Any new ingredient or supplement gets people talking. But it’s not enough for people to speculate—ultimately, scientists have the final say on whether something is safe or not. Just take cannabidiol (CBD), which has become somewhat of a modern phenomenon.
CBD research has made noticeable strides since the late 20th century, and especially in the past few years. There are still unknowns regarding its therapeutic properties and effects on the human body, but the past decades have seen pivotal results that have acted as a catalyst for future findings.
The domino effect of positive research supporting CBD’s potential for health and wellness use is significant. Here are 7 of the must-know science-based studies for any CBD enthusiast.
Raphael Mechoulam is often credited as a pioneering scientist in cannabis. Throughout the 20th century, he and his team isolated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD, and discovered endogenous cannabinoids, the body’s built-in receptors for cannabinoid compounds. In 1992, Mechoulam was able to determine that the endocannabinoids were part of a larger system in the body that is connected to other systems and plays an important role in regulating neural functions. Known as the Endocannabinoid System, this study made it possible for other scientists to study cannabinoids in relation to immune functions and medical disorders.
In the early to mid-1900s, cannabis use was pegged as a counterculture, “stoner” activity and even thought to damage the body’s cells. By the century’s last decade, and with the valuable discovery of the endocannabinoid system, it became clear that cannabinoids had the opposite, preservative effect. Scientist A.J. Hampson and his team studied the effects of CBD in rat nerve cells and revealed that CBD was able to reverse glutamate toxicity (the over-excitation of nerve cells that can lead to cell death). This study predicted that CBD would become valuable for treating psychosis over its psychoactive counterparts—which scientists are able to confirm now, based on more advanced clinical trials.
At the time of this study, CBD was already known to be anti-inflammatory, and was being studied extensively in living cells. This group of researchers tested CBD’s interaction with cloned vanilloid VR1 receptors, which are highly responsible for regulating body temperature and play a prominent role in illnesses and disease. The findings reinforced CBD as anti-inflammatory. In addition, they proved that VR1 can act as a molecular target for CBD—meaning that it could have a use in pharmaceuticals down the road, based on how it interacts with the body’s receptors.
Mental illnesses have long been misunderstood, but cannabinoids have played an integral role in helping scientists grasp how to treat them. This study, published in Translational Psychiatry, hypothesized that they could leverage CBD’s ability to signal anandamide—a neurotransmitter known as the “bliss molecule” that influences happiness, memory, motivation, pain, and more—in order to treat severe schizophrenia. The experiment was largely successful, after scientists compared the results of those receiving cannabidiol to the control group. Before this study, scientists knew CBD could potentially alleviate mental symptoms but didn’t necessarily know how.
By 2011, researchers believed CBD could act as a treatment for cancer, but as we’ve mentioned, they didn’t understand the molecular mechanisms that allowed the body to accomplish this. A team of scientists from Boston were able to pinpoint that CBD actually signals apoptosis (cell death) and autophagy (the recycling of cellular components) to kill or diminish cancerous cells. Research on CBD and cancer is still in its early stages, compared to other fields, but the foundational understanding from this study better helps scientists design future studies.
Despite all of the exciting discoveries that validated CBD’s potential, one study emerged with some bad news (sort of). Penn Medicine’s team of cannabis researchers found that up to 70% of all cannabidiol products were being mislabeled, whether containing more or less CBD than advertised. Some even contained large amounts of THC, which could have an adverse effect on people using CBD for mental disorders. This study alerted the FDA to the importance of regulating cannabidiol in order to legitimize the industry in a safe way.
In 2018, the FDA approved a CBD-based pharmaceutical for the first time, as a result of the clinical trial outcome. It’s known as Epidiolex, and it showed significant results in clinical trials funded by GW Pharmaceuticals and led by New York University researchers. The trials looked at children with Dravet syndrome, an advanced form of childhood epilepsy with seizures that resist most forms of medication. At the end of a 14-week period, the majority of children saw reduced frequency and intensity of seizures. This example shows promise for those with seemingly incurable conditions.
Houndreds of new ongoing cbd studies
The number of studies surrounding cannabidiol per year has jumped from just dozens in the 1990s, to now hundreds per annum.
Collectively, these examples chart CBD as a way to manage conditions that were once thought to be life-threatening or unmanageable. CBD has skyrocketed from a holistic solution to a scientifically-recognized wonder ingredient in a brief time period.
If you’ve been on the fence about trying CBD, these modern discoveries might convince you of its potential power—just be sure to consult a doctor before trying a new product out.