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CBD: What we know about long-term effects

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major cannabinoid of the Cannabis sativa plant and we have witnessed interest in the compound skyrocket in the past few years due to its potential ability to alleviate the symptoms of several conditions. CBD has been sought after and researched for epilepsy, anxiety and depression, inflammatory conditions, sleep, overall wellness, and so much more. The considerable therapeutic possibilities of CBD have much to do with the modulating effects on the endocannabinoids within our endocannabinoid system as well as the realization that these benefits come without the harsh side effects of many current pharmaceuticals. One thing that individuals are left to wonder, though, is what about any long term effects? 


The acceptance from the medical community of CBD as a treatment for chronic conditions may relate to the missing long-term safety data. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has several years of patient data that has come from Epidiolex clinical trial programs; however they have stated that despite safety findings in studies with their trials, it is not clear if this data would be generalizable to the users of non-drug CBD products for healthy adults and children as well as adults and children with other comorbidities other than epilepsy. 


Researchers are filling in these gaps of missing data by looking to other ways for measuring long-term outcomes and safety. 


A study published in 2020 in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, gave us our first look at CBD lifelong exposure data using a living organism. Researchers looked at both acute and long-term exposure studies on the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a species that is accepted as models for studies related to lifelong toxicity of drugs due to their transparent bodies, their short lifespan of 2-3 weeks, and approximately 60-80% of its genes evolving from the same ancestral genes as humans. Because their mortality and motility is easily measured, C. elegans have been used frequently in research for decades to understand the toxicity and efficacy of drugs and have led to many breakthrough discoveries in research on aging. 


In this particular study, the C. elegans were exposed to a wide range of CBD amounts, where acute toxicity results showed that no animal from the study died, rather there was a mean maximum life extension of 18.3%. As well, compared to controls, CBD treatment increased the percentage of highly active animals throughout all life stages. At day 15 (old age for a C. elegans), there was a 206.4% increase in activity compared to controls, meaning that CBD reduced typical age-related motility declining. 


These findings indicate that there may not be long-term toxic effects of CBD. As it was shown with the C. elegans, CBD extended lifespan and significantly improved activity levels in the late stages of life. This research is important for our understanding of isolated CBD in one living model. For more insight to the questions of lifelong exposure, more research is needed in additional living models and with full spectrum and/or broad spectrum CBD products. 



Effect of Cannabidiol on the Long-Term Toxicity and Lifespan in the Preclinical Model Caenorhabditis elegans is authored by M. Hunter Land, Marton L. Toth, Laura MacNair, Siva A. Vanapalli, Timothy W. Lefever, Erica, N. Peters, and Marcel O. Bonn-Miller (RoC Scientific Advisory Board Member).



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Realm of Caring and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed the Observational Research Registry (ORR) to better understand medicinal cannabis use and its impact on key health outcomes including healthcare utilization, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, caregiver burden, epilepsy, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our registered clients provide critical information that leads to important insights into the therapeutic capabilities of medicinal cannabis. The ORR helps us develop client educational resources and may ultimately serve to legitimize the medicinal use of cannabis.



About Realm of Caring


Realm of Caring Foundation (RoC), is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that was established by parents in 2013 to support families who were out of medical options. By creating educational resources, conducting research, and assisting families with data-rich answers to their questions, RoC continues to be a leader in the cannabinoid (cannabis/hemp) field. RoC’s no-cost Care Team has served more than 67,000 clients worldwide and supports a network of over 2,000 medical professionals.