The Endocannabinoid System and Fertility

The endocannabinoid system is a relatively recent discovery, so we’re only starting to unravel its role in different physiological functions. As every other system, it is interconnected with health issues in ways that we can only begin to imagine, but fertility is one we didn’t see coming…

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The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of the body’s several biological systems; it develops before we’re born, and we have it throughout our lives. It functions through two receptors, which are stimulated by different cannabinoids and enzymes; and different things, like exercise, or certain foods, can also boost the endocannabinoid system.

This system is in charge of regulating different physiological functions, and we’re only just beginning to understand how it affects us. We know it nudges healing and regeneration, regulates pain signals, inflammation, immune responses, among others. But it is now being studied for its correlation to fertility and hormone levels.   

Endocannabinoid production responds to different environmental and internal stimuli (pain, stress, singing, food, etc). While, cannabinoids themselves can balance internal reactions, like stress and pain.

We don’t always produce the amount of endocannabinoids necessary to tackle a particular reaction, and in these cases, phytocannabinoids act as alternative “keys” to the endocannabinoid system.

When phytocannabinoids enter the body and increase system activity, the ECS down-regulates and doesn’t produce excessive endocannabinoids; it is very sensitive and always looks for balance.

The Endocannabinoid System and Fertility

Fertility issues affect millions of people around the world. They are estimated to affect up to 10% of women and 5% of men, making it a significant health condition.

Of all recorded cases of infertility in couples, one third of cases are caused by female conditions, another third by male conditions, and the remaining third is either caused by both male and female issues, or by an unknown cause.

In recent years, the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and fertility has been increasingly looked into, and now science has more answers and more questions than it did in the past.

So far, it is known that this wonderful system directly affects the production of hormones, since it interacts with the hypothalamus and the pituitary, which could be considered the “command center” of the endocrine system, which means the ECS is significant in the regulation of  the menstrual cycle and other hormone influenced functions.

…evidence shows that the eCS plays an important role in reproduction, from egg fertilization to parturition. Therefore, alterations in this system, either by recreation/therapeutic use of cannabis or deregulation of the endogenous cannabinoids, might lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including retardation in embryo development, poor blastocyst implantation, inhibition of decidualization, miscarriage and compromised placentation. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms by which the eCS participates in different stages of pregnancy remain poorly understood.”

Anandamide

Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, which means our body produces it naturally, but its levels fluctuate from person to person, and easily change when the ECS is stimulated by external or internal factors. This endocannabinoid has been observed to affect fertility in different ways, causing sometimes negative effects, sometimes positive ones depending on timing…

Endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), endocannabinoids and enzymes have been found in the ovaries and uterus at different levels, depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle or the stage of pregnancy.

For example, during early pregnancy, high levels of anandamide are associated to miscarriage. However, high levels of anandamide after the beginning of the menstrual cycle promote ovulation, which increases the probability of pregnancy. Then, during embryo implantation, anandamide needs to be low for it to be successful, while it should be high during labor to aid the birthing process and keep it from becoming dangerously prolonged.

Sex hormones are also tied to anandamide. Estrogen and progesterone levels are closely linked to endocannabinoid levels. And FAAH, the enzyme that breaks down anandamide, is itself regulated by estrogen.

“The role of endocannabinoids in mammalian reproduction is an emerging concept. Cannabinoids have been always identified as being harmful drugs, because of their negative effects on female reproduction. The discovery of endocannabinoids, endogenous lipids that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and of their involvement in procreation permitted better understanding of the significance of cannabinoid/endocannabinoid signalling in fertilization, preimplantation embryo development, implantation and postimplantation embryonic growth. These studies have also opened new perspectives in clinical applications, pointing to endocannabinoid signalling as a new target for correcting infertility, and for improving reproductive health in humans.”

It seems as though new data and closer observation is dispelling the idea that cannabinoids are strange, detrimental compounds. Now that endocannabinoids have been identified, phytocannabinoids are seen in a whole new light, and their potential as “endocannabinoid substitutes” is being explored.

What about men?

Women aren’t the only ones whose endocannabinoid system alters their ability to reproduce. It could also affect male fertility.

It is now known that endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG) are synthesized by the gonads, and their levels alter sperm production. There is a delicate balance in these endocannabinoids, and too high or two low levels, can significantly affect fertility.

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CBD Oil and Fertility

Until a few years ago, cannabis and its phytocannabinoids were immediately dismissed as being harmful and of no medicinal value. However, recent research and case studies have shown that this pant has a myriad of medicinal benefits and applications that we’re only beginning to discover.

