In just over a half century, cannabinoids have gone from obscurity to the subject of intense research.
The secrets of cannabinoids are vast and they run deep. After many years of study, still very little is known about how cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system as well as other complex organs and systems in our bodies.
But one thing is certain — CBD does have an effect on these complex systems that themselves are not fully understood. Determining the exact mechanisms that are producing CBD’s vast array of effects might take many more decades.
In the meantime, much research is underway, and many studies about CBD’s effects on the human body have already been published.
In this chapter, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why CBD is being studied.
History of CBD Research
In 1968, a report written by the UK government’s Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence stated that “the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects…Cannabis is less dangerous than the opiates, amphetamines and barbiturates, and also less dangerous than alcohol…” That same year, the University of Mississippi was entrusted to grow marijuana for research by the predecessor agency to the DEA.
Only two years later, the United States declared marijuana a Class I substance with a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value. Two years after that, in 1972, a report based on a comprehensive study by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare recommended that marijuana be removed from the scheduling system and decriminalized. Then-President Richard Nixon rejected the recommendations.
In a court battle in 1976, a federal judge ruled that a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the government was using marijuana out of “medical necessity,” making the plaintiff, Robert Randall, the first legal medical cannabis patient.
In 1978, as a direct result of the lawsuit, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) began supplying cannabis to several patients whose physicians applied for and received “compassionate use” rights under Investigational New Drug Applications (IND) rules. Most of the medical research done on cannabis has taken place in the 40 years since 1978.
The human endocannabinoid system was discovered in steps. In 1988, the first cannabinoid receptor was found in the brain of a rat. In 1992, researcher Raphael Mechoulam and NIMH researchers William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus discovered the first endocannabinoid. These discoveries resulted in a wave of new studies into the effects of cannabinoids.
In 1993, the American Medical Student Association unanimously endorsed a statement calling for the down-scheduling of cannabis to Schedule 2. Since that time and based on reams of data, there have been scores of attempts to pressure the federal government to relent on this matter. So far none have been successful.
Let’s now take a look at some of the research that has been done in the past few decades into the mechanisms and effects of cannabinoids and the ECS.
What We’ve Learned About CBD
CBD’s Effects On Mood
CBD is commonly used to support emotional stability. Research shows that CBD has an effect on levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide, which we mentioned earlier. Anandamide is produced by the nervous system to stimulate the uptake of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy molecule” because of its ability to improve mood.
When your mood is low, you might be dealing with a low amount of serotonin. An increase in serotonin can correspond to an increase in feelings of wellbeing. It all goes back to the endocannabinoid system — a balanced ECS is a happy ECS.
CBD’s Effects On Sleep
Another common use for CBD oil is to help normal healthy sleep cycles. It’s no secret that a rough sleep usually results in a bad mood the next day, and nobody wants that. Taking CBD before bed may help you roll out of bed feeling fresh and energized the next day.
Federally Recognized Medical Conditions
After multiphase clinical trials were completed, an FDA panel recently recommended approval of a CBD-based pharmaceutical called Epidiolex for treatment of certain specific and rare types of juvenile epilepsy.
Another concession by the federal government involves the Department of Veterans Affairs. In mid-June 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to add an amendment to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) annual spending bill that would prohibit VA interference in the participation in legal cannabis programs by U.S. veterans. The amendment prohibits the VA from denying any services to veterans who use medical cannabis.
The amendment reverses a VA directive that prevents VA physicians from helping veterans access medical cannabis. It also directs the VA to conduct research into the benefits of medical cannabis using whole plant cannabis and extracts. This would include CBD oil.