Every year on the 8th August, we now celebrate National CBD Day – a date designated to celebrate and raise awareness about the medicinal and therapeutic potential of CBD. Understandably, this is a relatively new Awareness Day, given the ongoing lack of education surrounding CBD and other cannabis derivatives. Nonetheless, it remains an important date in the calendar – particularly for those of us working within the cannabis industry and those looking to learn more about the incredible potential of the cannabis plant.
In honour of National CBD Day, we here at Shweed are going to be taking a closer look at the medicinal properties of CBD, the history of its use and the view for the future.
The History of CBD
While it is common knowledge that humans have been cultivating and using cannabis for thousands of years, it is only in the last century or so that we have become aware of the compounds that give this crop its promising therapeutic properties. At the end of the 19th century, CBN (cannabinol) became the first cannabinoid to be discovered; it was later isolated in 1940. In the same year, CBD was identified by Roger Adams and his colleagues in the USA.
Over the next few years, research indicated that, unlike THC, CBD was a non-psychotropic compound. In the 1960s and 70s, research into cannabinoids and cannabis in general increased; however, there was reduced interest in the therapeutic potential of CBD and other cannabis compounds in favour of the use of cannabis as a recreational drug. Nevertheless, this marked uptake in cannabis research soon facilitated the discovery if the endocannabinoid system and our understanding of the pharmacological processes involving cannabinoids likewise improved.
Unfortunately, the prohibition of cannabis eventually made cannabinoid research more difficult and the number of studies dropped significantly. But this lull wasn’t to last. Over the last few decades, cannabis research – including CBD – has picked up again and CBD has been a huge catalyst for the boom.
The Medicinal Uses of CBD
In recent years, a number of Western jurisdictions have re-legalised the medicinal use of cannabis. It is worth noting, however, that access to cannabis-based medicines remains tightly restricted. In many cases, this means that CBD is a more favourable cannabis derivative in comparison to the psychoactive and intoxicating THC.
But this is far from the only asset of CBD. Cannabidiol has been found to have some impressive therapeutic properties that may make it useful in the treatment of number of health conditions:
In the UK, the USA, Canada, and a number of European countries, a CBD-based formulation (Epidyolex) has been licensed for the treatment of intractable paediatric epilepsy. Clinical studies have demonstrated that CBD administration is associated with reduced seizure frequency and severity. The potential of cannabis for the treatment of childhood epilepsy played a significant role in the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK.
Nonetheless, while legalisation was introduced in 2018 – making it technically possible to access Epidyolex through the NHS – it is extremely unlikely that patients will gain a prescription through this route. Instead, the vast majority of medical cannabis prescriptions for epilepsy (and many other conditions) are fulfilled through private clinics.
In recent years, CBD has perhaps become most popular for its potential for its anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) potential. This is particularly true among non-medical consumers – that is those using CBD products that do not require a prescription (more on this later). But does the evidence back this up?
While there is little high-quality clinical evidence available to support the use of CBD to manage feelings of anxiety, this research is on the rise. Furthermore, there is abundant anecdotal and real-world evidence to suggest the cannabinoid may be useful in this capacity. For example, a recent systematic review concluded that there was “existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely”. However, it remains unclear if the concentrations of CBD contained within commercial products are potent enough to have a significant effect.
Perhaps one of the more interesting possible uses for CBD-based medicines is as a harm reduction strategy for substance use disorder – including dependence triggered by THC and opioids. Some studies have found that CBD may negate some of the negative psychological effects associated with cannabis use – many of which are attributed to THC. This may mean that administering CBD in conjunction with THC-based medicines may help to reduce potential negative side effects, including dependence.
Furthermore, a number of studies have assessed the potential of CBD as a harm reduction strategy when prescribing opioids. Opioid-based medications continue to be routinely prescribed for pain despite carrying a high risk of dependence and overdose. One recent clinical study found that CBD had the potential to reduce craving and anxiety associated with heroin addiction, suggesting that the cannabinoid may be useful in this context. Furthermore, a 2015 systematic review concluded that “CBD may have therapeutic properties on opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addiction” – though it is noted that more research is needed.
The Commercial CBD Industry
Aside from the impressive medicinal and therapeutic potential of CBD, the cannabinoid has gained attention in another sector: the wellness industry. Despite companies being unable to make any medical claims regarding their commercial CBD products (which are legally required to be sold as food supplements), it is clear that the booming popularity of the cannabis ingredient is largely owed to its perceived medicinal properties.
CBD can now be sold legally in many countries around the world, including the majority of Europe. Products such as capsules, oil tinctures, edibles and drinks, skincare, and even vape liquids can now be easily sourced both online and in bricks-and-mortar stores. The immense uptake of these commercial CBD products over the last decade or so is testament to the ever-growing awareness of this non-intoxicating cannabinoid. In fact, on CBD Awareness Day 2022, it is less likely than ever that you can find someone who hasn’t yet heard of CBD. Nonetheless, the importance of education and research remains as important as ever.