Cannabis has gotten a bad rap in the past. But the latest research on the plant and its derivatives suggests that it may be more useful than once thought.
In this article, we’ll cover one particular derivative known as cannabidiol (CBD).
I’ll introduce CBD and the ways in which it may interact with the body. I’ll then further outline the potential health benefits of CBD oil, including hair growth.
Let’s jump in!
An Introduction to CBD
Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is an extract from the cannabis plant.
CBD is the second most prevalent compound found in cannabis (up to 40 percent of the plant’s extract), with the first being delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD Versus THC
To understand CBD, it’s important that you first understand what it’s not.
Cannabis, more commonly referred to as marijuana or weed, is a plant that’s often harvested for its psychoactive effects.
The compound found within cannabis which contributes to this effect isn’t CBD, though. It’s actually THC.
THC is the compound which induces the “high” that users of marijuana receive.
If CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects, though, why is it so often used?
The answer is simple: CBD has many of its own benefits which are independent of THC or other compounds found in cannabis.
CBD and the Human Body
Believe it or not, the human body is actually adapted to the use of cannabinoids like CBD. Let me explain.
Found throughout the body are cannabinoid receptors which are part of the endocannabinoid system (1). These can be classified by CB1 receptors (found mostly in the brain) and CB2 receptors (found mostly within the immune system).
These help to stimulate and regulate a number of physiological processes, including appetite, mood, pain, and memory .
As you’d imagine, the cannabinoid receptors are where plant cannabinoids (like CBD) dock.
But cannabinoids produced by the human body (known as endocannabinoids) and synthetic cannabinoids can also interact with these receptors (R).
Once these receptors have been activated, they are then able to influence various intracellular effects and neuronal excitability.
The Health Benefits of CBD Oil
Before we discuss the effects that CBD oil may have on hair growth, let’s consider its more general benefits.
Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Since circa 2900 B.C., marijuana has been used to treat a number of medication conditions (2). These include muscle spasms, joint pain, and other such conditions which trigger pain.
And while scientists are still unsure of its exact mechanisms, there are a few studies which highlight CBD’s use in the treatment of pain.
Sativex is an oral spray which contains a combination of THC and CBD. The drug is approved for use in many countries, and it’s often use as a pain reliever for those with chronic medical conditions.
One study on the topic, published in 2015, offers a bit more insight into the drug’s uses and mechanisms (3).
The study consisted of 30 patients, all of which had been diagnosed previously with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The goal of the study was to determine whether the drug could relax the muscles and, as a result, improve spasticity and reduce pain.
The patients were given an extensive clinical and neurophysiological examination before and after the trial.
The parameters which researchers used to gauge results included motor threshold, motor evoked potentials amplitude, intracortical excitability, sensory-motor integration, and Hmax/Mmax ratio.
As the researchers noted, the results of the study showed an “increase of intracortical inhibition, a significant reduction of spinal excitability, and an improvement in spasticity and associated symptoms.”
As such, they concluded that Sativex may be an effective drug for reducing symptoms of MS.
The researchers speculate that the drug works along intracortical pathways. This suggests that THC and/or CBD can relieve a number of neurological symptoms, including pain.
Alleviates Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you know too well of the conditions’ abilities to sap you of all energy, joy, and overall mental wellbeing.
There are many drugs on the market which target various pathways in order to treat these conditions.
The most common drug classes include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).
But did you know that CBD may also be an effective anti-anxiety and antidepressant?
There are many triggers for individuals who suffer from Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as SAD. But one of the most common triggers is public speaking.
With this in mind, researchers from Brazil recruited 36 individuals to test the effects of CBD on SAD (4).
The study consisted of 24 patients who had never received treatment for their anxiety disorder, and 12 healthy control individuals.
The subjects were then required to participate in a simulation public speaking test (SPST).
To determine whether CBD had any effects on those with SAD, the SAD group was split into two groups.
The first group received a 600 milligram dose of CBD, while the second group received a placebo dose. These were administered one-and-a-half hours before the test, and both the participants and the researchers were blinded to the treatment.
The group which consisted of 12 healthy individuals didn’t receive anything.
As the results of the study showed, “pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech.”
These results are especially significant when you consider how the placebo patients performed, as they displayed higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels.
The results of this study are certainly interesting, but is there more research to back these claims?
One study, published in 2016, showed the effectiveness of CBD oil in the treatment of insomnia in children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (5).
But just as with the previous study, there are still many questions left unanswered.
The most pressing question is whether dependency on CBD is a possibility.
As of now, there is no evidence to suggest that CBD dependence or abuse is a problem (6). That’s not to say that the possibility has been ruled out entirely, however.
Can CBD Oil Be Used for Hair Growth?
There’s currently no evidence that CBD oil can directly stimulate hair growth or treat pattern baldness.
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its hair benefits, though.
Let’s take a look at what we do know about CBD based on current research.
It May Treat Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition that consists of flaking, inflammation, and thick patches of skin. This condition can develop on any part of the body, though areas with high sebum content (such as the scalp) are often a target.
There are an array of treatment methods, including photodynamic (light) therapy, steroids, and immunosuppressive drugs.
But as you can imagine, these can come with their own risks and potential side effects.
The good news? A literature review published in 2016 indicates that CBD may be a future treatment option for psoriasis patients (7).
It’s well-known that psoriasis is an auto-immune disorder that may trigger an interaction within the nervous system.
The endocannabinoid system is one such system within the nervous system. This means that it’s possible for CBD to play a role in mitigation of symptoms.
There’s still much research to be done, of course.
