CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, can serve a variety of purposes. People use the substance for relief from pain, seizures, inflammation, anxiety, and other ailments.
Those who might benefit from using CBD often wonder about its safety, especially with long-term use. However, it has only been legal to consume CBD in the United States since 2018, so scientists are still trying to fill important gaps in research. Fortunately, the research on CBD’s long-term effects is beginning to catch up.
Spectrum Therapeutics, the medical division of the Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth, recently completed a study on CBD toxicity and the effects of lifelong use. The results showed that CBD has the potential to lengthen life and increase activity in old age.
The published research claims that this study was the first to examine the lifelong effects of CBD exposure in a living organism. However, the tests were not conducted on people.
Researchers chose a nematode worm species, Caenorhabditis elegans, for their test subjects. This species of worm was selected for the study because it has 60-80% of the same genes that humans have, and it only lives between two and three weeks. The worm’s short lifespan makes it easier for researchers to study.
The acute toxicity tests did not show any increased mortality at any of the doses that were tested. Worms that were given the highest dose ended up moving 30% less than the control worms. However, that dose was reportedly “at least 10 times outside the physiologically relevant concentrations.”
The lifelong toxicity tests used CBD doses that were intended to be comparable to the amount of CBD that humans might consume. These tests showed that the worms with lifelong CBD exposure lived up to 18% longer than the other worms did. They also were over 200% more active late in life than the other worms were.
“As they aged, they moved more like young animals,” Hunter Land told Bloomberg News. Land is the senior director of translational and discovery science at Canopy Growth.
“Rather than seeing something toxic, we see the opposite — it actually increases health parameters,” Land added.
The exciting results of this study suggest that CBD could provide more benefits to people than previously considered.
“These results serve as the only CBD life-long exposure data in an in vivo model to date, and the absence of long-term toxicity gives us the evidence we need as an industry to continue researching the potential health benefits for the broader application of CBD,” Land said, according to a press release.
However, additional studies are also needed to confirm that the results of the worm study accurately represent the potential effects in humans. Spectrum Therapeutics’ published research clarifies that future studies on lifelong CBD effects should use mammals as their test subjects.
More and more people are using CBD products every day, so research into the safety of these products must be conducted quickly. Using worms as test subjects can allow some needed research to happen quicker, but it does not eliminate the need to conduct the more time-consuming research on animal species that are more like us.