention to the composition of each product and the ingredients list. Also, we recommend researching the brand, their reputation and methods used for cultivating plants and manufacturing goods. The market of CBD products is undergoing exponential growth and expects to keep reaching new heights annually in the next several years, which makes this industry extremely attractive for a lot of businesses. Unfortunately, not all of these brands have the consumers' best interest in mind when producing their assortment of products. People often buy tinctures or capsules from unreliable brands that have a rather small amount of CBD and a lot of unnecessary, nasty chemicals in the composition. These products barely cause any effect or don't perform at all due to an insufficient concentration of CBD and rubbish ingredients.
You also need to keep in mind that CBD products often take more time than we are used to when taking over the counter medicines. It often happens that people do not see any effect after a few days of using the product due to consuming a small amount as they should do in the beginning. It can lead to a feeling of disappointment and discourage the consumer from using it further. Some people jump to conclusions that it is ineffective when, in reality, it just needs more time to activate and provide a cumulative effect.
The research also uncovered a trend of CBD being ineffective or giving adverse side effects in cases when people were consuming it simultaneously with other drugs, BADs or vitamins that include ingredients that are not compatible with CBD. Before you proclaim yourself a doctor and prescribe yourself a treatment, make sure to consult an actual specialist. Furthermore, the reason for ineffectiveness can also be obscured in less obvious habits such as smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, it would be close to impossible to list all kinds of combinations of activities, ingredients and habits that are incompatible with CBS. Therefore it is vital to read the annotation that comes with every CBD infused product. Make time to also speak to a doctor to ensure that you are getting the best possible experience without adverse effects or causing harm to your wellbeing.
Another point to consider before deciding to try CBD is doctors' strong recommendation to refrain from using such products if you are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breast-feeding. Scientists believe that CBD can have a negative impact on the fetus brain development hence why consuming products with CBD, and even more so - THC, can lead to unfortunate consequences. Furthermore, CBD is not advised for children and teenagers under the age of 18. A prevalent majority of the research that has been held to study cannabis compounds was conducted on adult trials. To this day, there is not nearly enough information about how CBD specifically can impact the health of a growing organism.