It May Stabilize Sebum Levels
We’ve already discussed above the benefits of CBD oil for treating inflammation.
Inflammation plays a significant role in hair loss. And whether it’s the underlying cause, or just a side effect of another condition, we know for sure that inflammation must be controlled in order to stop hair loss and even regrow hair.
But another factor that’s often overlooked in hair loss is sebum.
Sebum is the natural oil produced from the sebaceous glands which are found inside the hair follicle.
A healthy scalp can regulate sebum production so as to ensure a well-balanced environment. Medical conditions, including male-pattern baldness, may trigger an imbalance, however.
So, how does CBD fit in?
According to a 2014 research study, cannabidiol exerts sebostatic effects on human sebocytes (8).
The research was performed in vitro, which means it was performed in test tubes / culture dishes / etc in a laboratory setting.
The researchers used cultured human sebocytes (highly specialized, sebum-producing epithelial cells), as well as human skin organ cultures, to determine the effects of CBD on sebum production (9).
As the tests showed, the administration of CBD to sebocytes and human skin organ culture inhibited lipogenic actions of various compounds. These include arachidonic acid, linoleic acid, and testosterone.
But how exactly does it work?
It appears that CBD activates certain ion channels (namely, transient receptor potential vanilloid-4 (TRPV4)) which then suppresses sebum proliferation and expression.
Why is this good for hair growth?
The buildup of sebum can cause irritation, inflammation, and itching. Over time, this may dislodge otherwise healthy hairs from the scalp, or even clog the follicles and prevent hair growth.
If CBD oil can suppress excess sebum production as the previously mentioned study claims, this may be a significant breakthrough for sufferers of many dermatological conditions.
It Provides Nutritional Benefit
In some cases, nutrient deficiencies can cause hair thinning and loss.
This is particularly true when it comes to vital hair nutrients such as iron, niacin, and biotin.
Hair loss can also trigger a nutrient deficiency within the follicles, as the follicles become inflamed and are unable to receive the oxygen and nutrients they require from the blood vessels.
CBD oil is full of nutrients such as Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids, as well as Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) (11).
These ingredients may help to promote hair growth, but they can also protect the existing hair strands.
Fatty acids are beneficial in two main ways:
Foremost, they provide moisture to the scalp and hair.
They also protect the cuticle against outside damage so as to reduce breakage and split ends.
We can go even further and say that the amino acids within CBD lend themselves to the structure of the hair strand.
The hair is composed almost entirely of the protein keratin. And as amino acids are the building blocks of protein, CBD oil’s contents can ensure the protein is strengthened.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
There’s much debate worldwide about the legalization of the cannabis plant and its derivatives, including marijuana and CBD oil.
Let’s take a look at the United States, for example:
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law in December 2018, CBD oils obtained from hemp plants are legal at the federal level.
But CBD oils which are obtained from marijuana are only legal in some states.
You may notice the qualifier that’s bolded above.
But what exactly does this mean?
Marijuana and hemp are both terms which are often used to describe derivatives of the cannabis plant. The difference, however, lies in their THC content.
Marijuana, by definition, is any cannabis plant variety that contains greater than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. These plant varieties are known to produce the high that’s associated with weed.
Hemp, on the other hand, is any cannabis plant variety that contains less than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. This means it’s a non-intoxicating variety.
Hemp-derived CBD oils are more widely legalized throughout the world.
How to Use CBD Oil for Hair
There are two ways to utilize CBD: topically, and by ingestion.
Apply It Topically
Perhaps the most obvious way to add CBD oil to your hair care routine is to apply it directly to the scalp.
You can massage CBD oil into your hair and scalp to receive the direct benefits of the oil.
There are also many brands of CBD oil shampoos and conditioners on the market.
These products may make the deliverability of CBD easier. They can also make it easier to add CBD to your routine, as shampooing and conditioning are likely a regular part of your routine anyway.
Take It Orally
The vast majority of CBD oils are produced as an oral supplement. So as long as the brand you’ve chosen indicates that it can be taken orally, you may want to consider that option.
This method can likely provide you with the greatest benefits in regards to nutrient absorption.
What to Look for in CBD Oil
If you’re on the market for CBD oil, then you’ll need to pay special attention to the quality of the products you buy.
But what exactly should you be looking for?
The first place to start is with full-spectrum CBD.
The oils derived from hemp plants are often classified as either full-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD contains many more beneficial components including proteins, fatty acids, and flavonoids. The same cannot be said for CBD isolate, which is likely to contain just CBD and perhaps a few trace components listed above.
Unfortunately, there is very little regulation of CBD oil quality around the world.
In the United States, for example, CBD oil is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This means that the manufacturer is responsible for quality and accurate reporting.
So, if the FDA doesn’t back the claims of these companies, how can you know that their labeling is accurate?
The only way is to choose a reputable company.
Reputable companies will often provide the results of third-party researchers. This offers an additional assurance to consumers.
CBD Oil for Hair Growth: Is It Right for You?
The evidence on CBD oil for hair growth is slim. In fact, no trials which directly study the use of CBD oil for hair health have been performed.
That doesn’t mean we can’t draw conclusions from other studies on the cannabis derivative, though.
We know that CBD may control sebum levels, and this is important for a healthy scalp environment. We also know that CBD oil contains many nutrients which can provide the hair with the boost they need.
That’s why I’d recommend if you’re curious to give CBD oil a try. It won’t give you immediate or drastic results, but it may support you on your regrowth journey.
Do you have any questions about cannabis, CBD oil, or how to use it for hair growth? Leave a comment below.