CBD is All the Rage, But Does it Actually Work?
Welcome to 2020! If you haven’t heard of CBD by now, one might question your whereabouts the last year or two. Heck, if you aren’t currently using CBD—if you haven’t at least tried it—you’re part of a shrinking contingent. After all, according to a recent Harris Poll, 86% of Americans have heard of CBD, and more than 1 in 5 has used it—a percentage that’s increasing daily. And while more and more “Americans are turning to CBD as a cure-all for the modern condition,” you have to wonder, is it hype or hope? In other words, does CBD work? That’s the million-dollar question (actually, a multi-billion-dollar question), which we’ll dig into below.
Everybody’s Doing It…
If you’re new to CBD, then it might be a good idea to first check out our piece on what CBD does to the body. If you’re already sold on the benefits of CBD, then you may be interested in a quick primer on how to know if your CBD is real and not fake. (Believe you me, there’s no shortage of under-powered, over-priced products out there.) If you’re skeptical, on the fence about CBD, and want to know if CBD works, then you’re in the right place. The hard truth (well, the best evidence we have so far) lies below.
For starters, consider the results of a study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, where researchers surveyed 2,409 current CBD users who reported the top 5 reasons they use CBD as:
- Supporting general health and wellness
- Managing physical discomfort
- Easing stress and feelings of worry, concern, and anxiousness
- Supporting brain health and a positive mood and feelings of well-being
- Aiding relaxation and quality sleep
Over 95% of participants indicated that CBD works well, moderately well, or very well for them, and 70% reported that CBD is either “more effective” or “much more effective” in addressing their health concerns than conventional methods. 1
Then we have the results of a new survey conducted by Consumer Reports—a nonprofit member organization dedicated to working side-by-side with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace—which reported that 75% of people who used CBD said it was effective for: 2
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Improving mood and happiness
- Helping ease joint, back, and body pain
- Helping them drift off faster and stay asleep longer
And how about that Harris Poll I mentioned right out of the gates? In that survey on Quartz’s behalf, over 2,000 Americans were asked about their use and perceptions of CBD products. Among those folks who have tried CBD, 55% of them say they use it to relax, 50% said they were looking for relief from feelings of stress and anxiousness, 45% use it to improve sleep, and over 40% were looking to ease physical discomfort.3
As mentioned, the survey revealed that 86% of Americans have heard of CBD, and more than 1 in 5 has tried it. As it pertains to the question “does CBD work,” the Harris Poll found that, of the large majority of Americans who have heard of CBD, over 80% support its use—including 56% who say they support using CBD as a replacement for prescription pain killers.
While the Consumer Reports and Quartz surveys suggest CBD users tend to skew younger, the initial cross-sectional study cited above leans heavily toward middle-age and older folks. Simply put, virtually everyone ranging from Gen Z to Millennials to Gen X to Baby Boomers has jumped on the bandwagon.
Okay, But Does CBD Work?
While social proof is powerful marketing, it’s not necessarily science. In other words, while informative and relevant, surveys and epidemiological studies don’t provide the strongest level of scientific evidence. So, to peel back another layer of the “does CBD work” question, we need to turn to carefully controlled scientific experiments.
Admittedly, there’s not a ton of human studies on CBD. What I mean by that is there’s an overall lack of rigorous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. Having said that, the research that has been published has been overwhelmingly positive in CBD’s favor. Here’s a glimpse of the scientific evidence, which paints a pretty clear picture that CBD does work.
- A recent study published in The Permanente Journal found that 79% of people using CBD experienced reduced feelings of anxiety in the first month. And 66.7% of people enjoyed significantly improved sleep. 4
- In a recent study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found CBD may reduce anxiety, stress hormones, and heart rate. What’s more, it may dampen cravings for dangerous, addictive substances of abuse. 5
- In a study published in the journal PAIN, researchers at McGill University found CBD to be potentially effective for pain and anxiety relief. 6
- Additionally, research has shown that CBD increases activity in centers of the brain responsible for mood and decision making and may enhance well-being. 7 Research has also shown CBD reduces resting blood pressure and the typical increase in blood pressure in response to stress.8
- Findings presented by the recent International Cannabinoid Research Society even reported the use of CBD as beneficial for combating body fat and obesity.
- A study found in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that CBD administered 1 ½ hours before a public speaking test to patients with a generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech performance. The placebo group (no CBD), on the other hand, presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort. 9
- CBD has been shown to have specific utility in reducing cigarette smoking. For instance, one study found a single week of CBD use (via inhaler), compared to placebo, reduced cigarette smoking by almost 40%. 10
Does CBD Work? A Recap
Admittedly, we’re merely on the precipice of understanding all there is to know about CBD. But as much as there is still to uncover about hemp and its entourage of health-boosting compounds, the anecdotal and scientific evidence are clear that CBD is much more hope than it is hype. While you should still be wary of bold claims and shady retailers, the question probably isn’t “does CBD work.” Rather, a better question is perhaps how many different ways does CBD work?