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CBD Oil: 9 Science-Backed Benefits

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. When applied topically or consumed through smoke inhalation or edible consumption, CBD interacts with neuroreceptors in your endocannabinoid system, which sends signals between your cells to help regulate your movement, mood, homeostasis and immune system.

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CBD is often extracted from the cannabis sativa plant in oil form and mixed with an inert carrier oil like hemp seed oil for consumption. In fact, of the 60% of U.S. adults who report having used CBD before, 55% of them use CBD oils and tinctures specifically, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

CBD research is growing, too. Here are nine ways studies suggest CBD oil could benefit your health.

1. Offset Anxiety and Depression

CBD’s ability to calm is perhaps its most popular effect and the reason its use is so widespread. A 2017 study in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry tested the anxiety levels of 57 men in a simulated public speaking test. Some received a placebo while others received either 150 milligrams, 300 milligrams or 600 milligrams of CBD before their speeches. Those who received 300 milligrams of CBD experienced significantly reduced anxiety during the test compared to those who received the placebo. Interestingly, participants who received either 150 or 600 milligrams of CBD experienced more anxiety during the test than the 300 milligrams group.

Meanwhile, at least one study in mice revealed CBD had effects similar to the antidepressant imipramine. Human trials are needed, though, to confirm whether CBD can induce this same antidepressant reaction in our bodies.

2. Treat Select Epilepsy Syndromes

In some instances, CBD can be used to treat epileptic seizures.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of CBD under the brand name Epidiolex to treat seizures resulting from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome—two rare forms of epilepsy—in patients at least 2 years old.

Three well-vetted studies provide the basis of support for the FDA’s decision. In these trials, 516 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome received either Epidiolex or a placebo. Epidiolex, when taken along with other prescribed medications, decreased the frequency of participants’ seizures compared to the placebo.

3. Reduce PTSD Symptoms

In a small 2018 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) received CBD along with routine psychiatric care for eight weeks in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Ten of the 11 experienced a decrease in their PTSD symptoms. CBD was generally well tolerated, the researchers write.

Margaret Rajnic, a doctor of nursing practice experienced in medical cannabis and CBD, emphasizes the importance of using therapy in tandem with any type of cannabis or CBD for PTSD. “There is an amount of therapy that is needed for PTSD,” she says. “But CBD will give you that little bit of decreased anxiety.”

Four other human trials from 2012 to 2016 suggest CBD reduces PTSD symptoms, although some include THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main mind-altering element in cannabis. When THC and CBD work together, they create what’s called an “entourage effect,” complementing each other’s benefits and potency. For example, taking the same dose of THC and CBD together tempers the “high” from THC, while just a little THC paired with more CBD enhances the effects of the CBD.

4. Treat Opioid Addiction

Some studies—both preclinical animal and human clinical trials—suggest CBD could be used to help treat people who are dependent on opioids.

In one such study, researchers administered CBD to people with heroin use disorder. Over the course of a week, CBD significantly reduced heroin users’ cue-induced cravings, withdrawal anxiety, resting heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. No serious adverse effects were found.

Other studies find CBD helpful in reducing various psychiatric and medical symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and pain in patients with substance use disorders, indicating that CBD may be an effective treatment for opioid addiction. However, further studies are necessary.

5. Alleviate ALS Symptoms

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to deteriorate, resulting in loss of muscle control that worsens over time. It’s not yet understood exactly why ALS occurs, although it can be hereditary in some cases. There’s no known cure, and there are only two FDA-approved medications to help treat ALS symptoms.

Research suggests people with ALS can benefit from the entourage effect created by the combination of THC and CBD, similar to people with PTSD. In a 2019 study, patients received a combination of THC and CBD in varying doses depending on their needs and preferences. Those with mild, moderate or severe spasticity (muscle tightness and stiffness) due to ALS reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment, and those with moderate to severe spasticity reported higher satisfaction rates than those with mild spasticity.

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6. Relieve Unmanageable Pain

In 2005, Canada approved the use of Sativex, an oromucosal (absorbed in the lining of the mouth) spray with equal proportions of THC and CBD, for the treatment of multiple sclerosis-related central neuropathic pain. In 2007, Canada approved the medicine’s use again for cancer pain that proved unresponsive to other medications.

