Myths are defined as popular retellings of an event, often embellished for dramatic impact. Characters in superhero movies are often based on tidbits of truth that were transmitted through the ages from one generation to the next, each adding a little bit more pizzazz before passing it along.

Myths course through popular culture and entertainment and can even enter our daily lives, sometimes introducing confusion and anxiety without good cause. Some of these myths relate to CBD (cannabidiol), a hemp extract. Let’s extract the tidbits of CBD facts from the CBD myths.

What is CBD?

CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a type of compound extracted from any of the plants belonging to the cannabis family. Different types of cannabinoids or phytocannabinoid compounds similar to CBD include CBN (cannabinol), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) and the most well-known one, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The seeming similarity to THC has spawned and continues to spawn CBD myths, including uncorroborated claims that it can cure or heal all sorts of illnesses.

CBD myths can spread through online social media platforms like wildfire, each claim more fantastic than the previous one, giving sufferers a false sense of hope. The idea of this magical panacea can be too tantalizing for some to ignore, especially for those who can’t afford mainstream medical treatment for their ailment. In this article, we’ll examine the most common CBD myths and contrast them against what is actually known about CBD. The CBD quality is also very important when talking about CBD. 

Myth #1: “CBD can cure cancer”

Cancer is a nasty disease in which a small cluster of cells essentially start hijacking everything they touch inside the body to grow, multiply and metastasize. Once it grows beyond a certain point, cancer can be virtually impossible to stop. Doctors can use chemotherapy, surgery and radiation in attempts to destroy it, yet it often reappears after remission. 

According to www.cancer.gov, 39.3% of people living in the U.S. will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, with 67.1% surviving five years or more. In 2019, an estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases and over 600,000 cancer deaths are expected.

Unless you believe conspiracy theories that pharmaceutical companies and the scientific community as a whole intentionally suppress potential cures to cancer, it would be reasonable to assume that anything that could reduce its impact on society would be immediately adopted by the medical establishment. So, how does CBD fare against cancer?

A 2018 Spanish study titled “Cannabis for the Management of Cancer Symptoms: THC Version 2.0?” examined the potential effect of CBD on cancer patients of advanced age, stating that “it is becoming increasingly accepted that CBD, aside from exerting its own therapeutic activity, buffers the psychoactive risk of cannabis”. Thus far this study looks promising, but note that the study observed the effects of both CBD and THC, not just CBD.

In a 2019 South Korean study named “Cannabidiol promotes apoptosis via regulation of XIAP/Smac in gastric cancer”, CBD shifted the balance of chemicals related to self-destruction (apoptosis). Scientists found that cancer cells have high levels of XIAP, a chemical that hinders self-destruction, and low levels of Smac, a chemical that starts it. CBD applied to cancer cells in a test tube was seemingly able to restore their XIAP/Smac balance and cause them to start self-destructing.

When tried on live mice that were injected with cancer cells, CBD had effects in line with the above. Mice that were injected with three 20 mg doses of CBD per kilogram of body weight near their tumors exhibited “remarkably slower” tumor growth than mice without CBD. The study concludes that “our results suggest the potential of CBD in novel treatments against gastric cancer”. This is why it is important when understanding concentration and mg.

A 2019 Austrian study titled “Concomitant Treatment of Malignant Brain Tumors With CBD - A Case Series and Review of the Literature” examines the effect of CBD on a deadly brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, with the mainstream medical treatment being surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation that may still only extend the patient’s life for a couple of months.

Nine patients with glioblastoma multiforme were given 400 mg of CBD daily in addition to the mainstream treatment, with the result being that they survived up to 47 months and some continued to live beyond the study publication date. The study concludes that, “this is longer than what would have been expected”.

Despite the generally positive results of these few studies, it’s still very much a myth to definitively state that CBD cures cancer. Studies are subject to inaccuracies, and results can sometimes reflect mere statistical anomalies. The FDA will not approve a product as treatment until there is overwhelming scientific evidence to suggest it has a positive effect, and there simply have not been enough studies conducted on CBD to definitively confirm any effect on cancer.

CBD Myths vs Facts

Myth #2: “CBD can cure chronic pain”

The difference between acute and chronic pain is that the former appears after a particular event and gradually disappears, whereas the latter is persistent and tends to increase over time. For example, when you stub your toe, there is a sharp pain that slowly withdraws but chronic pain can seem to appear out of nowhere and can be a sign of a serious health issue.

Mainstream medicine often treats chronic pain using painkillers that have numerous side-effects, can eventually lose efficiency, and may cause addiction. In contrast, this myth sees CBD as a wonderful natural solution that alleviates chronic pain for the most severe of cases, including terminally ill cancer patients. Unfortunately, this is again a myth grounded in incomplete science.