For a few years, the possible correlation between CBD and female fertility has been looked into carefully, mainly just based on anecdotal evidence brought forward by those who have ventured to take CBD supplements during pregnancy for different reasons, such as pain management or nausea relief.

Since drug trials during pregnancy are such a delicate issue, it will take a lot of time for us to really know the whole range of effects of CBD in pregnant women and fetuses.

However, evidence suggests that CBD could actually help with infertility issues caused by endometriosis, since it can stop abnormal cell proliferation and prevent cell migration, as well as lessen inflammation and pain caused by the condition.

CBD also inhibits FAAH enzymes, which break down anandamide. So when low anandamide levels are affecting fertility, CBD can also help keep them up long enough to conceive. Though it would be necessary to stop taking it right after ovulation in order to prevent issues with implantation and early pregnancy.

And when it comes to pregnancy itself, CBD intake needs to be well timed in order to aid in the process, and it is definitely better for those who have particularly low anandamide levels than for those who don’t.

Plus, looking at it from a different perspective, stress is known to affect reproductive physiology and behavior, and CBD stimulates the ECS, which is a regulator if the stress response, and has the ability to reduce anxiety and stress.

THC and Fertility

THC, however, has been said to affect fertility negatively. Though further research is still needed and the effects are not yet fully known.

Lower fertility caused by THC is short lived and returns to normal 2 cycles after abstinence.

Cannabis use lowers progesterone during the luteal (post ovulatory) phase and may alter levels of other important hormones, such as prolactin and cortisol.

In men, a chronic, prolonged exposure to a large amount of cannabis, mainly THC, affects the quantity of sperm produced, depresses spermatogenesis, decreases testosterone production and secretion, and reduces the weight of testes and reproductive organs.

This situation has been well observed in men who consume cannabis regularly for a prolonged period of time. Sexual function becomes difficult, even reaching a point where there is erectile dysfunction, and most don’t know why it’s happening. Luckily, these effects are reversed after 2 or 3 months of complete abstinence.

So… The Endocannabinoid System and Fertility are Strongly Related!

This is a very interesting recent discovery. The study of the endocannabinoid system is slowly but surely beginning to shed more light on fertility issues, and other health conditions, that were previously a mystery to the medical community.

Though sometimes the cause of infertility in men and women is clear, other times it is entirely invisible, causing it to be vaguely attributed to stress and emotional causes. However, the new information we have about the endocannabinoid system are helping these issues become clearer and clearer as research moves forward.

Always remember to consult your doctor before taking CBD supplements or any medication during pregnancy or while trying to conceive. I hope this information was useful!  

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Meditation for Pain Relief and Stress

Those of us who have suffered from chronic pain, regardless of it being emotional or physical, know that it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of medication, google searches and drugstore hauls.

Be honest, how many of you haven’t spent a scandalous amount of money on pain creams, braces, massages (which are awesome), doctors, therapists, 10 different heat pads and ice packs… The list is endless. But what if I told you that there’s something you can do that will probably help a lot and won’t cost you any money? Yes: I’m talking about meditation!

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The Pain – Stress Cycle

As a Mindfulness Health Coach with 28 years of experience, I feel like it is very important for me to talk to you about the relationship between stress and chronic pain.

When you think about it, stress and pain are very similar from a mechanical standpoint. They both have physical components, as well as emotional ones. Our chronic pain is often coming from an injury or a medical condition, and we have the physical sensation of pain, which comes from nerve endings firing signals towards the brain, but we also have an intense emotional relationship with it.

In our minds, we’re having a conversation about the pain that we’re feeling, and the longer we feel it, the more these conversations occur. We begin thinking about how much we dislike the pain, about how we don’t want it to be there.

Now, when you think about stress, there’s a similarity in the way we relate to it; we have different situations or challenges in our personal environments, like deadlines, arguments, or somebody cutting you off in traffic.

Even when these situations stop, when we’re no longer arguing, or when we’ve arrived home safely, we somehow keep experiencing them; we keep thinking about them and going over them in our heads, prolonging the stress. And when that stress occurs, our body starts having a physical response.

The Science Behind it

We now know that you can’t have an emotional response without a physical one, and vice versa. So emotional stress produces what is called the stress response: fight, flight, or freeze;

and a side effect of this is that the body begins producing a lot of hormones and chemicals.

