CBD, or cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring active cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Meanwhile, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another. These cannabinoids are just two of at least 113 identified in cannabis and, at this point in time, are the two we know most about. Both have extraordinary medical properties and have been found to have repeatable and lasting positive effects across a wide variety of medical conditions.
THC has been studied for decades and is known to be a very effective analgesic (pain reliever) although it’s perhaps better known for its psychoactive side effect, which can give the user a sense of euphoria or “high.”
More recently, as cannabis has become more accepted for health and wellness, CBD has become the subject of attention too. While rigorous studies are still needed, preliminary clinical reports indicate CBD to also have analgesic properties (though perhaps not as effective as THC), as well as having anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-psychoactive, and anti-convulsant properties—perhaps more when combined with THC. CBD achieves this by directly (or indirectly) affecting neurological receptors responsible for pain modulation, inflammation regulation, and mood and stress management.
All this from a single plant species: cannabis. Impressive.
And, unlike THC, CBD isn’t known to have any intoxication or psychoactive side effect. Word of this is getting out. Many, if not most, of the HelloMD patient community regularly seek and use CBD or CBD-dominant cannabis products as part of their therapeutic regimen. Moreover, many use it in place of more traditional pharmaceutical solutions.
To better understand this phenomenon, HelloMD and the Brightfield Group recently performed the first ever large-scale study of patients’ experiences, perceptions and understanding of CBD. The results include a fascinating look into how patients interpret the efficacy of CBD products in treating various medical conditions.
For purposes of this report, “CBD users” are defined as patients using hemp-derived CBD, marijuana-derived CBD-only products or CBD-dominant products (with CBD:THC ratios of 1:1 or higher).
A remarkable 80% of CBD users found CBD “very effective” to “extremely effective” in treating their respective conditions. An equally impressive 42% of CBD users actually stopped using their traditional prescribed pharmaceutical medications altogether, replacing them with CBD-based cannabis products. Sit with that for a moment. This behavior has far-reaching consequences across multiple domains spanning the profit centers of Big Pharma, to how we educate medical professionals, to how we might tackle the current national opioid crisis.
Equally intriguing is how CBD-only products are favored by women. The study found 58% of CBD-only users to be women. This is interesting because it shows a considerable ramp when compared to our findings in the January 2016 HelloMD Medical Marijuana Study, where that number was a much lower 36%. In the joint study, HelloMD performed with UC Berkeley earlier this year on cannabis efficacy for pain, we found that number to be 44%. It would appear that women are learning about CBD fast and, perhaps, are more actively seeking cannabis products that will not leave them impaired or “high” (by the psychoactive effects that THC-dominant products have).
While CBD can be a powerful medicine on its own, the compound’s effect may be enhanced, or more effective, when combined with other cannabinoids, specifically THC. This cooperating synergy between marijuana compounds is often called the “entourage effect” or “whole plant effect.” The push towards whole plant medicine is certainly appropriate in certain cases as it provides another path towards healing, as some patients may respond well to CBD and others to a combination of CBD and THC.
While there’s still plenty more to learn about CBD and its applications, this much is clear: The demand for CBD, be it combined with THC or used as an extract on its own, is growing exponentially. Three quarters of those surveyed use CBD in some capacity, and more than half use it in CBD-only formulas. The latter data point is perhaps made more significant given the wider availability (across the nation) of CBD-only products.
The HelloMD and Brightfield Group report is based on responses from over 2,400 HelloMD members.