Recent developments in how CBD (cannabidiol) is regulated in the US have made it much easier to purchase CBD products. Changes to how the federal government views CBD are also making it easier for scientists to conduct CBD research and understand how this cannabinoid interacts with the human body.
CBD isn’t just easier to research at the federal level—agencies like the FDA are paying attention and issuing warnings to help educate consumers, while the National Institutes of Health issued $3 million in grants to research teams looking to study CBD’s pain-relieving properties. And in states where cannabis is legal, state university systems are creating new think tanks and assembling research teams to collaborate on a new generation of cannabis research.
While CBD has demonstrated the potential to help address a wide variety of conditions and symptoms, many questions remain, including what conditions CBD has the most potential to treat, what proper doses might look like, and precisely how CBD brings about the effects it does.
Here are some of the major questions researchers around the world are asking about CBD, and a look at some of the early answers they’re finding.
What CBD research says about epilepsy treatments
We have a pretty good general understanding of the neuroreceptors that CBD interacts with in the body. We also know that CBD and drugs derived from it are effective in treating some forms of epilepsy, including Dravet’s Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
What we don’t understand is exactly why CBD helps epilepsy patients. With CBD easier to study—and CBD-based drugs entering the market—researchers are digging further into the molecular mechanisms responsible for CBD’s apparent seizure-reducing properties.
Differentiating CBD and THC
Increasingly, studies on cannabis are shifting focus away from studying effects of the whole plant and toward more focused studies on individual cannabinoids. This research is helping scientists learn more about how cannabinoids act in isolation, how different cannabinoids—for instance THC and CBD—behave in the brain, and more.
CBD research under review
Many studies on the impact of CBD and cannabis in general employ pretty small sample sizes, which limits the data researchers can gather and the conclusions they can draw from it. As the volume of these studies grows, though, researchers are employing that data to conduct review studies on the effects and efficacy of cannabis and its components, including CBD.
Rather than conducting a new experiment, review studies collate and compare the results of previously published, peer-reviewed studies. This allows authors to work with what is effectively a larger data set and more confidently answer questions about the subject.
2019 saw these studies become more common in the cannabis space with review studies aiming to shed light on the efficacy of cannabis—and specific cannabinoids like CBD—in treating pain, as well as the potential negative side effects of CBD.