In fact, Candace Pert, who passed away a few years ago, former director of the NIH’s Brain Research Center, once said that you can’t have any emotion without changing every molecule in your body. This is why reducing or managing stress is critical when it comes to managing pain.

The majority of the clients that I’ve worked with during the past 28 years, regardless of their particular needs, wanted me to help them reduce their stress levels.

Chronic stress is one of the biggest contributors to disease and pain, and so they wanted help; they were dealing with chronic pain or autoimmune conditions, and they told me that, when they had bouts of elevated stress, their pain also shot up. And I think we can all relate to that. Who hasn’t gotten a horrible headache, or a stiff neck after a stressful situation.

And so, we can see that there’s a symbiotic relationship between stress and pain, and if we can reduce our stress levels, we can effectively start working with that pain in a holistic way, reducing it significantly.

And one of the most effective tools, in my personal and professional experience, is meditation or mindfulness.

Meditation

So, what is meditation? A lot of people who are new to the concept have this question. They aren’t sure what exactly they’re supposed to be doing. Is sitting quietly meditation? Well, not if you’re going over the grocery list in your head…

Meditation is a state of complete awareness, where you’re not just quiet on the outside, but also on the inside. It’s a moment when you silence the mind and just feel, observe your body without getting caught up in any judgements or thoughts; you allow everything to pass by, rather than holding on or mulling over a particular thought. And, good news: meditation actually gives your endocannabinoid system a boost!

So, no… Sitting quietly and going over everything you need to do that day is not meditation, it’s just something that will stress you out even more.

Meditation for Pain Relief

Meditation is something that I’m trained in. In fact, it’s so important to me that I went out and I did a two year internship in order to learn how to teach people to reduce their stress through meditation, and I’m trained in a version that’s clinical and secular, which I have found to be a very powerful tool.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to be trained in it, wasn’t just because I wanted to help others, but because I needed it myself. Something that is sometimes difficult to share, is that my wife and I experienced the loss of a child, and that experience dramatically changed my life; it became a form of pain, of chronic, emotional pain. And it did transfer into physical pain; I would have back aches, joint pain and other symptoms just from the anxiety that I had. I was having a PTSD response to the loss.

The only thing that actually ended up helping me was taking a course on meditation; for the very first time, I was able to be with that pain, with that suffering, in a different way. This was the beginning of transforming it into a healing process, and I’m still working on that. I still meditate every day because it makes a big difference, and I want to convey how powerful this tool can be for you.

Often, with chronic pain, what starts happening is that it becomes “my pain”. But the truth is that we don’t want to own that pain. What we can do by practicing mindfulness is strengthen our minds and develop the skill to understand what we’re feeling, observing it more than getting into it. When we achieve that, we can start calling it “the pain”, rather than “my pain”.

And “the pain” is going to be a lot easier to work with, it will make it easier to get

to a place where we can live with it.

The awareness that meditation brings, allows us to notice the experience of nerves sending signals, we can notice that we don’t like it, and there is a boat load of research that shows we can actually embrace very difficult emotions and sensations, including physical pain. This eventually causes those signals to dissipate: nerves actually start sending less pain signals.

The converse is actually true: when we are stressed, nerve endings start sending more pain signals to the brain. And this is a very easy cycle for us to get into: pain causes stress, stress causes more pain, and so on…

Pain Meditation Techniques

Though many have doubts, you can use meditation to relieve physical pain. Quieting the mind lessens out-of-control pain signals and also gives us the mental tools we need to stop mulling over it and burying ourselves in pain.

I’m going to give you some tips, so you can potentialize this powerful tool, which made a huge difference in my life; and I know it can make a difference in yours:

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  • Find a quiet environment where you won’t be interrupted
  • Get comfortable (stand, sit, or lie down)
  • Begin by focusing on your breathing, how the air flows in and out
  • Notice the pain: where is it? What type of pain is it?
  • Recognise it, but practice identifying it as separate from you
  • Acknowledge your feelings towards it, but don’t attach to them, let the thought go
  • Use other helpful tools, like meditation music, aromatherapy, or CBD oil

CBD and Meditation for Pain Relief

In this journey of pain relief and mindfulness, CBD can be a very powerful ally.

If you google it, you will find countless stories about people who have used it successfully because it has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, which can help us get to a place where we can practice a more successful meditation, where they can start working on the practice of focus and paying attention, noticing their emotions.

