In Episode 3 of The Hemp Community Podcast we talk about the kinds of health conditions that our customers present with.
There are many reasons that people use CBD and cannabis, this podcast shares the experience of our community. If you are effected by any of the issues in this episode, please get in touch via our website
Why use CBD?
Thanks for joining us. My name is Dan and on this week’s episode of The Hemp Community Podcast I’ll be talking about the kinds of health conditions that people use CBD to manage. As well as sharing personal experience I will also use examples from our customers at the Hemp Community and hopefully by the end of this podcast you will have an idea of why CBD is so popular.
First of all, a quick reminder of who we are; The Hemp Community is a social enterprise based in Edinburgh, Scotland and we are a cannabis positive, not-for-profit business that sells CBD supplements. We support people to use cannabinoids for their health, and we combine experience in the care sector with enthusiasm for the healing potential of cannabis. I founded the business in 2017 and we opened our first shop in 2018 following the logic that people who use CBD are doing so for health reasons and should be able to speak to someone who knows the products and the process.
Before I jump into a list of all the health conditions that CBD can help with, I think it is important to momentarily adjust our focus away from CBD itself and onto the part of your body that uses CBD; specifically the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is part of your nervous system, and it is made up of billions of chemical messengers and receptors. The chemicals used by the endocannabinoid system are called cannabinoids, and they are named after the cannabis plant because that’s where these compounds were first observed. Cannabis plants famously produce THC and CBD, and similarly the human endocannabinoid system produces Anandamide and 2AG. These two neurotransmitters interact with the cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2. When we zoom out and observe the activity of the endocannabinoid system as a whole, we can see that its job is to regulate the activity of other physiological systems; for example, cannabinoids in the brain regulate mood, memory and appetite, whereas cannabinoids in the gut help regulate digestion. Cannabinoid receptors are even found in our skin and bones, and are essential in the maintenance of reproductive health, especially in women. The endocannabinoid system is always busy and its job is to keep our bodies and brains in a balance that we would describe as “good health”.
When we use cannabis, be it THC or CBD, we are topping up our endocannabinoid systems. We can adjust the balance of cannabinoids to our own liking and as we discussed on last week’s episode, there are many ways to use cannabinoids and they each have their own pros and cons. For now I want you to understand that the endocannabinoid system is found in every system and tissue of your body trying to keep you happy and healthy. When things go wrong with our health, the endocannabinoid system increases its activity to try and prevent problems escalating. Some health conditions may be caused by specific imbalances within the endocannabinoid system, but all diseases have an effect on this system and because of this I believe that cannabis and in particular CBD has the potential to be an effective treatment in the management of many conditions.
Now that we understand that the effect of cannabis is facilitated by our own endocannabinoid systems we can start to look at some of the conditions that people use CBD for. Please note that this list is not exhaustive; at the hemp community we like to think we’ve seen it all, but it’s a big world and it’s full of surprises!
You might remember from the 1st episode of the podcast that every jurisdiction in the world that has legalised medical cannabis has cited the same four conditions to justify the change in policy; These four conditions are cancer, MS, Childhood epilepsy and chronic pain. Each of these categories could be an episode on their own, so I won’t go into too much detail about them in this episode but I will share some of the experience we’ve had at The Hemp Community relative to these particular diagnoses. After discussing these 4 major diagnoses I’ll go on to a take broader look at how CBD is used for other conditions, including minor ailments.
Top of the list is cancer; of all the conditions that are associated with cannabis, cancer is arguably the best known. There are endless claims from cancer survivors to say that weed made all the difference in their recovery. In countries with legal Cannabis, high THC products is frequently prescribed to chemotherapy patients to reduce symptoms of nausea, increase appetite and promote sleep. THC also shows potential in being able to kill tumour cells whilst leaving healthy tissue untouched. A big part of THC’s appeal in this regard is how quick it works; in terms of managing symptoms on demand, THC has the acute action that many people associate with effective relief. CBD on the other hand is the slow cannabinoid, she works in the background and often without great fanfare. At the Hemp Community we see a lot of cancer patients. In some cases they are already taking THC oil acquired from the black market and they come to us looking for a CBD oil for use during the day, or to take the edge of psychoactive THC. The majority of cancer patients we see are not already using cannabis, but have heard good things about CBD, often nudged in our direction by doctors, nurses or other patients. For some cancer patients, cannabis products are seen as a final throw of the dice; the last resort to treat the disease. I won’t tempt fate by claiming that we’ve cured anybody, but we have had customers report significant symptom relief and many who have outlived their prognosis. In some cases the use of CBD is credited with slowing or even stopping the progression of a tumour, and I’m happy to say that we’ve even seen a few surgeries cancelled. The most important metric that we’re interested in is quality of life; both CBD and THC are associated with positive health experiences and at the hemp community we have been honoured to befriend people at the end of their journey and to make it a more comfortable process.
