What You Need to Know About CBD

Mar 1, 2021

Now more than ever, people are seeking alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs which often come with a long list of significant adverse effects, even death when overdosed. As a result, many have turned to cannabidiol (CBD) as a new option in the treatment of many disorders for example chronic, debilitating pain. Compelling evidence supports claims from both patients and doctors of its efficacy – yet, the curious substance still has a long road to total acceptance from the medical and legal community.

Most people, having heard of CBD only recently, assume it to be a new and innovative supplement, although CBD and its uses were in fact “discovered” in 1946(1). Since then, ongoing research is showing that CBD is effective as a medicine and does not cause the altered mental states created by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While Australian politicians try to make sense of cannabidiol and what it’s true potential can be, let’s shed some light on everything you need to know about CBD.

What is CBD?

CBD is the second most abundant part of cannabis plant, non-addictive, non-psychoactive and very safe. Once it is extracted from the plant, it’s typically mixed with a carrier oil to allow oral ingestion, topical application, and other methods of consumption. As a non-psychotropic medication, CBD is nothing like THC, the other active ingredient in cannabis, in that users won’t feel “high” or impaired in any way. CBD has neither shown evidence of abuse potential nor problems related to public health concerns according to the World Health Organization (WHO)(2).

Instead, CBD has grown popular worldwide for its effectiveness in treating a wide range of physical and mental disorders, pains, diseases, and more, including:

  • Chronic non-cancer pain
  • Cancer pain and symptom management
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Epilepsy
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Neurological conditions (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Endometriosis

Like with any medication, there are quite a few wild health claims about CBD’s healing properties along with anecdotal evidence for its efficacy as a panacea. As we will soon see, the efforts to prove exactly what CBD is most effective in treating and the specific doses required for those treatments are already underway. Some doctors have already transformed their practices to accommodate new findings in CBD as medicine due to “life-changing” results for large numbers of their patients.

In fact, the majority of CBD users are middle-aged women who take the medicine for pain relief from inflammatory arthritis (4). As its legal status changes, we should soon see even more research into CBD’s effective application as a medicine. For now, patients across Australia will be eager to purchase over-the-counter CBD based on the success of its application for these ailments and more.

How Do People Use CBD?

CBD is quite a fascinating compound. It interacts with many metabolic systems in the human body, through both receptor and non-receptor mechanisms. It is often referred to as a ‘’promiscuous molecule’’. It has the ability to modulate the endocannabinoid system as well. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate a large number of physiological processes affecting mood, immune activity, blood pressure, hunger, pain, stress, and more. As a result, CBD often demonstrates an incredible therapeutic potential (5).

Across the globe, CBD is consumed in a broad spectrum of forms for an equally broad spectrum of reasons. From edible gummies, brownies, and hard candies to vapes, lip balms, and bath bombs, consumers have plenty of options. In Australia, however, due to strict regulations on CBD products, the most common forms are oils taken orally, it is also available as sublingual wafers and oro-buccal sprays. CBD is typically taken by placing the recommended dose on a spoon, holding it under the tongue, and swallowing after 90 seconds.

Doctors generally recommend starting with low doses of CBD, particularly if a patient has never used it before in prescription form. Over time, patients should gradually increase the amount they take until they reach an effective dose for their treatment – then, they might reduce the dose if possible, over time. In other words, patients should maintain the smallest dose that provides the desired therapeutic effects.

Doctors ask their patients to record when they take their doses and how much they’ve taken for future reference. Patients should also eat fatty foods when taking doses of CBD – that way, their bodies can absorb the CBD and experience its positive effects faster.

Are CBD Products Safe to Consume?

Based on the vast majority of medical research, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” As with any medication, though, there are some side effects of CBD, including nausea, fatigue, and irritability. It can also raise levels of other medications in your blood by the same mechanism as grapefruit juice (3).

Because the current CBD market functions much like the “Wild West” in the United States did, regulating the safety and purity of products has proven somewhat complicated. Some manufacturers of CBD have even come under scrutiny for bold claims about CBD’s efficacy, marketing it as a “miracle cure” for a vast range of diseases like cancer.

Before trying CBD, consumers should discuss potential treatments with their doctors. Fortunately, as more reputable manufacturers submit their products for clinical trials, standards on CBD products will rise across the board. This should increase confidence in CBD as a medicine and guarantee its safety and efficacy.

Is CBD Legal in Australia?

As of February 2021, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has down-scheduled CBD from a prescription-only medication to a pharmacist-only medication (7). In other words, patients seeking treatment through CBD should soon be able to purchase CBD legally over-the-counter.

However, consumers may not be able to purchase CBD at all in 2021. While CBD is legal over-the-counter, no product containing the substance has been approved by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). CBD manufacturers must first demonstrate that their products are both safe and effective in order to be approved by the ARTG.

While CBD is widely available in countries like the US and UK, it may be some time before Australians can pick it up on their way home from the supermarket. Until then, patients must be prescribed CBD by their healthcare providers. As more organizations and countless individuals advocate for easier accessibility to CBD and its beneficial properties, the future for this fascinating medication looks brighter every day.

References

  1. CBD History: The Past, Present and Future of Using CBD
    Ministry of Hemp
    https://ministryofhemp.com/blog/cbd-history/

  2. New kid on the block?
    KPMG Whitepaper
    https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/ie/pdf/2020/12/ie-whitepaper-insights-on-cbd-in-the-consumer-health-market-unlocked.pdf

  3. Cannabidiol (CBD) - what we know and what we don't
    Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476

  4. 'We know it works': Cannabis oil firms chase approvals as over-the-counter sales are legalised
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    https://www.smh.com.au/national/we-know-it-works-cannabis-oil-can-be-legally-sold-over-the-counter-from-monday-20210129-p56xyd.html

  5. What is CBD?
    Project CBD
    https://www.projectcbd.org/about/what-cbd

  6. Explainer: Low-Dose CBD Oil Can Now Be Bought Over-the-Counter. Here's What That Means.
    https://www.broadsheet.com.au/national/city-file/article/explainer-low-dose-cbd-oil-can-now-be-bought-over-counter-heres-what-means

  7. CBD will go on sale in Australia, but first manufacturers will have to prove it works
    The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/07/cbd-will-go-on-sale-in-australia-but-first-manufacturers-will-have-to-prove-it-works#:~:text=On 1 February%2C it became,(pharmacist-only medicine)

Author: Dr. Teresa Towpik

Medihuanna Founder

Dr. Teresa Towpik has been a General Practitioner in Australia since 1993 and an advocate of medicinal cannabis since the law was amended and cannabis was legalized for medicinal use. In 2016 she founded Medihuanna with the goal to educate medical practitioners to safely treat patients with medicinal cannabis. Since then, she has been studying the therapeutic properties of cannabis, how it works, and the potential applications in General Practice, especially in the management of chronic debilitating pain.

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