CBD Oil as a Nutritional Supplement

The use of cannabis in medicine is deeply embedded throughout history. However, political and social influences have prohibited its use despite its promising health benefits. With recent scientific research resulting from the legalization of marijuana in some states, the stigma surrounding the plant is disappearing. With growing acceptance, the wide variety of health benefits is becoming better known and available to the general public. Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, is one of the active cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. CBD oil as a nutritional supplement has the ability to improve mental health, acne, inflammation, pain, and fertility. CBDs have also been studied for their antioxidant properties to improve overall health. CBD hemp oil is considered a nutritional supplement, and as such, is available to everyone in 50 states and 40 countries worldwide, without a prescription.[1] Whether you’re healthy or not, CBD oil is a beneficial nutritional supplement for everybody.

            There are 100+ cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. However, most of the cannabinoids that are present are hard to detect due to low levels.  Eight major cannabinoids exist at higher levels, and two of these can specifically be found in all strains of the cannabis plant.[2] These two cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and has numerous medical benefits. Individuals who are looking to get CBD without the euphoric effects of the other cannabinoids would do so through something known as an “oil tincture”.

An oil tincture is most commonly made with hemp seed oil containing CBD. 80% of hempseed oil is polyunsaturated fat at a ratio between 3:1 to 2:1 of Omega-6 to Omega 3 fat.[3] This ratio is considered optimal for human health. The typical American diet has a ratio of about 25:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 which promotes inflammation and disease.[4] Additionally, hempseed oil is full of vitamins such as E, A, B, C and the minerals zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, iron, and magnesium which all have specific roles in maintaining one’s health and well-being.2

CBD interacts with something in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a major lipid-signaling network that plays a role in regulating the nervous system and peripheral organs. The building blocks of the endocannabinoid system come from arachidonic acid, which is made from the essential fatty acid Omega 6. Arachidonic acid creates a specific endocannabinoid known as anandamide.[5]  Anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning bliss[6]. Anandamide binds to the CB receptors in the ECS to produce an array of health benefits in various tissues of the body. CBD oil acts similarly to anandamide, and binds to cell receptors to produce the same effects.

Clinical evidence has suggested CBD as useful for improving neurotransmitter signaling which has a wide variety of implications for general health, as well as psychiatric disorders.[7] One of many beneficial effects of CBDs is the improvement in one’s mood, and inducing relaxation. Cannabidiol is a serotonin agonist at 5-HT receptors, which improves overall mood and reduces symptoms of depression.[8] Impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis is associated with anxiety disorders and depression. CBDs act similarly to antidepressant drugs in that they increase hippocampal neurogenesis.[9] A runner’s high is a euphoric state of well being that many athletes experience after a period of prolonged and/or intense exercise. In response to a prolonged exercise event, endocannabinoids are naturally released to combat anxiety like an endogenous opioid. In a study with mice, mice that ran 5.4 km per day exhibited high levels of anandamide in their blood, and less anxiety post exercise. [10] In another study, CBD injected rats were compared to a control group when exposed to a forced swim test that elevated heart rate and induced anxiety.  At high doses (200 mg kg -1) CBD was effective at reducing anxiety.[11] This effect could be due to the fact that the animals received acute injections. Although anxiety can be experienced acutely, anxiety in humans is a chronic disorder that requires continuous treatment, whether it’s from drugs or alternative medicine like CBD oil. In a study involving patients with generalized social anxiety disorder, CBD supplements were compared to a placebo. Neurological imaging showed that CBD was associated with a significant reduction in anxiety.[12]

 In addition, there is some evidence that suggest CBD as an important player in other neurotransmitter systems, such as dopamine and GABA.[13] For this reason, CBD not only improves mood, but may also improve pain, quality of sleep, and psychotic tendencies. In a study with healthy volunteers, CBD decreased the perception of illusory images.[14] Antipsychotic drugs work by antagonizing dopamine receptors. CBD has shown to increase extracellular levels of dopamine.[15]

A significant implication for CBD supplements is their effect as an antioxidant in the human body. In a glutamate toxicity model, CBD was shown to have more antioxidant power, and thus be more protective than both omega-3 and vitamin C.[16] By donating electrons, CBD is defensive against cell damage. In one study, CBD lessened cell death in the kidneys while improving renal function through the reduction of reactive oxygen species.[17] Due to its antioxidant potential, CBD has been studied for disease prevention.16 Further research could determine whether CBD could be used as an anti-aging supplement.

