CBD’s New Frontier
When Kaye Herbert’s husband brought home a free sample of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, she didn’t hesitate to give it a try. Having heard about its calming effects, she gave CBD to her three sons, whose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made home-schooling difficult due to frequent tantrums and lack of focus. “I didn’t expect CBD to be miraculous, but I was surprised that my kids’ frustrations were greatly reduced,” says the Austin, Texas, mom. “We weren’t seeing the severity of meltdowns.”
The use of CBD in tinctures, capsules and lotions has grown exponentially, along with the science to prove its efficacy in remediating physical pain. Newer, but equally as robust, is the viability of CBD as a remedy for mental health-related issues, experts say, pointing to anxiety, depression and stress as the top three applications.
However, as an unregulated supplement, CBD presents a challenge for consumers in its ubiquity from CBD-infused pillows to gummies, soaps and even pet food. Discerning purity, dosage and safety are real concerns for those that may grab any bottle off the shelf.
Consumers must become well informed, especially when replacing medications for serious disorders, experts say. But for anxiety and emotional well-being, CBD is largely heralded as a safe and natural choice by providers well-versed in CBD, such as Peter Bongiorno, past president of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians. “It’s really important for people to know their options and to keep looking for what works for them,” he says.
The Feel-Good Molecule
CBD, a compound extracted from the hemp plant, is appealing because it can raise the level of cannabinoids—feel-good molecules naturally created within the human body. “When we can’t sleep or are stressed out, cannabinoid levels go way down,” Bongiorno says. While prescription drugs overwhelm the body with adverse side effects, CBD can healthfully bring back balance.
But CBD won’t trigger an altered state because there is little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that produces a high, he says, adding that he starts patients at a low daily dose of 25 milligrams.
It’s important to talk with a physician about drug interactions, Bongiorno says. For instance, CBD can increase levels of blood-thinning medications, according to a 2017 study published in Epilepsy & Behavior Case Reports.
CBD can possibly treat a wide range of conditions, from fear of public speaking to bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders, but more research is needed, experts say. A 2018 clinical trial published in JAMA Psychiatry suggests CBD offers potential in treating psychosis. More recently, researchers in a 2019 case study of 27 patients published by the Permanente Journal concluded, “Cannabidiol may hold benefit for anxiety-related disorders.”
Seeds of Hope
The most important step consumers can take to find a safe, quality product is to know where their CBD comes from, experts say. Lara Miller is an organic farmer in Lafayette, Colorado, who in 2017 dedicated a parcel of her two-acre farm to growing hemp for her business, North Field Farmacy. “I added in hemp because it is a dynamic plant that produces fiber, seed and medicine for us humans, all at the same time,” she says.
Miller’s small, women-owned business grows the leafy plants outdoors in organic soil and harvests by hand. “We test in the field, post-harvest, during extraction and in the final product,” she says. “We know our product is clean and pure and potent.”
This isn’t always the case. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that in 84 CBD products sold online by 31 companies, 26 percent contained less CBD than the amount listed on the label.
Miller receives weekly calls from those wanting to purchase her plants and start a CBD business. “What bothers me the most is that not one person has asked how my hemp is grown,” she says. “It all feels like a big grab; the integrity isn’t there.”
Miller continues to decline these requests and spends her days on the farm, where—come harvest time—she, alongside her crew, engages in some visualizations. “We imagine the people suffering who need support and think about how we are growing the plants to help them.”
Julie Marshall is a Colorado-based writer and author of Making Burros Fly: Cleveland Amory, Animal Rescue Pioneer. Connect with her at FlyingBurros@gmail.com.