Older Americans, disappointed in the lack of effective treatment for their painful joints, are turning to legal hemp oil for relief.
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting more than 50 million Americans. Doctors usually prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat the disease. But common side effects include swollen ankles, heartburn, stomach ulcers, and an increased likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
Grandma doesn’t want to take it anymore. Increasingly, she is willing to go slightly out of her comfort zone to ease the pain with a product related to a plant long demonized by the federal government: marijuana. However, hemp and marijuana vary in appearance, chemical makeup and cultivation despite both belonging to the cannabis family. Hemp oil is perfectly legal and available for delivery right to your door, or at retailers in every state.
What is CBD oil?
Hemp and marijuana are both in the cannabis family. Cannabis plants contain more than 85 cannabinoids, but it’s the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that produces weed’s classic “high.” By contrast, hemp is extremely low in THC but high in cannabidiol (CBD), which is believed to act with the body’s natural systems to reduce swelling and pain, and regulate sleep and appetite. Hemp is so low in THC (less than .3 percent compared to 5-35 percent in marijuana) that it’s impossible to consume or inhale enough to experience psychotropic effects.
Other Alternative Approaches to Arthritis Treatment
More older adults are turning to so-called alternative therapies to treat arthritis pain.
“Osteoarthritis is one of the most frustrating problems rheumatologists have to deal with,” says Nathan Wei, M.D., board-certified rheumatologist and clinical director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, MD. “While we have symptomatic therapies that sometimes help, our approach to treating this disease hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years or so.”
Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatories, recommend you lose some weight, advise you start an exercise program or order assistive devices. Joint replacement may be the only remedy for those with advanced deterioration. Older adults looking for alternatives may turn to treatments with conflicting research about their safety and effectiveness.
Acupuncture is conditionally recommended by the American College of Rheumatology for knee replacement candidates who can’t or won’t get a replacement. “Some people seem to do well” with acupuncture treatment, according to Wei.
Many arthritis patients swallow glucosamine and chondroitin, fish oil, turmeric and bee venom to combat symptoms. “Glucosamine and chondroitin have been studied intensely with conflicting clinical evidence regarding efficacy,” says Wei. “I prefer to try these compounds instead of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, however, because these supplements are safer. A recent study showed the two together were as effective as celecoxib (Celebrex) as far as pain relief was concerned.”
“Dietary fish oil, flaxseed oil, ginger, garlic and bromelain all have anti-inflammatory effects,” continues Wei. “Although I generally recommend these for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, I do not recommend them for osteoarthritis.”
Topical preparations include capsaicin, salicylates, menthol creams and patches. They change the sensation of pain or counteract it.
Mind-body strategies show some promise. Tai chi mingles gentle exercise with breathing techniques that improve balance, stiffness and joint function in the knee. Qi gong, which also combines exercises and breath control, may have similar benefits, although research is lacking.
Massage therapy to relieve pain and improve joint function is a very safe treatment to try, although there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to prove it works.
Studies have proved that leeches are effective as a topical treatment for osteoarthritis, although the squeamish may not tolerate the slimy creatures. To start, a prick is made to bring a drop of blood to the surface of the skin, and the leech’s mouth is set over the blood to begin sucking.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, how about magnet therapy? Available as bracelets, necklaces, patches and other devices, they may help due to a placebo effect as much as anything. However, if you have an implantable medical device, you should avoid magnets.
Whatever you may be interested in trying, consult with your doctor first to make sure it won’t interfere with your other medications.
In the 1980s, scientists discovered the human endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS). It regulates the general state of balance, affecting mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, the immune system and the body’s response to pain. Theoretically, the ECS balances out those systems to keep us balanced and functioning. The system is common to all mammals, and comprises microscopic receptors found in the brain and central nervous system (CB1 receptors) and immune system (CB2 receptors). The human body can make cannabinoids that act in a similar way to CBD and control communication between cells.
CBD oil is a natural plant product that gained exposure on CNN’s documentary “Weed.” The film is narrated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a chief neurosurgeon who changed his view of marijuana from negative to positive after thorough research. CBD itself has been at the center of more than 23,000 research studies examining its usefulness for conditions including anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, cancer and chronic pain. Check here to find out more about the studies.
Side Effects of CBD
It’s important to reiterate that CBD does not produce a euphoric effect. It will not impede or alter your sensory awareness, perception, consciousness, reaction time or behavior. A recent study found CBD oil has no impact on the following:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Glucose levels
- pH levels
- Exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and bloodstream
- Red blood cell volume
- Time it takes for food to leave stomach and travel through the intestines
- Vomiting action
- Body temperature
- Potassium and sodium levels
There are a few side effects that CBD may produce: nausea, sleeping issues and irritability. Mild withdrawal symptoms are possible, although it’s not clear if they arise from a return of the original pain and anxiety.
Where Does CBD Come From?
There are thousands of different varieties of the hemp plant grown around the world. The United States imports hemp for use in building materials, textiles, nutritional supplements and foods. Hemp plants used in the production of CBD oil naturally contain high concentrations of cannabidiol, along with minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, terpenes and flavonoids. However, it’s important to note that this is not the same as hemp seeds or organic hemp oil you may find in your local grocery store. While that product is a fine nutritional supplement, it does not have any cannabidiol.
Because the difference between marijuana and hemp was little understood or appreciated, commercial growing of hemp is currently banned in the United States. The only hemp plants raised in this country are on research plots. Therefore, all hemp products have to be imported, although there is a growing movement in the agricultural industry to get hemp legalized so the crop can be home-grown.
What Products Contain CBD Oil?
The most potent product is pure CBD oil extracted from the stalk of the hemp plant. The concentration of CBD can be as high as 100 mg or more per serving. If you’d rather take your CBD in capsule form, a moderate serving of 25 mg or more is as easy to ingest as a daily vitamin. Tinctures and sprays are made by diluting pure CBD oil with an alcohol or other natural oil base. They commonly provide a lighter concentration of 1-20 mg per serving, and they come in various palatable flavors. Tinctures and sprays are also one of the most affordable alternatives. CBD is even available in chewing gum.
If you don’t want to ingest CBD, you can use the oil or powder form to make a cream or gel that is rubbed onto the skin over arthritic joints. Try one of these ready-made balms, salves, scrubs and soaks that contain CBD.
CBD for Pain Relief
CBD oil has shown promise for relief of pain and inflammation in early studies. CBD products provide an attractive alternative first step before going to known habit-forming medications such as opioids. CBD also has the advantage of fewer side effects and potential interactions with other drugs. At this point, however, CBD products aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, nor are they regulated for purity and dosage like other medicines. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor if you’re considering using CBD for a medical condition.
That said, research suggests that CBD interacts with receptors in the brain and the immune system. The receptors are miniature proteins connected to cells that receive chemical signals and help the cells respond to stimuli. One such receptor, called CB2, plays a part in pain and inflammation management. Researches think that CBD may work by attaching to CB2 receptors, or that CBD causes the body to produce its own natural cannabinoids that then attach to the CB2 receptors. Either way, scientists speculate that this changes the way the receptors react to stimuli. One 2008 review of studies conducted in the late 1980s through 2007 found CBD was effective at reducing chronic pain and its accompanying insomnia.
A more recent study was done in 2016 specifically to determine if CBD oil could reduce the chronic pain of arthritis. Researchers applied CBD gel on rats four days in a row at four concentrations. Even after that short time, they observed reduced inflammation and general pain in the affected joints. However, more human studies are needed.
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Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors