It was the seizures that tipped Penny off that something wasn’t right with Harper after she and her husband Dustin brought her home from the hospital as a newborn. Several months later, having tried a battery of epilepsy medications and still without a diagnosis, Penny and Dustin flew to Boston with Harper to see an expert in infant seizures. It was there they first heard of CDKL5. “This is the point where life changed significantly,” Penny said, “because now we had this diagnosis. You know, this abnormality in our family that we cannot fix.”
The oral use of cannabis and CBD for anxiety appears in a Vedic text dated around 2000 BCE, and it is one of the most common uses of the plant across various cultures. While THC can increase anxiety in some patients, it lowers it in others. However, CBD effects have been shown to consistently reduce anxiety when present in higher concentrations in the cannabis plant. On its own, CBD has been shown in a number of animal and human studies to lessen anxiety. The stress-reducing effect appears to be related to activity in both the limbic and paralimbic brain areas.
On the federal level, several bills currently before Congress seek to change the way the government treats CBD. One such bill, the Compassionate Access Act, would exclude CBD from the classification of “marijuana” and remove both from the DEA’s list of Schedule I controlled substances. Rescheduling CBD in such a way would make research and cultivation of CBD much easier.
Schizophrenia is a complicated and serious disease that is typically managed through therapy and pharmaceutical drugs (that carry hefty side effects). Anecdotally, many folks have found that CBD oil has helped reduce hallucinations. Research is beginning to catch up too. A March 2015 review of available research found that CBD was a safe, effective, and well tolerated treatment for psychosis. But more research is needed to bring CBD into clinical practice.
In the apparent rush to accept weed into the mainstream, to tax and regulate it, to legitimize and commodify it, important questions arise. What’s going on inside this plant? How does marijuana really affect our bodies and our brains? What might the chemicals in it tell us about how our neurological systems function? Could those chemicals lead us to beneficial new pharmaceuticals?
What Meagan saw in Colorado impressed her—the growing knowledge base of cannabis producers, the kinship of parents coping with similar ordeals, the quality of the dispensaries, and the expertise of the test labs in ensuring consistent cannabis-oil formulations. Colorado Springs had become a mecca for a remarkable medical migration. More than a hundred families with children who had life-threatening medical conditions had uprooted themselves and moved. These families, many of them associated with a nonprofit organization called the Realm of Caring, consider themselves “medical refugees.” Most couldn’t medicate their children with cannabis in their home states without risking arrest for trafficking or even child abuse.
More research needs to be done, but there is some evidence CBD can protect the heart against vascular damage caused by high glucose, inflammation, or type 2 diabetes, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. The European Journal of Pharmacology also published a study earlier this year that pointed toward CBD aiding heart health. Perhaps what is most interesting is that CBD could mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects of stress and high blood pressure, providing a potential alternative to traditional medications used to lower blood pressure.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the 100+ cannabinoids found in cannabis and has been the subject of much research due to its many and varied medical applications. But it’s not only its therapeutic attributes that have sparked such widespread interest in CBD in recent years. The compound is also nonpsychoactive (meaning it does not produce the ‘high’ associated with cannabis use), making it a safe and effective option for patients who may be concerned about the mind altering effects of other cannabinoids such as THC.
But CBD (an acronym for cannabidiol) oil isn't a cure-all, despite what the best efforts of marketers the world over may tell you. "It doesn't work for everything," said Perry Solomon, M.D., a board-certified anesthesiologist and founder/chief medical officer of HelloMD. For example, "if you have a lung infection like bronchitis, you can't put a cream on your chest—you need to take a Z-pack. You're not going to cure something like that with cannabis."
CBD is showing real promise as a compound that can contribute to protecting the brain, thanks to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Scientists are investigating its role in neurogenesis and its ability to help the brain heal from injury, and as a treatment for neurodegenerative disease. Research suggests that CBD may help to reduce brain damage from stroke or other neurological injury. And CBD is increasingly looked to as a possible therapy for several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.
Some companies will hide under a cloak of darkness that the Internet can provide, but it’s a pretty good sign if the company lists an honest-to-goodness phone number you can use to reach real people. The companies with inferior products will often be very difficult to reach. Before ordering, try to reach out to the company. If someone picks up the phone or gets back to you in a timely manner, you’ve probably found a company that not only takes accountability seriously, but cares about their customers and the quality of their products.
They may not look threatening, but their very presence here, in the confines of a major university lab, represents years of wrangling to win federal and university approval. Right now, Kane’s allowed to grow only hemp strains. The rest of his research material is cannabis DNA, which is supplied by Colorado growers who extract it using methods he’s taught them.
Dan Frey, a physical therapist in Portland, Maine, says that his patients report the most success using CBD to treat long-term trouble spots rather than acute injury sites. Frey, who doesn’t prescribe medication or supplements, says his conversations about CBD are initiated by patients. Many also tell Frey they find it helps with pain management, especially when used in conjunction with other treatments such as massage and a targeted strengthening and mobility program.
 A. C. Campos, Z. Ortega, J. Palazuelos, M. V. Fogaça, D. C. Aguiar, J. Díaz-Alonso, S. Ortega-Gutiérrez, H. Vázquez-Villa, F. A. Moreira, M. Guzmán, I. Galve-Roperh, and F. S. Guimarães, “The Anxiolytic Effect of Cannabidiol on Chronically Stressed Mice Depends on Hippocampal Neurogenesis: Involvement of the Endocannabinoid System,” International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 16, no. 6 (2013): 1407–1419. doi:10.1017/S1461145712001502.
The arrival of Epidiolex is unlikely to erase the unregulated CBD market, however. For one, Epidiolex has been studied only in connection with a small number of epileptic conditions. If and when Epidiolex makes its way to drug stores, it will be approved only for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, two rare forms of catastrophic epilepsy. People like me, with comparatively mild Janz Syndrome, and people like Harper, with extremely rare conditions like CDKL5, may still be out of luck.
CBD may help reduces REM behavior disorder in people with Parkinson’s disease. REM behavior disorder is a condition that causes people to act out physically during dreaming and REM sleep. Typically, during REM, the body is largely paralyzed, a state known as REM atonia. This immobilization keeps sleepers from reacting physically to their dreams. In REM behavior disorder, this paralysis doesn’t occur, leaving people free to move—which can lead to disruptive sleep and to injuring themselves or their sleeping partners. Cannabis may also work to reduce pain and improve sleep quality in people with Parkinson’s disease.
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