There is no denying the increase in popularity of medical marijuana and CBD as treatments for anything from anxiety to Parkinson’s. There is also no denying there is little more than anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana or CBD work. Some scientific evidence suggests that these medications can help with certain conditions like multiple sclerosis or pain or nausea from chemotherapy, but there is still so much we don’t know with regards to the other ailments. Why is that? And despite the lack of scientific research, why are these medications expanding so rapidly?
As we know, marijuana is a federally illegal substance. Because of this, funding for clinical research is very limited. So limited that there is only one production facility authorized to grow and supply medical marijuana for researchers — The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR).
At NCNPR, they study all aspects of the cannabis plant as part of its comprehensive research into natural products. The project began in 1968 under Dr. Coy Waller, the then Director of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. It was under his leadership the school went into contract with the federal government to grow marijuana for medical research purposes. These cannabis products are used by researchers in the U.S. for various studies, including FDA-approved clinical trials.
The strongest scientific evidence for the medical effectiveness of CBD is the treatment of childhood epilepsy syndromes like Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications, but numerous studies have found that CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures or stop them altogether. Recently the FDA approved the first-ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
Just because America isn’t leading the charge of medical marijuana research, doesn’t mean the rest of the world is as far behind. The European Journal of Pain released a study on chronic pain using topical CBD. It was shown to reduce the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis.
CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study showed the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. The catch? These studies were done using animal models. Most believe more study in humans will be needed to prove the claims of CBD and pain control.
While there are some claims that have mountains of supporting anecdotal evidence, some CBD manufacturers have come under intense criticism for making claims that CBD is a cancer cure-all. (It’s not.) More research is also needed to prove the effectiveness of doses. Because CBD is currently mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting and in what quantity.
With the legalization of hemp, CBD with zero traces of THC is only growing more popular with the mainstream crowd.