So, how does CBD play a role in the stress-pain cycle that we’ve been talking about? What’s cool about CBD is that it has an impact on so many of our body’s systems, and we know that it is an exceptionally good supplement for anxiety and stress reduction.

These are real, effective tools that you can use to change your life for the better, so you can find our best YOU.

Meditation is not a hard thing to do. The hardest part is to remember to do it and fight that initial feeling of dread over sitting quietly for a few minutes and make an effort to be aware. But it’s quite easy once you get started and, I promise you, it’ll make a huge difference in your life. So good luck!

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The FDA’s Stance on CBD Food

During the past year or so, restaurants and trendy coffee shops around the country have been steadily adding CBD infused items to their menus. Everything from drinks, snacks, to full meals containing CBD oil are being offered throughout the country, particularly in New York City and LA, where novelty food is sought after.

It sounds interesting and we’re all curious about trying different CBD infused snacks… But, how legal is it?

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CBD Food: What exactly is out there?

Several restaurants, chefs and coffee shops in the U.S. have been including CBD infused items in their menus in an effort to respond to the growing CBD demand. Lattes, gummies, chocolates, cupcakes, juices, cookies, golden milk… The list is endless. And Canada has been going through a similar process.

CBD drinks and CBD food are the top food trend for 2019, according to a survey carried out by the National Restaurant Association, which also determined that 3 in 4 chefs agree with this.

The amount of edible products containing CBD rose immensely after the Farm Bill was signed by President Trump in December 2018, legalizing the growing of industrial hemp in the whole country. Signs outside small shops now read “CBD Drinks!” along with drawings of cannabis leaves, or pictures of yummy-looking lattes or matcha tea, and it’s not that hard, in some states, to come across small food trucks that sell CBD cupcakes or cookies… Yes, they cater to our sweet tooth.

State laws differ, however, when it comes to recreational cannabis, so in states like Colorado, for example, it’s much easier to obtain cannabis products, not just hemp.

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Large restaurant chains have stayed away from the trend, since they’re more exposed and likely to be affected by the illegality of the matter; however, exclusive restaurants, trendy coffee shops and independent chefs are risking it for the sake of not staying behind and trying new things.

Mondelēz, the company that makes Oreo, Cadbury and several other well known brands, even stated that their team is preparing to add CBD to new brands or some of the existing ones, but have made it very clear that they’re waiting for the FDA to regulate it before they actually commercialize the products.

The FDA’s Position

The Farm Bill made it clear that the Food and Drug Administration is in charge of regulating the application of CBD in everyday products. The FDA itself reiterated their authority in the matter of regulating cannabis products almost immediately.

Because the regulation for food, medication and supplements is still pending, mainstream drug stores like CVS and Walgreens have dipped into the CBD market with topical versions of the products (creams, sprays, patches, among others).

Currently, the FDA is looking into regulating CBD infused in food, which several restaurants are already doing, despite the lack of regulations. Not to mention the cosmetic brands who are also dipping into the new market without waiting for the official green light.

The FDA and State authorities have already officially warned a few restaurants that they have until June 30 to stop adding the cannabinoid to food, since that date marks the end of the “educational period” after which their products can be confiscated by the authorities. Plus, some states have chosen to discourage the use of CBD additives by lowering inspection scores.

The FDA calls people to participate in the upcoming regulation

The sense of urgency for regulation after the Farm Bill was signed was felt immediately, but it is unlikely that the Food and Drug Administration will have it ready this year, since they need to look into different scientific studies.

It’s important to remember that a public hearing will be held on the 31st of May, where expert opinions and case studies will be heard in an effort to ensure that as much information and as many concerns are addressed and taken into account for the upcoming regulation.

This hearing is specifically aimed towards the use of CBD in consumer products (food, beverages, among others). However, in December, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil can be marketed freely as long as they make no claims to cure or treat any health conditions. So these products are already in the clear.

Concerns

The FDA has reasonable concerns about these products. And one of the reasons is that, since CBD began growing as a market, illegal synthetic versions of the cannabinoid have been developed in labs and marketed as CBD supplements.

The issue with these synthetic versions is that they have been observed to have less medicinal properties and several detrimental effects on health, having even caused 16 documented deaths.

Though the FDA has sometimes approved synthetic versions of natural components, like opioids or THC (Marinol), the new, illegal synthetic CBD versions are not approved and are incredibly dangerous, causing alarm within the FDA and the medical community, since they often pass as natural CBD, making it unclear whether or not they are safe.

