Key takeaways.

  • Empowerment through prevention:

    An astonishing 8 out of the 10 leading causes of death in Canada are largely preventable, highlighting the significant control you have over your health through proactive measures.

  • CBD's role in preventing, managing, and treating chronic disease:

    Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, is emerging as a promising natural approach to preventing, managing, or treating various chronic diseases, including heart disease, osteoarthritis, and mood disorders.

  • Results are promising, but more research is needed:

    While research shows that CBD has significant potential benefits, it is not a cure-all. Continued research is necessary to confirm its effects and determine optimal dosages, and individuals should consult healthcare professionals before making any changes to their health routines.

Did you know that a staggering 8 out of the 10 leading causes of death in Canada are almost entirely preventable?

Similarly, 10 of the most common chronic diseases can be prevented, or at least have significant aspects within your control.

Fortunately, there's good news.

While chronic diseases can be mortifying, you have more power over your health than you might think. With a proactive approach to your health, you can significantly reduce your risk of these chronic conditions.

That's where CBD comes in.

Research suggests that Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, may offer a natural approach to preventing, managing, or treating a range of chronic diseases, from cancer and heart disease to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and MS.

Read: Taking Psilocybin Helps Promote Other Healthful Behaviours

However, keep in mind that CBD is not a magic bullet. While the research is promising, there's still a lot to learn.

This article dives into 12 chronic diseases where CBD shows promise, helping you take a proactive approach to your well-being. But remember, it's always best to consult your doctor before making any changes to your health routine.

In the following section, we'll explore the ten most common chronic diseases in Canada.

The top 10 causes of death in Canada are dominated by preventable chronic diseases.

As of the latest available data, the leading causes of death include:

  1. Cancer
  2. Heart disease
  3. Accidents
  4. Stroke
  5. Chronic lower respiratory disease
  6. Diabetes
  7. Influenza and pneumonia
  8. Alzheimer's
  9. Chronic liver disease / cirrhosis
  10. Kidney disease

With the exception of #3 and #7, most of these are chronic diseases, and they are responsible for a substantial portion of all deaths in Canada.

Which begs the question: what are the most common chronic diseases in Canada?

The 10 most common chronic diseases in Canada.

According to statistics from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS), 45% of Canadians ages 20+ live with at least one of the ten major chronic diseases below:

  1. Hypertension
  2. Osteoarthritis
  3. Mood and/or anxiety disorders
  4. Osteoporosis
  5. Diabetes
  6. Asthma
  7. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  8. Ischemic Heart Disease
  9. Cancer
  10. Dementia

There are also other common chronic diseases that aren't on this list, like endometriosis, which affects nearly 1 in 10 women, and IBS, which affects nearly 1 in 10 Canadians. While these chronic diseases pose a significant public health concern, CBD is emerging as a promising treatment approach to supporting your body in dealing with these very issues.

How can CBD help prevent or manage Canada's most common chronic conditions?

Here’s a look at what a handful of scientific studies have recently found concerning CBD's medical significance. The conditions below include nearly every chronic condition from the lists above, excluding kidney disease, chronic liver disease, and influenza and pneumonia.

That isn't to say that CBD is a magic bullet; again, it isn't. But because CBD primarily acts through the ECS (your master regulatory system) and lightly touches dozens of other systems, it is perfectly suited for preventing, managing, or even treating the factors and conditions that lead to the imbalances that can cause chronic diseases listed below.

Hopefully, with continued research, we'll be able to determine the optimal doses for each.

1. Heart Disease

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada. CBD has promising benefits for heart disease, particularly hypertension and ischemic heart disease, which account for 25% and 8% of all chronic diseases, respectively.

CBD may help with hypertension by reducing blood pressure, decreasing arterial stiffness, and improving the body’s response to stress.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that a single dose of CBD can reduce blood pressure in healthy volunteers, which is a key risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

CBD may also reduce arterial stiffness, which contributes to hypertension. A 2023 study published in Advances in Therapy indicated that oral CBD could lower 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure and arterial stiffness in untreated hypertensive individuals.

A 2017 review of studies found that CBD can also lower blood pressure and heart rate under stressful conditions, suggesting its use in managing stress-induced hypertension.

As for ischemic heart disease, a review of 9 pre-clinical and clinical studies shows that CBD could play a promising role in reducing myocardial ischemia (the medical term). In this condition, reduced blood flow to the heart can result in chest pain, heart failure, and heart attack as the heart works harder to pump blood and oxygen.

According to the review, CBD has shown encouraging benefits for conditions involved in ischemic heart disease, like blocked blood flow and heart damage, heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, and issues similar to metabolic syndrome.

All of the studies in the review concluded that CBD may prevent damage to the heart by reducing inflammation, lessening oxidative stress, and maintaining healthy blood vessels.

However, more research is needed to confirm these effects and ensure safety for long-term use.

2. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis makes up an estimated 14% of chronic disease cases in Canada. Patients that don't respond to treatment can develop chronic pain, and resort to managing symptoms with anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and, worse, opioids. Today, CBD is showing promise in pre-clinical studies to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.

A 2022 study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research found that CBD use led to significant improvements in managing arthritis and joint pain; 83% of users experienced pain relief, 66% saw better physical function, and 66% enjoyed improved sleep quality.

Interestingly, the osteoarthritis group benefited significantly more than those with rheumatoid or other autoimmune arthritis. Additionally, 60.5% of participants reduced or stopped taking other medications like anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and opioids after using CBD.

A 2017 mouse study published in Pain showed that applying CBD topically, i.e. directly to the area affected by osteoarthritis, could treat osteoarthritis pain locally and stop the sudden bursts of inflammation that can worsen the disease and cause nerve problems. Researchers found that using topical CBD early in the disease helped reduce early inflammation, preventing severe pain and nerve damage at the later stages of osteoarthritis.

However, research on CBD and osteoarthritis can also be conflicting.

In a 2023 clinical trial published in The Lancet, researchers found that taking 600mg of CBD per day had no additional benefits compared to placebo, concluding that CBD is not a suitable treatment for osteoarthritis.

However, while we praise their well-designed study, we have concerns about using a fixed high-dose of CBD for all participants, as individual responses vary. As the old saying goes, "start low, go slow." The study also used CBD isolate, which is less effective than full-spectrum CBD because it lacks “entourage effect” found in whole-plant medicine where all cannabis compounds work better together.

Read: Does CBD Work Better with THC?

Read: What's the difference between CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD?

3. Mood and Anxiety Disorders

13% of people living with chronic conditions have a mood and/or anxiety disorder. Hundreds of studies have looked at how cannabidiol might be used to treat various neuropsychiatric disorders.

A 2015 study published in October 2015 in Neurotherapeutics concluded that topical CBD has “considerable potential as treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.” Another study review published in September 2015 in the Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics found that “preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders,” including PTSD, generalized anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

Most recently, the Journal of Clinical Medicine published a review of 7 double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials of CBD for stress. All showed that CBD was effective in significantly reducing the stress response and its manifestations (anxiety, fear, depression, and burnout). Two clinical trials compared CBD to a pharmaceutical (benzodiazepines and/or 5HT1A agonists), and both showed that CBD was non-inferior to the pharmaceutical drugs.

4. Osteoporosis

Around 12% of Canadians with a chronic disease have osteoporosis. The endocannabinoid system (ECS), i.e. the body's master regulatory system, plays an important role in bone remodeling and health. Because CBD helps the ECS function more effectively, it may have benefits for people with osteoporosis.

A 2022 review study published in Archives of Osteoporosis concluded that both preclinical and clinical studies show that CBD's effects on the ECS may prove to be an effective treatment option for people with osteoporosis by helping maintain strong bones and supporting processes that build and renew bones. Another 2010 study concluded that CBD could help bones grow stronger by increasing the number of bone-building cells and decreasing the number of cells that break down bone.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes is the 6th leading cause of deaths in Canada and the 5th most common chronic disease.

There have been no clinical trials to test whether CBD oil consumption can actually lower the risk of developing diabetes in humans. However, a number of studies, including one published in February 2012 in the American Journal of Pathology, have suggested that CBD could play a role in improving outcomes for people with diabetes.

Observational studies have shown that people who use marijuana have lower fasting insulin levels and measures of insulin resistance. A study in the journal Autoimmunity found that nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice had a substantially lower risk of developing diabetes if treated with CBD.

Another study published in the Amerian Journal of Physiology specifically looking at inflammation triggered by high glucose levels found that CBD had positive effects on several markers of inflammation, suggesting that CBD may help offset the damage diabetes can inflict on the walls of blood vessels.

6. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are the 5th leading cause of death in Canada. The two most common are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which make up 11% and 10% of chronic disease cases, respectively. Research shows that CBD may be promising for both.

2019 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that CBD decreased airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in mice that were induced with allergic asthma. By decreasing hyperresponsiveness in your airways, your lungs may become less sensitive to asthma triggers. In turn, this means fewer flare-ups and symptoms such as coughing. Another 2015 study published in Mediators of Inflammation found that CBD significantly reduced the body's inflammatory responses to asthma triggers.

Research also shows that CBD may improve outcomes for those with COPD. A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed that, in hospitalized patients with a diagnosis of COPD, cannabis users had significantly lower odds of in-hospital mortality and pneumonia compared to non-cannabis users.

7. Cancer and Cancer Symptoms

Despite being the 9th most common chronic disease, cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada.

In the past, research on CBD and cancer focused on reducing the pain, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, nausea, and vomiting that often accompany cancer and cancer treatments. They also showed that CBD could improve the effects of standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, and may help prevent damage to nerves and organs. To combat these side effects, two cannabinoid drugs have been approved by the FDA: Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone).

