If the anecdotal evidence is to be believed, CBD is a wonder-drug, capable of curing everything from joint pain to cancer – but is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Cannabis has suffered some bad press over the years, from Reefer Madness, through dopey hippies, to super-skunk high potency strains linked to mental health problems. But it turns out cannabis is a complex plant with some useful applications when not being used just to get “high.”
There are 200 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, with 12 having large effects on the human body and four, in particular, described as having “beneficial effects.” Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two primary cannabinoids, with THC causing a psychoactive effect, making the user high, whereas CBD is non-psychoactive.
Dr. Terry Roycroft is president of one of the leading medical marijuana clinics in Canada – The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI), which has treated over 10,000 patients in the last 11 years.
He is currently on an educational speaking tour of Saanich Peninsula seniors residences and Oak Bay. He says CBD is especially useful in treating pain, insomnia and anxiety, especially among seniors.
Roycroft says that while CBD is effective in meeting some health conditions, if it is used in conjunction with other cannabinoids, an “entourage effect” is created which he finds significantly increases its potency.
“If you have 200mg of CBD and add just one or two per cent of THC, you can cut that dose in half,” he said.
The treatment of epilepsy is one of CBD’s most interesting frontiers. Currently, there are 30 pharmaceuticals for epilepsy, but 1/3 of patients don’t respond to treatment.
Due to cannabis previously being illegal, only recently CBD has been studied as an alternative.
So far, randomized clinical trials on children diagnosed with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes, found the frequency and severity of their epileptic seizures were reduced when treated with CBD. One trial showed a patient in the U.S. went from 300 seizures a week to just one or two a month.
Medical Cannabis Specialist Dr. Rob Sealey, said that endocannabinoid receptors in the body weren’t known to exist until the 1990s and “there is a reluctance of medical associations to endorse it [cannabis treatments] and provide education” until more research is completed. He believes that, “we are on the cusp of some exciting discoveries.”
Although promising, Mackenzie Muldoon, the director of communications at Epilepsy Toronto warns that without more research, people should “proceed with caution.”
“Every case needs to be dealt with differently – there are different triggers, different causing, different seizures and different medication,” she said. “We say don’t self-medicate, don’t go off your meds.”
Sealey offers a talk on the application of medical cannabis on epilepsy, March 4 at Camosun College and Roycroft speaks on how to access medical cannabis as part of the Medical Cannabis Conference, March 23 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.