January 16, 2017

Cannabidiol Oil and Medical Marijuana: Will They Help You or Hurt You?

by Dr. Scott Saunders

Common Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil Benefits and Side Effects

Down the street from my house is a very ordinary-looking house. The yard is well-kept by weekly gardeners.  We have never seen anyone moving in or out, so we didn’t know who lived there. Nothing seemed unusual.

Then, one day there was a ton of activity.  “Los Federales” (the DEA) surrounded the house with black Navigators and Chevy Caprice cars with dark-tinted windows.  Men in military uniforms or in black suits with sunglasses came out with guns drawn. They knocked down the doors and raided the house. What they found inside the house right in our neighborhood was amazing!

The entire house was gutted. All the walls on the inside were taken out. The windows were blackened so no light could show through. The garage was sealed and a complete hydroponic system for growing marijuana plants was installed.  The entire house had 24-hour grow lights for maximum growth.  The police estimated that the growers had made millions from the harvest in the several years they had been operating.

Many people believe marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado. Actually, Federal law still prohibits the sale and possession of marijuana. It’s illegal even in the 25 states that have a “compassion use” law for recreational use of marijuana.

But in 2014, Congress passed a law prohibiting the DEA from arresting people using it for medical purposes in states that allow it.[1]  Doctors are still not allowed to prescribe it for their patients because it is a “Schedule 1” drug. This means it can only be used for research with permission from the DEA.

The “drug” in question is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  THC can be obtained directly from the plant by eating or smoking it. Most dispensaries are selling the oil extract, hash oil, or THC oil.

The Magical Weed

Over the years, the marijuana plant has had many names and uses.  It has been both knighted and vilified by the same people.  Just about any health benefit and injury has been attributed to marijuana.  The short list of things it has been thought to help, includes:[2]

Indeed, there seems to be nothing that the amazing marijuana plant cannot do. It is even claimed that the widespread use of marijuana could bring WORLD PEACE, and not just by John Lennon.[3]

Trouble in Paradise

On the other hand, there are many troubling side-effects to the use of marijuana or THC. These occur, depending on the person, amount of use, and method of use:[4]

  • Impaired coordination
  • Attention deficit
  • Impaired learning
  • Impaired memory
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Panic Attacks
  • Heart attacks
  • COPD (impaired lung function)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Psychosis
  • Cancer
  • Physical addiction
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired Appetite
  • Aggression

Obviously, the first thing we will notice is the contradictions in these lists.  Does it cause cancer or treat cancer?  Does it help schizophrenia or cause it?

Because many states are legalizing marijuana, it is important to distinguish between truth and hype. I have people in my office frequently asking if they should be using it.  Here is the truth I provide them.

Addiction or Dependence

Many are saying that there is no addiction to marijuana use.  The problem with this thinking is defining addiction.  Is it addiction if marijuana causes a person with ADHD to function normally?

The problem is ADHD. Marijuana merely relieves the symptoms of the problem. When you stop marijuana, the problem returns.  This isn’t addiction, as much as marijuana not solving the problem. Marijuana only relieves the symptoms temporarily. Others experience a worsening of ADHD symptoms, including paranoia.

The human psyche is not fixed or static.  Each of us is constantly changing according to our experiences.  We are also different in so many ways.  At this time, there is no way to predict who is going to react badly to marijuana and who will respond favorably.  The fact is, this weed is psychoactive, changing the way people think and feel.  It is a change, however, that is unpredictable.

The underlying principle is that if we are dependent on a substance to think, act, or feel a certain way, it is generally only useful for a short period.  This principle applies equally to sugar, alcohol, heroin, caffeine, or prescription drugs.  When we become dependent on the drug, we lose our own freedom to choose.

Most don’t understand that the brain is malleable. It is changing constantly and can improve over time like anything else.  We easily understand that exercise will build muscle, and that eating calories will make us fat. But we don’t understand that we can change how we think, act, and feel.  Our brain responds to everything we think, eat, say, and do. When we feed the brain the right nutrients, it works better.  When we choose to think about growth and improvement, we improve.

One German study on college students showed that by learning to juggle, an MRI scan could reveal the specific areas of growth in the brain.[5] Demosthenes put rocks in his mouth to teach himself how to speak clearly. He overcame a speech impediment to be one of the greatest orators Rome ever had.  Such examples are abundant since the beginning of time.

Thus, it is imperative to consider the reason for the use of marijuana.  The questions to ask are:

  • Will marijuana build me up?
  • Will marijuana help me improve?
  • Or will marijuana foster dependence?

I would recommend staying away from dependence and instead seek growth and improvement.

The other marijuana – CBD oil

Most don’t know that the cannabis plant has two different oils.  The first is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  THC is the oil that causes the “high” feeling and is psychoactive.  This is the drug that is so controversial.

The other oil is cannabidiol, or CBD.  This oil is not psychoactive so it doesn’t have the effects of THC. CBD may have many of the benefits for pain, nausea, cancer, and so forth.  CBD has a stimulating effect on the brain.  It creates alertness, but doesn’t have any sedating effects.  CBD also doesn’t have the problems with psychosis, delusions, or paranoia.

There is no Federal or state restrictions on the use of CBD oil.  In the world, only Canada has restrictions on its use.  It is considered an herbal extract and can be sold over-the-counter.