The next condition on our list is MS; Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative neurological disease characterised by damage to the insulating tissue that protects nerve cells. Individuals with MS frequently experience pain and altered sensation in their limbs, as well as difficulty with mobility, cognition and immune function. MS is a complex condition and many patients use cannabis products to alleviate their symptoms, in particular pain and depression. In the UK a company called GW Pharmaceuticals produce and export a peppermint flavoured THC/CBD oil, intended to be used by MS patients with muscle spasticity, although not all individuals with MS meet this criteria and at the time of recording, I am not aware of any MS patients in the UK who access cannabis on the NHS. Most cannabis used for medical purposes is sourced through the black market, and many MS patients swear by their CBD and THC products. With regards to efficacy, there is evidence that as well as symptom relief, the regular use of CBD and THC can slow the progression of MS and reduce the need for other medicines. In fact, it is common for our customers to report using fewer pharmaceuticals or removing them entirely from their diet. At The Hemp Community we see a lot of people with MS, many of whom are not comfortable with accessing illegal cannabis. A survey by the MS society found that MS users experimented with cannabis at twice the rate as individuals in the general population, but the fear of prosecution outweighed the perceived benefit. I think it is important to consider for a moment that vulnerable people are more scared of the law than they are of the supposedly “harmful drug”. CBD is a great option for people who want to experience the benefit of cannabinoids without falling foul of the law.
Moving on down the list we arrive at Childhood epilepsy; this is a very emotive subject and a lot of the most high-profile medical cannabis patients in the UK are children with intractable epilepsy and for many members of the general public, these kids are emblematic of “medical cannabis”. Epilepsy is another complex neurological condition and the most obvious characteristic is recurrent seizures which can be understood as bursts of chaotic brain activity that can result in the loss of consciousness and spasms. There are a wide variety of types of seizures and every individual is effected differently. In the UK it was the dramatic coverage a child nearly dying on TV that forced the hand of the home office to allow cannabis for medical use. Currently, the majority of children in receipt of medical cannabis access it through a private prescription and at great cost. Families live in perpetual fundraising mode to pay for imported plant medicine. At the hemp community we have worked with a number of families but mostly adults with epilepsy who are looking for an alternative to anti-epileptic drugs which often have unpleasant side effects. I have met many people who are able to manage their epilepsy using cannabis products, because of the endocannabinoid systems role in regulating neural activity. There is also evidence that the presence of CBD and THC can protect the brain from damage that might be caused during a seizure. With regards to managing the condition, over time we would expect to see an overall reduction in the frequency and severity of seizures, as well as improved recovery. Because there are many varieties of cannabis available, individuals can rotate through different preparations in response to their changing needs. Neurologist treating patients with epilepsy frequently have to adjust prescriptions to stay ahead of the disease, the only difference is that most cannabis patients actually like their meds. While we are on the subject of epilepsy, here’s an interesting fact; the first western doctor to confirm cannabis’ potential as an anti-epileptic was a gentleman by the name of William O’Shaughnessey who published his findings in 1834. Remember that next time someone says there isn’t enough evidence for cannabis on prescription.
Rounding off our summary of the 4 major conditions for which medical cannabis is legalised, we have chronic pain. The word ‘chronic’ means ‘long-term’, and there are a wide variety of reasons why people may experience chronic pain. It is one of the most common symptoms that we see at the hemp community and it includes bad backs, sore hips, achey joints and the list goes on. There are many people who acquire chronic pain through their occupation for example labourers or athletes, but there also many for whom the diagnosis is attributable to bad luck such as injury or arthritis. Chronic pain has an enormous impact on life in the UK; for example Did you know that back pain is the most common reason for absenteeism at work? Clinicians have limited tools to help people manage chronic pain; drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen are useful but their effect is limited and can cause harm when used over long periods. Likewise, opiate based drugs like codeine and tramadol can be very effective in the short term, but lose efficacy over time and carry the risk of dependence. Cannabis has been used for thousands of years by humans in search of both short and long term relief. At the hemp community we see many people for whom CBD oils, balms, capsules and vapes are invaluable tools for managing their day-to-day experience of pain. Pain is a symptom shared by many health conditions, and people with chronic pain often present with other symptoms.
