I’ll be honest, this a new topic of exploration and understanding for me. I certainly did not dive deep into this topic during my college years, nor have I gained any hands-on experience yet in my career. However, as a healthcare professional, having a clear understanding about cannabis, its medical utilization, and growth in wellness culture is proving to be more and more important.
There is certainly a stigma when it comes to cannabis and CBD products and I want to approach it from a non biased and evidence-based approach. As a dietitian, my viewpoints are always grounded in what research has to say. If you don’t have time to read this full post, let’s just get to point here: there is a great need for further research in order to fully understand the medicinal properties of cannabis and ideal dosing. Knowing this, it is important to consult your physician and other indicated healthcare professionals before turning to cannabis containing products and to always verify proper labeling.
Back to Basics:
Terminology related to cannabis seems to be interchangeable as words like CBD, THC, hemp, marijuana, and weed come up all the time. Let’s break it down though, because even I’m confused:
Cannabis: Name of the botanical plant classification, which includes 400 active compounds, CBD and THC being two of the largest. Can range in potency of THC from less than 6% to 30%.
CBD: Also known as cannabidiol. It is nonintoxicating and known as an anti anxiety, neuroprotective, antiinflammatory, antinausea, and may improve blood sugar control.
THC: Also known as tetrahydrocannabinol. Best known for its psychoactive effects (too much will cause the “high effect”). Known for its antiinflammatory effects, ability to stimulate appetite, and relax muscles.
Hemp: Part of the family of cannabis, but contains less than .3% THC
Marijuana: Best known term for the plant. In history, people chose this “exotic expression” to demonize the plant.
Weed/Pot: Other derivatives formed from over the years due to culture, media, and simply a preferred nickname.
There is quite a history behind the use of marijuana in medicine, however for time’s sake and simplicity, just understand that it’s not new by any means. The use of cannabis and CBD have been shown to help in management towards pain, anxiety, IBD, IBS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression, arthritis, insomnia, and more. Surprisingly, nearly 55 million adults in the US report using cannabis, with a significant increase among those over the age of 65. This makes sense considering that over 50% of this population experience pain on a daily basis.
What has hindered the medical research to this date is largely due to the fact that it has been federally illegal for so long. However, with changing laws and increased interest, scientists are diving into studying the full effects of CBD as a neuroprotect, which may decrease the damages from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia.
So how do people use cannabis? Options include inhalation, edibles, topical creams, patches, and more. The preferred method depends on the person and the situation. Edibles are known to have the longest impact, which is ideal for pain relief. Whatever the product, it’s important to always verify independent lab testing to make sure the label is accurate. There certainly are companies that provide high quality products, however it’s important to always be safe with anything in the supplement market. It’s also important to proceed with caution since some CBD products may cause your body to metabolize regular medications differently, so check in with your physician first.
As a dietitian, the possibility for cannabis to help individuals manage IBS and IBD alone has largely grabbed my attention, as these are difficult and often times debilitating conditions to live with. The use of cannabis as part of oncology treatment is nothing to ignore either, as it can help to improve appetite, prevent nausea, and aid in weight stability. The ability for improved blood sugar control is intriguing as well, with so many people struggling to manage diabetes in our country.
As legalization continues to spread nationwide and research is allowing us to know more in the coming years, I encourage other dietitians and healthcare professionals to learn more, stay up to date on research, and be open to talking about cannabis and CBD with patients. Along with anything health and wellness related, what works for one person may not be appropriate or beneficial for another. It’s all about being educated and making a decision that is best for you!
I definitely have more to learn in this area yet, but perhaps the stigma of cannabis is changing, what do you think?