As medical cannabis increases in popularity and gains legal status in more and more states, senior citizens are trying it for a variety of ailments. Navigating the numerous options for administration can be overwhelming. This article will attempt to clarify some of the choices we have and how they work on the body. CBD for seniors… there is relief.
Did you know?
Many of us remember cannabis from back in the day, when options were limited and routes other than smoking were almost unheard of (with the possible exception of grinding up the plant and baking it in brownies). We didn’t know much about its various components or how they worked to help us achieve and maintain balance. Frankly, for most of us, it was about the high and feelings associated with that.
- Cannabis contains over 500 chemicals including:
- Over 140 other cannabinoids
- More than 200 terpenes contribute to weed’s distinctive smell
- Around 20 flavonoids which affect odor, taste, and color
What is CBD, anyhow?
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in weed. Along with THC, it was one of the first cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant. Receptors in the nervous system interact with cannabinoids produced by our own bodies (endogenous cannabinoids), those found in plants (phytocannabinoids), and ones synthetically produced by labs.
The Endocannabinoid System
These receptors, referred to collectively as the endocannabinoid system, are located in the brain and scattered throughout our bodies. CB1 receptors are most highly concentrated in the brain; you can find the highest number of CB2 receptors in the immune system. While most cannabinoids work directly to trigger these receptors, CBD is unique because it acts to influence the ability of the receptors themselves to bind to the other cannabinoids. It also influences other types of receptors outside the endocannabinoid system, and it occupies certain other enzymes in order to enhance the activity of endogenous cannabinoids.
The Entourage Effect
While each component of the cannabis plant has its own distinctive properties, they also work together to exert something called the “entourage effect.” It is different from what we know as the “additive effect,” or synergy, where two or more substances act together while maintaining separate personalities, if you will.
The entourage effect refers to how the chemicals and compounds in cannabis work together to not only exert their individual influences on the body, but to create results greater than each particular component could do on its own. While the entourage effect includes synergistic properties, not all synergistic reactions are involved in the entourage effect. For example, an omelet has eggs, cheese, and other ingredients; each ingredient can be separately identified. This is synergy.
If you take those same eggs and put them in cookie batter, you can no longer identify the eggs, but they are there; they contribute flavor, binding, and occasionally rising properties to the dough. This is basically how the entourage effect works in weed. Now, how about CBD and what it can do for us?
What can CBD do for us?
Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive properties. Basically, what this means is you’re not going to get high from using CBD. By itself or in conjunction with other cannabinoids and/or terpenes, it has been shown to help with several health conditions of importance to seniors including the following:
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss of appetite
- MS, ALS, and other auto-immune disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Nerve pain
- Swelling and the pain it causes
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Cancer (damages, destroys, or slows/prevents growth of several types
- Heart disease
- Crohn’s disease, IBS, IBD
- Mood disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injury
- Kidney disease
- Opioid addiction
While they are small in number, there are some side effects experienced by people who use CBD. These may include change in appetite (the munchies), anxiety, diarrhea, altered mood, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Most of these side effects are mild and dose-related; adjusting how much you take or how often you use CBD can help minimize any negative effects you may experience.
Patients taking pharmaceutical drugs that affect Cytochrome P450 need to be aware that CBD can affect how those drugs are absorbed as well as how long CBD itself stays in the system. Talk to your physician if you take any drug that is affected by you drinking grapefruit juice; this list includes several antibiotics, anti-anxiety drugs, and cholesterol medication as well as some antihistamines and antiviral medications.
Which route is right for me?
How you use CBD depends on what you’re treating. There are several different methods to choose from.
These are best for issues close to the body’s surface. If you have a headache, you can rub oil, ointment, or cream on your temples or the base of your skull. Treating minor wounds, bruises, and strained muscles with a topical preparation can be quite effective. Identifying the source of your pain helps direct the treatment where it will work most efficiently. Sore spots often include the shoulders, soles of the feet, knees, elbows, neck, and joints. Massage the product in thoroughly and vigorously, without causing pain, as often as needed. Transdermal patches offer a timed-release option many find convenient since they deliver consistent doses over a specific amount of time. Spraying CBD oil onto the skin or genitalia can help with pain, wound healing, minor aches and swelling, and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
For nausea, menstrual cramps, hemorrhoids, lower back pain, sciatica, rectal cancer, and muscle spasms in the bladder, bowel, or reproductive organs, suppositories can often deliver the most effective and rapid relief to the affected area. If using a suppository, it is best to use a small amount of lubricant, lie on your left side while inserting, and stay that way for at least 15 minutes if at all possible. This will help your body absorb more of the product and minimize leakage, though you may find you need to wear a panty liner to protect your underwear.
Under the Tongue (Sublingual) or in the Cheek Pocket (Buccal)
For people with chronic pain, arthritis, and neuropathy, this route delivers rapid relief. It bypasses the stomach and liver, allowing the CBD to be directly absorbed into the bloodstream. Placing drops under your tongue and holding them there for approximately 60 seconds before swallowing will affect you more quickly than putting them in the pocket of your cheek, but both routes allow quick absorption and onset of therapeutic effects.
Oral ingestion includes edibles, capsules, tinctures, or powder. The product is sent through the digestive system and then into the body; while effects are more delayed than with other available choices (it may take up to 90 minutes), they also last longer (up to 6 hours). These options are good for long-term maintenance, dosing for seizure disorder, chronic pain, PTSD, depression, neuromuscular issues, and autoimmune disorders.
Inhalation (vape pens, high-CBD cannabis, dabs or shatter)
Arguably the quickest way to get CBD into your system, this is also the method that results in the shortest-lasting effects. Inhaled CBD is great for relaxation, sleep, pain relief, easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, helping with inflammation, elevating your mood, and helping to control seizures. Studies show the amount of CBD you get from inhaling depends on your technique and ranges from 2-56% of what is available in your product. Use good-quality hardware, avoid taking heavy draws on the equipment, and stay away from products containing propylene glycol.
In a recent study, 51% of a group of 1000 people over the age of 54 reported an increased quality of life after beginning to use CBD to help treat their health issues. Out of the participants who tried CBD, 54.4% used oral drops; 21.1% put CBD in a beverage; and 21.1% preferred edibles. 15.6% chose to use capsules, while 10% vaped or smoked their CBD. (I know it adds up to more than 100%… I’m just reporting the statistics. Obviously, some people tried more than one route.) The most frequent reasons stated for using CBD in this study were:
Overall, senior citizens using CBD on a regular basis reported the following benefits: reduced pain, better sleep quality, a reduction in anxiety, relief of stress, improved mood, better cognitive functions, increased appetite, and lower blood pressure.
Over-the-counter CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal in most states, with the notable exception of Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Unfortunately, there is little to no FDA or other federal regulation of CBD products, so buying from an unverified seller can be risky. Cannabis plants absorb chemicals present in the soil and water used for growing, including pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins. Plants that haven’t been tested, or products from dealers unwilling to publish or make available test results, can contain compounds harmful to the consumer. Patients should take the time to research, check online reviews, and peruse websites to assure themselves they are getting a clean, reliable product. Consider these things when choosing your CBD:
As we age, and our bodies begin to function less efficiently, CBD can help us live more productive and happy lives. Choosing the right product, route, dose, and schedule is an important part of this process. Keeping a journal with doses, products, strains, timing, and effects can be helpful in narrowing down what products and methods of use give you the most benefits. CBD can help minimize the of symptoms we experience as well as the pharmaceutical drugs we need to take to deal with those symptoms. It can also give us the opportunity to stay more active and involved in life as we get older.