A 2018 study conducted in Israel titled “Prospective analysis of safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in large unselected population of patients with cancer” examines the quality of life of 2,970 cancer patients of advanced age, each of whom experienced symptoms such as sleep problems, pain, reduced appetite and nausea. After six months of using medical marijuana, 95.9% of patients reported an abatement of cancer-related symptoms. The study did have a sizable sample size but relied exclusively on questionnaires, which makes the results seem subjective.

Myth #3: “CBD can reduce inflammation”

Inflammation is an immune system response that’s often meant to deal with an event before subsiding. For example, when a mosquito pricks your skin, you are left with an itchy welt, which is the result of inflammation started by the mosquito’s saliva. When your body clears the saliva, the welt disappears.

Inflammation can also target internal organs, in which case the symptoms are more insidious and not as easily seen as a mosquito welt. Internal inflammation can affect blood vessels, joints, nerves, brain tissue and much more, causing chronic pain and other symptoms that affect the quality of life. The proper way to deal with inflammation is by resolving the underlying cause, but this myth claims that CBD can lower inflammation on its own.

In a 2014 Brazilian study titled “Cannabidiol improves lung function and inflammation in mice submitted to LPS-induced acute lung injury”, mice received an injection of lipopolysaccharide bacterial toxins into their lungs to cause inflammation, and were given CBD six hours later. The scientists concluded that “CBD administered therapeutically ... has a potent anti-inflammatory effect” and that “data suggest that in the future cannabidiol might become a useful therapeutic tool”. But again, this is simply a conclusion drawn from one study. As such, it can only help shape the direction of future research and cannot independently substantiate broad claims about the effects of CBD.

Myth #4: “CBD can battle metabolic syndrome”

Metabolic syndrome is a loosely grouped array of symptoms dealing with body weight and blood sugar levels. Having love handles or a muffin top is often a sign of having metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome can affect the entire body, especially the liver and pancreas, causing weight gain, high blood pressure, and increased serum triglycerides. The resulting high blood glucose levels can eventually cause a whole host of problems, even destroying joints through atherosclerosis. Mainstream medicine would typically treat metabolic syndrome using an array of medications, weight loss, and diet changes but this myth states that CBD alone can solve it.

A 2012 Hungarian study titled “The potential use of cannabidiol in the therapy of metabolic syndrome” looked into the effects of CBD on metabolic syndrome and found that CBD “may alleviate hyperphagia” (overeating) but otherwise simply isn’t strong enough on its own. The study concludes that CBD “may be beneficially used in adjuvant therapy because of its few side effects”, and important factors to consider when shopping for CBD and is hardly a definitive conclusion.

Conclusion: Beware of Unsubstantiated CBD Myths

We’ve covered four CBD myths in this article and you’ll likely hear plenty more on your social media platform of choice. In fact, you’ll probably be unable to avoid hearing them, simply because they sound so good, like the classic story of a superhero defeating supervillains.

The health problems mentioned in these four CBD myths are serious and it is understandable that we would want to have them defeated by a single chemical, in this case CBD. If that were possible and proven, CBD would have already been adopted by doctors as a cure-all.

The XIAP/Smac mice study? Its results can’t be taken at face value because the animal model—the idea that effects of a drug or procedure on animals show what would happen if it were given to humans—can’t be solely relied on.

What about the Israeli study? It does have a large sample size, but the positive results are self-reported, meaning the patients felt better after being involved. Since the patients were of advanced age, it’s possible that the very notion of having a product to have hope in made them perk up and feel better because of the placebo effect, which in turn may have lowered the chronic pain. 

It’s possible to poke holes in each of these studies and dismiss them as interesting but inconsequential until there is adequate funding to conduct large numbers of experiments, over long periods of time. Unfortunately, funding levels and corresponding research volumes to date have not adequately supported definitive product claims. 

Understandably, scientists don’t want to stake their reputations, livelihoods and the health of others on promising—or even suggesting—that CBD can serve as a cure for anything. If CBD can in fact provide real results, you’ll either have to wait for the slow pace of science to be sure, or discover it yourself by trying one or more CBD products.

One product that delivers pure CBD is. We recommend using it judiciously and not to fall for any CBD myths, no matter how bombastic they may seem.

CBD is attracting plenty of attention and studies performed to date have shown promising results. With the increase in ongoing scientific research, we will soon have a much better sense of what proven effects CBD can offer. That’s not a myth, that’s a fact.

Want to know more? Read about where CBD is going in 2020