How does Cannabis use contribute to overall wellness?
By Elana Cydney
*DISCLAIMER: Statements below have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended as advice for pursuing a regimen to treat or cure any condition.
Cannabis’ place in the Wellness Industry is now firmly cemented and most likely here to stay. According to statistics , 55 millions Americans are now Cannabis users, with 71% of surveyed consumers saying they use cannabis for ‘wellness purposes’. (1) ‘Wellness’ has many different facets so let’s break some of them down individually.
53% of these surveyed users claim that they have reduced their over-the-counter (OTC) pain treatment while 18% have said they stopped their OTC treatment completely! (1) This is quite significant, considering the problems with opiate addiction and subsequent overdose in this country in the last 5-10 years.
On a personal note, having answered the Synergy phone for the last few years and talked to many of our clients about their pain management practices, literally hundreds of them have told us the same thing – that Cannabis use has helped them to either reduce or completely get off of their Rx’s for pain!
We know that CBD has been glorified for its anti-inflammatory properties which has helped millions of people with any imaginable type of pain – arthritis, post-op pain, pain associated with auto-immune disorders and gut problems, back pain, headaches, etc. Obviously managing pain is a huge part of feeling ‘well’.
THC is also a very qualified cannabinoid to help with pain, as it is well known for its analgesic properties and has been known for this for time untold. However, it has been heavily stigmatized for the fact that it has psychoactive properties and this has often eclipsed its amazing qualities as a pain reliever. At Synergy, we are big advocates of working with both of these cannabinoids in concert with each other in ratios that make sense for people in regard to their sensitivity to THC. If you can handle a bit of it, it is recommended to try a product that has both these cannabinoids as they work synergistically together to create wondrous results.
In a bit of a different category is the great relief CBD has brought to people who suffer from seizure disorders such as epilepsy, and tremor disorders, such as Parkinson’s. Its anticonvulsant qualities are what initially put it on the map, with the near-miraculous results of a high-CBD cannabis strain used in treatment with a little girl named Charlotte and her extreme epileptic seizures, though its exact Mechanism of Action is not totally known. Likewise, its anti-spasmodic qualities can bring astounding relief to people who suffer from essential tremors and Parkinson’s-related tremors.
CBD is being lauded for its anti-anxiety properties. Many people have reported that it really helps to ‘take the edge off’ – and there really does seem to be a lot of edges to take off these days!
How does CBD ease anxiety?
The human body has many different receptors. Receptors are protein-based chemical structures that are attached to your cells. They receive signals from different stimuli.
CBD is thought to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, respectively.
The exact way CBD affects CB1 receptors in the brain isn’t fully understood. However, it may alter serotonin signals.
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are commonly associated with people who have depression. In some cases, not having enough serotonin may also cause anxiety. (2)
In addition to helping with generalized or acute anxiety, it also shows great promise in alleviating the stress associated with PTSD. A study conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center researchers showed that people suffering from PTSD have much lower levels of a neurotransmitter called anandamide than others. Anandamide is one of the body’s primary endocannabinoids, meaning natural cannabinoids produced by the body. These operate in a similar way to cannabis by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for core functions such as mood, happiness, fear, and anxiety.
Essentially, anandamides operate as a natural antidepressant and can also impair memory as well. CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the body help turn off traumatic memories so that people can essentially stop paying attention to them. Lack of endocannabinoids such as anandamides can also serve to induce symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety and fear. Introducing CBD, and potentially THC as well, into the core system can mimic anandamides in the receptors to create a sense of well-being. (3)
For more information, see my article from the September 2019 newsletter: ‘CBD for Stressful Times’. Here: CBD for Stress
Helping with Sleep
It’s well-known that many people use marijuana to help sleep at night. But you may be surprised to find out just how many use cannabis for that purpose!
