Science has confirmed that cannabis is an effective pain reliever, reinforced in a massive new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But there's a big difference between ingesting cannabis or its individual chemicals orally and absorbing it through your skin. Here, the lowdown on this new crop (no pun intended) of pain relievers.
Ingesting — think CBD lattes, edibles, or just a drop of oil on the tongue — is likely much less effective than inhaling, says Blessing. When CBD-containing oil is ingested, it wants to join the other fat in your body; most of the CBD taken this way will just stay in that fat, inert and never getting to the brain. When inhaled, CBD bypasses the digestive system, which wants to store fat.
Donald Abrams was a member of the committee that reviewed the evidence that went into producing the report, and he said that the studies they reviewed overwhelmingly used pharmaceutically available preparations that contain THC, including dronabinol, nabilone and the whole-plant extract spray nabiximols, which contains equal parts CBD and THC. It’s impossible to know whether the benefits of cannabis can also be obtained from CBD alone, Abrams said, because CBD is just one of 400 chemicals present in the plant. So far, CBD in isolation has been studied in only a handful of randomized, placebo-controlled trials (considered the gold standard of evidence in medical research), and the evidence remains sparse.
However, cannabidiol as an anxiety reducer has almost none of these issues. One study had 24 participants who took either 600 mg of CBD or a placebo drug. In a speaking test that followed, the group which underwent CBD treatment showed less anxiety. They also had a smaller degree of cognitive impairment and felt less discomfort overall as they spoke. In other words, their results were better than those of the placebo group.
One of the strongest nutraceutical CBD oils is called Charlotte’s Web, with a 50mg dose. Charlotte’s Web is produced in Colorado by the Stanley Brothers, and named after Charlotte Figi, a girl who became famous in the US after her frequent seizures, brought on by the rare Dravet syndrome, were greatly reduced when she started taking CBD oil aged five. The company makes THC products too and is extremely successful, having just offered shares on the Canadian securities exchange, raising about $100m.