What is CBD?
CBD (or Cannabidiol) is a compound of the cannabis Sativa plant. CBD is just one of the cannabis plant's more than 100 cannabinoids - the other, more famous sibling being THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). This active ingredient produces the euphoric "high" and can also lead to addiction and an increase in anxiety. CBD has no such psychoactive compound. As the World Health Organisation states:
"In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."
What are the claims?
CBD is touted as providing aid for anxiety, depression and even aspects of pain. It's also marketed as helping to promote sleep and relaxation, but is there any truth behind these grand claims? We take a look at some of the current research.
For students or employees with social anxiety, a 5-minute presentation can be completely incapacitating. Yet a controlled experiment in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that "Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech."
A 2019 study based in Japan had similar findings, concluding "The results indicate that CBD could be a useful option to treat social anxiety."
This is an exciting field of research that requires more study. The numbers of participants in these two studies are too small to make any significant conclusions. Currently, CBD's efficacy on social anxiety is heavily reliant on personal testimonies.
Sleep & Insomnia
Up in the small hours of the night banging your head against the pillow trying to sleep? It might be due to the stress hormone, Cortisol. Studies suggest that people with high levels of cortisol at night can inhibit sleep and/or reduce the quality of sleep.
In a 2019 study on the effects of CBD, researchers found that "cortisol levels decreased more significantly when given oral CBD, 300 to 600 mg." and patients felt a sedative effect. Furthermore, "Anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration."
With research into CBD being so new, more controlled studies need to be undertaken before any judgment can be made.
Pain and inflammation
Researchers have investigated the pain-relieving effects of CBD. In 2003, a preliminary controlled study found that "Pain relief associated with CBD was significantly superior to placebo."
A small 2020 trial investigated the use of topical CBD oil (i.e. applied to the skin) on people with nerve damage of the legs. After four weeks, researchers observed a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations in those using CBD oil.
While we don't suggest you start rubbing &Calm on your legs, this is a good demonstration that CBD research into pain relief is proving positive. Alongside a vast swathe of anecdotal evidence, the future looks good for CBD reducing pain and inflammation.
There is much anecdotal evidence alongside a series of animal models undertaken in the US to show CBD's effectiveness as an antidepressant, likely related to its strong anti-stress effect after either repeated use.
Several studies (such as this one in 2018) have shown that CBD can have a decisive effect on serotonin levels in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are thought to play a crucial role in shifts in mood as well as pain.
CBD may help with depression, but more trials are needed to judge its efficacy. In a similar circumstance to the sleep and anxiety trials, CBD doesn't treat the underlying causes of depression, only the physical effects. However, for some, this is still a considerable benefit to everyday life.
The MHRA has not evaluated these statements, and we're not claiming CBD is a cure-all or a medicine - these are links and discussion points to some of the latest studies in the relatively new field of CBD research.
This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as an addition to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. Our products are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease.
- Bergamaschi, M., Queiroz, R., Chagas, M. et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacol 36, 1219–1226 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.6
- Masataka N (2019) Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Front. Psychol. 10:2466. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466
- Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J 2019;23:18-041. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
- Wade DT, Robson P, House H, Makela P, Aram J. A preliminary controlled study to determine whether whole-plant cannabis extracts can improve intractable neurogenic symptoms. Clin Rehabil. 2003 Feb;17(1):21-9. doi: 10.1191/0269215503cr581oa. PMID: 12617376.
- Xu DH, Cullen BD, Tang M, Fang Y. The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2020;21(5):390-402. doi: 10.2174/1389201020666191202111534. PMID: 31793418.
- de Mello Schier AR, de Oliveira Ribeiro NP, Coutinho DS, Machado S, Arias-Carrión O, Crippa JA, Zuardi AW, Nardi AE, Silva AC. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of Cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):953-60. doi: 10.2174/1871527313666140612114838. PMID: 24923339.