Updated: Sep 19, 2020
By Lauren Beatrice, clinical herbalist.
Image by Kimzy Nanney
So you've heard that cannabis can be good for you. You might start researching online for information but become overwhelmed with all the choices. It would be best to have a conversation with a local professional, who is well informed. You can find a caregiver or clinical herbalist with just a few searches online. You’ll want to call a few places to inquire about their products and how they are made. Here are the first question you should ask:
1. Is the store or manufacturer using organic flowers to make the medicine? If the answer Is no or they don’t know, move along.
2. How is the manufacturer extracting the flowers? There are many extraction methods and some are not as safe as others. Butane extraction is not a safe method. Ethanol and superficial carbon dioxide are standard methods; both are safe.
3. Do they test their end product for heavy metals, pesticides, or mold?
4. Is the oil made with full spectrum extract? You want a product with full spectrum extract, because all the components of the cannabis plant are still intact in the oil. You want a product with .3 percent THC along with all the terpenes and cannabinoids that the plant had prior to extraction. With the terpenes still in the product, it should smell like cannabis. If it does not smell like cannabis, they probably used a CBD isolate in their product; you do not want that. CBD isolate goes through a refining process to take out all the other components of the cannabis plant except the CBD. They isolate it so it is pure CBD; however pure CBD isolate is not as effective as full spectrum.
5. Are there any additives in the product? Many companies will supplement low quality flower and extract with additives so they can call it full spectrum or whole plant medicine to make it more potent. However, it is not high quality, nor is it good medicine.
When you have found a product that meets these standards, try it out. To start, take the lowest possible dose that works for you. This is a difficult realization for many people, especially those used to pharmaceuticals, especially those with standardized doses.
It takes some time to find the perfect dose, but once you find it, you will experience the greatest benefit, and it will be individualized for you. Most people find some benefit right away, since their perfect dose is achieved. Those will chronic illness need to be patient with the herbal process and recognize it takes time to heal, just as it took time for the chronic illness to take over. Many pharmaceuticals push our bodies quickly into getting a result, but during this process they can cover up symptoms. Image by Panos Sakalakis
Herbs nudge our bodies into healing, take a bit longer, but have much greater benefit in the long term. We must be patient with our healing process.
Cannabis can aid in the healing process for many different ailments. Taking CBD can help with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s been found to help with atypical neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, seizure disorders and epilepsy. People looking for pain mitigation – both acute and chronic – seek CBD for relief. Those with anxiety, depression, PTSD and schizophrenia have found CBD to work quite well. Clients with insomnia, other sleep disorders, nausea and vomiting, have found
relief as well.
Certain ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and migraine headaches, are conditions with an endocannabinoid deficiency component. CBD also helps with conditions of the immune system, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Because the cannabis plant is so beneficial for so many things, it may be combined with other herbal components to enhance the healing.
Neurogenerative diseases occur when inflammation becomes chronic in the brain. The continued inflammation leads to decreased neuronal function and, eventually, to decreased brain function. CBD works well in these instances because it is anti-inflammatory, decreasing the production of inflammatory cytokines (These are very important for acute inflammation because they call in immune cells for healing, but when chronic inflammation is occurring, it is very important to decrease these cytokines). Some people with atypical neurological disorders have responded positively to cannabis. Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder has issues with connection and activity in the reward centers of the brain. The primary mechanism for encoding reward behaviors is based on dopamine release.
Dopamine is regulated by the endocannabinoid system and those with ASD have fewer CBD1 receptors that bind to cannabis. Those with seizure disorders and epilepsy have found cannabis to be beneficial because it can modulate excitation, which is thought to be the main cause of seizures. Both THC and CBD are ant-convulsant with help from other cannabinoids and terpenes. In these cases, studies show increased effectiveness when using whole plant extracts compared to purified extracts.
Pain relief is the most common ailment for which people seek out cannabis. During acute pain, inflammation occurs, and we invite immune cells to heal. Once healed, the inflammation decreases and our bodies regulate. Those with chronic pain have chronic inflammation continuous in those with chronic pain. The body is continuously trying to heal, but damage occurs in that area over time.
Cannabis works well with chronic pain because it decreases inflammation and sensitivity to pain. It’s working on many levels of the pain pathway, from where it is occurring in our bodies, all the way up to where it is signaled in the brain. There are different types of chronic pain that occur from inflammation at an injury site or spastic firing of nerves. Cannabis can help with different types of pain along with other herbs that are antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and sedative. Some examples of these herbs are turmeric, meadowsweet, cat’s claw, and white willow bark.
A healthy brain is full of CB1 receptors and has a high functioning endocannabinoid system regulating the nervous system. When there are issue with the psyche, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD or schizophrenia, the brain has difficulty shutting off the fight-or-flight response and acts as if it is constantly under attack. People who has chronic anxiety or depression may have fewer CB1 receptors and lower levels of endocannabinoids, making the fight-or-flight difficult to modulate.
Cannabis binds to serotonin and dopamine receptors, increasing their release and decreasing re-uptake. Adding cannabis to the regimen can regulate an overactive brain, increasing blood flow, stimulate nerve growth and increasing synaptic connections. Other herbs to consider when using CBD for issues with the psyche are nervine herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, skullcap, and passionflower.
Sleep is essential for our bodies to function properly. Those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues find themselves with chronic disease, irritability, low energy and an overall decrease in well-being. For our bodies to sleep properly, the endocannabinoid system needs to be functioning properly. Adding cannabis to help with this has been shown to decrease anxiety when falling asleep. An endocannabinoid called CBN, along with other terpenes found in cannabis – terpinolene, nerlidol, linalool, and myrcene – have sedating properties. Adding other herbs that help with falling and staying asleep such as California poppy, passionflower and hops (sister plant of cannabis). Cannabis is so versatile.
Our endocannabinoid system is so vast that’s cannabis can help with nearly every major human ailment. However, there is much information and misinformation on the internet. I suggest you find a local caregiver or clinical herbalist who can help you find the right combination of endocannabinoids, terpenes, certain strains of cannabis, and other herbs that are right for you.