The 419 - CBD as Preventative Medicine


An excerpt from CBD: A Patient's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis

A new book discusses seven ways CBD-rich cannabis can be used to prevent disease.



  • CBD  has anti-inflammatory properties and studies suggest that it can reduce  the risk of cancer, metabolic disorders and neurodegenerative disease
  • Low doses of cannabinoids can stimulate the creation of new nerve cells in animal models, even in aging brains
  • CBD  has been shown to block an enzyme that destroys bone-building compounds  in the body, reducing the risk of age-related bone diseases like  osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
  • When applied topically as an infused lotion, serum, oil, or salve, the antioxidants in CBD (a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins E and C) can repair damaged skin

  CBD can be used as preventative medicine for a wide range of conditions   Cannabinoid therapy is connected to the part of the biological matrix where body and brain meet. Since CBD  and other compounds in cannabis are so similar to the chemicals created  by our own bodies, they are integrated better than many synthetic  drugs. According to Bradley E. Alger, a leading scientist in the study  of endocannabinoids with a PhD from Harvard in experimental psychology,  “With complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and  virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a  bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to  see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of  physical health and disease.” 

Reduced Risk of Diabetes and Obesity  Several studies have shown that regular cannabis users have a lower  body mass index, smaller waist circumferences, and reduced risk of  diabetes and obesity. One 2011 report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology,  based on a survey of more than fifty-two thousand participants,  concluded that rates of obesity are about one-third lower among cannabis  users. This is despite the findings that participants tend to consume  more calories per day, an activity that is potentially related to THC’s stimulation of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite but also increases the metabolism of carbohydrates. CBD  on its own was shown in 2006 to lower the incidence of diabetes in lab  rats, and in 2015 an Israeli-American biopharmaceutical collective began  stage 2 trials related to using CBD to treat diabetes. Research has demonstrated that CBD helps the body convert white fat into weight-reducing brown fat, promoting normal insulin production and sugar metabolism. In studying over 4,600 test subjects, researchers found that current  cannabis users had fasting insulin levels that were up to 16 percent  lower than their non-using counterparts, higher levels of HDL  cholesterol that protects against diabetes, and 17 percent lower levels  of insulin resistance. Respondents who had used cannabis in their  lifetime but were not current users showed similar but less pronounced  associations, indicating that the protective effect of cannabis fades  with time. Excess insulin promotes the conversion of sugars into stored fat and  leads to weight gain and obesity. The research emerging about the  interplay between cannabinoids and insulin regulation may lead to some  major breakthroughs in the prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

Better Cholesterol Profiles and Lowered Risk of Cardiovascular Disease  A 2013 study that measured data from 4,652 participants on the effect  of cannabis on metabolic systems compared non-users to current and  former users. It found that current users had higher blood levels of  high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C) or “good  cholesterol.” The same year, an analysis of over seven hundred members  of Canada’s Inuit community found that, on average, regular cannabis  users had increased levels of HDL-C and slightly lower levels of LDL-C (“bad cholesterol”). Linked to diet and lifestyle, atherosclerosis is common in developed  Western nations and can lead to heart disease or stroke. It is a chronic  inflammatory disorder involving the progressive depositing of  atherosclerotic plaques (immune cells carrying oxidized LDL  or low-density lipoproteins). A growing body of evidence suggests that  endocannabinoid signaling plays a critical role in the pathology of  atherogenesis. The condition is now understood to be a physical response  to injuries in the arterial walls’ lining, caused by high blood  pressure, infectious microbes, or excessive presence of an amino acid  called homocysteine. Studies have demonstrated that inflammatory  molecules stimulate the cycle leading to atherosclerotic lesions.  Existing treatments are moderately effective though carry numerous side  effects. CB2 receptors triple in response to inflammation, allowing anandamide and 2-AG, the body’s natural cannabinoids, to decrease inflammatory responses. The CB2 receptor is also stimulated by plant-based cannabinoids. A 2005 animal trial showed that low-dose oral cannabinoids slowed the  progression of atherosclerosis. Researchers the following year wrote  that the immunomodulatory capacity of cannabinoids was “well  established” in science and suggested they had a broad therapeutic  potential for a variety of conditions, including atherosclerosis. A 2007 animal study with CBD showed it had a  cardioprotective effect during heart attacks, and more details were  published that year about the involvement of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in cardiovascular illness and health. 

