CBD interacts with your body at a cellular level in a variety of ways, and has been shown to reduce inflammation, intercept pain signals to the brain, boost serotonin levels, dampen the flight-or-fight response, and help regulate sleep. Because of these qualities, there are many chronic medical conditions whose symptoms can be reduced or eliminated with the use of CBD. These include but are not limited to:
On the next several pages, we’ll look at some of the conditions that I most frequently treat, and what the research says about using CBD to treat them.
I have paralyzing anxiety. It’s mainly caused by stress at work. I manage a team of 17 and the deadlines are constantly looming.
At the end of the day, I go to bed hoping that I’ll sleep soundly. But, more often than not, I lie awake for hours on end. My mind races nonstop with one worry after the next.
Some days it’s so bad, I’ve had to call out of work. My heart races, I struggle to breathe, the room spins, and the sheets are soaked in sweat. Once, I ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a panic attack.
My doctor prescribed Lexapro and Xanax. The Lexapro is killing my sex drive, and I’m having to use the Xanax more and more frequently in higher and higher doses. Addiction runs in my family and I’m not looking to head down that path.
I’ve read about CBD oil helping with anxiety, but I’m not sure about it, so I figured I’d ask a doctor.
Palo Alto, CA
I can really sympathize with patients like Joe. As a type-A in a very demanding profession, I know that anxiety can be totally and completely debilitating. But, there’s hope, especially with the help of CBD.
Back in 2011, some researchers set to the task of looking at the effects of CBD on anxiety—specifically social anxiety. Half the participants were given CBD, and the other half were given placebo.
Participants were told they had two minutes to prepare a four-minute speech and that the speech would be recorded on video and then analyzed. Public speaking gives most people anxiety, so you can imagine how stressful this situation was for the participants already suffering from social anxiety.
However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the participants treated with CBD fared really well. Treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort. It led the researchers to conclude that a single dose of CBD could reduce the anxiety caused by public speaking in patients with social anxiety.
My patients have reported that CBD works quite well to relieve anxiety. Patients feel more calm and more relaxed. They say CBD eases their anxiety in a way that allows them to function. They no longer feel paralyzed by the anxiety. The racing thoughts they have while lying in bed disappear, allowing them to fall asleep easily, stay asleep for a good seven to eight hours, and wake up well rested. Better rested, patients are able to take on the challenges of work with greater focus.
Most importantly, CBD helps to improve patients’ relationships with their loved ones. Relieved of anxiety, they are no longer chronically tired, obsessively worried, or easily irritated. They show up as a better person for their family and friends.
Those who experience a very severe form of anxiety—panic attacks—report results ranging from complete elimination of their panic attacks to a reduction in the number and severity of the panic attacks.
In addition, patients report that they are able to eliminate or significantly reduce the dose and number of their prescription medications, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and benzodiazepines. A select few find they have to continue to take their prescriptions medications; however, they experience greater relief of anxiety by combining the use of their prescription medications with CBD.
Patients also find that CBD is preferable to prescription medications due to its immediate effect and lack of unpleasant side effects.
I need your help with my back pain. My back went out a while ago while lifting a heavy box. The pain came out of nowhere. It felt like a sharp knife stabbing through my back. It was so painful I couldn’t move. I was on the couch for a couple days before I could get moving again, and the pain hasn’t left me since. I still feel a “knot” in that same spot in my back, and that area cramps up when I sit or stand for a really long time or overexert myself.
Getting out of bed is a struggle. I wake up with a really stiff back. It’s difficult to bend or stand. Meetings at work are a struggle. I have to continuously stand up to stretch my back. On long drives, I have to repeatedly make stops to stretch my back.
I’ve tried everything I can think of to relieve my back pain. I started by applying ice packs and heating pads. I went for some massages. I tried over-the-counter pain relievers, and I was prescribed a muscle relaxant, Baclofen, but it made me feel really drowsy, dizzy, and tired.
I need help. I’ve heard of people using CBD oil for back pain. What sort of results can I expect?
Back pain is one of the common conditions I’ve treated with CBD oil. Patients’ symptoms can run the gamut from spasms to cramping or stiffness and even spasticity (a severe form of muscle cramps that affects the entire body). I’ve had patients who were once active go from limiting to completely quitting their favorite physical activities. It even impacts their personal and professional lives.
Many of the people who come to me for guidance on how to use CBD oil for their back pain have tried every other treatment they can think of. And more often than not, when nothing else helps, the CBD oil does.
