Why Does CBD Have So Many Potential Uses? Here at Elixinol, we have covered a wide range of potential therapeutic uses for cannabidiol (CBD), other cannabinoids and hemp oil. From epilepsy to PTSD, it can all sound too good to be true. So how could one plant have so many benefits?
Besides being the second most abundant cannabinoid in the Cannabis genus, and the most in hemp, CBD is now well-known for the sheer number of possible therapeutic uses1. Each use has different levels of evidence, from clinical trials where we see how effective it is in humans, to in vitro lab studies where we can see how it may work. The presence of endocannabinoid receptors in a range of tissues and organs help to explain CBD’s broad applications. However, it can also interact with other types of receptors in the body and brain.
The brain is made up of billions of highly specialised cells called neurons, along with several types of supporting cell2. Each neuron communicates with many other neurons by the synapses. Synapses are where two tiny bulbs on the ends of projections from the neuron cell come to meet. Neurons communicate with these by using chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Whether or not a neuron can “understand” the use of a certain neurotransmitter depends on if it has a receptor for that chemical. These receptors can respond to other chemicals too, such as the cannabinoids.
CBD, unlike THC, does not directly interact with the cannabinoid receptors, but instead works to increase the levels of our own cannabinoids. It also indirectly affects the signaling of these receptors. One of the non-cannabinoid receptors that CBD can influence is the dopamine receptors. Dopamine is involved with motivation and reward, as well as other cognitive and motor functions. This may be behind how CBD could help to fight cigarette cravings. In a study of 24 cigarette smokers, volunteers were given either an inhaler with CBD, or a placebo inhaler, and instructed to use it whenever they craved a cigarette3. The number of cigarettes smoked in the CBD group dropped significantly during the week, but not for the placebo group.
Animal studies have also shown that CBD can interact with some types of serotonin receptors, which may explain its effects on depression and anxiety. Its ability to interact with the serotonin 1A receptor may explain the documented effects of CBD on neuropathic pain, opioid dependence, and nausea and vomiting. There have been many anecdotal reports of hemp oil relieving nausea, even in severe vomiting caused by pharmaceuticals used for cancer. In addition, a study on shrews showed an effect of CBD on the serotonin 1A receptors which significantly reduced nausea and vomiting4. Its non-heated form, CBDA, had the same effect, but at a much lower dose.
Supporting the wide-ranging effects of CBD are the other cannabinoids, such as CBG and CBC, terpenes and other phytochemicals. These have shown anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antioxidant and other effects. The number of potential benefits of hemp oil and CBD aren’t exactly “too good to be true”, but clinical trials are needed to confirm many of them.
2: Tortora & Derrickson, 2012, Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 12th edn, Wiley