Meanwhile, continued studies in the U.S. indicate CBD is effective in treating chronic, non-cancer pain. In one 2020 study, researchers administered CBD topically to a group of patients with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy (a result of brain nerve and spinal cord nerve damage) while another group with the same condition received a placebo. Results showed a significant reduction in intense, sharp pains and cold, itchy sensations in those who used the topical CBD compared to those who used the placebo. No participants reported adverse side effects.

When introduced topically, CBD oil doesn’t affect the systemic issue as it might if it were introduced directly into the bloodstream. Instead, topical CBD is more localized and treats pain in a certain area. Since it’s more direct, it may have a more pronounced effect.

7. Ease Diabetic Complications

For starters, tests on human cells found that CBD helps reduce the effects of high glucose levels on other cells in the body, which typically precedes the development of diabetes and various complications. Researchers concluded that with further studies, CBD could have significant benefits when used in patients with diabetes, diabetic complications and plaque buildup in artery walls.

In another small study, 13 patients with type 2 diabetes who weren’t on insulin treatment were given both CBD and a placebo (in lieu of insulin). Researchers found CBD decreased their levels of resistin (which causes resistance to insulin, the protein that regulates sugar levels) and increased their levels of glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (a hormone that ensures a sufficient release of insulin from digested food) compared to their baselines before they started the test. These results suggest CBD could be a natural treatment for diabetes by helping the body regulate insulin-related hormone levels.

8. Protect Against Neurological Disease

Preclinical and clinical studies show that CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers deduce these characteristics can provide significant neuroprotection, or protection against numerous pathological disorders.

Several preclinical studies suggest CBD can produce beneficial effects against Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Huntington’s disease and cerebral ischemia were also tested, although significant positive results were not recorded. Further clinical studies are needed to confirm CBD’s benefits when used as a treatment for these disorders.

9. Inhibit Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis involves the deterioration of the tissues in and around your joints. There are several types of arthritis, and symptoms include pain, stiffness and loss of motion. Arthritis treatment usually targets pain relief and improved joint function.

A 2006 study found that Sativex—a CBD-based botanical drug approved in the United Kingdom in 2010—promoted statistically significant improvements in quality of sleep, pain during movement and pain at rest in patients with rheumatoid arthritis when compared to a placebo. It was the first controlled trial of Sativex as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, involving 58 patients. CBD was found to have a pain-relieving effect, as well as an ability to suppress disease activity.

In 2018, in a study of more localized treatment, researchers administered a synthetic CBD gel in either 250-milligram or 500-milligram doses daily or a placebo to patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Patients also stopped taking any other anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers, with the exception of acetaminophen, before and during the study period.

The results were interesting, although not entirely conclusive. On one hand, those treated with CBD did not experience much change in pain when compared with placebo patients. On the other hand, there were statistically significant differences between the group receiving the 250-milligram dose and the placebo group when measuring the average weekly improvement of their worst pain levels and their WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index) physical function rating. Additionally, men seemed to benefit from CBD more significantly than women in this test.

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CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Fact and Fiction

There is no hard evidence showing that CBD or CBD products can stop, prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. However, CBD has been shown to be effective in treating some of the most common behavioral symptoms of the disease, such as mood swings, agitation and aggression.

In our new golden age of natural medicine, the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) is receiving by far the most attention, both in the medical field and the mainstream. CBD’s medicinal and therapeutic properties have been linked in numerous studies to the reduction or improvement of symptoms associated with a wide range of disorders. These include:

  • Chronic Pain Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Seizures and Epilepsy
  • Depression
  • Inflammatory Diseases

There are several other disorders that CBD is now commonly being prescribed for, but what about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia?

CBD & Common Symptoms of Disorders Related to Dementia

As of this writing, there is no hard evidence showing that CBD or CBD products can stop, prevent or slow the progression of dementia. However, CBD has been shown to be effective in treating some of the most common behavioral symptoms of the disease, such as mood swings, agitation and aggression.

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What is CBD in a nutshell, and where does it come from?
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of two primary compounds found in the cannabis plant, the other being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive —meaning it does not alter a patient’s state of mind or cognition of time — nor does it provide the “high” popularly associated with cannabis consumption. Instead, there is a growing body of research suggesting that CBD has the potential to provide a variety of medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

Aside from the cannabis plant, CBD can also be safely sourced from hemp. Because of this, CBD products such as oils, concentrates, isolates and tinctures are legal throughout the United States.

Currently, there is no evidence of any known benefit to the introduction of psychoactive compounds (such as THC) to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. On the other hand, studies show isolated pharmaceutical-grade CBD can considerably improve their quality of life by treating symptoms related to their disorders.

Let’s explore how by taking an in-depth look at Alzheimer’s disease, as an example.

CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s: How It All Works

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the buildup of protein amyloids (commonly called “plaques”) and fiber bundles in the brain, which results in the blocking of neural signal processing and the gradual destruction of nerve cells. A common external manifestation of this process is mild memory loss, which can worsen into a seriously debilitating condition over time.

Common accompanying symptoms are disorientation, confusion, mood swings and a steady decline in the ability to communicate. While Alzheimer’s is still impossible to diagnose with full certainty, a series of tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) can determine the likelihood of the disease to a reasonable degree.

In the laboratory: where CBD comes in.
A California study conducted in June 2016 by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that cannabis compounds including CBD can remove plaque-forming proteins from lab-grown neurons.

A similar study found that CBD oil administered to mice exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s not only produced improvements in their cognitive ability; the mice also showed less evidence of amyloid accumulation in their bodies.

These and other studies have long produced evidence of the neuroprotective properties of cannabis compounds. For this reason, medical researchers continue to explore the viability of CBD oil for Alzheimer’s and other diseases categorized as forms of dementia.

Family members and care-workers are increasingly turning to CBD as a strategy to manage aggression and other disruptive behaviors.

A recent news report out of Canada described how CDB had helped reduce anxiety and frustration, and improve mood, in both a 76-year-old-male patient and a 92-year-old female.

Other methods to manage these negative behaviors include physical restraint or medical sedation, so CBD is seen as a clear improvement among caregivers and close relatives.

While a number of laboratory studies have provided promising early evidence that cannabinoids can remove Alzheimer’s proteins from the brain, they haven’t yet been able to reproduce these effects in human patients. For this reason, the jury is still out on whether CBD and CBD products could indeed be used to treat dementia in the future. It’s also the reason further, more ambitious research and study is needed.

For the present, there is a reassuring amount of evidence that CBD is at least viable for treating the behavioral symptoms associated with various forms of dementia, such as agitation, anxiety and depression. To understand this, it’s important to take a closer look at the distinctive characteristics of dementia as a whole — and how they can be dealt with using natural medicine.

Choosing a CBD oil for Alzheimer’s

We’ve spent countless hours searching for the best, most reliable CBD companies. In our opinion, these are the three best quality CBD oils available right now.

Before exploring the viability of CBD oil for dementia, it’s important to understand not only the difference between AD and dementia, but the difference between the two and the other disorders listed above.

Broad Spectrum CBD Tincture – Koi Naturals

Koi Hemp Extract Tinctures are a broad-spectrum product that is free of THC and have been formulated to provide balance in your life. There are four strengths available (250mg, 500mg, 1000mg, 2000 mg).

Koi offers its customers hemp extract tinctures with no need for concern about the presence of THC. It has less than 0.001% concentration level–which means you can use this without worrying if those effects will be unpleasant on you!

The naturally occurring terpenes make these an even more all-natural choice, bringing balance into your CBD experience.

Koi has transparent in-house quality control. Each batch of their products comes with an independent Certificate of Analysis, so you know every milligram spent was worth it.

Full Spectrum Organic CBD Tincture – Joy Organics

Joy Organics has produced the most delicious flavors of CBD oil we’ve tried. We highly recommend their tinctures, which are often ranked among the top 10 lists online for taste and quality.

Joy Organics has always been a huge supporter of the legal movement for cannabis and CBD, and they were one of the first to offer high-quality CBD products. They provide copies of Certificates Of Analysis (COAs) on every product page in case you want more information about what’s going into your body.

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A relative with dementia may find it difficult to take any kind of medicine – but at least when they take Joy Organic’s tasty flavored oils, you can be sure that they’ll enjoy the taste.