The FDA approved medication Epidolex, which is CBD based, has highly complicated the upcoming regulations, since it is a delicate matter to allow the active ingredient of an approved drug to be mixed into food, but the public hearing will be helpful in understanding important details about its effects in certain populations, like pregnant women, babies, or people who suffer from different medical conditions and take medication for them.

About this matter, the FDA stated that:

“Under section 301(ll) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(ll)], it is prohibited to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food (including any animal food or feed) to which has been added a substance which is an active ingredient in a drug product that has been approved under section 505 of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 355], or a drug for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public.”

Based on the above, it is even prohibited to add CBD to animal food or treats, which causes a huge issue, considering all of these products are already being marketed; CBD dog treats, for example, are very common for pet owners.

Homemade CBD Infused Food

Though selling CBD infused foods is not yet technically legal, using it for personal consumption is allowed. If you’re wondering how to use CBD to cook, keep an eye out for an upcoming article that’ll explain everything you need to know about CBD in the kitchen! And we’ll even give you a delicious recipe for yummy CBD chocolate treats; these are a mouth watering perfect option for those days when you’re feeling low.

Benefits of Cooking CBD Food at Home

Using CBD at home for personal consumption is NOT illegal! And it won’t get you, or anyone else, high.

Putting natural CBD oil in food isn’t much different than mixing a little curcumin into your eggs; you want to add as many beneficial components into your diet as you can, in order to complement your nutrition. Of course, the effects of CBD are, for some, immediately felt, and they highly influence the body’s functions, which is why it’s constantly being studied for possible medicinal application.

Is it safe to eat?

As far as has been observed, CBD is safe to consume in food, as long as it is well measured and as long as it is NOT the synthetic version of the component.

Actually, for children with severe forms of epilepsy, CBD is sometimes administered along with food, so the flavor and texture don’t cause the child to spit it out or get upset. This is important, since, for epilepsy, the oil is consumed daily by these children.  

People who suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis, neuropathy, or other conditions, often calculate their ideal daily dosage and mix it into homemade, portioned desserts or thick drinks in order to mix it up a bit.

These people have reported feeling better after adding the cannabinoid to their daily routine, which is made easier by adding it to meal prep. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t good at remembering to carry a bottle around all day or take multiple doses, so having it as a snack helps.

The Outlook

So, based on what is currently happening, it is very likely that CBD Food and products will be regulated in the next two years or so. However, during this time, CBD will be in a legal limbo that will continue to confuse and annoy companies around the country.

While large chains will be too afraid to try introducing it, small restaurants and coffee shops will likely continue offering CBD products.

I hope this limbo will come to an end soon, because the market has a mind of its own, and eventually the FDA and state authorities will no longer be able to contain the demand and the subsequent offer.

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Taking CBD while Pregnant and Breastfeeding!

Though there is not much known about the use of CBD during pregnancy in humans, more and more women have begun using this component as a complementary supplement or as a pain and symptom relieving aid. Here’s what we know about it!

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Known Effects of THC and CBD while Pregnant and Breastfeeding

There is very limited scientific research on CBD’s effects on a growing human fetus and newborn babies, so the full extent of the effects is still unknown.

If you’re considering taking CBD during pregnancy or lactation period, you should talk to your doctor about it; and the same could be said about any medication or significant changes in diet you are considering. The OB-GYN will tell you what they believe is best for you and your child, since every pregnancy is different and carries different risks and particular issues.

Taking CBD while Pregnant

Several women have been using CBD in the past few years for the nausea, pain, mood swings, insomnia and exhaustion that are commonly experienced during pregnancy, and it works well for them.

But when it comes to doctors, some believe it to be safe, while others have their reservations due to the lack of scientific studies in humans. What is currently known is based on anecdotal evidence of those who have ventured to take CBD and the studies that have been conducted in animals.

Benefits

Relieves Nausea

Nausea during the first trimester is very common, and sometimes it lasts longer. CBD has been shown to alleviate nausea and reduce the likelihood of vomiting because of it.

The antiemetic properties of cannabis are widely recognized, and they are used for different conditions that cause nausea, such as chemotherapy and HIV. Though THC is better known for this property, CBD has recently discovered to have it as well, though it acts in a different way than THC does.

CBD is currently being studied for its therapeutic potential in Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a condition where there is excessive and constant nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, to the point where the sufferer loses weight, is too weak, dehydrated and possibly malnourished, which causes the fetus to have a slower growth and to be too small. It sometimes requires hospitalization and medication.

