10 Proven CBD Benefits (Plus Possible Side Effects)

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CBD remains one of the more popular natural alternatives to traditional medication, as it has wide-ranging therapeutic effects.

Because the research on CBD is still in its infancy, it can be challenging to sift through all the knowledge and come to a conclusion. We’ve collected 10 different yet proven CBD benefits and explained more on how it can help enhance your life.

What is CBD?

CBD is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in cannabis. CBD is a type of cannabinoid, and there are many different cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, all with other effects.

While there is continuous controversy surrounding CBD due to recreational marijuana use and the side effects that can occur, there is also growing awareness of various CBD benefits. Unlike the cannabinoid THC found in cannabis, CBD is not psychoactive and does not create the ‘high’ feeling of intoxication.

CBD can be utilized for many medical applications and has been involved in many therapeutic uses, both mental and physical. CBD extracts are often used in sprays, tinctures, oils, and topical ointments, depending on what is required by the patient.

The benefits of this popular cannabis compound vary – CBD has been used to treat many health issues, including anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, and insomnia, and it has even shown neuroprotective effects.

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Benefits of CBD

Here are some CBD benefits that you might not know. All of these benefits have been scientifically backed by the latest research and medical studies.

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1. Pain Relief

Chronic pain can leave us feeling miserable and irritable. It also affects many of us in our day-to-day lives. About 1 in 6 New Zealanders are estimated to live with chronic pain, although others are thought to be living with it undiagnosed. Examples of common conditions that cause of pain include headaches, migraines, and arthritis.

Luckily, CBD has shown promising benefits in reducing pain output and signalling, with many health-conscious individuals choosing CBD as a natural alternative over traditional painkillers. So, how does CBD manage to create relief from pain? Within the body lies the endocannabinoid system (ECS), consisting of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors.

The ECS affects many bodily processes, ranging from maintenance of the immune system to energy output. Many researchers believe CBD can interact with ECS receptors that lie in the immune system and brain. When these receptors receive chemical signals from CBD compounds, this can cause cells throughout the body to respond.

Because CBD interacts with your ECS, your brain will perceive the pain differently, causing some pain relief. Alongside this, CBD can have anti-inflammatory effects, which also play a significant role in relieving chronic pain.

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2. Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Inflammation is considered one of the root causes of chronic pain. When inflammation levels rise too high within your body, this causes swelling of muscle tissues, which can start pressing against your nerve endings. Your immune system will also work to attack your joints to try to lower inflammation levels. Unfortunately, this will result in discomfort and pain.

Inflammation is often a side effect or cause of many illnesses and health conditions. These include type 2 diabetes, cancer, and many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

CBD’s role in lowering inflammation throughout the body has been promising, but more studies involving humans are still needed. Despite this, many researchers believe the results of animal studies investigating CBD and inflammation show therapeutic potential.

A recent study involved rats with joint inflammation due to arthritis and looked at how CBD was able to lower inflammation. Researchers applied CBD on the rats’ skin and found reduced joint swelling and lowered pain levels, with no adverse side effects after application.

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3. Improves Digestive Health

One of CBD’s lesser-known roles is its interaction with the digestive system. When you continuously have high stress levels, this can affect your digestion, bowel movements, and how much nutrients you absorb. Researchers have described this as the ‘mind-gut connection‘. Stress or anxiety can also lead to intestinal permeability, resulting in gut bacteria in your bloodstream!

Many illnesses can arise when digestive health is impaired. Common conditions include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is often linked to anxiety, and gastritis.

Multiple studies have shown CBD effectively treating anxiety and high stress levels. CBD’s interaction with the ECS does more than promote pain relief. It can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure, while promoting calm feelings.

CBD has also been shown to regulate appetite. Keeping your eating times regular is essential to reduce bloating or indigestion. Researchers found that CBD could increase appetite by relieving nausea and an upset stomach, while reducing symptoms of an overactive nervous system.

Because changes in appetite are one of the main side effects of CBD, some individuals have also experienced a reduced appetite after using CBD. This is good news to those who often experience poor digestive health from overeating!

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4. Reduce Depression and Anxiety

Traditional medication for depression and anxiety often comes with a whole range of adverse side effects. Because of this, many people are choosing to manage their anxiety and depression with natural alternatives, like CBD.

CBD interacts with receptors within the body that affect serotonin levels. Lowered serotonin levels in the brain are associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression since serotonin can affect mood. While taking CBD doesn’t boost serotonin levels, it can affect how your receptors respond to the serotonin present in your body.

While most research investigating CBD’s effects on depression and anxiety comes from animal studies, these have shown promising results. Recently, researchers looked at how CBD was able to affect stress levels in rats. They found lowered rates of anxiety and stress signals, with decreased blood pressure and heart rate.

