Cannabidiol (CBD) is rapidly becoming, with respect to medical use, “the more interesting cannabinoid” according to a new and comprehensive review of the scientific literature published in the July issue of the journal Pharmacology and Therapeutics by Simona Pisanti, Anna Maria Malfitano and 10 additional colleagues.
One of the most promising areas in which CBD has therapeutic potential is in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as multiple sclerosis.
While the mechanisms that cause these diseases are still under investigation, inflammation has been determined to be a significant factor, especially in their progression. CBD reduces inflammation in the brain. Its antioxidant and neuroprotective effects are also promising.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by dementia, causes by deposits of plaque in the brain “constituted of deposits of beta-amyloid peptide,” which are neurotoxic and produce oxidation. Research results show promise for the ability of CBD to mitigate these “neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative responses.”
In one study, CBD contributed to a reversal of social recognition impairment.
Parkinson’s disease causes a degeneration of the motor system due to “progressive death of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons.” There is no cure, and no drugs have been found to slow or reverse the progressive loss of motor control. Levodopa has been successful in treating the symptoms, but chronic use has complications.
There is hope that CBD can have a role in the development of a new pharmacological approach. Experimental evidence suggests CBD may preserve dopamine-producing neurons and enhance well-being. Larger studies and a more detailed assessment of Parkinson’s symptoms must be conducted to examine CBD’s potential in this area.
Multiple sclerosis is “characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath that surrounds the axons” of the brain, producing “recurrent episodes of neurological dysfunction and… irreversible disability.”
Cannabis has shown effectiveness in treating many of its symptoms, such as pain, tremors and spasticity. While there are many studies supporting the use of cannabis, they all involve THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
CBD alone has yet to be tested in such studies.
“However, given the broad effects of CBD as an anti-inﬂammatory, neuroprotective, immune-modulator agent and furthermore considering its lack of psychoactive activity, that represents the principal limit for cannabinoids in clinical use, the employment of CBD is attracting growing attention as a novel safe and effective potential therapeutic alternative in MS patients.”
Experimental data shows that CBD is promising in controlling the inflammatory component during the onset and progression of MS
Epilepsy refers to several neurological disorders that produce seizures. While there are many drug therapies available, 30 percent of patients have inadequate control of their seizures.
“To date there is growing scientiﬁc evidence that testiﬁes the potential efﬁcacy of cannabinoids for the treatment of different forms of epilepsy.”
CBD has shown anti-convulsant effects in several experiments. More clinical data from randomized studies are needed. However, a recent study of oral CBD by GW Pharmaceuticals produced a reduction in the frequency of seizures. CBD has a “sufficient safety profile in children and adults with highly treatment-resistant epilepsy.”
While there is well-established research demonstrating the anti-tumor properties of cannabinoids, these studies involve “the clinical use of Δ9-THC and additional synthetic agonists and is [thus] often limited by their undesired psychoactive side effects.”
However, several reports indicate that CBD alone “inhibits cancer cell migration, adhesion, and invasion” and has other anti-tumor properties.
Pisanti, Malfitano and their colleagues also review “the efﬁcacy of CBD in the modulation of tumorigenesis in several types of cancer, such as breast, lung, colon, brain, and other tumours.”
According to Pisanti, Malfitano et al., CBD has multifaceted pharmacological effects, as it is neuroprotective, relieves pain, relieves anxiety, is an antidepressant, causes vasorelaxation, is an antioxidant, reduces cancer cell growth, reduces turmoral angiogenic process, and reduced inflammation.
In their concluding remarks, the authors note that while access to medical cannabis has increased throughout the world in recent years, this “has not been accompanied by a parallel recognition of cannabinoids as medicines by national regulatory agencies, thus generating a paradoxical situation.”
CBD is in many respects legal but not regulated. There are many emerging products, but patients are not protected by regulatory standards or laws requiring accurate labeling.
Thus, there is no certainty or guarantee about product safety or quality, and there is particularly a lack of information in many cases as to the effective dose required for therapeutic use.
Such regulations have emerged in the United Kingdom, and the authors expect “other regulatory agencies around the world will soon deal with the review of CBD regulatory status, as more large and robust clinical trials will deﬁnitely establish its therapeutic relevance in several pathologies.”