A new study conducted by Sleep Cycle, an alarm clock app, found that 14 percent of American adults use marijuana to help sleep at night. That percentage is higher than the amount of people who use Nyquil or Tylenol PM to fall asleep (12 percent) or alcohol (10 percent). (4)
Sleep is obviously a huge component of Wellness and there are many recent studies in the last 5-10 years showing that getting adequate (7-9 hours) of sleep is more important than we ever realized. Lack of sleep has been tied to a weakening of the immune system, and also to tendencies toward mental illness, obesity and even cancer. (5) (6) (7)
Both THC and CBD have important roles where promoting sleep is concerned and some people benefit from one over the other (many people shy away from THC use in general due to its psychoactive effects). I wrote an article delving into this topic at length in the December 2019 newsletter so if you want to read more about it, check it out the article ‘Will Cannabis help me sleep? Here: Sleep Aid
I am writing this section as someone who is a big advocate of Cannabis – not just CBD, but all of her beautiful faces and moods. I have been working with Cannabis long before it was bred to be high in CBD. For me, it has been a spiritual tool in many ways – to be more present to what’s going on in the moment, to be more attuned to my emotional, physical and energetic bodies; to cultivate more of what I call ‘the witness’ (in yoga, this is called the ‘Purusha’).
Some people have an experience of ‘heightened self-consciousness’ when they are under the effects of THC and speak of this aspect as being uncomfortable, or even having it lead to a sense of ‘paranoia’. Yes, it certainly increases self-consciousness but I appreciate this aspect and use it spiritually as well as socially. I feel sometimes like I am outside of myself watching what I am doing and saying and gives me an opportunity to adjust my behavior to being more present, more compassionate where others are concerned, and more authentic with my emotions. I realize this is not the case for everyone but I wanted to share how I use this medicine.
And as a lifelong student of yoga and long-term teacher of yoga, I find that practicing while under the effects of THC can make me much more present with my mind/body connection (which is truly the intention of yoga in the first place). I receive communications from my body in a much more in-depth fashion and can adjust my practice according to them.
In India, it has been used by ascetics and holy men/women – known as Sadhus/Sadhis – for centuries and is still used today and legally sanctioned by the government and even sold in government shops in some of the holy cities.
It has also been one of the pillars of Rastafarianism, which is a religion, not just a lifestyle associated with reggae music.
Of course, there can always be a dark side to this and substance abuse is a reality with cannabis just as it is with other ‘sacraments’, (of which alcohol is one) so mindfulness of use is required for it to be consistent with the concept of ‘wellness’.
Whole Plant Goodness
At Synergy Wellness, we are big proponents of ‘whole plant’ medicine where Cannabis is concerned. Many products out there are now made with isolates of the individual cannabinoids, especially CBD, instead of utilizing the properties of the whole plant.
There is a reason it grows naturally and has so many different naturally-occurring plant elements, such as terpenes and flavonoids, as well as cannabinoids. These are part of what gives each plant its own medicinal signature as it were. All of these elements working together are called the Entourage Effect and bring this medicine to its highest efficacy.
There are many reasons that they are separating these elements out in a lab – Much has to do with the stigma that cannabis still has and the fact that people want 0% THC in the mix and the only way to do that is to isolate it. It’s also easier for Big Pharma to work with and whole-plant products still have legal ramifications because the laws are different for pure CBD than they are cannabis products, even when they are mostly CBD-dominant.
So watch out for the CBD saturation that is out there right now in the open marketplace because much of the CBD that is in that CVS supplement/face cream/bath salts, etc. has been denatured and you are potentially not getting all the pearls out of the oyster.
Wellness as a Lifestyle
There is no magic pill or plant for that matter that can bring about a state of wellness.
Sleep and managing anxiety are huge components to maintaining wellness but so are a healthy diet – preferably mostly organic and plant-based, getting regular exercise, spending time in nature, spending time with good people who care about your welfare, and thinking positive thoughts, since wellness is also a mindset.
Allow your cannabis use to support these other activities, not to take away from them. Smoking pot and sitting on the couch watching TV for hours and eating a quart of ice-cream is the Ghost of Cannabis Past! Now more than ever, people are integrating its use into a dynamic, creative, and healthy lifestyle. May it help you achieve all of the above!