Everyone is talking about the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD. Various medicinal properties are attributed to the cannabinoid, such as anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antidepressant and even antipsychotic effects. There are some studies in which the properties of CBD have been examined. We would like to present the latest studies in this article.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most valuable cannabinoid from the cannabis plant that is not psychoactive. Medicinally, CBD can have anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anti-anxiety, analgesic, and anti-nausea effects. Further medical effects such as the antipsychotic and antidepressant effects are currently being researched. We have summarized some new studies in the following article.
Dravet syndrome: CBD can reduce the frequency of seizures
Dr. Charlotte Dravet first described the Dravet syndrome in 1978. It is a severe form of epilepsy that occurs in initially healthy children in the first year of life in the form of large attacks (grand mal) or as attacks that affect only one half of the body. The epilepsy attacks usually last more than 20 minutes and can usually only be stopped with medication.
As the disease progresses and Tonic-Clonic or focal epilepsy attacks, absences or myoclonus may also occur, with the frequency of seizures tending to decrease in adulthood. The prognosis in terms of mental development is often unfavorable, and resistance to therapy poses a major challenge for medical professionals.
In addition to epilepsy attacks, children with Dravet syndrome often also have other symptoms that require treatment.
- Behavioral problems (e.g., autistic features, oppositional behavior or delayed language development)
- Ataxia (gait insecurity)
- Balance problems
- Hypotension (low muscle tone)
- Perceptual disorders
- chronic infections
- Autonomic nervous system disorders
Some of these symptoms can be promoted or exacerbated by drug treatment (side effects of antiepileptics).
Causes of Dravet Syndrome
In most cases, the cause is a mutation or loss of the SCN1A gene on chromosome 2. This gene contains the blueprint for the alpha subunit’s protein, which is necessary for brain function. This protein ensures that the flow of information from one nerve cell to another works. In children with Dravet syndrome, the protein is produced only incompletely or not at all. As a result, there is a disruption in the communication of information between the nerve cells, which leads to epileptic seizures and delayed development.
Current studies on CBD
As early as 2015, researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles reported that CBD has become the focus of research and is seen to have a potential for pediatric epilepsy like Dravet syndrome. The researchers attempted to document children’s experiences with infantile spasms (IS) and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS; severe childhood epilepsy) alleviated through CBD-rich preparations.
An online survey was conducted among parents who received CBD to treat their children’s epilepsy. Parents of children who had LGS and IS took part in this and asked about the effectiveness, tolerability, and dosage. One hundred seventeen parents took part in the survey, and the perceived tolerability and efficacy were similar in all etiological subgroups. Eighty-five percent of parents said that they experienced a decrease in seizure frequency, and 14 percent reported a complete absence of seizures.
A majority of respondents reported better sleep (53 percent), alertness (71 percent), and improved mood (63 percent) during CBD therapy. In 2016, a study was conducted at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York. It involved more than 200 patients aged 1 to 30 years with severe epilepsy who received stable doses of antiepileptic drugs before the studies started.
The patients received oral cannabidiol at a dose of 2-5 mg/kg per day, up to 25 mg/kg/day. The primary goal was to determine the safety and tolerability of cannabidiol, the efficacy, and the percentage change in the frequency of attacks. The results suggest that CBD could reduce the frequency of seizures and have a proper safety profile for children and young adults with highly resistant epilepsy.
The same researchers conducted another study in 2017, examining 120 children with Dravet syndrome with drug-resistant seizures who received either a CBD solution (20 mg/kg body weight) or a placebo in addition to the anti-epileptic treatment. The primary endpoint was the change in the frequency of seizures over a 14-week treatment period compared to a four-week base period. The seizures’ frequency reduced to 5.9 from 12.4 with CBD treatment in contrast with a decrease to 14.1 from 14.9 with placebo. Fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and drowsiness have been described as side effects.
As a result, the researchers concluded that CBD treatment significantly reduced the frequency of seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome.
CBD can Protect Nerve Tissue
It has long been assumed that the cannabinoids from the cannabis plant have anti-inflammatory effects, protect the nervous system, and promote nerve tissue growth. As already reported in a detailed article on cannabis as a medicine for dementia, there seems to be a close connection between the endocannabinoid system and plaque formation. This plaque (beta-amyloid) has a toxic effect on the nerve tissue. Researchers had vaccinated the amyloid precursor protein (APP) with THC and found that the beta-amyloid only formed to a small extent.
