Just a quick search on Amazon reveals over 800 hemp oil products. I am sure that many of these are duplicates; but it is an impressive list. Hemp oil (or CBD oil) is often heralded these days as a cure for what ails you.
We have a habit of rushing to the newest herb or vitamin. At one time, petroleum jelly was a miracle cure, and its advocates would consume a teaspoon a day.
For those who don’t know…CBD oil is a compound found in marijuana and hemp that has medicinal benefits but does not produce the “high” that people experience with marijuana. The compound that produces the psychotropic effect in marijuana is THC. Hemp has less than .3% THC.
But hemp oil and CBD oil has rapidly jumped into our medicine cabinets and is available to anyone without a prescription. I wanted to understand its meteoric rise; especially since marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug; meaning that it is as dangerous as heroin, and it has no potential medical benefits.
Despite its classification, grassroots (no pun intended) efforts have put marijuana on the ballot and citizens are voting to decriminalize and even legalize marijuana. There are 36 states, DC and four territories that offer medical marijuana through prescription. Twenty seven states (and DC) have decriminalized marijuana and another 18 have legalized it.
The movement has far surpassed scientific research.
How did this happen so quickly? Why is CBD and hemp oil available to all of us?
One of the avenues to CBD popularity were parents of epileptic children. Desperate parents watched their children have upwards of 50 epileptic episodes daily; knowing that that the cumulative effect of these seizures would be brain damage. They had tried all the FDA approved medications to no avail. Approved medicines have no impact on 1/3 of the patients; and many drugs have serious side effects.
In their frantic search for treatment, some parents (including a neuroscientist) discovered research in England that demonstrated that CBD oil could be a promising treatment. But since marijuana is a schedule 1 drug in the US, research was prohibited. Some parents made their own tinctures and one, Charlotte’s web, is available commercially. In many cases, CBD proved to be an effective treatment with no side effects. In some patients, CBD reduced the number of seizures to single digits and stopped brain damage. It didn’t work for everyone; but it has been clinically demonstrated to be effective in also reducing side effects from FDA approved drugs. The parents’ relentless campaign was so effective that there is now an FDA approved CBD drug.
But that movement alone would not bring CBD oil to the US. CBD and hemp oil needed a political heavyweight. Buried in the 2014 farm bill was limited approval for farmers to produce previously banned hemp and in the 2018 farm bill, it was legalized. And can you guess who we have to thank for this?
Mitch McConnell. No, this is not a misprint. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul have been powerful advocates for hemp oil.
Hemp oil is now widely available, and its advocates believe that it can reduce pain, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, cure skin conditions, and treat PTSD. Most of these claims have not been scientifically validated. But scientists believe that CBD and hemp oil is relatively benign since the body typically absorbs less than 10% of the active agent. But as long as there are herbs and the ability to buy remedies without a prescription…there will be products to sell.
A third of the population has used CBD oil. There are creams, oils, gummies, and pills. I accidentally discovered its benefits while I was helping with a hemp harvest. After a week, I noticed that some neurological skin disorders that defied Dermatologist’s medications had improved. I give hemp oil to my PTSD dog (I haven’t noticed a lot of results with that though); and I use it occasio`nally to sleep.
In the meantime, research is trying to catch up. Scientists have discovered how it works. Surprisingly, we have THC receptors throughout our bodies…and CBD reduces absorption of THC at the receptors. Unlike other medications, CBD and THC work backwards from the synapses. Early research suggests that THC and CBD can be effective treatments for some neurological disorders. There are double blind studies on its impact with anxiety and stress in autistic children.
For now, hemp and CBD oils are the “wild west.” Manufacturers are not required to validate the potency claims of their product. And hemp and marijuana contain over 100 different compounds; in an unregulated world, we can’t know if there are dangerous levels of other compounds. And perhaps its benefits stem from a placebo effect.
But if people are finding relief, isn’t a placebo effect as good as the real thing?
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.