For many, growing old is a scary process. Each morning, I watch my relatives shoot back a cocktail of pills and multivitamins, hoping that they will all react beneficially with one another, reestablishing the healthy balance that their bodies once had. Then, one day, they decide to look up the side effects for all these medications they’re taking, only to discover that their depression meds can also cause suicidal thinking, their cancer meds can also cause cancer, their digestive meds can also cause indigestion, and so on and so forth.
Thoroughly discombobulated by the sheer amount of confusing language and mixed reviews we see online or in the news, we desperately want to find that magical cure all. We read about the amazing effects of turmeric or the incredible anti-inflammatory effects of matcha and try to believe that through positive thinking and dietary restriction, we can navigate away from the complications related to modern western medicine and solve our own problems through dietary or lifestyle changes.
While this may work for some, and is definitely worth considering as a form of preventative medicine when you’re younger, what do you do when you’re already 72 years old and can’t travel back in time to change your diet for 30 plus years? Some people will need something stronger. Still, they can’t help but want to avoid the potential liver damage caused by over-the-counter anti-inflammatory meds, or the potential for addiction that comes with opiods. This is why CBD is more than just another health fad.
For years, CBD has been used to help with seizures and PTSD, yet conversation around the chemical compound has been less than accurate, filled with misconceptions and fear mongering. If you watched TV throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, you’d think that a mother giving her 12-year-old daughter cannabis to help manage her seizures was akin to feeding her poison. Honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised by this, given that a scary story tends to make more money than a nuanced one.
So, what’s the truth about this chemical? Is it the magical cure-all we’ve been desperately waiting for, or is it just another health fad? The truth is always less sexy than fiction. Like everything else in this life, it’s nuanced. Nevertheless, the evidence is pointing in a positive direction and the prevailing consensus among scientists is that the potential side effects of CBD are much less terrifying and damaging to your long term health than are the side effects of many other pain meds.
As CBD has just recently been removed from the schedule one drug list, allowing for increased research on the compound, the full extent of its positive and negative effects are still unknown. That said, there have been zero CBD related overdoses in the United States. Compare that with many of the other drugs on the market.
Misconceptions About CBD
Perception: CBD and THC are the only cannabinoids.
Reality: CBD is just one of more than 120 compounds called cannabinoids. In fact, many plants contain cannabinoids, but people most commonly link them to cannabis.
Perception: CBD has always been illegal.
Reality: American use of cannabis goes back to our country’s founding fathers. In fact, George Washington himself grew hemp at his plantation estate and the location of his burial, Mount Vernon. Jefferson, franklin, shakespeare/hashish. Native American rituals. We’ve even found burnt cannabis seeds at Siberian burial sites dating back 3,000 years. Clearly, cannabis has not always been so feared.
Perception: The effects of CBD are similar to the effects of THC.
Reality: Unlike other cannabinoids—such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—CBD does not produce a euphoric "high" or psychoactive effect. This is because CBD does not affect the same receptors as THC.
Pain researcher Dr. Jason McDougall discusses questions around medical cannabis and what it means for people living with arthritis.
Why Is CBD Such a Trendy Topic at the Moment?
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. This means it won't get you high, but it can be used for several medicinal purposes. Research, while still in the preliminary stages, is demonstrating that CBD may be a great medication for relieving pain and inflammation. It may also reduce stress and anxiety. These are some of the most common conditions that people suffer from.
In fact, according to a study published by the Arthritis Foundation, around 54 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with arthritis or some other type of rheumatic disease. These diseases manifest as minor to intense joint pain that hinder our productivity. The pain caused by arthritis does not only manifest physically, but ripples out, affecting our mood. It’s hard to be happy at work when your joints are in constant pain. It’s hard to enjoy outdoor activities when we feel that our movement is hindered. The less time we spend doing what we love, the easier it is to fall into depression. And, generally speaking, the more depressed we become, the more likely we are to self-medicate and the more prone we are to addictive behaviors.
Keeping this in mind, large scale societal problems such as the U.S. opioid epidemic should not come as a surprise. If the rates of joint pain, often coupled with heart disease and obesity, are on the rise, it makes sense that we’d also see a rise in depression and a correlating spike in addiction. This is why CBD is such an appealing alternative. It raises several important questions in the public consciousness. Can we treat pain while minimizing negative side effects? And, if we change the medicines that we use, will we see a corresponding decrease in depression and addiction? While the science is still in its early stages, CBD offers hope to many.