Also, cannabinoids are believed to have antioxidant properties to help fight harmful free radicals in the body. Beta-amyloid also causes free radicals in the body, damaging the neurons and synapses in the brain. Various studies have shown that CBD can protect nerve tissue and, at the same time, prevent oxidative cell death.
In Parkinson’s disease, CBD is also likely to help relieve symptoms. A small study with 21 Parkinson’s patients showed that they could significantly improve their quality of life with a daily CBD dose.
A recent study is particularly interesting. Researchers from the University of Louisville School of Medicine published the results of their study in June 2018. It is described that CBD works as an inverse agonist at two main receptors, including GPR6 and GPR3. It is believed that the GPR3 receptor is involved in Alzheimer’s disease, and the GPR6 receptor is involved in Parkinson’s disease.
The complex processes have not yet been researched, but there are already some studies that give hope. The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in neurodegenerative diseases so that the cannabinoids THC and CBD have great potential in the fight against these diseases.
CBD Against Mental Illness
So far, little about the mechanisms of action of CBD. However, it is known that CBD weakly binds to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 and has a blocking effect there as an indirect antagonist to existing agonists. Therefore, CBD only shows an effect if active substances already act on the receptor. It is also interesting that CBD counteracts the THC effect. The THC effect can, therefore, be weakened with the help of CBD.
CBD also stimulates the type 1 vanilloid receptor (capsaicin receptor), which plays an important role in pain perception and the sharpness of taste. It was also found that CBD increases the concentration of the body’s cannabinoid anandamide by inhibiting the breakdown.
The anxiolytic, antidepressant and neuroprotective effect of CBD can be explained, among other things, by the fact that CBD docks or displaces agonists at the 5-HT1A receptor. CBD has an antagonistic effect on the GPR55 receptor and indirectly on the μ- and δ-opioid receptors.
In 2018, various studies on CBD’s topic against mental disorders were published, including the following:
- Researchers at the University of Milan in Italy explained that the results so far indicate that CBD may have an antipsychotic effect and that patients with a generalized anxiety disorder may benefit from CBD.
- Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil investigated the antidepressant effects of CBD. They concluded that this effect is probably related to the level of serotonin in the central nervous system.
- Researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia said chronic cannabis use could be linked to impaired perception and increased psychological symptoms, particularly psychotic symptoms. While it is believed that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is primarily responsible for these harmful effects, CBD is said to have antipsychotic properties and alleviate cognitive, symptomatic, and brain damage in cannabis users. As part of the study, the researchers found that the subjects tolerated CBD well and that there were no harmful effects on the psychological functions. Also, the participants suffered significantly less from depressive and psychotic-like symptoms. Increased CBD levels were seen with improvements in attention control and positive changes in psychological symptoms. According to the researchers, CBD could be a useful additional treatment for cannabis addiction.
- A team of researchers conducted a study involving patients with schizophrenia. In addition to their antipsychotic medication, the subjects received CBD or a placebo. After six weeks of treatment, the CBD group showed fewer psychotic symptoms compared to the placebo group. The cognitive performance of the CBD group also improved. According to the researchers, the results suggest that CBD can have a positive effect on schizophrenia.
CBD and its Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The endocannabinoid system controls inflammation. Numerous studies in recent years have shown that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can have anti-inflammatory effects. Some recent studies also suggest that CBD could be helpful.
- Researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids on the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in corneal injuries. After treating the cauterized eyes of laboratory mice with CBD, THC, or the CBD derivative HU-308, the researchers concluded that THC, CBD, and HU-308 inhibited both pain and the inflammatory response. While the anti-inflammatory effects of THC were primarily mediated via the CB1 receptor, CBD and HU-308 activated the CB2 and 5-HT1A receptors. Cannabinoids could be a novel clinical therapy for corneal inflammation and associated pain, the researchers concluded.
- At Stanford University, three patients with blistering skin disease Epidermolysis bullosa were examined who treated their disease with CBD. One patient was able to discontinue oral opioid analgesics during CBD treatment. All three patients also reported faster-wound healing, less blistering, and less pain.
- British researchers discovered that CBD could be useful for the symptomatic treatment of inflammatory bowel disease in a clinical trial.