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CBD’s Role in Reducing Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress to Promote Overall Health

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Written by Sarah Friedman

The term oxidative stress is used often when speaking of different ailments. It’s capacity for harm makes CBD an interesting method for restoring health.

Oxidative stress is when there’s a general imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This leads to the question: what the heck is a free radical? Essentially, free radicals are atoms that are unstable due to their uneven number of electrons, which cause different kinds of cellular damage related to many different illnesses, and aging in general.

The uneven number of electrons allow them to react very quickly with other substances. When a molecule of oxygen splits into single atoms containing electrons without pairs, they become unstable free radicals that will then seek other molecules to bond with, which leads to oxidative stress. Antioxidants are molecules that can essentially give over an electron to a free radical without becoming unstable themselves, thus lessening free radical buildup.

This is why antioxidants are crucial in the fight against oxidative stress, and why antioxidant rich foods are necessary for any diet to stay in good health. In this article, we’ll explore how CBD can be used to reduce oxidative stress.

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Where does oxidative stress come from? And how can it be prevented?

Free radicles are often associated with certain lifestyle behaviors like:

  • Toxic chemical exposure (air pollution and pesticides etc.)
  • Fried foods
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Radiation
  • Stress has even been touted in research as being a cause of free radicals and oxidative stress. According to this study “it is largely believed that the root cause of many chronic diseases is stress induced free radicals and resultant oxidative injury.”

The prevention therefore of free radical damage is in avoiding things like chemical exposure as much as possible, reducing consumption of fried foods, not smoking, drinking very little, keeping away from radiation, and maintaining a low level of stress, which is a whole article in and of itself.

Now a little about CBD

CBD – or cannabidiol – is a cannabinoid found predominantly in cannabis plants. Unlike it’s more well-known co-cannabinoid THC, CBD is not psychoactive, and in recent years has made its way into mainstream medicine. CBD, and cannabis in general have been used for thousands of years in naturopathic medicine cultures the world over, but with the advent of rescheduling CBD (and no longer classifying it strictly as marijuana), it has now made it into the world of mainstream medicine, with pharmaceutical versions even coming out.

In addition to CBD, a healthy diet can help reduce oxidative stress.

This higher visual profile has led to CBD being investigated for a range of different ailments. CBD, like THC, and other cannabinoids found in cannabis like CBN, CBC, and THCV, have all been shown in testing to be useful for different medical ailments. As the medical research continues in earnest, new applications are coming out daily for the use of CBD medicinally, as well as tons of health benefits related to other cannabinoids.

As more cannabinoids like CBD become isolated, more medical properties will likely be found. Currently, CBD has a reputation for aiding in mental health issues, sleep problems, blood pressure stabilization, treating skin ailments, helping with ADD, progress with neurological issues, as a possible anti-tumor treatment, and possibly even being an instrumental weapon in the fight against antibiotic resistant illnesses.

Research into CBD and oxidative stress

In 2010, a study was done investigating CBD’s effect on “myocardial dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative/nitrative stress, cell death, and interrelated signaling pathways…” The results according to the study were “Remarkably, CBD attenuated myocardial dysfunction, cardiac fibrosis, oxidative/nitrative stress, inflammation, cell death, and interrelated signaling pathways.

Control of Inflammation with CBD

Furthermore, CBD also attenuated the high glucose-induced increased reactive oxygen species generation, nuclear factor-κB activation, and cell death in primary human cardiomyocytes.” What all this means is that CBD has a potential for being beneficial for these illnesses due to its ability to lessen oxidative (and nitrative) stress, as well as inflammation, cell death count, and fibrosis issues.

A 2011 systematic review called Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress looked at the relationship between inflammation and oxidative stress, how they relate to organ damage and dysfunction, and how CBD may be useful in treating disorders that are known activators of the immune system and associated oxidative stress. The conclusion states that inflammation and oxidative stress are highly involved in the implementation and progression of many diseases, as the two seem to stimulate each another.

CBD is already known for having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Studies so far support the idea that CBD can bring down inflammation even beyond what it’s antioxidant properties would suggest. One reason for this might be CBD’s ability to target “inflammation-related intracellular signaling events”, though how it targets this inflammation signal is still unclear.

In a 2019 systematic review Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol, investigators reviewed a massive body of existing research into the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. It also looked specifically at CBD’s role as a potential therapy for diseases associated with oxidative stress. According to the researchers: “It is believed that the endocannabinoid system, which includes G-protein coupled receptors and their endogenous lipid ligands, may be responsible for the therapeutic modulation of oxidative stress in various diseases.”

CBD essentially helped reduce oxidative stress. CBD was also shown to be a better candidate for this than other phytocannabinoids studied. The study did point out one downside that should be mentioned. CBD has the potential to interfere with certain liver metabolization of other drugs by its known inactivation of two P450 cytochromes, meaning that CBD can affect how other drugs are metabolized. This should be taken into consideration when taking CBD with other drugs that could be affected by it.

What it all means

As this 2019 study into the Yadz population shows, stress related issues are on the rise with study investigators stating “Despite achievements in higher education and economic development of Yazd population over the past 2 decades, the trend of these disorders has alarmingly been increased.” While this points to a specific population, news stories abound in many countries about rising disease rates, especially those related to stress.

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Global statistics show rates of non-communicable diseases increasing exponentially in the last several years. In the US – one of the biggest focal points for the rise of certain disease rates, the CDC put out what should be alarming information stating that 6 out of 10 American adults have one chronic disease, and 4 out of 10 have two or more chronic diseases. That’s a lot of sick people.

So, as stress-related diseases increase, as well as a trend toward poorer eating habits and lower quality food, and with alcohol and tobacco still reigning king, and people constantly stressed over things like health and money, and with more chemicals being pumped out all over the place, it’s not a surprise that levels of oxidative stress will go up in general populations. CBD could very well be one of the best antidotes to help people fight off disease, maintain their health, and fix some of the damage that their sicknesses have caused, while preventing new ones from starting.

We’re all about keeping you informed on everything CBD. Check back regularly for updates on medical issues, regulation, new products, and make sure to subscribe to the Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.