While there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of research on the effects of CBD on muscle pain, medical reports have shown CBD has been effective in reducing muscle pain.
In 2016, Dr. Amanda Morrow published a medical report on a case in which CBD was used to treat spasticity. The patient in this particular case suffered a spinal cord injury from a diving accident. His spasticity was so severe that he had a pump inserted in his abdomen to deliver on-demand medication, Baclofen, to relax his muscles.
At some point, the patient began to integrate CBD oil into his treatment. Over the course of three months, he was able to reduce his use of the muscle relaxant by 36 percent, and he reported excellent spasticity relief. He reported no adverse side effects from the CBD, including cognitive changes. He continued working full time and safely parenting his one-year-old child.
In my practice, I’ve treated countless patients struggling with back pain. They’ve reported that CBD oil either dulls or completely eliminates their back pain. The reduction in pain depends on the level of pain they experienced before treatment. For patients with severe pain, the pain drops to a moderate level. For patients with moderate pain, the pain drops to a mild level. For those who start off with mild pain, CBD is often enough to completely eliminate their pain.
I also see a reduction in the frequency and duration of symptoms. Some patients have reported that they don’t experience quite as many muscles spasms or as much cramping, stiffness, or spasticity. Others have reported that their spasms, cramping, stiffness, and spasticity doesn’t last as long when using CBD oil.
Overall, with their pain better managed, patients are able to engage in activities like driving a car, sitting at a desk, or flying on a plane. They’re also able to sleep through the night without awakening from the pain. Some patients even managed to completely come off the pharmaceutical drugs they were taking and use just the CBD oil on an as-needed basis to help manage their back pain.
I’ve had diabetes for a while, and now I’m experiencing some really awful pain in my legs and feet from nerve damage caused by the diabetes. At first, I was having pain here and there and didn’t make much of it, but now, it’s turned into a nuisance that won’t leave me alone, night or day. It’s relentless.
At the start of the day, much of what I feel is numbness, but as the day goes on, the numbness turns into a feeling of pins and needles prickling my legs and feet. Sometimes I feel like my legs and feet are on fire. I wake up in the middle of the night with a feeling of electric shocks shooting down my legs. It’s painful even to have socks on.
After a lot of trial and error with medication, I’ve been using gabapentin to take the edge off. Every once in a while, it allows me to have a good day, but I have to say that most days are still bad days.
I’m still searching for a solution which can help me turn most of my bad days into good days. I’ve been putting my life on hold because this pain. Have you found that CBD oil helps patients with neuropathy?
Los Angeles, CA
I get questions about nerve pain, or neuropathy, from a lot of patients. Some, like Samantha, suffer from neuropathy that stems from diabetes, but there are many other causes of neuropathy, including:
I’ve also treated cases of idiopathic neuropathy, which is when the cause of the neuropathy is unknown.
One group of researchers pooled together data from five different studies on the impact of CBD on neuropathic pain in 41 patients. They found that a placebo reduced pain by 0.8 points on average, while CBD decreased pain by 1.5 points on average. It’s important to note that in most of these studies, patients in the placebo group were allowed to receive rescue drugs for pain and were allowed to increase the doses of those pain drugs. In addition, the pain relief from CBD was sustained during the 6- to 10-week follow-up period.
Chronic pain is one the most common conditions that I treat, and neuropathy is one of the most common causes of chronic pain.
CBD oil helps to either dull or eliminate patients’ pain, depending on the patient’s starting level of pain. Those with severe pain may have their pain reduced to a mild or moderate level. Those starting with mild or moderate pain may find their pain completely eliminated.
For some patients, CBD helps to reduce the use of their prescription pain medications. They’re able to reduce the dosages of the medications, or they find they can cut back on the number of medications they’re taking. In some cases, patients are able to completely eliminate prescription pain medications and manage their pain with the use of CBD oil alone. Overall, the vast majority of my patients report that the CBD oil works as well as, if not better than, opioids, but without the side effects.
Opioids are a group of drugs that interact with opioid receptors. They are commonly prescribed for pain relief, but cause unwanted adverse side effects and are potentially lethal.
I need more info on using CBD oil for migraine headaches. I’ve suffered from migraines for over 20 years, and they’re getting worse.
I usually get one migraine a week and it can last up to three days. The headaches can go from a throbbing to a pounding pain pretty quickly, and are without fail accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
I’m left completely debilitated on these days. All the important things that I have to get done are left to the wayside. I’m locked in my room with the shades drawn.