Since stress is one of the significant causes of depression, decreasing stress levels naturally is of interest for researchers investigating CBD and depression. Despite being a new research area, many studies suggest that CBD reduces stress levels in humans due to its anti-stress effects and interactions with the ECS.

 

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5. Improves Sleep Quality

 

Due to our busy lives, falling and even staying asleep can be challenging. Maintaining good sleep quality is essential, as lack of shut-eye can impact how your body heals and repairs, leading to an increased risk of physical and mental illnesses. A disrupted sleep cycle can be due to anxiety, stress, or insomnia, waking you up during the night.

CBD’s anti-stress properties interact with receptors throughout the body that can increase serotonin levels, improve your mood, and even lower your heart rate! All of this results in decreased anxiety and stress, allowing you to get to sleep easier.

Recently, researchers investigated CBD benefits when treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After taking CBD orally, most patients (91%) had a decrease in PTSD symptoms, and CBD was also shown to offer relief from PTSD-induced nightmares for some patients.

Interestingly, cortisol can also play a role in how much sleep we’re getting every night. When cortisol levels are high, this can promote high blood pressure and low sleep quality. Cortisol is also associated with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, as it interacts with brain receptors. Luckily, many studies have linked CBD use to lowered cortisol levels.

 

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6. Weight Loss

 

Because one of CBD’s main side effects is changes in appetite, CBD has been linked to weight management and, in particular, weight loss. As explained earlier, CBD can be beneficial for digestive health, including improving gut health.

Individuals who have digestive conditions like IBS often experience extreme bowel habits. When diarrhoea or constipation is prolonged, this can affect the delicate balance of bacteria present in the gut microbiome. Our gut bacteria are responsible for our moods, appetites, and even what foods we crave! An excess of ‘bad’ gut bacteria is associated with increased sugar cravings, which can further wreak havoc on digestion.

CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can help ease digestive conditions and gut motility, leading to regular bowel movements and increased gut health. Keeping our gut bacteria healthy means we’re more likely to resist unhealthy cravings, while keeping ourselves full and satiated!

Alongside this, researchers have investigated CBD’s effect on fat stores. A 2016 study concluded that CBD could change how the body interacts with fat, with CBD helping to convert white, ‘bad’ fat into brown fat cells. CBD was also seen to stimulate fat breakdown more effectively.

In 2018, researchers expanded on this idea, stating that white fat cells turn into brown fat cells, thus enhancing weight loss. Brown fat cells are associated with increased metabolism due to being a more ‘active’ form of fat, burning off energy as heat, and therefore calories! They concluded that CBD is a promising therapy for obesity prevention, although more human studies are still required.

 

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7. Reduce Acne

 

CBD benefits and its effect on acne have long been investigated. Acne can be highly complex and due to many factors, including diet, stress, and genetics. However, an important step to reduce acne breakouts is cutting back on excess oil production, which can clog your pores and increase pimple production.

Researchers investigated CBD’s ability to reduce the excess oil build-up in the skin. They found that CBD could inhibit oil production, while also having anti-inflammatory effects on glands that produced oil. While research in this area is still in its early stages, they concluded that CBD was a promising treatment for acne.

CBD also has strong antibacterial properties alongside being an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation and acne often walk hand in hand. Pores that contain dead skin cells, bacteria, and excess oil can lead to inflammation and swelling in the skin, leading to acne production. Inflammation throughout the body can also manifest in your skin.

CBD’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects can reduce the amount of build-up in your pores, altering how much acne develops on your face and across your body. CBD can be found in many skincare products, including lotions, soaps, and body washes.

 

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8. Control Seizures

 

While the use of CBD in controlling seizures is still in its infancy, many researchers have investigated CBD and medical marijuana use in reducing the severity of and controlling seizures. While the evidence has been promising, research has been hard to carry out due to strict regulations surrounding cannabis use for medical reasons.

Usage of CBD to treat epilepsy and seizures over traditional medications continues to grow, as about 30% of people with epilepsy reported having difficulty controlling seizures with just traditional methods alone. Alongside this, people who don’t respond well to conventional medications, like children, may benefit from the gentle, well-tolerated nature of CBD.

Researchers have suggested that CBD may be beneficial for certain forms of epilepsy, like the rare Dravet syndrome. Rare forms of epilepsy often manifest early, resist traditional forms of treatment, and develop severe symptoms, including seizures. Because of this, research suggests CBD as a possible option for controlling these symptoms.

The only FDA-approved CBD treatment available for use is a CBD isolate called Epidiolex; it is approved due to its consistency and strength of the treatment. While research is promising, more studies need to be carried out for CBD to be approved as a viable treatment option for seizures and epilepsy.

