We’ve heard it called this decade’s snake oil. We’ve seen claims that it’s just marketing hype. Despite the scientific and anecdotal evidence, there are still people out there saying CBD doesn’t work, that it’s a fake. That it’s just a placebo.
But what’s the truth? Is CBD just a placebo? We’ve heard the reports. We’ve seen it work for ourselves, but is that all just in ours heads?
New research has shed some light…
What is a Placebo?
In simple terms, a placebo is anything that seems to be a “real” medical treatment but doesn’t actually contain any of the active ingredients that are meant to affect health.
Often they form an integral part of medical study, as they’re used as controls.
And there is significant research that shows that the belief in a “placebo” in place of real medicine can be highly effective.
How is that possible?
Well, your body’s central nervous system has its own processes to dampen pain based on information about when and where the pain is happening. So, if your brain thinks pain relief will come, the central nervous system is better equipped to handle it.
Is CBD Just a Placebo?
Is CBD just a placebo? Do expectancies of pain relief impact CBD’s effectiveness? That’s what researchers wanted to find out.
The lead author on the study, psychology researcher Martin De Vita, noted: “For science and the public at large, the question remained: Is the pain relief that CBD users claim to experience due to pharmacological effects or placebo effects? That’s a fair question because we know that simply telling someone that a substance has the ability to relieve their pain can actually cause robust changes in their pain sensitivity. These are called ‘expectancy effects.’”
To conduct the study, researchers took 15 healthy, pain-free volunteers and measured their response to heat before and after receiving CBD. To gauge the impact of CBD, researchers told participants that they got CBD when they actually got a placebo, or vice versa, and conducted the experiments again.
The results? Researchers note, “Our results indicated that separate pain outcomes can be differentially affected by CBD and/or expectancies for receiving CBD.” So, people who received CBD with the expectation that they were receiving CBD reported having a higher threshold and tolerance for pain than those who received active CBD but believed they were receiving a placebo.
The expectation that pain will be relieved, De Vita said, “alone enhanced temporal pain inhibition, and CBD and expectancies both enhanced the spatial pain inhibition independently.”
So, does this mean that CBD doesn’t actually do anything? No, quite the opposite in fact. While numerous studies have demonstrated CBD’s ability to relieve pain, what this study shows is that it is not only just the CBD that works, but also the belief that it will work that dampens the pain response. The simple belief that CBD will work, and the knowledge of its benefits, works to increase its effectiveness. Those signals to the brain that “something” to relieve pain is being administered help the body process the pain.