More and more US states are legalizing medical marijuana and many are wondering if it actually works. The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions, states by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is the non-psychoactive marijuana extract. That means that there is no “high” from CBD oil. Health gurus and bloggers credit CBD oil with helping treat a host of medical problems, everything from epileptic seizures to anxiety and inflammation to sleeplessness, according to WebMD. This is legal in 30 states where medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal, according to Governing magazine.
Cannabis on the market
Because marijuana is still currently classified as a Schedule I drug, a patient can’t get an actual prescription for it, states Consumer Reports. Doctors only certify that a patient suffers from a condition for which the drug is approved. Patients then must register with their state to obtain a marijuana-patient ID card. Then they can buy the drug from a dispensary or, in some states, grow their own.
Yet there are more CBD-related products than prescription marijuana or even pharmaceutical CBD. In late 2018, products with various hemp-derived CBD oil products exploded onto the market. Storefronts, coffee shops, health clubs, chiropractic offices, upscale boutiques and even gas stations now sell products containing this ingredient.
Strong evidence for treating epilepsy
According to Project CBD, an organization that aims to destigmatize cannabis medicine, physicians have documented the efficacy of artisanal whole plant cannabis preparations for seizure reduction. In a study of 272 patients, 86% had some degree of seizure reduction while using artisanal cannabis. A combination of cannabinoids and terpenes – not just CBD – may be most effective for seizures.
In addition to documenting the efficacy of “artisanal” (meaning not FDA-approved) cannabis preparations for seizure reduction, the article highlights the need for flexible treatment protocols involving different cannabinoid ratios, an approach that implicitly calls into question single-molecule strategies favored by Big Pharma.
Some human clinical trials suggest that CBD could be effective in treating symptoms of anxiety, particularly social anxiety, according to WebMD. This is the potential use for CBD with the most evidence after usefulness in epilepsy. There have been clinical trials in adults, but a lot smaller than the epilepsy studies that have been done in kids. CBD’s usefulness as an anti-inflammatory medication is the next most promising, but those results come mostly from animal studies.
Purported health benefits
Project CBD says CBD can provide relief for chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, depression, and many other conditions. Some of the potential uses such as for an antipsychotic, antidepressant or sleep aid have all been studied in animals, with only one or two examples of studies in humans, states WebMD. However, the studies that have featured humans for these other CBD uses have either been case reports or studies that did not compare results against a control group that did not use the oil.
If there is no control group, we don’t know if we’re dealing with the true effect of the drug or just simply a placebo effect because somebody thinks they’ve been given a drug that will be beneficial.