Reduced Risk of Cancer  Could cannabidiol help prevent tumors and other cancers before they grow? A 2012 study showed that animals treated with CBD  were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer after being  induced with carcinogens in a laboratory. Several studies had already  shown that THC prevents tumors and reduces  them, including one in 1996 on animal models that found that it  decreased the incidence of both benign and hepatic adenoma tumors. In  2015, scientists analyzed the medical records of over eighty-four  thousand male patients in California and found that those who used  cannabis, but not tobacco, had a rate of bladder cancer that was 45  percent below the norm. Topical products can be used to treat and  prevent skin cancers. Continuing research is focused on the best ratio  of CBD to THC and the most effective dose level in cancer prevention and treatment. 

Cannabinoids Help Maintain Brain Health and Create Resilience to Trauma and Degeneration  Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning that they help maintain and  regulate brain health. The effects appear to be related to several  actions they have on the brain, including the removal of damaged cells  and the improved efficiency of mitochondria. CBD  and other antioxidant compounds in cannabis also work to reduce  glutamate toxicity. Extra glutamate, which stimulates nerve cells in the  brain to fire, causes cells to become over-stimulated, ultimately  leading to cell damage or death. Thus, cannabinoids help protect brain  cells from damage, keeping the organ healthy and functioning properly. CBD has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain. As the brain ages, the creation of new neurons slows down  significantly. In order to maintain brain health and prevent  degenerative diseases, new cells need to be continuously created. A 2008  study showed that low doses of CBD- and THC-like cannabinoids encouraged the creation of new nerve cells in animal models, even in aging brains. CBD also helps prevent other nerve-related diseases like neuropathy and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Protects against Bone Disease and Broken Bones  Cannabinoids are facilitative of the process of bone metabolism—the  cycle in which old bone material is replaced by new at a rate of about  10 percent per year, crucial to maintaining strong, healthy bones over  time. CBD in particular has been shown to  block an enzyme that destroys bone-building compounds in the body,  reducing the risk of age-related bone diseases like osteoporosis and  osteoarthritis. In both of those diseases, the body is no longer  creating new bone and cartilage cells. CBD  helps spur the process of new bone-cell formation, which is why it has  been found to speed the healing of broken bones and, due to a stronger  fracture callus, decrease the likelihood of re-fracturing the bone  (bones are 35–50 percent stronger than those of non-treated subjects). 

Protects and Heals the Skin  The skin has the highest amount and concentration of CB2 receptors in the body. When applied topically as an infused lotion, serum, oil, or salve, the antioxidants in CBD (a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins E and C) can repair damage from free radicals like UV  rays and environmental pollutants. Cannabinoid receptors can be found  in the skin and seem to be connected to the regulation of oil production  in the sebaceous glands. Cannabis-based topical products are being  developed to treat related issues from acne to psoriasis and can promote  faster healing of damaged skin. In fact, historical documents show that  cannabis preparations have been used for wound healing in both animals  and people in a range of cultures spanning the globe and going back  thousands of years. The use of concentrated cannabis oils to treat skin  cancer is gaining popularity with a number of well-documented cases of  people curing both melanoma and carcinoma-type skin cancers with the  topical application of CBD and THC products. Cannabis applied topically is not psychoactive. 

Anti-inflammatory  Cannabinoids have been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect in numerous studies. CBD  engages with the endocannabinoid system in many organs throughout the  body, helping to reduce inflammation systemically. The therapeutic  potential is impressively wide-ranging, as inflammation is involved in a  broad spectrum of diseases. This article has been adapted from CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis by Leonard Leinow & Juliana Birnbaum (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2017).