The Science behind CBD

CBD, short for its full name, cannabidiol, is a major cannabinoid found in the hemp and cannabis plants. In recent years, CBD has become something of a hot topic. The hemp plant has long been praised for its versatility and health benefits, and significant evidence exists to support claims of positive benefits. However, much of the historical praise for hemp — and by extension CBD — was not tested with the scientific rigor that today’s world demands.

Because of this, scientists have now trained their focus on the world of cannabinoids. They do this in the hope of discovering the mechanisms behind the claimed effects of CBD so that those benefits can be scientifically supported. While this research remains ongoing, researchers have made numerous new discoveries about how CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the human body.

In this article, you’ll learn about these exciting discoveries and find out how they impact our understanding of the long-held beliefs about CBD’s positive health properties. To provide you a comprehensive picture of the science behind CBD, we’ll explore the following topics:

The Anticipated Effects of CBD

Throughout history, people have praised the positive health benefits of hemp and other members of the cannabaceae family. Here are some of the most commonly cited benefits and a brief explanation of how CBD is supposed to aid these facets of human health.

Skin Health

When CBD skincare products first started hitting shelves, they perplexed and excited in equal measure. Those who have kept up with CBD news know that CBD skincare is no new kid on the block. In fact, the use of hemp and cannabis for skincare extends back to ancient Greece and Egypt. In ancient Greece, people would rub hemp and cannabis leaves on their skin in the hopes that it would clear blemishes and help regenerate skin. While this wasn’t the most scientifically refined process, it turns out that our ancestors may have been on to something.

There has been some evidence that CBD has an anti-inflammatory effect. Anyone familiar with skincare should immediately know how important this can be for skin health, but for those who don’t, here’s a quick primer. Inflammation can lead to rashes, redness and a litany of negative effects for skin health. Our sensitive facial skin requires a lot of care, and inflammation is one of its greatest foes. By reducing inflammation, CBD may be able to help keep your skin looking healthier and younger.

Pain Management

One of the most widely touted benefits of CBD is an ability to help manage pain. While there is significant research still being done on this subject, many CBD users have already provided a wealth of anecdotal evidence of a reduced pain response while the effects of CBD are active.

Sleep Health

People often claim that CBD and other cannabinoids help them fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. There is still some research to be done on this topic, but early trials do show that CBD interacts with the part of the brain responsible for sleep.

Help with Relaxation

Assistance with relaxation has routinely been one of the more difficult effects of CBD to prove due to its subjective nature. Despite this, people have used the hemp plant for relaxation for thousands of years. Today, many people find that CBD helps them more effectively let go of the day’s stress and facilitates a general feeling of positivity.

What Research Has Shown Us So Far

Claims abound in regards to CBD’s various effects, but in today’s world, claims need to be substantiated by science. The good news is that researchers have been performing studies and tests on CBD more than ever. So far, the tests and studies that they have performed provide substantial reason to believe that CBD is more than just buzz. Here’s what the research says about the often-claimed benefits of this cannabinoid.

Skin Health

Studies regarding the efficacy of CBD in skincare are still in progress, but early research provides ample reasons to be enthusiastic. In one study on the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol for skin health, it is stated up front that “Though there is limited research confirming the purported topical benefits of cannabinoids, it is certain that cutaneous biology is modulated by the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).”

The study goes on to recap much of the research that has been performed on the skincare-related effects of CBD. Some of the most notable developments in this field include:

  • There is evidence to suggest that CBD can prove effective through topical application, which is essential to skincare.
  • Studies on skin protection have shown that CBD can protect against certain fatty acids that damage skin health. It also activates PPAR-γ, which plays a role in anti-inflammation. Due to these discoveries, scientists believe that CBD may be able to help with inflammation and keratin-based skin issues.
  • Some evidence suggests that CBD may be able to help with acne issues. This comes from the endocannabinoid system’s potential to regulate sebum production, which is one of the main contributors to the presence of frequent acne.

Pain Management

Unlike skin health, which can be directly measured, pain management studies rely on the responses of participants, which introduces human subjectivity into the equation. Luckily, we have ways of seeing how the endocannabinoid system affects the brain’s interpretation of pain through chemical signals.

Here’s what some of the latest research has to say about CBD’s ability to lessen pain:

  • Evidence shows that targeting pain, specifically muscle and inflammation-based pain, through topical methods is effective and produces fewer side effects than pain treatments that focus on pain perception. A moderate level of clinical evidence suggests that topically applied CBD may be effective, but most studies focus on the use of ingested CBD.
  • Studies in 2003 found that CBD significantly reduced pain when measured on a visual analog scale. It was also effective at treating pain in certain study members through a topical application.
  • Most of the pain management effects are suspected to come from the interaction of CBD with certain receptors in the endocannabinoid system. These receptors selectively activate three separate glycine receptors. These receptors are known to affect inflammation and pain perception.

Sleep Health

Sleep health has the benefit of being easy to research, but does require multiple replicated studies before any sleep effects can be confirmed. That said, strong evidence exists to show that CBD is an effective tool in the quest for fuller, easier sleep.

  • In a sleep study from 2019, CBD was shown to improve sleep scores in a sample size of 72 adults with complaints of poor sleep. The CBD proved most effective in the first month, but did fluctuate afterwards.
  • Another study collated information from various sleep studies and showed that cannabinoids may have a positive short-term impact on helping people fall asleep. In general, most evidence suggests that these effects are not long lasting, but work only when CBD is actively in effect.

Help with Relaxation

Relaxation is a difficult thing to measure objectively, so it is often researched under the umbrella of anxiety reduction. Cannabis and hemp products have both been linked to anxiety management throughout their history.

Here’s what some studies have to say about the ability of CBD to help people relax more effectively:

  • In the same sleep study mentioned above, CBD was able to decrease anxiety scores in 79.2% of subjects, and those anxiety scores remained low in subsequent months.
  • An additional study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology analyzed anxiety scores in a group of like participants. In this study, it was shown that CBD was effective at significantly reducing anxiety scores over time in a subjective scoring.

Key Takeaways on the Scientific Basis for CBD’s Efficacy

Based on scientific research, it’s fairly clear that there is more than enough evidence to support ongoing research on the potency and effects of CBD for a variety of uses. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence abound, and as more research is carried out, will likely continue to increase.

While research continues, there is a strong possibility that we will be able to link CBD to a variety of positive effects in the near future. For the time being, CBD remains in a research stage and should not be claimed to treat, diagnose or cure any ailment. It can, however, be recommended alongside traditional medicine as an aid.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Science behind CBD

Will CBD show up on a drug test?

CBD should not show up on a drug test. Most drug tests look explicitly for the presence of Delta-8 THC. However, it should be noted that many CBD products have trace amounts of THC. To minimize the chance of a positive drug test, it is recommended that CBD users only use isolates with 0% THC. But the only certain way to avoid a false positive is to avoid all cannabis or hemp products.

Is CBD scientifically proven?

The significant amount of scientific research on CBD shows promise, but as of right now CBD is not scientifically proven to provide significant benefit. It’s important to note that being “scientifically proven” requires multiple rigorous and large-scale studies. Early studies, being at smaller scale, provide a significant amount of support for CBD’s positive properties but do not fully constitute scientific proof.

Does CBD do anything?

Yes. It is confirmed that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to affect certain receptors and produce a variety of effects. Research is ongoing to localize the cause of each effect, find out whether or not it is consistently replicable, and identify the potency of the specific effect.