About 1 in 100 pregnancies are affected by it, though this number is questionable, since the only data available is that of women who go to the hospital, but some decide to stay home while suffering from it. Those who have used CBD have found relief and significant improvement; they gain weight, and the fetus begins growing faster.

Insomnia

Particularly in the last trimester, those who are expecting may have a lot of difficulty sleeping due to pain, hormone changes, frequent need to pee, anxiety, and several other reasons. 

CBD is a really good option for insomnia, allowing a better, deeper sleep. It does not have sedative properties like THC does, so it’s not going to knock you out or cause you to lose awareness.

Basically, what CBD does is reduce stress, anxiety and tension throughout the day, leaving the mind ready to rest and contributing to the body’s recovery process.

Pain

CBD can help relieve pain and inflammation during pregnancy. When the body accommodates a growing human inside of it, there is a lot of movement of organs and rearranging of bones, which causes pain.

When there is an underlying illness or injury, it can be a significant issue; so appropriate pain management is very important, and less synthetic medication is better. However, many doctors still prescribe opioids during pregnancy, which can be very dangerous.

Exhaustion

Lack of sleep is mostly responsible for this. However, the extra work the body is doing is also one of the causes.

CBD can help you sleep better, relax tension in the muscles, and can help you focus and feel more energized during the day.

Mood swings

Hormone changes, anxiety and exhaustion cause mood swings and overall emotional disturbances during pregnancy. CBD can help by relieving anxiety and helping you get a better sleep.

Better managing anxiety and stress during pregnancy can also reduce the chances of developing postpartum depression.  

Postpartum Depression

About 15% of new mothers have been reported to suffer from PPD, but the real number could be higher, estimated at 25%. Plus, this number only takes into account live births, but women who suffer from miscarriages or stillbirths also often develop PPD.

This condition affects a mother’s ability to bond with her baby and care for them, and it can lead to a higher risk of psychiatric illnesses later in life.

This is why women seek out CBD, since drugs prescribed for this condition have several detrimental side effects (insomnia, dizziness, diarrhea, weight gain), and take weeks to work, while CBD has no known side effects, apart from the possible biphasic effect, and begins working almost immediately, relieving anxiety, improving focus and lifting the mood.

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Breastfeeding

Through breast milk, babies consume medication and nutrients that the mother has consumed herself. This brings concern about taking CBD during this period, and the effects of it in newborns have not been studied. However, anecdotal evidence has not shown any adverse effects.

Interestingly, it has been discovered that breast milk contains endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG), and their levels depend on the mother’s levels. So a low dosage of CBD, particularly in mothers who have extremely low levels of anandamide, could possibly be beneficial, and is unlikely to be harmful.

Facts

  • A growing fetus already has an endocannabinoid system
  • Breast milk naturally contains endocannabinoids
  • CBD is being used for young children who suffer from epileptic disorders and no negative side effects have been observed
  • An estimated 25% of live births are followed by post partum depression
  • About 85% of pregnancies are affected by nausea and vomiting
  • About 1 in 100 pregnancies are affected by Hyperemesis Gravidarum

What about THC?

THC is a completely different story. It has been observed to affect brain development in humans who are under 21 years of age, though it is unknown whether this consequence could be more related to alcohol intake of the studied subjects than to THC itself.

However, when it comes to fetuses, it was observed to inhibit the growth of mice embryos in early gestation, as did anandamide.

Since it has been observed that marijuana consumption during early stages of pregnancy may result in low birth weight, it is recommended to avoid it while more studies are conducted. However some women have found it to be perfectly safe, and even beneficial for growth improvement when they are suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Opioids and Pregnancy

Opioids are still being prescribed to pregnant women and are commonly used during labor, which brings us to question why CBD is so controversial, taking into account that opioids are known to be harmful.

Babies born to mothers who consume opioids on a regular basis have been observed to suffer from severe issues:

  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth defects
  • Thinner cerebral cortices
  • Reduced cognitive ability
  • Physical deficits
  • Behavioral deficits
  • Long term social, psychological and behavioral abnormalities

Contrary to popular belief, NAS doesn’t just  happen to babies born to illegal opioid users; it can also happen when opioids are legally prescribed for pain management and taken exactly how a doctor indicated.

