Cannabidiol (CBD) is is a type of cannabinoid, and it’s one of hundreds of chemical compounds found naturally in marijuana. For a while, CBD stayed in the research shadows while tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) got all the attention. THC is pot’s major mind-altering ingredient, while CBD isn’t psychoactive at all. But researchers are realizing it’s far from inert; CBD seems to have pain-relieving and antipsychotic effects, and it’s already legally available in topical creams and oral doses (such as in edibles, tinctures, and oils).
“CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and pain reliever without psychoactive effects,” notes Junella Chin, an osteopathic physician in New York City who specializes in functional medicine. Unfortunately, researching the compound is still difficult in a country that, on a national level, deems marijuana illegal and considers possession a federal offense. But the scant scientific literature paints a rosy picture.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology stated that CBD seems to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and antipsychotic effects, which means it’s a potential star drug for treating inflammation, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and more. Prescribing doctors tend to cite is pain-relieving effects, and animal studies suggest that CBD cuts off pain pathways by disrupting “this hurts!” signals from nerve cells. In one study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, CBD appeared to tamp down inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rodents.
CBD has also shown impressive results as an antipsychotic and antiseizure medication. It seems to prevent psychosis in patients with schizophrenia, and many studies have found evidence that CBD can treat epilepsy and prevent seizures. Early research also hints that CBD prevents cancer cells from growing and spreading, and it may even help kill them off.
How to Use It
Most of the marijuana you buy for recreational purposes (at a dispensary or...ahem, from your cousin’s guy) is high in THC but low in CBD. After all, growers are aiming to give you that, “Whoa, this is good stuff,” response. So the best route is to look to a reputable CBD producer such as Floyd’s of Leadville or Charlotte’s Web.
Alternately, if you’re in a state where marijuana is legal, you can ask the dispensary employee (or your doctor) help you find marijuana strains or preparations high in cannabidiol. “Then start low and go slow,” Chin says. “The idea is to titrate to your optimal therapeutic dosage”—that means slowly adjusting your intake to find the dose that’s right for you. “Take it with food containing fat to help absorption, like almond butter or avocado,” she adds.