While CBD exists in many different cells around the body, one tissue where effects can be visibly seen is in the skin. The endocannabinoid system regulates human sebaceous gland function. CBD works as a sebostatic agent meaning it normalizes cells that can cause acne when they produce excessive sebum through lipid synthesis. CBD also suppresses cell proliferation and prevents activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines that cause acne.[18]

These anti-inflammatory effects can be detected in other tissues as well. An increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines can result in intestinal damage.[19] CBD regulates proinflammatory cytokines, enteric glial cell proliferation, neurotrophins, and growth factor in the intestines.[20] All these combined effects make CBD a possible nutritional aid in gut health. Beyond gut health, the anti-inflammatory effects of Cannabidiol may have particularly useful benefits in the study of diabetes.

In 2015, it was estimated that 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes.[21] In CBD treated mice, insulitis in pancreatic cells were significantly reduced. Results from this study showed a lower incidence of diabetes in non-obese mice due to a reduction of proinflammatory cytokines.

CBD is also used quite frequently for pain management in general. In a study with people who suffered from chronic migraines and headaches, CBD in combination with THC was found to be more effective than prescription migraine medication in reducing pain and frequency of headaches.[22] Transdermal patches are available to consumers who wish to see localized pain relief from CBD. In a study using transdermal patches in rat models with arthritis, CBD significantly reduced joint swelling, pain, and immune cell response.[23] A separate study showed that CBD reduced chronic, neuropathic pain and inflammation by acting as a spinal analgesic drug. [24] Something interesting about this study was that test subjects built up no tolerance to CBD meaning that patients using CBD to treat chronic pain would not need to continuously up (increase) their doses.

Furthermore, CBD is an effective treatment for premenstrual symptoms (PMS). PMS is an imbalanced hormone state that causes cramps, headaches/migraines, fatigue, depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, bloating, etc. Over 90% of women report having premenstrual symptoms.[25] Excessive progesterone is a leading cause to PMS. Arachidonic acid directly inhibits progesterone synthesis by increases anandamide levels, which act on endocannabinoid receptors.27 CBD also reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression as discussed earlier. As such, it is becoming more common for women to self-medicate with CBD to reduce premenstrual symptoms. Women who are pregnant should refrain from using all cannabis products because cannabinoid receptors are in high concentrations in the woman’s uterus.  Cannabis use during pregnancy may result in stillbirth, preterm birth, birth defects, and growth deficits.[26] However, there is some evidence that CBD increases fertility and is useful to women trying to become pregnant. In a study, anandamide concentrations in the uterus were highest during the ovulation period suggesting that folliculogenesis and ovulation have a relationship with the endocannabinoid system.[27]


Due to the complexity of the endocannabinoid system, there is a great need for continuous research on the effects of CBD in the body. CBD has implications for a wide variety of diseases. However, there is a growing need for research on CBD as a nutritional supplement since the product is now available to so many people without a prescription. The wide range of health benefits show promise for improving the lives of people all over the world.


[1] Medical Marijuana Inc. Here’s How CBD Can Help, Healthy You’re Healthy or Not. https://www.medicalmarijuanainc.com/heres-cbd-can-help-whether-youre-healthy-not/. Published October 25, 2017. Accessed April 22, 2018.

[2] Jikomes N. List of Major Cannabinoids in Cannabis and Their Effects. https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/list-major-cannabinoids-cannabis-effects. Published 2017. Accessed April 22, 2018.

[3] Callaway JC. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica. 2004;140:65-72.

[4] HempMeds. What is CBD Hemp Oil? And Why Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil is So Important. HempMeds. 2017

[5] Idris AI, Ralston SH. Role of cannabinoids in the regulation of bone remodeling. Frontiers in endocrinology. 2012;3:136.