More recently, researchers have discovered CBD may slow the growth of cancer cells, according to the American Cancer Society. Studies show that CBD can stop cancer cells from multiplying and spreading, and may even have a cytotoxic effect, meaning it can kill cancer cells without harming healthy "normal" cells.

8. Dementia

Dementia is the 10th most common chronic disease in Canada. Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia, is the 8th leading cause of death in Canada.

There are dozens of studies demonstrating that CBD has beneficial and neuroprotective benefits for people with neurodegenerative disease. A recent 2024 study published in Molecular Biology Reports concluded that CBD could promote brain health and delay aging, benefiting people with Alzheimer's Disease. Another 2023 study published in Cells showed that CBD could help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the buildup of structures that can cause memory loss, regulating brain inflammation, and encouraging the growth of healthy brain cells by stimulating neurotrophic factors. A groundbreaking 2021 study reported that taking high doses of CBD for two weeks helped restore two important proteins in the brain that stop the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques, harmful deposits that are linked to Alzheimer's disease. This treatment also helped improve thinking and memory in a lab model of early Alzheimer's.

9. Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body.

Recent research from 2020 and 2021 suggest that CBD may be beneficial for these conditions due to its anti-inflammatory properties, neuroprotective benefits, and its ability to suppress the immune system's overactivity. These qualities are particularly valuable in autoimmune diseases marked by chronic inflammation.

Studies like the 2021 study published in Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology and 2024 study published in Pharmaceutics point out that CBD does more than help relieve symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative autoimmune disease that affects the brain and nerves. Early studies show that a 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC can effectively reduce MS symptoms, such as spasticity, pain, gallbladder dysfunction, and tremors. However, by suppressing the immune response, balancing inflammation, and protecting nerve cells, CBD may actually alter the course of the disease itself when administered in the right dosage, making it a potential disease-modifying treatment (DMT) for MS.

CBD is also showing promising benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lupus, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, although more high-quality clinical trials are needed to say for certain.

10. Stroke

Recent studies have begun exploring the potential of CBD in preventing or treating stroke and ischemia, a condition associated with reduced blood flow that leads to strokes. Some studies show that CBD may be neuroprotective leading up to a stroke, improving outcomes after a stroke by safeguarding brain cells from damage. Other studies show that anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties also reduce the damage caused by stroke and ischemia. Additionally, studies show that CBD might help increase cerebral blood flow, aiding recovery during the post-stroke phase.

The immunomodulatory effects of CBD could play a role in how the body responds to stroke and ischemia, potentially reducing the severity of the condition. Studies have indicated that CBD can significantly decrease the area of brain damage in ischemic stroke models and fewer inflammatory factors, which are crucial in the body’s response to stroke. Furthermore, CBD’s interaction with cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 suggests a neuroprotective and recovery-enhancing role, which could be particularly useful in stroke management.

11. Endometriosis

Nearly 1 in 10 women in Canada live with endometriosis, a condition where tissues that are typically only found inside the uterine lining grow outside of the uterus, causing pain and inflammation, especially during menstruation. Luckily, studies show that CBD use may help prevent, manage, or treat endometriosis. Pre-clinical studies and case reports suggest CBD might help reduce the associated pain and inflammation, It might also stop the abnormal tissue from spreading and trigger the death of these cells. One medical theory states that endometriosis, along with migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS, is the result of a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. This theory proposes that issues with endocannabinoid levels or receptors can lead to imbalances that negatively impact various physiological processes. This also explains why some chronic diseases are so difficult to diagnose and treat.

For more details and specific studies, check out our article on CBD and cannabis for endometriosis.

12. IBS and IBD

IBS and IBD impact 10 and 4% of Canadians, respectively.

Studies suggest that CBD might help manage IBS by interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the gut, supporting gut motility and reducing inflammation. One review of studies from 2020 suggests that CBD there is considerable evidence that CBD can help with conditions like IBS.

There are more studies on CBD and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. One small study found that CBD oil may help relieve Crohn’s disease symptoms. Other research suggests that CBD may help reduce inflammation caused by colitis. Another 2018 review of several small studies found that full-spectrum CBD oil helped improve the quality of life and eased some symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Other research into various forms of CBD has been promising in treating IBD, but again, more comprehensive clinical trials are necessary to establish clear guidelines for the use of CBD in IBD treatment.

Final thoughts on CBD for chronic disease.

While chronic diseases can be daunting, the research on CBD offers a glimmer of hope for managing these conditions. By taking a proactive approach to your health and embracing healthy habits, like supplementing with CBD, you can significantly reduce your risk of chronic diseases. However, it's important to remember that research is still ongoing, even if CBD's potential as a natural approach to managing chronic diseases is promising. Start low, go slow, and remember to talk to your healthcare provider before making major decisions about your medications.

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