Opioids cause countless side effects to both the mother and the fetus, so prescribing them during pregnancy is extremely risky. Even when the baby has already been born, opioids get into their system through breast milk, and they can cause:

  • Addiction
  • CNS depression
  • Sedation
  • Inadequate weight gain
  • Mood alterations and impaired brain development
  • Death caused by overdose

However, it is important to know that quitting suddenly, without medical supervision and treatment, can also cause detrimental effects to both mother and fetus, and could even cause stillbirth (death in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy).

Opioids cause thousands of deaths every year, while CBD has caused none. This is a situation that, without a doubt, calls the medical community to reevaluate current practices.

CBD vs Opioids During Pregnancy

Taking into account everything that we know so far, CBD is for sure safer during pregnancy than opioids are, and it can provide a more wholesome therapeutic effect.

Though CBD’s safety during pregnancy, labor and lactation has not been established, the fact that doctors still prescribe opioids during these circumstances is questionable. CBD, though not significantly studied, has a lot less side effects than opioids do, for both babies and mothers.

CBD doesn’t cause NAS, which is good news! Sure, it might not produce the strong effect that opioids do, but it is a lot safer and it benefits overall wellness in the long run, unlike opioids.

Opioids cause disorientation, confusion and loss of awareness, which puts both mother and baby at risk due to the higher possibility of tripping, falling asleep, and becoming confused while tending to the infant.

Most parents are exhausted during and after pregnancy; so becoming sleepier isn’t the best idea. However, CBD can reduce tiredness, improve focus and allow deeper sleep when it does take place.

Unfortunately there are currently not enough medical studies, but we do know that CBD does seem a lot safer than prescription opioids for both mother and child. And it has already been extensively used in kids with seizure disorders and has shown no adverse effects, only benefits.

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Polyneuropathy, or Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

An estimated 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from polyneuropathy, a disease that can have many different causes, risk factors, and effects in the lives of those who are affected by it. But, do we know enough about it? And what can we do to prevent it?

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What is Polyneuropathy

Polyneuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves of the peripheral nervous system, the network that connects the central nervous system to the rest of the body. It occurs when nerve cells are damaged or killed, which changes and interrupts the communication between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body; though it mainly affects the hands and feet and causes a lot of pain.

Unlike in mononeuropathy, where only one nerve is damaged, in polyneuropathy several nerves are damaged.

3 Types of Polyneuropathy

The types of polyneuropathy are determined by the type of nerves that have been damaged; and there are 3 types of nerves in the peripheral nervous system:

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  1. Sensory Nerves: these carry messages to the brain about what you’re sensing through touch, such as temperature or texture.
  2. Motor Nerves: they carry messages from the brain to the muscles, commanding them to move.
  3. Autonomic Nerves: these control body functions that are outside of our conscious control, like heartbeat, breathing, digestive processes, or blood pressure.

All of these nerves are very important and each serves specific functions in the body. This is why damage to any of them can cause uncomfortable, painful and life altering side effects.

This condition can affect one type of nerve cells, or a combination of them, making its effects varied depending on the situation.

Based on the above, the three types of polyneuropathy are:

Sensory Neuropathy

Motor Neuropathy

Autonomic Neuropathy

Symptoms

Sensory Nerve damage

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Painful burning sensation
  • Inability to identify temperature or textures
  • Sensing textures that are not there (feeling of wet skin when it is dry, sensation of oiliness, or of wearing gloves and socks when you are not).
  • Difficulty grasping objects
  • Poor coordination

Motor nerve damage

  • Weakness and instability
  • Muscle twitching
  • Impaired movement
  • Spasms and cramps
  • Lowered muscle tone and muscle control
  • Clumsiness
  • Frequent falls or tripping easily

Autonomic nerve damage

  • Decreased sweating
  • Abnormal heart rate and blood pressure
  • Urination problems, diarrhea and digestive issues
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Unintentional/unexplained weight loss
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Nausea

How is the Diagnosis Obtained?

The diagnosis of polyneuropathy is usually made by a neurologist, who looks deeply into the patient’s medical history, ask key questions about symptoms, and makes a careful physical examination to determine any possible loss of sensitivity and change in sensation.

