Here’s a story. There is a small old-fashioned drug store in my little town. I was in there recently when an older woman was discussing CBD oil with the registered pharmacist. The women said it helped reduce her husband’s pain. Eavesdropping some more, I realized she did not believe in CBD oil benefits, but if it made her husband happy, she would pay the price.
The interesting part was that her husband’s problem was phantom pain following amputation of his leg because of diabetes. The whole concept of CBD oil eliminating the pain that had no certain cause was very much to the point. It explained a lot about how CBD oil works.
Let me pursue this specific case to help understand what CBD oil does for pain.
The pain following amputation is misnamed as “phantom.” It suggests that it is false, fake, or imaginary. This also implied in describing the neurological pain associated with other physical conditions. And, dismissing this pain is neither fair nor clinically accurate. However, it says much about the nature of pain.
Pain is a warning. It tells the brain that something threatening is going on. That could be the signals sent when you cut, strain, or sprain something. The nervous systems says, “Uh, oh, this could mean something.” Once you understand it is only a paper cut, splinter, or twisted ankle, you can defeat the pain because you have harnessed the fear.
Pain lingers when the injury has damaged nerves, tissues, or glands. It lingers when the body triggers inflammation as curative response. That pain becomes chronic when the source is not corrected. However, you cannot always correct that source of pain. Arthritis, Lupus, fibromyalgia, and other auto-immune conditions, for example, have pain that surgery and therapies cannot always fix.
In any case, it remains for the brain to interpret the signals received. Some anesthetics make the brain forget the pain without denying the pain. So, back to the woman’s husband with post-amputation pain, whether CBD oil reduces damage, modulates neural messages to the brain, or satisfies the patient’s psychological need for relief, it really does not matter.
In short, we still do not have the deep scientific research on CBD and pain needed to make unequivocal claims about its effects. Without it, we should be cautious about some of the promises.
The truth about CBD oil
There are probably 10,000 brands of CBD oil on the market. You will find it in major chain pharmacies. But, I have also seen it for sale at farmers’ markets, barber shops, bars, and even a store selling edible fruit bouquets. It makes you wonder what you are getting and if it is worth the high price.
CBD influences the CB2 receptors on the nervous system. It does not attach to these receptors the way that THC links with CB1 receptors to affect its psychoactive experience. Instead, CBD prompts the body to produce more natural cannabinoids, beneficial influences reducing inflammation.
What we know for sure is that CBD can reduce inflammation and seizures, both of which trigger pain signals. At least we know it reduces such pain in animals. We do not have the extensive peer-evaluated testing on humans needed to confirm its influence. Harvard reports research that claims, “CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.” Without that research, CBD oil remains an unregulated supplement you should check into.
Endorsements by the Rheumatoid Arthritis Organization, the Arthritis Foundation, Yale Medicine, the Lupus Organization, the University of Michigan Health Organization, the American Migraine Foundation, and more are consistent in their analysis and caution. They hesitate to make unequivocal recommendations, but they are sympathetic to the overwhelming anecdotal history of positive experiences with CBD oil.
What to look for in CBD oil
- Context: You should consider the source. Bars and barbershops are not reliable sources. A trusted medical marijuana dispensary might do. You might discuss benefits and quality with a licensed pharmacist.
It is also available on thousands of websites because hemp-based CBD oil is legal in all states. But you should favor those sites with third-party lab testing results assessing the product’s purity. You want the confidence the product contains no contaminants, additives, pesticides, and so on.
CBD oil can be added to edibles and recipes, but the EPA is concerned about unsupported claims of its medical effects. Obviously, it should be more directly beneficial when administered under the tongue. Sublingual administration allows the CBD to process into the blood and nervous systems rapidly through the mouth’s tissues. That immediacy is lost when the CBD oil dilutes in other media.
- Source: You will want to favor domestically sourced CBD oil from regulated farms.
- Extract: CBD oil is extracted from cannabis or hemp in several ways. CBD isolates contain only CBD. Those described as “full-spectrum” or “broad spectrum” include other plant terpenes and flavonoids as well as other minerals and vitamins. These broader extracts are marketed as more beneficial than isolates, yet there is no evidence they do more than isolates.
- Potency: Hemp oils must have less than 0.03% THC. But your CBD oil can still have high CBD potency. Isolates are potent, and you should check the label for dosing. The label should indicate the potency in terms of administration dosage, for example, a recommended dose of 15mg for beginners.
- Flavor: Any flavor requires an additive, but if taste makes consumption easier for you, you can find a variety of flavors. On the other hand, the pure CBD oil has a flat oily taste which should not turn you off.
- Labeling: Labels should list ingredients accurately and in detail. They should also indicate the results of independent third-party laboratory testing.
- Customer experience: As with other products and producers, you can base part of your quality assessment on things like customer service, packaging and delivery, return policy, and more.
The final treatment
The man with the phantom pain from an amputated leg reported considerable relief from his pain. Whether this relief could be clinically confirmed matters little if he were enjoying a palliative response to a placebo effect of CBD oil, it was worth his money.
Regardless of input from the CDC, FDA, or National Institutes of Health, if CBD oil convinces the brain there is no pain, it is worth the investment.