CBD (Cannabidiol) and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from Cannabis sativa. CBD initially drew scientific interest due to its anticonvulsant properties but increasing evidence of other therapeutic effects has attracted the attention of additional clinical and non-clinical populations, including athletes. Unlike the intoxicating cannabinoid, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), CBD is no longer prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and appears to be safe and well-tolerated in humans. It has also become readily available in many countries with the introduction of over-the-counter “nutraceutical” products. The aim of this narrative review was to explore various physiological and psychological effects of CBD that may be relevant to the sport and/or exercise context and to identify key areas for future research. As direct studies of CBD and sports performance are is currently lacking, evidence for this narrative review was sourced from preclinical studies and a limited number of clinical trials in non-athlete populations. Preclinical studies have observed robust anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic effects of CBD in animal models. Preliminary preclinical evidence also suggests that CBD may protect against gastrointestinal damage associated with inflammation and promote healing of traumatic skeletal injuries. However, further research is required to confirm these observations. Early stage clinical studies suggest that CBD may be anxiolytic in “stress-inducing” situations and in individuals with anxiety disorders. While some case reports indicate that CBD improves sleep, robust evidence is currently lacking. Cognitive function and thermoregulation appear to be unaffected by CBD while effects on food intake, metabolic function, cardiovascular function, and infection require further study. CBD may exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects with the potential to benefit athletes. However, well controlled, studies in athlete populations are required before definitive conclusions can be reached regarding the utility of CBD in supporting athletic performance. Keywords: Cannabidiol, CBD, Cannabis, Cannabinoid, Athletic performance, Exercise
CBD has been reported to exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects that have the potential to benefit athletes.
The available evidence is preliminary, at times inconsistent, and largely based on preclinical studies involving laboratory animals.
Rigorous, controlled investigations clarifying the utility of CBD in the sporting context are warranted.
Cannabis sativa contains numerous chemical compounds with potential bioactive effects, including at least 144 cannabinoids . The most studied of the cannabinoids are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), renowned for its distinctive intoxicating effects , and cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is particularly enriched in industrial hemp cultivars grown for seed and fibre . CBD was first isolated in 1940 and initially considered to be biologically inactive, with no apparent therapeutic or “subjective” drug effects . However, in 1973, Carlini et al. demonstrated anticonvulsant effects of CBD in a preclinical model, which were later mirrored in humans suffering from intractable epilepsy . A subsequent rise in research into CBD has uncovered interactions with numerous molecular targets and a range of potential therapeutic applications . Following successful phase 3 clinical trials , the oral CBD solution, Epidiolex®, has also recently gained Food and Drug Administration approval as a regulated prescription medication to treat certain forms of paediatric epilepsy.
Recently, interest in CBD has intensified among the general population as evidenced by an exponential rise in internet searches for ‘CBD’ in the United States (USA) . Some professional athletes (e.g. golfers, rugby players) also appear to be using CBD (e.g. ‘Team cbdMD’ https://www.cbdmd.com/), despite there being no published studies demonstrating beneficial effects on sport or exercise performance. In many jurisdictions, including the USA and Europe, access to regulated, prescription CBD (i.e. Epidiolex®) is limited to patients with intractable epilepsy. However, a wide range of low dose (e.g. 5–50 mg·d−1) CBD-containing “nutraceuticals” (primarily in oil or capsule form) have become readily available online and over-the-counter (e.g. pharmacies, health food stores) . This includes some varieties that are marketed specifically to recreational and elite athletes (e.g. cbdMD, fourfivecbd). The use of these products is likely to become even more widespread if the World Health Organization’s recommendation that CBD no longer be scheduled in the international drug control conventions is adopted by the United Nations member states .
Cannabis has been prohibited in all sports during competition since the World Anti-Doping Agency first assumed the responsibility of establishing and maintaining the list of prohibited substances in sport 15 years ago . In 2018, however, CBD was removed from the Prohibited List , presumably on the basis of mounting scientific evidence that the cannabinoid is safe and well-tolerated in humans , even at very high doses (e.g. 1500 mg·day−1 or as an acute dose of 6000 mg) . While several recent reviews have described the impact of cannabis on athlete health and performance , the influence of CBD alone has yet to be addressed.
The aim of this narrative review was to explore evidence on the physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects of CBD that may be relevant to sport and/or exercise performance and to identify relevant areas for future research. Given the absence of studies directly investigating CBD and sports performance, this review draws primarily on preclinical studies involving laboratory animals and a limited number of clinical trials involving non-athlete populations.
CBD has been reported to exert a number of physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects, that have the potential to benefit athletes. For instance, there is preliminary supportive evidence for anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, analgesic, and anxiolytic actions of CBD and the possibility it may protect against GI damage associated with inflammation and promote the healing of traumatic skeletal injuries. However, it is important to recognise that these findings are very preliminary, at times inconsistent, and largely derived from preclinical studies. Such studies are limited in their generalisability to athletes (and humans in general), and often administer high doses of CBD that may be difficult to replicate in humans. The central observation is that studies directly investigating CBD and sports performance are lacking, and until these are conducted, we can only speculate in regard to its effects. Nonetheless, this review suggests that rigorous, controlled investigations clarifying the utility of CBD in the sporting context are clearly warranted. Source article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7338332/ Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research
Danielle McCartney, Melissa J. Benson, Ben Desbrow, Christopher Irwin, Anastasia Suraev, Iain S. McGregor
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