Editor’s Note: This article is meant to represent a research review only, and should not be used or regarded as medical advice.
Remember being told as a child, “an apple a day will keep the doctor away”? Well, eating apples is not enough to ensure health. But what about, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? That phrase from Benjamin Franklin may not have been about health but it sure is good advice.
The main facets of preventive medicine are rather intuitive. These include leading a healthy lifestyle, which means eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol use.
And while many people today try to live by these rules (as much as possible), cannabidiol (CBD) may provide an additional boost to help prevent certain conditions. CBD possesses a multitude of beneficial properties and, as such, is used to treat many different conditions. However, what is less known about CBD is its propensity as a proactive agent that protects against disease.
Here’s what we know so far:
Arthritis. Substantial evidence has indicated a role for CBD in the treatment of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. And a pre-clinical study demonstrated that topical CBD application was effective in reducing joint inflammation in an animal model induced via chemical injection. However, the study also showed that prophylactic use of CBD prevented the development of joint pain. While this was performed in animals, not humans, the data suggest CBD could prevent the development of osteoarthritis.
Pain/drug-dependency. Cannabis is a very effective analgesic for chronic pain, and several studies have shown that it can be used in place of opioids, which are potentially addictive. In fact, states where medical cannabis is legalized have lower rates of opioid overdoses. And a recent study showed that CBD could reduce drug cravings in drug- abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder; CBD also decreased anxiety associated with drug withdrawal. These data suggest that, in addition to preventing use/abuse of opioids for pain, CBD may also prevent relapse in drug-dependent individuals.
Cancer. Studies have indicated that certain cannabinoids may play a role in the prevention or treatment of different types of cancers. CBD was found to exert chemopreventive effects in an animal model of colon cancer. At high doses, CBD prevented polyps from forming. Additionally, using cells taken from human colon tumors, researchers found that CBD also prevented tumor cells from growing. Please note that there is no direct evidence showing that CBD or cannabinoids alone can prevent or cure cancer in humans.
Obesity. Cannabis is widely known for its appetite-stimulating effects. However, it also plays an unexpected role in obesity by regulating genes associated with brown fat. This type of fat is activated in lower temperatures and works to keep the body warm, potentially burning up fat stores. A study found that, in addition to stimulating the creation of brown fat, CBD appear appears to inhibit lipogenesis. Thus, long-term use could affect weight and potentially prevent obesity.
Cardiovascular disease. Research has found that just one dose of CBD can decrease blood pressure in healthy adults. And several other studies have indicated that CBD may increase vasodilation, reduce myocardial infarct size and inflammation associated with diabetes, and protect brain cells after stroke. Taken together, these data suggest that CBD could help prevent the development of certain cardiovascular conditions, of course if combined with other components of a heart healthy lifestyle.
Greater research is needed to better understand the potential of CBD as a part of preventive health, as well as optimal dosing strategies. As always, be sure to talk to your doctor or medical cannabis dispensary before starting or changing treatment or if you have any questions.
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- Willett WC, et al. Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes. In: Jamison DT, et al., editors. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2006. Chapter 44. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11795/ Co-published by Oxford University Press, New York.
- Philpott HT, et al. Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis. Pain. 2017;158(12):2442-2451.
- Bachhuber MA, et al. Medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010 [published correction appears in JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(11):1875.] JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(10):1668-1673.
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