Researchers have made breakthrough after breakthrough on the medicinal benefits of cannabis in recent decades. These new findings have helped to dramatically improve the lives of patients with notorious illnesses that had proven untreatable with existing medication. For instance, cannabis oil formulas have allowed child patients with rare epileptic conditions to enjoy essentially seizure-free lives.
Much of the new research on medical cannabis has focussed on a non-psychoactive compound called cannabidiol (CBD), and its effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This ancient system is found in the central and peripheral nervous systems and influences the brain and the rest of the body through mechanisms that are only just being discovered.
We have learned that the ECS impacts cognitive function, memory, pain sensitivity, reproductive cycles, mood, appetite and also that ECS regulation is important for immune system regulation.
But due to the complexity of the ECS, and the fact that CBD and endocannabinoids have an effect in other bodily systems, much of cannabis science still remains a mystery.
Therefore, plenty of exciting research is being carried out all over the world, highlighting the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids like CBD. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting studies concerning CBD that have been published in medical journals in 2018.
CBD – an effective treatment for depression?
Whole-plant cannabis is sometimes used as an alternative remedy for depression, but it can have mixed results. While some enjoy long-term benefits from using cannabis, for others the herb is merely a temporary fix, and can actually make things worse over time – chronic consumption of THC has been found to have a neurotoxic effect on the hippocampus, which is connected to motivation.
However, CBD seems to produce a therapeutic effect against depression, according to a study featured in the peer-reviewed Molecular Biology journal. Researchers demonstrated that one dose of CBD could produce a week-long antidepressant effect in mice, repairing broken circuity in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is essential for some of the brain’s most complex functions and is involved in the processes of personality expression and moderating social behavior.
The scientists found that CBD prevented the proliferation of synaptic proteins in the prefrontal cortex, and that the cannabinoid facilitated an increase in levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promoted neurogenesis and synaptogenesis.
It is encouraging that CBD produced a positive effect on depression from the first dose, considering that most antidepressant drugs can take a month or longer to work. Studies on rodents are a good starting point for neuroscience researchers looking to determine the effects of various substances in humans. Hopefully a similar study will be conducted on humans sometime soon.
CBD shown to boost cognitive function in chronic cannabis users
The cannabis plant has changed drastically in the past few decades, and the most common strains today have cannabinoid profiles that are heavily manipulated – the demand for potent psychoactive effects means the delicate balance between THC and CBD is now heavily lopsided in favor of the former.
THC certainly has medicinal value, but overconsumption of this cannabinoid appears to hasten deterioration in the hippocampus, which may explain memory loss in chronic users of cannabis.
However, a study published in Cannabis Cannabinoid Research has shown that CBD can have a restorative effect on the hippocampus, protecting against hippocampal volume loss and even supporting regrowth in the left subicular complex. The study treated 18 regular cannabis users with a daily dose of 200mg CBD for 10 weeks.
The researchers cautioned that a larger, placebo-controlled study would be necessary to strengthen their findings. However, the study indicates that long-term cannabis users may be able to boost cognitive function by taking CBD, and that neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which has been linked to atrophy in the hippocampus could be protected against.
The future of cannabis research is hard to predict, as there is still much to be discovered about the intricate mechanisms in which cannabinoids affect the body and its various systems. While the ECS is the main stomping ground for CBD, it also has influence in the opioid and serotonin systems.
Furthermore, there may be more than 100 identified cannabinoids, but very few have been seriously studied as yet. It’s feasible that manipulating strains to increase concentrations of lesser cannabinoids may unlock new therapeutic uses for CBD.
For instance, we already know that full-spectrum CBD products, like those from Jolly Green Oil, can provide more relief from certain conditions than CBD-isolate products.