Cannabidiol (CBD), a potent non-psychoactive compound extracted from hemp or marijuana, has been shown to benefit people suffering from a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, diabetes, depression, anxiety, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
One element these illnesses tend to have in common is inflammation – yet another condition a growing body of scientific research suggests CBD can fight. Perhaps the reason CBD may be beneficial for so many people is that this non-psychedelic cannabinoid may alleviate inflammation, a suspected precursor to numerous diseases.
Before we get into how CBD may calm inflammation, let’s first explore what inflammation is and how it affects the body.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s response to injury or attack by foreign bodies, including living organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, and non-living substances and objects, such as toxins or splinters. Under normal circumstances, inflammation protects you from infection and disease and helps in the healing process.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. An acute inflammatory response manifests as heat, redness, swelling, and pain around the injured area. Trauma to the area causes damaged cells to release chemicals such as histamine (yes, the same chemicals responsible for those dreaded springtime allergies) that prompt blood vessels to push fluid into the surrounding tissues to prevent the spread of infection.
A variety of white blood cells then spring into action: granulocytes dissolve foreign compounds, phagocytes “eat” germs and debris, B lymphocytes (B cells) produce antibodies that help destroy pathogens, and T lymphocytes (T cells) attack invaders directly and release cytokines, a variety of proteins that help orchestrate the immune response.
Acute inflammation generally resolves within a few days but can potentially become chronic, leading to numerous debilitating and life-threatening diseases if left untreated.
The problem with chronic inflammation is it often remains invisible. Internal organs, for example, lack the pain receptors found in joints and near the skin’s surface, allowing persistent internal inflammation to go undetected. Signs and symptoms are often nonexistent or, if they are present, are generic and may include fatigue, fever, and stomach pain.
A blood test can reveal the presence of chronic inflammation by measuring levels of C-reactive protein and other types of inflammatory molecules, but the results won’t tell the doctor the location or cause of the inflammation.
The benefits of CBD for inflammation.
While more research is still needed, there is a growing body of science indicating cannabidiol can be used alone or as part of a typical treatment regimen in the prevention of and fight against a number of life-altering conditions.
Here is an overview of CBD’s effects on the inflammatory processes of just a few of these conditions:
Cannabidiol and chronic pain.
Neuropathy, or the dysfunction of the peripheral nerves, can result in painful tingling, numbness, prickling, or muscle weakness in the extremities and coincides with many common diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.
Stimulation of microglia, the brain’s phagocytes, triggers release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, leading to the peripheral nerve damage found in neuropathy.
A study involving mice revealed CBD can significantly diminish neuropathic pain caused by external temperature or pressure changes. Other studies showed CBD can calm the microglia response in the brain and spinal cord and alleviate the inflammatory pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Cannabidiol and diabetes.
High glucose levels set off a chain of inflammation-inducing events, including increased production of damaging free radicals, activation of key pro-inflammatory molecules, and the breakdown of the endothelial barrier, the protective layer of cells that line the inside of blood and lymphatic vessels.
Destruction of the endothelial barrier of vessels throughout the pancreas allow free radicals and macrophages to pass freely into the pancreatic islets, the cell clusters that contain beta cells, which produce the hormone insulin. As a result, pro-inflammatory cytokine concentrations increase, killing off beta cells and reducing the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin.
In one study, treatment of non-obese diabetic mice with CBD oil showed remarkable improvement in pancreatic function and a shift from pro-inflammatory activity to an anti-inflammatory response. There was a significant difference in diabetic incidence among the non-treated and CBD-treated mice groups: the former had an incidence of 86 percent, while the latter only showed an incidence of 30 percent.
Cannabidiol and depression.
Patients with major depressive disorder have been shown to have an overabundance of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can stimulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to flood the brain with glucocorticoids, a stress hormone.
In addition to the overproduction of stress hormones, excessive inflammation causes overproduction of free radicals and oxidants, which disrupt glial cell functions and damage neurons in the brain.
Studies show CBD may reduce such cytokine activity, reducing inflammation associated with depression.
CBD’s anti-psychotic effects are likely the result of activation of 5-HT1A receptors, a sub-type of serotonin receptors.
What is the best dosage of CBD oil to alleviate inflammation?
While the research shows CBD can help calm inflammation, no concrete dosages have been established for humans by the medical community.
Determining the best dose for your condition depends on your tolerance, though doses of up to 1,500 mg CBD seem to be safe, with minor side effects reported, including nausea, diarrhea, and tiredness.
And though cannabidiol may be a naturally-occurring plant compound, you should always seek the advice of medical professionals before starting any treatment regimen incorporating a high-quality hemp oil.