Prescription medications tend to give me really uncomfortable side effects, or they just don’t work. Right now, I use Imitrex to stop the migraines, but if I don’t catch the headache at just the right moment, then I’ve completely lost the opportunity to stop the migraine, and I just have to live with it for the next two to three days.
Otherwise, over-the-counter pain medications don’t come anywhere close to touching the pain.
So, what do you think? CBD oil? Yay or nay?
I’ve heard from thousands of patients like Hannah over the years, and I know that living with chronic migraines is a miserable experience. You’re certainly not alone in your struggle with migraines. Migraines affect 12 percent of the general population—that’s close to 1 in every 10 people you meet.
There’s not much in the way of research on the effects of CBD on migraines, so let’s just go ahead dive straight into the results my patients have experienced with the use of CBD.
CBD has helped patients by reducing the severity, duration, and frequency of migraine headaches. When patients rated their migraine pain on a scale of 1–10, with 10 being most severe, on average those with a pain level of 7–9 reported that CBD helped to bring their pain down to a 1–3. When starting with a pain level of 4–6, more often than not the CBD eliminated the pain.
Patients have also reported that CBD reduced how long their migraines lasted. When using triptans, such as Imitrex, they absolutely had to catch the migraine at just the right moment; otherwise they’d have to bear the pain for two or three days. With CBD, patients reported that they weren’t limited to using it within a certain window of time. And when they did use the CBD, the migraines typically resolved within about an hour.
Patients have reported that prior to using CBD, they were having migraines on average about one to three times per month. With the use of CBD, they began to have migraines much less frequently. On average, they reported having migraines about once every three to six months, if that. In best-case scenarios, patients reported not experiencing any migraines at all when they used CBD in a preventative way.
Triptans are a class of medication commonly used to treat migraines. They work by stimulating serotonin receptors.
I can’t sleep. I have a hard time falling asleep. I can’t stay asleep. And I wake up feeling like a total wreck. I’ve suffered from insomnia for over 25 years, and I think I’ve tried everything under the sun to find relief.
Over-the-counter sleep aids, like Unisom and ZzzQuil, have left me feeling hungover the next morning. Melatonin doesn’t work anymore. I took Ambien for several years, but that stuff has some pretty scary side effects. Even when Ambien did help me sleep, I never woke up feeling well rested. I’d walk around feeling like a zombie the following day.
Recently, I was telling a friend about my trouble sleeping. He happened to have some CBD oil on hand. I tried some, and I have to say I was definitely surprised. I had the best sleep I’ve had in years.
Was it just a fluke? Does CBD oil really help with sleep?
New York, NY
I’m all too familiar with the struggle to sleep. As an overworked medical resident, I found myself wired. There were weeks when I’d work 90 hours in five days and would be on my feet for 30 hours at a time, but I couldn’t get in a wink of sleep when I got home. I even got a script for Ambien from my doctor, but after reading up on the side effects, I never ended up filling the script. Looking back, I wish I had access to CBD. It would’ve definitely helped.
A study published in 1981 looked at the effects of CBD on people suffering from insomnia in Sao Paulo, Brazil from 1972 to 1981. For this study, participants were selected based on their history of difficult sleeping. They had trouble falling asleep (at least one hour) and experienced poor sleep throughout the night. Over five weeks, the participants were given a capsule that contained either CBD, glucose, or nitrazepam (a minor tranquilizer) at night. In the morning, they had to complete a questionnaire. The participants who were given CBD reported sleeping more than seven hours, having fewer interruptions of sleep, and getting a good night’s sleep overall.
In my practice, I’ve found that I need to treat patients with mild or moderate insomnia much differently from patients with severe insomnia. Those with mild or moderate insomnia fare better with CBD oil, whereas those with severe insomnia don’t. I’ve also found that patients who have difficulty falling asleep need a different treatment approach from patients who have difficulty staying asleep.
In terms of results, I’ve had patients report that they fall asleep more easily, stay asleep throughout the night, and fall back asleep easily if they wake up in the middle of the night. On average, they get about seven to eight hours of sleep per night, and wake up well rested rather than groggy.
When it comes to prescription medications, generally those with mild or moderate insomnia are able to eliminate the use of over-the-counter sleeping aids. Some patients on prescription sleeping aids are able to eliminate their use completely, while other patients find that they don’t rely on them as much, and only use them when they don’t have access to CBD oil.