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Cannabidiol: A brief overview of CBD and its history

Published: 19-05-2021

What is Cannabidiol and its therapeutical effects 

What is Cannabidiol (CBD), and why has it gotten attention from scientists all over the world, studying its medical potential?

Cannabidiol - one of the main phytocannabinoids, found in cannabis (Cannabis Sativa L): it corresponds for up to 40% of its active components.

CBD was discovered by chemicals scientist at the University of Illinois (USA) in the early 1940s, although the research was soon postponed. The testing was cancelled due to ongoing World War 2, along with the restriction of laws for cannabis, being fully criminalized in the 1961, once the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs took place. Next step in the cannabis research and its properties happened in 1964, when biochemists from Israel, under the guidance of Professor Rafael Mechoulam, were studying chemical structures of terpenes and cannabinoids.

They were able to extract the main psychoactive component of marijuana - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), followed by the second most important component - cannabidiol (CBD). By extracting and synthesizing these cannabinoids, they came to the conclusion that CBD does not affect your mental conditions, unlike its counterpart THC. Further research led to another disclosure - CBD can neutralize some of the negative side effects of THC.

The name of R. Mechoulam is tied with another important discovery - The Endocannabinoid system in the human body, which has an impact on the physical and emotional conditions of a human, such as appetite, sleep, mood, immunity system.

CBD can directly interact with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, having a positive impact on many physiological and psychological aspects within the body, therefore treating different health issues. In the present times, CBD is being intensively studied in research laboratories in the USA, Israel, and Europe. 

Which problems can be solved with the help of CBD? 

Therapeutic effects of CBD 

Nowadays, CBD is scientifically proven to be an effective treatment method for many health issues. It is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD helps with both falling asleep and staying asleep. CBD can offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. Another study has shown that CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. The most recent research (2020*) demonstrates how CBD successfully tackles complications caused by COVID-19. 

CBD and Cytokine Storm 

Mortality in COVID-19 patients has been linked to the presence of the so-called “cytokine storm”. American and Israeli scientists run experiments to prove that CBD with a coalition of 30 different terpenes can deal with the cytokine storm. Excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines leads to ARDS aggravation and widespread tissue damage, resulting in multi-organ failure. Targeting cytokines during the management of COVID-19 patients could drastically improve treatment and survival rates. 

Cannabidiol and epilepsy treatment 

On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved EPIDIOLEX (cannabidiol, CBD) oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two epilepsy syndromes - Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome - in people two years of age or older. Epidiolex represents a new medication option for children with these types of epilepsy. It is the first-ever FDA-approved medication to treat seizures in Dravet syndrome. It is also the first-ever plant-based drug derived from the cannabis plant in the United States. Researchers studied this medicine in controlled clinical trials.

The studies showed that the addition of CBD to a traditional seizure medication decreased the frequency of drop seizures significantly in children and adults with LGS. CBD also resulted in a greater decrease in convulsive seizures among people with Dravet syndrome. It is also worth noting that CBD showed no primary side effects, unlike other medicine used to treat epilepsy.

The story that kick-started CBD research as a possible cure for epilepsy is bittersweet. In 2006 in the USA a girl was born, named Charlotte. At 3 months old she began having her first epileptic seizures. Doctors were able to diagnose the Dravet syndrome. As time passed by, the girl’s conditions had only worsened, and the frequency of seizures had greatly increased: prescribed medicine (barbiturates and benzodiazepines) did not help, and on top of that caused addiction. By 6 years old, Charlotte would experience up to 300 epileptic seizures each week(!). Her heart briefly stopped working several times, and her poor mother had to perform CPR on the child until the ambulance would have arrived. The situation was critical. Doctors had run out of options to save Charlotte.

Charlotte’s parents, however, never gave up, and their last chance was non-traditional methods of medicine, one of which was consuming oil with a high concentration of CBD and minimal THC. They lived in Colorado (USA), where the usage of medical cannabis is legalized. The results exceeded all expectations and gave hope to a number of patients, who were suffering from the disease that seemingly had no cure. In 2013, a documentary report about Charlotte was filmed, and in 2018 the first CBD medicine was approved globally, for kids struggling with epileptic symptoms. 

Other therapeutic effects of CBD 

As scientists discover more about the unique healing properties of CBD, new treatment methods are being tested for different symptoms and illnesses. 

Let us introduce to some of them: 

  • CBD can relieve the pain of disseminated sclerosis patients
  • CBD can ease muscle stress and joints pain of people, suffering from arthritis
  • Scientific study demonstrated positive results for CBD resolving trauma stress during the depression and other psychic disorders
  • Many experiments have confirmed, that CBD can drastically improve the wellbeing of patients, suffering from Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases
  • CBD is used as a healthy substitute for people with nicotine and marijuana addictions. Even though smoking marijuana causes more psychological addiction, rather than physical, people tend to find it difficult to quit. A psychiatric journal The Lancer Psychiatry released a statement, where British scientists from the University of Bath had demonstrated that large doses of CBD would positively affect smoke-addicts, who would drastically decrease their marijuana intake or quit it at all. Scientists also mentioned a possibility of treating heroin addicts with CBD.
  • CBD oil is used against acne
  • CBD oil can also boost your appetite and decrease nausea, which is very helpful for oncological patients.

 As you can see, CBD can be used as a treatment for many diseases, from relieving pain to improving the overall well-being of a person. This ongoing list of health benefits will be discussed in greater depth in our next articles. Although we have to mention that CBD oil and other products should not be used as a substitute for traditional medicine and a healthy diet. 

How does CBD affect your body? 

Unfortunately, even the scientists can’t provide an exact answer to this question. It is known, that CBD directly interacts with the endocannabinoid system of a human body. However, the interaction of CBD and other cannabinoids with the system is very complex and remains under preliminary research.

What we know is that endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, which are expressed throughout the vertebrate central nervous system (including the brain) and peripheral nervous system.

The concept of endocannabinoid deficiency, developed by Dr. Russo in 2003 points out that the deficit of cannabinoids can lead to a number of health issues. Phytocannabinoids (CBD being one of them), are able to stabilize the deficiency, improving the psychophysical state of the body. Look out for our new articles, where we will be looking at an interaction between cannabidiol and endocannabinoids at a greater depth and discussing possible theories and hypotheses regarding the therapeutic effects of CBD! 

Law and Regulations of CBD 

In 2018, World Health Organization (WHO) came up with a Critical Review Report regarding CBD, which states that CBD as a substance does not cause addiction, does not have side effect, does not cause damage to health and has huge potential as a medical drug.

It is also worth noting that cannabidiol wasn’t mentioned in the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1961, 1971, and 1988. Hence, United Nations does not consider cannabidiol (CBD) as a narcotic drug.

Medical cannabis and CBD, derived from organic hemp with a concentration of THC <0.2%, is fully legalized in most European countries, including Spain.

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