Wild hemp produces both types of oil.  However, breeding has now produced different strains.  Some hemp is bred for high THC, while others are bred for CBD.  There are strains now that produce only trace amounts of THC, while making large amounts of CBD.  This oil can be obtained on the internet, but I would be careful to source it well.  There are many “watered-down” versions, or those that contain too much THC.

What’s most amazing is that this form of cannabis can help people who have the negative effects from THC. CBD can help treat addiction and even the lack of motivation that comes from marijuana use.

The list of CBD benefits continues to grow with more research. The benefits of CBD are numerous.

  • CBD has anti-inflammatory effects.
  • It has been shown to improve heart function and speed healing after a heart attack (in rabbits).[6]
  • It is also helpful for inflammatory bowel diseases[7] and possibly cancer.[8]
  • However, it shows more promise for certain neurological conditions such as epilepsy,[9] schizophrenia[10] and Alzheimer’s disease.[11]
  • It also has protective effects on the brain, including strokes.[12]
  • Those who use CBD oil after a stroke have less damage, and recover faster, recovering more function as well.[13]

There is more research to uncover to see all the benefits of CBD oil. However, the same issues apply as with any drug or herb.  It may help some cases, or some people, with these specific problems. But others will not benefit at all. Personally, I have found few that CBD oil has helped.  My cancer patients who take it still have nausea and lose weight.  Those with bipolar disorder still get depressed.  And, people with chronic pain syndromes still have pain.

While CBD seems promising, it isn’t the panacea reported on the internet.  People who sell things will generally try to relieve your pain.  One of the best movie lines comes from The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

What I’ve stated so far stresses the importance of seeking the cause of suffering, not just relief from symptoms.  Those looking for a “quick fix” or an answer to all their problems will not find it in “loco weed.”

On the other hand, CBD has none of the bad side-effects noted above for THC.  Thus, it is more like other herbal remedies that may help and won’t do any harm. 


In spite of the dangers and cautions I’ve listed above, I cannot deny that some people might be helped with marijuana. When used with judgment and skill, it can relieve symptoms and help the body heal.  But this is not an herb that people should just randomly try for any ailment.  I recommend consulting with a health practitioner who is knowledgeable and skilled in the use of the marijuana plant.

As I have researched, I have found potential uses for CBD.  Primarily, problems with the brain that are inflammatory and not genetic seem to respond well.  For example, patients with neurodegenerative problems like strokes and injuries to the nervous system or brain could try CBD oil.  Again, only under the guidance of a health practitioner with the skill in using CBD oil.  Preserving the nervous system has great short- and long-term benefits.

Over time, we will gather more information. As the magical side of the hype wears off and reality sets in, research and experience will tell us how to use the marijuana plant to our benefit and health.

Gonna pass on the grass? Try one of these 7 under-the-radar (and yes, totally legal) superfoods


Dr. Scott D. Saunders, M.D. is a practicing physician, specializing in preventative health care, who utilizes eclectic health care for the whole family, including conventional, orthomolecular and natural medicine. He is also the medical director of The Integrative Medical Center of Santa Barbara in Lompoc, CA. He went to UCLA medical school and is board certified in family medicine. View natural remedies with Dr. Saunders at: http://drsaundersmd.com




[1] https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43749.pdf
[2] https://www.learngreenflower.com/articles/66/50-life-enhancing-benefits-of-cannabis?gfm=true
[3] http://www.benefitsofmarijuana.com/benefits.php
[4] http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/marijuana/short-and-long-term-effects.html
[5] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17957-learning-to-juggle-grows-brain-networks-for-good/
[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26065843
[7] Cannabinoid actions at TRPV channels: effects on TRPV3 and TRPV4 and their potential relevance to gastrointestinal inflammation. De Petrocellis L, Orlando P, Moriello AS, Aviello G, Stott C, Izzo AA, Di Marzo V. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2012 Feb;204(2):255-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.2011.02338.x. Epub 2011 Aug 12. PMID: 21726418
[8] J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2016 Jul;14(7):915-22. Cannabinoids for Symptom Management and Cancer Therapy: The Evidence. Davis MP1.
[9] Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Dec;41:277-82. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2014.08.135. Epub 2014 Oct 1. Cannabis, cannabidiol, and epilepsy–from receptors to clinical response. Szaflarski JP1, Bebin EM2.
[10] Schizophr Res. 2016 Jun 30. pii: S0920-9964(16)30289-4. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2016.06.022. Does cannabidiol have a role in the treatment of schizophrenia? Gururajan A1, Malone DT2.
[11] Behav Pharmacol. 2016 Jul 28. The therapeutic potential of the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol for Alzheimer’s disease. Karl T1, Garner B, Cheng D.
[12] Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 1;79(7):557-67. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.12.002. Epub 2015 Dec 8. Acute and Chronic Effects of Cannabinoids on Human Cognition-A Systematic Review. Broyd SJ1, van Hell HH1, Beale C1, Yücel M2, Solowij N3.
[13] Pharmacol Res. 2016 Feb 1. pii: S1043-6618(16)00039-6. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2016.01.033. Cannabidiol, neuroprotection and neuropsychiatric disorders. Campos AC1, Fogaça MV2, Sonego AB2, Guimarães FS2.





  1. I think there are many benefits to medical marijuana. Some of the benefits have been proved by research, some research is on going, and other is by accounts that people have given. I do think that we need to have it as an option in the medical field. Thank you for sharing!

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