With regards to pain, CBD is a slow miracle not a quick fix, we see a lot of customers manage their pain with CBD, generally measuring progress in weeks and months. Many people approach CBD with the hope that it will alleviate their pain almost immediately and I suspect this has much to do with the online marketing that focuses on products and not processes. At the hemp community we encourage people to play the long game, and remember that the opposite of pain is not relief, but simply the absence of pain. One of my favourite illustrations of how CBD helps to treat pain was an older gentleman who came into the shop after a month of taking CBD and said that he nearly gave up until he went golfing one weekend. As he walked around the course, carrying his clubs over one shoulder, he was seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had not been able to carry anything over that shoulder in years and yet on this particular day he simply didn’t notice. Often this is the case with CBD; its not always the things that you notice, it’s the things that you don’t notice, and it’s not always easy to notice the things that you don’t notice.
In the next section, I’m going to talk less about specific conditions, and focus more on the symptoms for which cannabis is used. Symptoms are the parts of the disease that we experience as individuals, and many symptoms overlap and sometimes even feed into one another. As such, it is rare for us to see anyone at the hemp community who presents with only 1 symptom. Time and again the same 4 symptoms pop up, in varying orders and ratios, but often clustered together. These four symptoms are among the most common cases handled by GP’s here as well as medical cannabis dispensaries in the US. Even so called “recreational” cannabis users report using the herb to alleviate one of the big 4 symptoms which are Pain, Sleep, Anxiety and Depression.
It is easy to see already how these four symptoms can co-exist, especially in the context of bigger, badder diagnoses.
We’ve already talked about pain, but what about sleep? Issues with sleep include difficulty getting to sleep and trouble staying asleep; they are among of the most common reasons why people turn to cannabis and CBD. The good news is that improved sleep is generally the first thing that most new CBD users notice; normally within a couple of weeks of routine dosing individuals will report feeling better rested and its amazing the difference that a good night’s sleep can make! Sometimes it is visible on the face of the customer who comes back with that subtle brightness to them that informs me that at least they’ve had a good nights sleep. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise because it is well documented that the endocannabinoid system helps regulate sleep and there is plenty of evidence to show that both CBD and THC are useful in facilitating a restful slumber. Many customers assume that using CBD for sleep means just taking it at night, but I recommend using in the morning as well; the people who get the best outcomes long term are those who use CBD more than once a day. Similarly many customers assume that there are specific products for sleep and while there are some CBD infused lavender teas and the like, broadly speaking as long as you are providing your endocannabinoid system with the tools, it will continue to do the work.
So pain and sleep effect all of us to some degree, but the final two symptoms are a little less common although worryingly they do still effect hundreds of thousands in Scotland and millions across the UK. Depression and anxiety are both mood disorders that effect the day-to-day experience of millions of people, in particular adults under 50. There have been numerous explanations offered for these conditions, including the infamous “chemical imbalance” that many people have heard of. Depression is characterised by persistent low mood, whereas anxiety is described as an elevated sense of worry. Both conditions can exacerbate the other, and both are frequently symptomatic of other diseases. For example imagine the fluctuating emotional state of someone living with cancer, and then consider how this might effect their sleep hygiene.
At the hemp community we see a lot of people who use CBD to stabilise their mood, often using oils as part of their daily routine. Many people substitute alcohol with a CBD infused soft drink as a way of preventing the flare-ups in depression and anxiety experienced during a bad hangover. One of the endocannabinoid systems most important jobs is the regulation of mood, and it is no surprise to us that so many people seek out CBD as a means of remediating their mental health issues. As with all cannabinoid processes, we recommend to start low, go slow and play the long game; relief may not be instantaneous but the process is worth your patience.
At the hemp community we see people of all ages, and with a wide variety of symptoms and diagnoses. In today’s podcast we have really only begun to scratch the surface of what people are using CBD for. Before we wrap up this episode I would like to very quickly mention a few other conditions that didn’t make the edit for this episode but will certainly be featured in the future. In no particular order; Parkinsons Disease, Alzheimer’s, IBS, Crohn’s disease, migraines, eczema, cerebral palsay, PTSD, ADHD, Autism, psychosis, bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, sciatica, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, menopause and peri-menopausal symptoms, ME/chronic fatigue syndrome and Post-viral fatigue including long covid. Every day we meet new people at The Hemp Community, and we do our best to help people understand that CBD is more than just a fad; it may well be a paradigm shift. While the reform of UK cannabis laws continues at glacial pace, we continue to support people with serious and life-changing illnesses, and if you’d like to speak to someone about how CBD might help you, please get in touch via our website at hempcommunity.scot. Until next time, take care.
Thanks for listening to The Hemp Community Podcast, on the next episode we are going to talk about the evolution of cannabis policy in the UK.