Cannabis 101 – CBD Information

CBD – What’s the “buzz” all about? 

Marijuana, weed, pot, hemp, cannabis… There are a lot of slang terms for cannabinoid plants swarming around the nation as more and more states start to legalize this plant for medicinal and recreational use.

I grew up with a dramatic story in my brain, this story was given to me by adults and a little bit of my imagination. As a young teen, I thought that marijuana was a gateway drug that leads to the “high” (please be prepared for puns) likelihood of heavy cocaine and methamphetamine use. Say no more, I was scared to try this mysterious plant.

Fast forward to Stephanie at age 26, I became older and wiser (per self reports). I owned my own practice and would hear my IV therapy oncology patients talking about cannabis. It made me feel uncomfortable. Most all patients were using CBD and often using CBD + THC (from surrounding states that have legalized medical marijuana). They reported a wide range of benefits, from less intense pain to decreased tremors, decreased tumor size, and improved symptoms such as restless legs, inflammation and neuropathy. They also noted an increase in energy and of course some noted an increased appetite (because would this really be a CBD article if I don’t talk about the munchies?).

With all these amazing results, I started re-evaluating my once judgemental beliefs and started diving deeper into the literature and mechanism of action that cannabis has on the human body. As a nurse practitioner in Iowa, I have a DEA license and can prescribe narcotics in drug schedule 2, 3, 4, 5. No one is allowed to prescribe a scheduled 1 ‘drug’. A schedule 1 substances include heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, cannabis and more.  An interesting observation I want to point out is that with the opioid epidemic that has been prominent over the past few years, researchers are starting to look at schedule 1 drugs as potential treatment options for a multitude of conditions, even LSD which has been undergoing research for treatment of anxiety and related conditions.

What is Medical Marijuna?

When discussing medical marijuana it is important to understand the terminology used when describing this drug.  One of the most common terms is CBD or CBD oil.  CBD is an abbreviation for the word ‘cannabinoid’ and is found in the marijuana plant.  CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.

THC is another common acronym.  Tetrahydrocannabinol  or THC, is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and causes the sensation of getting “high” that’s often associated with marijuana.

The Endocannabinoid System

A little history about endocannabinoid system in the human body. In the mid-1980’s, CB-1 receptors (cannabinoid receptors) were found in the human brain. These CB-1 receptors specifically receive signals from THC and endogenous (self-produced) cannabinoids in the body.

Neurotransmitter, anandamide, was the first cannabinoid found in the body. It is known as the “blissful compound” due to it causing increased joy and happiness. This is not identical to THC but it does bind to the CB-1 receptors in our bodies (at much smaller doses).

A 2nd receptor (CB-2) was found in the body as well. It is found in peripheral parts of the body, particularly the immune system. It is found in immune cells and tissues (including tonsils, thymus gland, spleen and bone marrow).

THC and other cannabinoids act on these natural receptors in the body. There are over 100 phytocannabinoids found in the plant. Unknown numbers of receptors yet to be found in the human body.

Cannabis acts like an adaptogen because it supports homeostasis in the body. Just like our thyroid has adaptogens and like our adrenals have adaptogens. Think of this as a specific ‘lock’ that natural plant compounds have the key to fit inside.

The plant produces bioidentical compounds mimicking ones that are found in our bodies. Unlike synthetic or chemically derived narcotics (hydrocodone, oxycontin, morphine, tramadol, and more) these synthetic drugs often have a lot of life-long debilitating effects and cause major opioid withdrawal, dependence and are the cause of the opioid crisis seen in America today.

CBD is NOT psychoactive but is a potent antioxidant and decrease anxiety and panic attacks. It also has Anti-cancer benefits.

With a broad-ranged CBD there are hundreds of phytonutrients that have positive effects in the body. Such as CBN lowering pressure in the eyes (for glaucoma patients). CBG which acts as an anti-inflammatory and has calming properties.

All cannabinoids have interdependent levels with each other. They work better together.

Route of CBD Delivery

Oral: Oral cannabis can come in the forms of liquid, tinctures, capsules or in foods (such as CBD gummies). This route is best used for anxiety, inflammation, pain, insomnia, cancer, malnutrition.

Topical: Come in forms of oils and cream. These can be used on sore joints, muscles and other external pain and/or inflammation.

Rectal Suppository: Good for absorption into gut. Gut inflammation, Crohn’s, IBS and IBD. People using to help decrease inflammation and use with cancer treatments, can use higher doses rectally (usually used with combination of CBD + THC) to prevent side effects of fatigue.

Vaginal Suppository: Can be used for menstrual cramps

Vape/Smoke: I don’t recommend these types of methods to get CBD into the body. The above methods are better for the organ systems and lung health.

When I used to think of people using cannabis, I always envisioned a teenage boy, cutting class, smoking a ‘joint’. This really isn’t the truth… I’m sure it happens, but for the majority of people they are doing it to not become ‘high’, they are doing it to better their health. Smoking cannabis is usually last resort and not recommended. 

Broad Spectrum vs Pure Isolate

What’s the best type of CBD to use? Scientists recently discovered that broad-spectrum CBD extracts (from cannabis or hemp plants) are much more effective than pure CBD isolates. As mentioned earlier, all of the cannabinoids work well together to enhance their effects. For example, when we take B vitamins, we typically take a multivitamin which contains a broad spectrum. If we only take one vitamin (like B-1) we can leave our system unbalanced. B vitamins work better together, just as cannabinoids do.

Overdosing on CBD. Can it Happen?

CBD has been proven safe by thousands of research studies.  There have been clinical trials completed with CBD doses up to 1,200 mg daily for months without observing any serious side effects. People typically take around 20-30mg twice daily, nowhere near the 1200mg daily amount.

The ‘high’ type sensation typically only occurs when THC is mixed with CBD. Something as simple as sniffing black pepper will have an almost immediate effect on decreasing this sensation. The Universe is amazing and it wouldn’t make a plant without another plant having an antidote to it. Pepper contains a terpene called beta-caryophyllene which allows it to produce a “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid effect” that reduces anxiety and effects of cannabinoids.

Final Thoughts

Seeing the amazing effects cannabis is having on chronic health problems, diseases and cancer, it is something that will be coming more prevalent in the next few years.

As a provider, I will be relieved when I see everyone can have access to medical cannabis, so that I can use that for my patients as an option vs having to prescribe deadly narcotics while people are on their healing journey.

I just ask for people to be open minded to this plant based medicine and realize it’s not a scary, taboo topic. It’s something that is helping children, parents, grandparents, and even pets with the most devastating diseases. Giving hope to people that are struggling every day. Older and (self proclaimed) wiser Stephanie, approves this message.

In Health,

Stephanie Grutz, ARNP, FNP-C.

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Another great site to further educate and to find out dosing of CBD: https://www.foriawellness.com/blogs/learn/how-to-take-cbd-correct-dose