CBD and Pain Relief: Separating Fact from Placebo

Key Takeaways:

  • CBD’s therapeutic effects on pain seem to be a mixture of both a psychological placebo effect and genuine pharmacological impact.
  • In a study, CBD and anticipatory thoughts about pain relief made pain less emotionally distressing for participants, although the physical sensation of pain wasn’t entirely eradicated.
  • Consumers should exercise caution when purchasing CBD products, ensuring to choose products from reputable companies with third-party seals of approval and transparent Certificates of Analysis (COA).
  • Commercially available CBD products can differ in content and purity, potentially influencing the impact they have on users.
  • More research is required to understand CBD’s effects on pain perception, particularly for individuals with varying pain conditions.

Despite the widespread usage and popularity of CBD, its precise benefits are a matter of ongoing debate. It’s now believed that both the supposed therapeutic properties of this compound and the psychological placebo effect can make pain less intrusive, though it might not significantly reduce the sensation of pain.

“The relief provided by CBD is not solely a result of the placebo effect; there’s also a pharmacological element at play,” explains Martin De Vita, a researcher from Syracuse University’s psychology department. “So, in essence, it appears to be a balanced blend of both.”

The Basics of CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is commonly extracted from hemp, a relative of the marijuana plant. Unlike THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, CBD doesn’t typically cause the user to experience a high.

The Study Design

In a recent study, researchers gauged the responses of 15 healthy, pain-free individuals to heat, both before and after administering pure CBD oil. The team conducted an innovative double-blind experiment, telling participants they were receiving CBD when a placebo was given, and vice versa, in order to distinguish the authentic effects from the placebo.

“CBD, in conjunction with anticipatory beliefs, managed to reduce the unpleasant emotional aspect of pain,” De Vita points out. “While the pain sensation wasn’t entirely eradicated, participants reported feeling less bothered by it.”

The Central Nervous System and Pain Perception

The body’s central nervous system possesses its own mechanisms for counteracting pain based on the timing (temporal processing) and location (spatial processing) of the pain, according to De Vita. “Anticipatory thoughts alone served to enhance the temporal pain inhibition, and both CBD and anticipatory thoughts independently advanced the spatial pain inhibition, but not in tandem,” he elaborates.

The researchers now aspire to explore how CBD influences pain perception in individuals suffering from varying pain conditions.

The Study Medium

For their study, the team selected a pure CBD oil. De Vita adds a word of caution here: “Commercially available CBD products can vary in content and purity, leading to potentially differential results based on the other compounds they may or may not harbor.”

The Choice of CBD Products

Consumers should be careful while selecting CBD products. If you reside in a state where marijuana has been legalized, medical dispensaries may have pure CBD products on offer. If not, prefer products from renowned companies that flaunt a third-party seal of approval and willingly share their Certificate of Analysis (COA). The document offers insights into the results of product testing, highlights noted researcher Kevin Boehnke.

Unfortunately, CBD usage has already taken the market by storm, and scientific advancements need to keep up. Boehnke, not included in the aforementioned study, comments: “This pilot study raises intriguing questions about the combined role of placebo and drug effects in the context of CBD and pain. But caution is warranted, as the study involved healthy volunteers, limiting our understanding of CBD’s effect on people with real pain disorders.”

Additional Information

For more information on the potential benefits and risks of CBD, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration webpage.

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