In Australia, cannabidiol (CBD) is only used for medical purposes.
However, CBD is used all over the world to treat epilepsy, pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, and many other conditions or symptoms. It is only clinically proven to help with a reduction of seizures in epilepsy.
In the last article of our guide to CBD, you learned some general CBD terminology that is often misunderstood, the three main types of CBD oil and the difference between an oil and a tincture. Now that you know about the types of CBD concentrates, you’ll learn the science behind CBD oil and its uses.
The focus of this article will explain the outcomes of research on CBD and medical conditions. In the next article in our guide, we’ll cover some of the benefits and side effects of CBD oil. While people know about CBD oil’s benefits for epilepsy and chronic pain, there’s limited understanding of other issues and ailments CBD oil can help. In this article you’ll read:
- How the CBD craze began
- What the research about CBD oil says about:
Throughout the article, we’ll direct you to the research behind CBD and give you insight into what the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recommends regarding cannabinoid treatment of each medical condition.
CBD Oil Uses: The Modern Beginning
The CBD craze we are currently witnessing all began with a little girl named Charlotte in 2006. Charlotte was three months old when her seizures started. Before she was one year old, Charlotte was having grand mal seizures regularly and doctors couldn’t figure out why. By the time she was three years old, she had been diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome and was having up to 300 seizures a week, unable to walk, talk or eat.
When Charlotte was five years old, the doctors were at the point where they couldn’t do anything else. Charlotte’s parents decided it was time to test cannabis. They bought a high CBD strain and started making oil themselves. Charlotte’s seizures reduced immediately.
This case illuminated the potential benefits of cannabis as a medicine, particularly for epilepsy both amongst the general public, and the medical community. While scientific research on cannabis has been conducted for quite some time, it’s recent research that has proven the numerous medicinal benefits of cannabis.
CBD Oil: What Science Says
Globally, millions of people use CBD and other forms of cannabis for medicine and wellness purposes. CBD oil specifically, has been touted as a miracle drug. In the USA where CBD oil is available over the counter and can be found in pretty much every store, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to crack down on false advertising of CBD.
What we do know is that CBD can help with certain medical conditions. Animal trials are showing promise regarding CBD and multiple medical conditions. There are also numerous Australian clinical trials for CBD and cannabis more broadly.
The TGA, via the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), has created guidance documents for medical cannabis treatment relating to certain medical conditions. To do this, the NDARC did their own reviews and created recommendations based on their findings. Here’s what the current research says about CBD as well as the TGA guidance (if any):
Epilepsy & Seizures
Research shows that seizure reduction is a key medicinal benefit of CBD. A 2017 study specific to Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome showed that the addition of CBD oil to an existing treatment plan reduced the frequency of seizures.
Across the globe, adults and children with epilepsy are turning to cannabis, CBD specifically, for relief from seizures that otherwise were considered untreatable. Trials on CBD and seizures continue to advance what we know about CBD’s impact on epilepsy and seizures.
The TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) approves CBD oil for treatment of seizures. Their recommendations however are:
- Epilepsy treatment using medical cannabis or cannabinoids is only recommended as an adjunctive treatment.
- It is also recommended that when CBD be used in children or young people aged up to 25 year, the primary aim is to decrease seizure frequency and improve the overall quality of life of the patient.
- Patients should be re-evaluated after 12 weeks.
The research behind cannabis, CBD and pain reduction is interesting because numerous studies contradict each other.
In 2017, the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine published a report on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. This report stated that there is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.
A 2017 review by the US Dept of Veterans Affairs found that there is low-level evidence that a CBD and THC treatment may help with neuropathic pain but no evidence that it can help with other types of pain.
As a counter-example, a review from Cochrane stated that there is, “a lack of good evidence that any cannabis-derived product works for any chronic neuropathic pain” in adults.
While two of these papers contradict one another, it’s widely held that cannabis and certain products containing CBD can help individuals with pain.
The TGA review looked at numerous studies relating to chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP). The recommendation for CNCP is that while there is evidence of limited efficacy of cannabis in treating neuropathic pain with traditional analgesics, the current evidence is not enough to cement a place for cannabis in the treatment of CNCP. That being said, the TGA has approved cannabis for the treatment of pain.
Nausea and Vomiting
The research behind cannabis and nausea and vomiting is specific to these symptoms as a result of chemotherapy. A 2017 report from the National Academies said that there was conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis is effective in the treatment of Nausea and Vomiting during Chemotherapy.
A systematic review of 30 clinical trials showed that oral cannabinoids (in this case synthetic) are more effective at treating chemo-induced nausea than traditional drugs. It also concluded that while patients preferred cannabis to other treatments, there are some serious adverse effects. Some of the adverse effects, such as feeling euphoria or sedation, could be seen to be beneficial to a patient in pain. Other effects, depression and paranoia, are reasons to avoid using cannabis as a treatment.
Based on their nausea and vomiting guidance, the TGA sees medical cannabis as a last-resort treatment for this condition.
Note: The main cannabinoid used to help with vomiting and nausea is THC.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis comes along with numerous symptoms. The symptoms include ataxia and tremors, bladder function, disability progression, pain, quality of life, sleep, spasticity.
There have been numerous studies and reviews of studies on spasticity in both MS patients and spinal cord injuries. One of the major reviews from the National Academies said that there is substantial evidence that oral cannabinoids improve symptoms as reported by patients. This, however, does not mean that it’s effective when measured from a clinician standpoint. So, there aren’t any clinically proven results for cannabinoids and multiple sclerosis.
The TGA does approve cannabis for symptoms of MS. The TGA cites that there is, “Good scientific evidence,” for Dronabinol and THC extract when treating pain related to MS. There is also, “Good scientific evidence,” for using Nabiximols to help improve patient quality of life. Generally, cannabis is recommended to supplement other medications and is not a first-line intervention.
NOTE: these are not CBD products, they are THC products.
The same 2017 review that looked at studies on chronic pain and epilepsy also reviewed the used of cannabis to help with improving sleep. They found that there is moderate evidence that cannabinoids are an effective treatment to improve short-term sleep outcomes in individuals with sleep disturbance associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.
There was also a 2007 study where researchers showed that 40-50% of patients given a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC reported good or very good sleep quality. There is also a study, involving only eight people, that while cannabis helps induce sleep, it also decreases your REM sleep which may be good or bad depending on your condition.
While there is no conclusive research as to whether cannabis improves sleep outcomes, there are indications that a CBD product may help with sleep. The TGA doesn’t have any information or recommendations regarding cannabinoids and sleep.
There are more medical conditions and ailments that people use CBD for than listed in this article. The conditions mentioned, however, have the most scientific backing. Whether or not there is clinical evidence that CBD treats many of the conditions people use it for, there is value in patient perception and quality of life. Currently, research shows a limited number of short side effects from using CBD.
In conclusion, there needs to be much more research conducted on CBD and cannabinoid medicine in general. While there are many therapeutic indications, CBD has only been proven to help treat epilepsy by reducing seizures. With CBD legal as an over the counter product in many countries, people are using it as a nutritional supplement and a substitute for other medications.
In Australia, CBD is only legal with a prescription and therefore only used as a medicine. In the next article in our guide to CBD, you’ll learn about the scientific and perceived benefits and side effects of CBD oil more broadly.