CBD + CBN Oil Calming Tincture – CBDfx

CBDfx’s CBD oil tinctures are a great place to start if you’re looking for relief for a relative suffering from dementia. Each bottle contains CBN (aka “the relaxation cannabinoid”) which binds to your CB1 receptors and may produce a sedative-like effect. Reviewers describe them as magic in an inexpensive little dropper!

Their propriety blend of CBD, CBN and terpenes is intended to calm the user down, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Their products remain affordable while still ticking all the boxes when it comes to Certificates of Analysis and Lab Reports.

And with frequent promos on their site buyers can save even more money on their CBD.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia: What’s The Difference?

While the two terms are used interchangeably, they are quite different from one another. Dementia is what’s known as an “umbrella term” — one used to describe a group of brain disorders that impair a patient’s memory, reasoning or thinking ability. Alzheimer’s disease is just one of these disorders.

There are many other forms of dementia, including Parkinson’s disease, lewy body dementia (LBD) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Of all these various forms, Alzheimer’s is simply the most well-known. The most common symptoms of the onset of dementia include:

  • A progressive decline in memory skills
  • Drastic changes in ability to communicate
  • Affected judgment or reasoning
  • Uncharacteristic language and/or thinking
  • Severely decreased attention and focus

Dementia is different from chronic pain disorders such as arthritis and gout, or inflammatory diseases such as asthma and coeliac disease because it affects brain function directly.

While hereditary factors are the most compelling possibility currently being explored, the root causes of dementia in its many forms are still largely undetermined. In the same way, medical researchers are still hard at work finding a cure for these disorders.

Hallmarks of Dementia & The Viability of CBD Dementia Medication

While Alzheimer’s is indeed the most well-known form of dementia, it is certainly not the only one worth noting. Equally serious types of dementia are unfortunately common in American society and usually begin after the age of fifty. Some examples include:

Vascular Dementia is the second most prevalent form in the United States. Vascular dementia is typically caused after a stroke or severe trauma, characterized by blockages or damage in blood vessels which prevent adequate flow of blood to the brain.

Instead of memory loss, the first symptoms of vascular dementia are usually complications in a patient’s judgment and/or planning abilities. Other names for this disease are Post-Stroke Dementia and Multi-Infarct Dementia.

Lewy Body Dementia is another well-known form of dementia caused by the abnormal buildup of the protein alpha-synuclein in the cortex — which is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

The first symptoms of lewy body dementia are a diminished attention span and mild to moderate loss in coordination. Because of this, lewy body dementia is sometimes mistaken for the onset of Parkinson’s disease at first. Advanced symptoms include memory loss, erratic sleeping patterns and hallucinations.

One major factor common to all forms of dementia is a disruption to the supply of blood or vital neurotransmitters to the brain, whether caused by damage or buildups of protein. In fact, because of this vital similarity, it can be difficult for a doctor to determine which type of dementia a patient is suffering from in the initial examination.

As established in the Salk Institute study, cannabinoids including CBD can be used to remove abnormal buildups of protein. There is also plenty of evidence in scientific literature proving CBD’s anti-inflammatory and vasodilative properties, both relieving the effects of damage or constriction in vital blood vessels. CBD is even shown to maintain circadian rhythms, regulating and promoting healthy sleep cycles in patients showing signs of dementia.

CBD, Dementia & The Proper Dosages For Medicinal Use

There are several considerations to make for patients considering CBD for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The biggest factors to take into account are the patient’s age, height and weight, as well as the severity and stage of his or her disease. As part of a prescription, any qualified physician will be more than able to ascertain the correct micro, standard and macro dosages according to these considerations.

As a simple supplementary or home medication, CBD dosages can be calculated using Leinow and Birnbaum’s “step-up method,” which involves the patient starting at 1-2mg in week one (depending on his or her body weight) and then progressing by 2-4mg every following week until a noticeable change in behavioral symptoms is reported. This is an example of a step-up table for standard dosages; starting and incremental values would be increased and decreased accordingly for micro and macro dosage tables.

While CBD is not currently considered a viable cure for any form of dementia, numerous independent studies and anecdotal testimonies lend credibility to the argument that it can considerably improve patients’ quality of life. Ultimately, time and continued research will be necessary for a reasonable consensus to be formed within the medical and scientific communities.

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