How Does CBD Compare to Other Over-the-Counter Pain Meds?
|Medication||What It Treats||Possible Side Effects|
Minor arthritis pain, headaches, toothaches, menstrual pain, joint pain, migraines, and backaches.
Upset stomach, mild heartburn, nausea, vomiting; bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, headache, nervousness; mild itching or rash, and ringing in your ears.
Minor arthritis pain, headaches, toothaches, menstrual pain, joint pain, migraines, and backaches.
Nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, itching, rash, headache, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes), Rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, and trouble breathing.
Minor arthritis, back and body aches, and headaches.
Indigestion, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, bruising, itching, rash, swelling, and ringing in your ears.
Anxiety, insomnia, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, PTSD, and seizures.
Anxiety, changes in appetite, changes in mood, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting.
How CBD Treats Arthritis
People who live with joint pain, swelling, and damage to their weight-bearing joints caused by arthritis can have major mobility issues. This affects their ability to work and perform common daily tasks. The constant physical pain caused by arthritis, coupled with a lack of productivity and decreased social activities, can also make some people more prone to depression and addiction. Remember, our emotions are forever tethered to our bodies. So, if CBD does indeed have the potential to soothe both the mind and the body, then you can see why scientists would be so excited to research it.
So far, we know for certain that our bodies makes their own cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) and have cannabinoid receptors, some of which are related to inflammation and pain. Cannabinoids, such as CBD, attach themselves to specialized receptors in a person's brain and immune system. One of these receptors, known as the CB2 receptor, plays an important role in the immune system by managing pain and inflammation.
Researchers once believed that when CBD entered a person's body, it attached to CB2 receptors. However, today, many scientists suspect that CBD actually helps your body use its own endocannabinoids more effectively. It may cause the body to produce natural cannabinoids that attach to the CB2 receptors. Either way, scientists think CBD affects the way that these receptors respond to the signals that they receive, possibly helping reduce inflammation and pain.
At the moment, most studies have only been conducted on rats. That said, as CBD has been taken off the list of schedule one drugs and dropped down to a schedule four drug, the possibilities for research have exploded. The next year will surely present us with some exciting new findings.
Medical marijuana isn’t devil weed or the cure for everything. Find out what it really is, and what it can really do. Dr.Alan Shackelford shows us.
How CBD Treats Parkinson’s and Other Neurodegenerative Disorders
It might seem odd, but cannabinoid receptors actually run throughout our body as part of the endocannabinoid system (suggesting that humankind likely evolved alongside cannabis for thousands of years). The endocannabinoid system regulates certain physiological operations, including hunger, pain sensitivity, temperament, and memory. It’s plain to see that Damage to this system can cause major problems throughout the body. In patients with Parkinson’s disease (a neurological disorder that affects one’s nervous stem), these natural receptors are affected in such a way that brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which are responsible for transmitting messages to the body in regards to movement, become damaged and die. The death of these cells results in a variety of movement issues. These include tremors, lack of facial expression, difficulty balancing, and stiffness of muscles. In some cases, PD can develop into Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD). PDD impacts one’s cognitive functioning, including memory and speech.
Thankfully, CBD has great potential for treating this disease. While patients are not going to be completely cured by using CBD, the compound seems to slow the rate of neurodegeneration and relieve the main cause of PD’s symptoms—lack of dopamine. CBD acts as an “inverse agonist” on CPR6 receptors found predominantly in the basal ganglia, which connects to the cerebral cortex and to the brainstem. These regions of the brain drive functions in our bodies including movement, learning, and even emotion. Recent studies have shown that CBD responds within the receptors to provide therapeutic effects against the symptoms of PD. Any increase in dopamine levels would counteract the steady decrease of dopaminergic neurons experienced by those who are afflicted with PD.
PD’s severity is not separate from, but can be affected by other mental disorders. Imagine you had chronic severe depression and developed PDD as well, the horror would be twofold. You would not only have dementia, but also a disjointed form of depression that would be especially hard to treat, given that the patient wouldn’t be able to recall why or how their depression began and would constantly forget past therapy sessions. Given that our thoughts are not compartmentalized into little boxes that never interact with each, remedying one mental disorder or cognitive disease may make it easier to treat another other mental disorder or disease.