Despite this, many people like to supplement their traditional medication with additional CBD forms. Talking to your doctor before you do this is important, as CBD can interact with some drugs, so it is essential to make sure it’s a good fit for your needs.

 

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9. Eases Cancer Treatment Side Effects

CBD remains a popular natural option for easing the side effects of cancer treatment. Cancer is one of the most common diseases worldwide, and the treatment options vary since the disease is so complicated. These can include hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. Because of the intensity of these treatments, many side effects often occur.

These include:

  • Insomnia or decreased sleep quality
  • Nausea and decreased appetite
  • Chronic pain
  • Changes in bowel habits

CBD can help assist the quality of sleep for those undergoing cancer treatment by regulating their sleep-wake cycles. Researchers in 2019 looked at whether CBD could improve sleep in 72 individuals. After a month of consuming one CBD capsule daily, the majority of patients (67%) reported better sleep. Researchers also found that CBD was able to combat nausea and vomiting in humans and animals.

Both of these can be associated with the interaction of CBD with the ECS. Cannabinoids like CBD can interact with ECS receptors, which regulate many body processes, including digestion, sleep, and mood. When this occurs, benefits like increased muscle relaxation and mood stabilization can occur.

 

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10. Headache and Migraine Relief

Headaches and migraines are inconvenient and painful. While many people like to pop a painkiller at the first signs of a headache, others favour more natural options for providing relief, like CBD.

CBD is popular for treating headaches and migraines as it’s well-tolerated without any side effects. Studies have found that those who used CBD didn’t need to increase the dosage to get the same benefits as traditional painkillers’ long-term use. Researchers recently found that CBD use had benefits in relieving chronic pain symptoms, with reduced pain output across the body.

So, what makes CBD so good at relieving headaches and migraines? As explained earlier, the ECS plays a big part in controlling many of the processes that occur throughout the body. Pain relief is one of the main benefits of cannabinoids since they can affect how the brain perceives the pain, and yes, this includes the pain from headaches.

While CBD alone is enough to create enough migraine relief, many researchers have pointed out the importance of combining CBD with THC. When both of these cannabis compounds are combined, they can work synergistically, improving the effects of both compounds at the same time!

 

How to Use CBD

CBD is very versatile, meaning you can use it in different forms. These include:

  • Oils and tinctures
  • CBD-infused topicals
  • Vapes
  • Gummies and capsules
  • Lotions and skincare products
  • Sprays

While it can seem intimidating to choose what CBD form to use, especially if it’s your first time, choosing the right form for you is very simple. It is essential to check in with your doctor before starting CBD, as they can assess your health concerns and whether CBD is the best choice for you.

The CBD option you choose depends on your individual preference and what form would be easiest for you to take. For example, some people like CBD gummies, as they work best for their schedules, but others prefer vapes, as they find they give more potent effects.

 

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A popular and great way of taking CBD is via tinctures or drops placed on the delicate skin under the tongue. This method is known as taking CBD sublingually since sublingual means ‘under the tongue’. Taking CBD sublingually is popular, as many find it the easiest way to absorb CBD quickly and effectively. The area under the tongue is capillary-rich, increasing the rate at which CBD gets absorbed into the bloodstream.

When it comes to dosage, the amount will depend on your needs and body composition. Because of this, it is hard to pinpoint the exact dosage for you since it will vary from person to person. An excellent way to figure out how much works for you is to start slow and then increase the amount over time, which allows your body to get used to CBD.

Similarly, when you should take CBD will depend on what you’re using CBD for. Many people who take CBD to improve their sleep like to take it a few hours before bedtime. Others prefer to start their days with CBD, as it’s most convenient.

 

Side Effects

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While CBD is generally well-tolerated, some people have experienced some side effects. These include:

  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite

While side effects can occur, they are often minimal and disappear after the initial stages of taking CBD. If you’re worried about these side effects or if side effects persist, talk to your doctor. CBD can also interact with other medications you’re on, so double-checking with a health professional is always the best way forwards.

While CBD side effects can often be random and affect individuals based on their body compositions, you can limit your chances of experiencing any adverse side effects by carefully choosing your CBD product.

Higher-quality CBD products are often more expensive, but the price is worth the quality. These products are often batch-tested and go through extensive screening for any additional contaminants that may impact your health.

 

 

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The Bottom Line

CBD is a popular natural remedy known to provide many health benefits that span our physical and mental well-being. Researchers and studies have backed these benefits, so you can feel confident in getting all the information you need.

 

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I hope you find this article useful. Share with us your story or recommendations, I would love to hear it!

MBChB (Otago), BSc (Auckland) - As our tele-medicine doctor and author, Dr. Waseem keeps busy educating both patients and doctors about medicinal cannabis. He also consults with people from all over New Zealand, offering a listening ear and giving the most relevant advice.

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