During my long healthcare career, I've worked with chemical dependency programs in acute, residential and outpatient settings. It was during this career that I saw the rise and fall of various addictions and heard The Joint Commission proclaim pain as the fifth vital sign. The pressures to hand out "pain medication" to patients who would provide feedback on whether or not this was done, contributed to where we are with opioids. But, are their alternatives to opioids and other pharmaceutical medications? This is a question I keep asking and today's guest post seems to align with my own research on the subject of CBD. But, I want my readers to hear from experts and am pleased to bring you today's guest post.
Guest Post: Laura Lagano, MS, RDN, Integrative Clinical Nutritionist
Every so often a new supplement or nutraceutical arrives on the scene being hailed as the next best thing. Right now, the buzz about CBD is at a deafening roar. But do people really know what they are buying and, more importantly, why they are buying?
As an integrative clinical nutritionist and co-founder of the Holistic Cannabis Academy, I’m still astounded at how very little professionals and consumers really understand. So, can we set the record straight on a few key facts?
The Name Matters
Nomenclature can get tricky here. CBD, or cannabidiol, can come from a marijuana plant (that which also contains enough THC for a psychotropic effect) or from hemp. Both marijuana and hemp come from the mother plant known as cannabis sativa. By US definition, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC so that’s why using CBD does not produce a “high” feeling.
CBD, one of many different cannabinoids in cannabis, has multiple health benefits. Strains, (the more technically correct name is cultivars) of marijuana can be cultivated to have particularly high ratios of CBD relative to the THC content. If you’re familiar with the story of Charlotte Figi (profiled on the series “Weed” by Sanja Gupta), her seizures were significantly reduced because of the high levels of CBD in that cultivar. But when buying CBD products today online and at retail stores, it’s the hemp derived CBD that you are using.
Why It Works
Think of hemp-derived CBD as a gateway to wellness. Why? Because it is a potent anti-inflammatory and the vast majority of chronic disease involves inflammation. Even the US government is convinced about the potency of CBD as an anti-inflammatory agent; they hold patents for cannabinoids medicine.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, CBD works as an anti-oxidant and neuroprotective. It’s shown therapeutic promise for ADHD, autism, migraine, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cerebral ischemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancers. Progressive healthcare practitioners are often recommending CBD and THC-containing cannabis to their patients as adjuncts to other more conventional therapies.
What to Buy
A key consideration about cannabinoid medicine – the use of cannabis and its plant constituents for health and wellness – is something called the “entourage effect.” As the name implies, cannabinoids work better together as a team, rather than alone in isolation. So, when purchasing a hemp-derived CBD product, look for the terms such as “whole plant spectrum” to insure you’re getting all that the plant has to offer.
As with many new modalities or products, consumer demand often drives the growth of a new industry. This is exactly what’s happened with CBD; there are literally hundreds of infused topicals, tinctures and food products available for purchase. Without guidance from a health professional, consumers take matters into their own hands. But smart consumers should be asking these three questions:
Where is the hemp grown?
What’s the extraction method used?
Has the product been lab tested?
Having these answers at least gets you in the right ballpark when deciding what to buy.
CBD comes in various formats – gel caps, oils, balms, patches, and sprays. These can be taken by mouth, applied on the body, or vaped. The delivery method and dosage that’s best for you is a matter of trial and error. Seeking the advice of a health professional trained in cannabinoid medicine is a great way to get started on your CBD education journey. CBD may not be the holy grail, but when combined with other holistic lifestyle changes, it sure can make a big difference.
Laura Lagano, MS, RDN, CDN is an integrative clinical nutritionist and co-founder of the Holistic Cannabis Academy, an online medical cannabis education platform for health practitioners. Pictured Laura (left) and Donna Shields, co-founders of HCA.
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