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We all know the stoner stereotypes: an unmotivated dude living in mom and dad’s basement, content passing time on video games and munching Cheetos, a free-loader.

Given that classic perception, have you begun to wonder what is behind the current CBD craze? It seems to be touted almost as a silver bullet – good for whatever ails you.

Maybe you have been curious but might be intimidated to go into a pot shop. Or maybe you have visited a pot shop but found yourself overwhelmed and confused by all the options and have reservations about the advice given by the folks selling the product. Maybe you brought home a hemp product from the grocery store yet are unsure how to take it.

You wonder if it really is beneficial or even if it’s safe.

This post briefly sheds some light on the history of marijuana and its medicinal uses, research and current understandings, and then examines CBD as a treatment.

Background on CBD with Meghan Van Vleet, Naturopathic Doctor in Boulder, CO

Cannabis has been used for centuries. It was actually approved by the FDA until the early 1940’s, but as a medical aid, it was not used reliably because products were too inconsistent, offering variable results.

THC and CBD are cannabinoids and are found in both hemp and cannabis plants. Once they were identified and research on cannabinoids began, scientists discovered that the human body actually manufactures its own cannabinoids. These self-made cannabinoids, termed endocannabinoids, work with receptors found in every tissue in the body.

This system of cannabinoids and receptors in the body has been identified as ‘the endocannabinoid system’; it is highly complex, constantly in flux, difficult to study, and unique from one individual to another.

Additionally, the therapeutic effects of THC and CBD are extremely dose dependent: too low a dose may offer no benefit, whereas too high a dose can cause adverse effects. The beneficial dose is a narrow window.

Adding to the overall complexity, there exists not just one cannabinoid in any hemp or cannabis plant, rather each plant is known to contain several cannabinoids so far, and likely more will yet be discovered. Each of these cannabinoids acts differently in the body.

CBD: Is it Good For What Ails You?

Current understanding of our endocannabinoid system is that it tries to create balance for several human functions:

  • appetite
  • sleep
  • relaxation
  • how we remember and forget
  • pain-sensation

The complexity of the endocannabinoid system lends itself to having therapeutic potential for many different states or conditions. In fact, Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome exists as a recognized medical malady; its associations include conditions typically resistant to pharmacotherapy such as migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the research continues, cannabinoids are now being prescribed and used to effectively treat pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, any neural inflammation, autoimmune states, and more; further, it has effects on the urinary tract as well as the digestive tract.

Not surprisingly, in populations over 60 years, it may reduce the need for polypharmacy and many over-the-counter medications.

CBD safety

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the cannabinoid that has been most studied. It does not induce tolerance or dependence.

That said, the greatest therapeutic effect comes from a full-spectrum preparation – meaning a variety of cannabinoids, even trace amounts of THC. This is called the Entourage Effect and speaks to the synergy and therapeutic potential of all of the cannabinoids in a given plant when administered as a whole. For example, CBD can counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC.

The most commonly reported side effect of non-psychoactive (<.3% THC) preparations is sleepiness, in which case dosing in the evening is optimal.

THC is known to delay brain maturation and should not be used prior to 25 years of age. After 25 years, adverse effects of THC are significantly reduced, but can still cause temporary impairment with psychoactivity.

Importantly, cannabinoids are metabolized by the liver and also effect serotonin. While these facts are not contraindications for use, they are important considerations for use and medication monitoring.

Some CBD products may worsen allergies in an allergic individual

CBD during pregnancy and lactation

Animal models show no adverse results in pregnancy, however, there exist no human studies in pregnancy and therefore CBD is not considered safe. Endocannabinoids are normally found in breast milk of women not using marijuana or any other cannabinoid, but research shows that THC consumption is disproportionately concentrated in breast milk and poses potential threat to brain development in the baby. Additionally, unlike alcohol that clears the breast milk fast enough to “pump & dump”, cannabinoids persist in breastmilk for up to 6 days after a one-time use/dose.

Do more “official” routes of access to CBD products exist?

The passage of medical marijuana laws is nearly pervasive throughout the United States. In states like Colorado we have legalized marijuana and blanket access to a wide variety of products and potencies, medical card or not. Many CBD products are derived from hemp rather than cannabis (marijuana) and are often available at a standard grocery store (containing <.3% THC).

Meanwhile, despite widespread access to the public, there are very strict guidelines regarding cannabis research & access to funding. Often the products that are available are not the same ones that are being researched.

The industry is not highly regulated, and more often than not the people disseminating information to the consumer are not medically trained. All of this makes navigating the use of cannabinoids for therapeutic effect difficult.

Guidelines for Selecting a Cannabinoid Product

Product selection can be daunting and takes some investigation to be thorough. Many products do not contain what they say on the label.

Read labels carefully and ask for a Certificate of Analysis issued by a third party, and then read it carefully as well. Make sure that it was issued for the lot/batch of the product you are considering.

Generally speaking, a full-spectrum hemp product is a good place to start because full spectrum products often offer greater benefit at lower dosages due to the entourage effect, and hemp has only trace amounts of THC. Dosing should “start low and go slow” in order to determine the optimum dose. Avoid blended products available targeted to solve particular problems, such as sleep, for example until you have determined your optimal dose.

Naturopathic Medical Advice on Taking a CBD Product from Meghan Van Vleet, ND

Many doctors today are still unfamiliar with and wary of using any kind of CBD product. Find a doctor who is educated on products, dosing, interactions, conditions that may or may not benefit from taking a cannabinoid, as well as someone who is willing to work with you to help you find the right product and dosage for you.

If you have a CBD product sitting at home but you don’t know how to take it, if you have been considering trying a CBD product to help you reach your health goals, or if you wonder if a condition you are dealing with makes you a good candidate to try CBD, give me a call: 720-340-0193