In fact, exciting research suggests that CBD can help with many other cognitive impairments. In fact, a review published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology actually suggests that CBD may protect the hippocampus (which is the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and navigation) during periods of stress. This may also help prevent brain-cell destruction that results from schizophrenia. The study also states that the compound is demonstrating the potential to relieve tremors, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and problems sleeping.n Studies are ongoing, but returns indicate CBD is an exciting alternative to traditional medications.
CBD may also reduce depression and anxiety, and relieve pain. A study at the Colorado School of Medicine has demonstrated relief of issues including tremors and difficulty sleeping. CBDstudies are also showing it as effective in treating the psychosis that comes with PDD (Parkinson's disease dementia).
Once again, most studies have only been conducted on rats. But, the removal of CBD off the schedule one drug list will likely lead to more conclusive studies in the near future. And, while some argue that CBD should be avoided because it is sold as a supplement and has not undergone scrutiny by the FDA, this is a weak argument. Remember, the opioid crisis was caused by drugs that were passed through the FDA. Fear of change is not a good reason to suppress research.
Let’s imagine for a second that you work in senior care. Every day, you need to help raise a man’s shaky hand to his mouth so he can eat his breakfast. The simplest acts have become difficult for the man. He may feel embarrassed or depressed by how his motor functioning has deteriorated. What if, one day, that man could eat his breakfast all by himself again? Imagine the excitement in the room as that man feeds himself for the first time in years. As we age, it’s the small victories that bring us joy. If CBD can offer seniors a few more years of self-sufficiency, then it’s possible that you might also see a decline in senior depression and suicidal thoughts. Our bodies are not separate from our minds, so if CBD can treat one, then it may treat the other in small, but important ways.
Methods of Using CBD
Smoking: CBD joints are not very popular, because most people who smoke joints want to get high—they're seeking out THC, not CBD. People who consume pure CBD are usually health conscious, and no one who is health conscious smokes a joint (which involves inhaling carcinogens).
Vaping: Unfortunately, there are other concerns that go along with vaping, namely the chemicals found in vaping liquid and the heating coils inside vape pens. The jury’s still out on the safety of vaping, so while it might be fast, there may be negative consequences we aren’t fully aware of yet.
Oil: Oil often used transdermally (delivered across the skin for systemic distribution) in the form of creams. This method is obviously much safer than smoking, but given that research on possible side effects is lacking, it’s always possible that someone could be allergic and/or cause you to develop a rash (although, this is a very rare experience). In other cases, oil can also be cooked into food or slipped into a tea. This method causes the CBD to be broken down by the liver and does not result in the inhalation of carcinogens like smoking does.
Tincture: Tinctures are usually consumed orally, but they may also be applied to the skin. When ingested, CBD is metabolized through the liver, causing it to interact with cytochrome P450 enzymes. Since research is limited on the subject, it’s too early to say exactly how this affects your digestive system. But, taken in small enough doses, CBD shows little potential for harm.
Remember, the products on the shelf aren't all the same. There can be many, many different varieties, and if you're thinking about doing this for medical reasons, you want to find a trusted source and do your research. Remember to ask where the oil comes from and the exact percentages of the different cannabinoids in the product.
Suggestions if You Want to Try CBD
- Make sure to use low doses. These seem to work best for pain relief.
- Start with a CBD-only product. Try using 5–10mg twice daily, and then slowly increase, going up to dose of around 50–100mg per day. If that doesn’t help, then you might want to try a CBD product with a low dose of THC.
- Sat first, only use CBD at night and slowly increase your dose if needed.
- Keep in mind that an edibles’ effects last longer than vaping. So, make sure not to try them until you know what CBD strain and dose work for you.
- If you are 25 years old or younger and using CBD products that contain THC, make sure to use caution. The full effect of THC on people under 25 is still being researched and this age group is at highest risk of addiction, dependency, or even psychosis (though this is very rare).
Remember, if you want to try CBD, make sure to discuss it with your doctor first. You’ll want talk to a practitioner who is familiar with CBD oil and you’ll want to contact the manufacturer to see proof of a third-party analysis for purity and potency.