[6] Leafscience. What is Anandamide. https://www.leafscience.com/2018/02/05/what-is-anandamide/. Published February 5, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2018.

[7] Campos AC, Moreira FA, Gomes FV, Elaine Aparecida Del Bel, Guimarães FS. Multiple mechanisms involved in the large-spectrum therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in psychiatric disorders. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences. 2012;367:3364-3378.

[8] Sartim AG, Guimarães FS, Joca SRL. Antidepressant-like effect of cannabidiol injection into the ventral medial prefrontal cortex—Possible involvement of 5-HT1A and CB1 receptors. Behavioural Brain Research. 2016;303:218-227.

[9] Wolf, S. A. et al. 2010 Cannabinoid receptor CB1 med- iates baseline and activity-induced survival of new neurons in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Cell Commun. Signal. 8, 12. (doi:10.1186/1478-811X-8-12)

[10] The runners high and the opioid and endocannabinoid systems. The Neuroscientist : a review journal bringing neurobiology, neurology and psychiatry. 2016;22:107.

[11] El-Alfy, A. T., Ivey, K., Robinson, K., Ahmed, S., Radwan, M., Slade, D., Khan, I., ElSohly, M. & Ross, S. 2010 Antidepressant-like effect of A9-tetrahy- drocannabinol and other cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis sativa L. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 95, 434-442. (doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2010.03.004) 

[12] Crippa JAS, Derenusson GN, Ferrari TB, et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2011;25:121-130.

[13] Russo EB, Burnett A, Hall B, Parker KK. Agonistic Properties of Cannabidiol at 5-HT1a Receptors. Neurochemical Research. 2005;30:1037-1043.

[14] Leweke, F. M., Schneider, U., Radwan, M., Schmidt, E. & Emrich, H. M. 2000 Different effects of nabilone and cannabidiol on binocular depth inversion in man. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 66, 175-181. (doi:10. 1016/S0091-3057(00)00201-X)

[15] Murillo-Rodriguez, E., Millán-Aldaco, D., Palomero- Rivero, M., Mechoulam, R. & Drucker-Colín, R. 2006 Cannabidiol, a constituent of Cannabis sativa, modulates sleep in rats. FEBS Lett. 580, 4337-4345. (doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2006.04.102)

[16] Booz GW. Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2011;51:1054-1061.

[17] Pan H, Mukhopadhyay P, Rajesh M, et al. Cannabidiol Attenuates Cisplatin-Induced Nephrotoxicity by Decreasing Oxidative/Nitrosative Stress, Inflammation, and Cell Death. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 2009;328:708-714.

[18] Kurokawa I, Danby FW, Ju Q, et al. New developments in our understanding of acne pathogenesis and treatment. Experimental dermatology. 2009;18:821-832.

[19] Westbrook AM, Wei B, Braun J, Schiestl RH. Intestinal mucosal inflammation leads to genotoxicity in mice. Cancer research. 2009: 69-4827.

[20] De Filippis D, Esposito G, Cirillo C, et al. Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis. PloS one. 2011;6;e28159.

[21] American Diabetes Association. Statistics About Diabetes. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/. Published March 22, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2018.

[22] Disalvo D. Marijuana Treats Migraine Pain Better Than Prescription Medication, Study Finds. https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/06/29/marijuana-treats-migraine-pain-better-than-prescription-medication-study-finds/#3a6726db3700. Published June 29, 2017. Accessed April 22, 2018.

[23] Hammell DC, Zhang LP, Ma F, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain‐related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain. 2016;20:936-948.

[24] Xiong W, Cui T, Cheng K, et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors. The Journal of experimental medicine. 2012;209:1121.

[25] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome. Published March 16, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2018.

[26] Metz, Torri D., MD, MS, Stickrath EH, MD. Marijuana use in pregnancy and lactation: a review of the evidence. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2015;213:761-778.

[27] El-Talatini MR, M.R.C.O.G, Taylor AH, Ph.D, Konje JC, M.D. The relationship between plasma levels of the endocannabinoid, anandamide, sex steroids, and gonadotrophins during the menstrual cycle. Fertility and Sterility. 2010;93:1989-1996.