Does CBD do anything for the combat sports athlete?

You will have seen it everywhere on social media. Your favourite fighter is using it, Joe Rogan is into it and you can even find people adding it to their morning coffee. That’s right CBD or Cannabidiol, the other less fun substance in marijuana, is big news in our community. There are claims that it decreases inflammation, aids sleep, treats anxiety and may even cure cancer. Its not just you that gets to benefit, is your dog looking a bit anxious or arthritic? CBD YO!


Having been in the martial arts industry for a bit now and having seen various products make claims and gain popularity before dying on their holes, I was not entirely convinced by the testimonials from the many athletes being paid to market CBD products.

Does anyone remember those altitude masks (don’t replicate training at altitude), cherry super drinks (its tastes like Ribena but shit), spirulina (tastes like pond water) or magical butter coffees (won’t improve IQ, sorry).

However, after taking the time to look at the scientific research there appeared to be more potential to CBD than some of these other gimmicks.

 CBD and Epilepsy

The promise of CBD products began its rise to “miracle cure all” status initially within the epilepsy community. It became apparent that parents of children with epilepsy where trying to help their kids by giving them CBD.

These desperate parent’s stories are truly heart breaking. Many had infants who where seizing hundreds of times a day, were barely conscious between seizures and had an extremely poor prognosis.

Some of these parents found decades old studies suggesting CBD may alleviate certain seizures. With nothing to lose the parents got in contact with growers in search of strains of marijuana with a high CBD content.

In some of these kids the results are incredible. Seizures that were in full swing often stopped and went away for weeks. Many of these kids had special needs but they could begin to have normal lives that didn’t revolve around the inevitable seizures.

It was very evident that CBD was having a dramatic physiological effect in the bodies of some of these kids with certain forms of epilepsy.

CBD the viral phenomenon

The narrative is compelling, a compound in a demonised substance is found to save kids’ lives. There was no way that was not going to go viral and if it works for epilepsy it must work for other things, right? Well that is what the companies selling CBD products would love to be true.

Now we have CBD products for everything, muscle aches, anxiety, insomnia and the ubiquitous cancer cure. It has been speculated that CBD works its magic by attaching to receptors in our bodies endocannabinoid system. This important system is involved in our immune response, emotional regulation and other processes. If CBD was binding to receptors in our endocannabinoid system this could explain such a diverse range of effects from one molecule.


The problem is that CBD does not actually bind to the receptors in our endocannabinoid system. Its doing something but not there.

So, we do not really know the mechanism of action, how it works or what it works for. Part of this is due to the vilification of marijuana (the substance from which CBD is derived). As a schedule 1 drug, in the US, getting permission to use the substance in clinical trials is extremely difficult.

With this lack of research there is little evidence to invalidate the CBD companies claims. We have a wealth of anecdotal accounts (possibly the worst form of evidence) that indicate where more research is needed, but when these anecdotal accounts are being initiated by social media influencers it is wise to be sceptical.

Is there any CBD in your CBD Product?

Probably my major concern with the products is the lack of regulation. There Is no government body checking what is in the products you are consuming. One US study showed 70 percent of tested products had labels that didn’t match the stuff inside. They either had too much or too little CBD. Perhaps more concerning, is that 1 in 5 of the products had some cheeky THC in them. This is the psychoactive chemical in weed that gets people high and gives them the munchies. It might account for some of the subjective effects like better sleep, relaxation or the desire to watch 6 hours of Teen Titans Go.


The “I don’t have time to read 800 words, McVeigh, give me the gist of it” summary.

Does CBD do anything?

Yep, in people with certain types of epilepsy and folk with certain neuropathic pain syndromes there is good evidence CBD can help.

Will CBD help with my training/recovery?

We do not really know yet. It will not do all the things the company’s marketing it say it will. Any time a new product comes on the scene and claims to treat a wide array of ailments its usually ballax, but CBD clearly is doing something in these epileptic kids. So, it has more potential when compared to the run of the mill trash products we see periodically.

Bottom line, if you think it is helping you, you can afford it and you are confident the company you are buying from is reliable, work away. There may be something to it and when the research is there to back up the claims, I might even join you.


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