Recently, marijuana products have been hitting the mainstream market in a big way. Navigating the terms and claims of these products can be intimidating and confusing. I’m here to help you gather the information you need to understand what leading experts deem effective and what could be a potential ally in your supplement regimen. I’ve experienced the benefits of cannabis first-hand and I’m excited to share them with you!
When I began my journey in the medical community over 20 years ago as a clinical pharmacist, I was aware that the cannabis plant had been used medicinally for centuries. Due to controversy over its psychoactive effects and legal issues, it was criminalized for a long time and medical benefits have only recently been more thoroughly investigated by research. Today, there is substantial evidence that cannabis can be therapeutic for many different conditions.
First, let’s dive into some essential terminology. Then I’ll share some exciting findings about the medical benefits of cannabis that I learned from today’s leading experts at this year’s American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) conference, followed by insight into my personal experience.
Hemp vs Marijuana
This is a key distinction, because both hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis sativa plant.
Due to legality, the CBD products currently available on the market are mostly derived from industrial hemp. So, as you can see, using CBD is not synonymous with using marijuana.
Endocannabinoid System (ECS) – this is one of our most important physiologic systems, found in our brain, organs, tissues, glands, and cells. This neural network was first observed in 1964 and was discovered because of a cannabis-centered study – hence the name. There is still research being done to more fully understand it, but so far it appears this system plays a part in regulating the following day-to-day functions (1):
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – this is one of two primary compounds, known as cannabinoids, found inside the cannabis plant. It mimics chemicals in the body and connects to the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. THC has a variety of effects, some of which have proven to be effective in managing symptoms of cancer, ADHD, PTSD, Crohn’s Disease, and chronic inflammation.
It has also been shown to have some antioxidant and neuroprotective effects and may heighten the effectiveness of cannabidiol (next key term) in what is called “the entourage effect.” (2) Side effects vary based on an individual’s body chemistry. This is also the compound that companies screen for in drug tests. It causes marijuana users to experience psychoactive effects, memory loss, and potentially permanent disruption of the ECS system if used too heavily.
Cannabidiol (CBD) – this is the second potent cannabinoid found inside the cannabis plant, and the one we will be focusing on. This chemical, like THC, also attaches to receptors of the ECS and has been shown to have antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities. (2) However, unlike THC, it is non-psychoactive and there are virtually no side effects when administered independently from THC.
In total, there are over 100 phytochemicals found in the cannabis plant, but CBD appears to be the most beneficial for fighting human disease states. There has been a great deal of success using CBD to combat serious illnesses and chronic health issues which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Until recently, it was not common knowledge that cannabis could be used medicinally. We have heard many horror stories of drug busts and gang activity surrounding the plant being used as a recreational drug. I assure you, what I’m sharing with you has nothing to do with “getting high” and everything to do with healing.
The tone of the media conversation surrounding cannabis is rapidly changing because CBD is transforming lives and proving to be one of the rare single natural substances that can treat a host of afflictions. It is completely non-toxic, and studies have shown it does not affect appetite, heart rate, body temperature, or blood pressure like THC does. (3) It’s causing a paradigm shift in the way the medical community and the public view cannabis.
Cannabis was first introduced to western medicine in 1841, when a component resin was used to treat a child’s convulsions, which we now know as epilepsy. It was a widely used medicine back then, but fell out of favor due to criminality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about three million adults in the U.S. have epilepsy and diagnoses are increasing.
Thankfully, the connection between cannabis and treating convulsions has become widely accepted, even by the United States FDA (so far, only for treating seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome), and CBD has been used to dramatically decrease symptoms in epilepsy patients as young as 2 years old. Results are miraculous, with some cases citing a change from hundreds of seizures per week, to only a few per month. The difference that improvement makes in a family’s life is staggering. (4)
One of the A4M speakers was a doctor who spoke of his experience with a teenage patient who suffered a traumatic brain injury. He had been in a terrible car accident and underwent a craniotomy. During the long and painful recovery process, he developed depression and anxiety. He was prescribed CBD, and after only two weeks he reported he was off all SSRI medication, felt great, and was enjoying life again. He checked in again 10 months later to thank his doctor and stated CBD changed his life. This powerful testimony is another case to support the research stating that CBD can be a major ally for those who have undergone a stroke or traumatic injury. (2) CBD has even been demonstrated to stimulate bone fracture healing. (5)
There are a variety of ways to administer CDB, including capsules, vaporizers, tinctures, and oils. I personally supplement with a high-quality CBD oil capsule to support my hormone and energy levels. I was suffering from overwhelming fatigue after extensive traveling. I had to maintain the tempo of my work but was running out of steam, fast. I needed help. Luckily, I attended the A4M conference soon after the onset of my fatigue and decided to give CBD a try.
When I muscle tested the supplement I purchased, I was shocked at the strength of the positive response. This showed before I even administered it that it would be an excellent ally for my body. Within a few days, I was feeling an abundance of vibrant energy again and my hormone levels, which were struggling due to stress, were becoming balanced again. I was amazed.
It’s so important for herbs and supplements to be prescribed safely and effectively. The supplement industry is a widely unregulated market, so quality control and dosage is a major concern. There’s no way of knowing how much of each compound is in a product unless it’s purchased from a regulated dispensary.
As a clinical pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner, I can help you determine the best source and supplementation protocol for your situation. Schedule your next session with me via Zoom or in person. Together, we can develop a plan that is personalized to your individual needs.
1. Parker, Linda A. “The Endocannabinoid System.” The MIT Press, 2017, doi:10.7551/mitpress/9780262035798.003.0002.
2. Hampson, A. J., et al. “Cannabidiol and (-) 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Are Neuroprotective Antioxidants.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 95, no. 14, July 1998, pp. 8268–8273., doi:10.1073/pnas.95.14.8268.
3. Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol. 2, no. 1, 2017, pp. 139–154., doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034.
4. Leo, Antonio, et al. “Cannabidiol and Epilepsy: Rationale and Therapeutic Potential.” Pharmacological Research, vol. 107, 2016, pp. 85–92., doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2016.03.005.
5. Kogan, Natalya M, et al. “Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in Osteoblasts.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, vol. 30, no. 10, Oct. 2015, pp. 1905–1913., doi:10.1002/jbmr.2513.