November 8, 2019 at 17:50 by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
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The new explosion of cannabis products has caused understandable confusion among those of us who grew up back in the day. What’s the difference between marijuana and cannabis? What’s all this talk about cannabinoids? And—more to the point—what’s all this fuss about CBD? What is it? What does it do? Is it legal? And what’s in it for me, anyway?
Glad you asked.
CBD, Seniors and You
To understand what CBD is, some definitions are in order. Cannabis is actually a genus of plant, with several different species, only one of which is marijuana. An entirely different species of cannabis is hemp.
The two plants—marijuana and hemp—look different, are grown differently and have entirely different chemical compositions.
Cannabinoids are plant chemicals found in all species of cannabis. The cannabinoid that gets you “high” is called THC (tetra-hydro-cannabinol). It’s found in marijuana—but not in hemp (at least no more so than the trace amounts of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer. The cannabinoid that does not get you high—but does all the other really cool things that people are talking about—is called CBD (cannabidiol). And you can get CBD from hemp, a plant that is now, as of the 2018 farm bill, legal on the federal level.*
It’s CBD from hemp or, as it’s sometimes called, full-spectrum hemp oil, that we’re going to talk about in this blog.
And now for the 64 million dollar question: What does it do? And why should I take it?
CBD: What’s In It For Me?
CBD really has a lot of things for which it should be commended—especially for anyone 40 or over, and certainly for baby boomers! Amazingly, it has been researched for its effects on 50 different conditions. Those interested can see that research compiled here.
CBD has an amazing safety profile, a considerable upside and—for most people—there’s no serious downside to giving it a try. I did an informal, non-scientific survey of some of the (many) older people who frequent dispensaries in my neighborhood. The things I heard most frequently were, “It’s relieved my pain”, “It’s great for my anxiety”, “I sleep much more soundly” and—more frequently than you might imagine—"My dog doesn’t limp anymore!” (Draw your own conclusions on that but worth remembering: Dogs don’t “do” placebo effects. Something either works or it doesn’t. The fact that the market for CBD pet products is exploding should tell us something. In my experience, dog lovers don’t waste money on stuff that doesn’t work.)
My own experience with hemp-derived CBD started when I was diagnosed with severe arthritis of the right shoulder—a real liability for a competitive tennis player like myself.
And don’t get me wrong—CBD has not “cured” my arthritis—nothing makes cartilage grow back! Yet using CBD—along with some other terrific supplements like Omega-3s, made it possible for me to do physical therapy. The result of the physical therapy, the supplements and the CBD is that I now play pain-free tennis five or six times a week. A big part of that, in my opinion, was the CBD.
People over 50 are turning to CBD because they’ve heard—from neighbors, friends, colleagues—that it’s helped with many challenges that crop up a lot in the later decades. And they believe it might be helpful for them.
In my experience, they’re absolutely right.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON MEDICATION INTERACTIONS: Be aware that there is limited research on the interaction of CBD with other medications—but we do know that CBD interacts with the Cytochrome P-450 enzyme system, ground zero for the breakdown of all foreign substances, including drugs (prescription or recreational). So it’s entirely possible that CBD may accentuate or diminish the effects of some prescription drugs. Based on preliminary research, steroids, statin drugs, antihistamines, HIV antivirals and benzodiazepines (valium, Xanax) are likely to interact with CBD to some extent. Check with your health care provider!
*Hemp-derived CBD is legal as long as it is produced within the regulations defined by the law. Laws may differ from state to state. Go to https://hempsupporter.com/ to check your state's laws on hemp. And check out more of our resources on CBD below to learn more.