Blood tests are usually performed after the diagnosis in order to discard any underlying conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, malnutrition, and other factors. And, in order to check for spine injuries or conditions, doctors might request an MRI or a CT scan, since the neuropathy might be caused by a slipped disk or inflammation.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes

  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a systemic disease that can affect the entire body, and neuropathy concurs in about 70% of diabetes cases.
  • Trauma: this includes injury, compression due to repetitive movements, or surgery.
  • Infections: some viruses (like HIV and herpes) and bacteria can cause nerve damage, which might be repaired through intense therapy and treatment, but might also be permanent, particularly if the sufferer is over 50 years of age, since healing and cell regeneration is slower after this age.
  • Autoimmune disorders: some of these disorders (such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and Rheumatoid Arthritis) cause nerve damage.
  • Systemic Conditions: diabetes, kidney disorders, some forms of cancer, or hormonal imbalance can cause neuropathy.
  • Medication/Toxins: Chemotherapy and strong medication used for certain conditions can damage nerves, just like toxic substances such as heavy metals, chemicals, or solvents.
  • Decreased blood flow: disorders or situations that cause decreased blood flow to the extremities can deprive nerve cells of oxygen and cause their death or at least some damage. These conditions might be temporary or permanent.
  • Vitamin deficiency: nerve cell health depends on certain vitamins and nutrients, without which they cannot be healthy and function properly.
  • Alcohol consumption: excessive alcohol consumption can cause nutrient deficiency that damages nerves and causes peripheral neuropathy.
  • Genetics: Neuropathy can also be hereditary; its most common form being CMT disease, which affects mainly the feet, but can eventually affect the hands. There is no cure for it, and it can cause feet deformity and walking difficulties.

Though a vast amount of neuropathy cases are caused by diabetes, between 30 and 40% of cases have an undetermined cause. In this case, they are referred to as idiopathic. This is an issue, since identifying the cause is the most important step towards treatment, and may make the prognosis a lot brighter.  

Risk Factors

  • Age: people who are over 50 years old are at higher risk of being affected by neuropathy, though younger people can also suffer from it.
  • Sex: Men are more commonly affected by it that women.
  • Race: There is a higher rate of caucasian people diagnosed with neuropathy.
  • Profession: jobs that require repetitive motions are more at risk of developing compression-related neuropathy.

Polyneuropathy: Treatments and Recommendations

Treatment for polyneuropathy highly depends on the cause, which is why it’s so important to figure it out. If it isn’t, and the condition is qualified as idiopathic, treatment options reduce to symptom management, rather than possible improvements or nerve recovery.

Initially, if an underlying condition that caused the nerve damage is found, the treatment can focus on that. For example, managing diabetes with diet and medication can improve nerve function. Infections can be treated and, depending on the extent of the damage and the age of the person, nerves might recover.

Hormonal and nutrition related neuropathy can be cured through treatment, via medication, vitamin supplements, and better nutrition. But most cases are permanent and can only be improved through pain management and therapy.

Since it usually has a significant effect in quality of life, there are several treatment options that improve debilitating symptoms like pain, numbness and lack of coordination. Some of these treatments are:

  • Pain medication to manage the burning sensation that nerve damage can cause.
  • Physical therapy can help recover sensation in numb areas as well as improve stability, regain muscle tone, and reduce clumsiness.
  • Counselling or psychotherapy can help with the development of coping mechanisms for pain and loss of function.
  • Surgery might help those affected by compression related neuropathy.
  • Braces can sometimes alleviate pain and improve stability.
  • Improved eating habits and nutrition can significantly help in recovery process and lessen symptoms.
  • Physical activity helps increase muscle tone and has been shown to reduce pain in the extremities.
  • Eliminating alcohol and cigarettes also helps the body function better.

Can CBD be an effective treatment for polyneuropathy?

CBD has been observed to reduce pain and inflammation, while promoting healing, which shows a potential for it being a valuable aid in the management of polyneuropathy, considering Its safety and lack of side effects, even in the elderly.

It even has the potential benefit of allowing people to reduce the amount of painkillers they take for the condition and, due to its anti anxiety effects, can also help sufferers cope with their condition.

The fact that CBD potentially promotes healing is extremely helpful as well, since peripheral nerve cells continue to grow throughout our lives, which makes it possible for certain nerve damage or death to be recovered if the body has the capacity to regenerate effectively enough.

I hope this information was helpful. I know polyneuropathy can be an extremely tough and frustrating condition to deal with. Being unable to hold a fork during lunch time, or sign papers is extremely stressful, so anything that has a potential to help improve life quality and functionality si a step forward!

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Shoulder Blade Pain: Causes and Treatment

Let’s talk about shoulder blades!

Have you ever given a thought to those pieces of bone on your back, just below your shoulders? Probably only when they’re hurting; and what does it mean when they are? Read on…

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What are Shoulder Blades?

Shoulder blade or scapula, is a triangular shaped bone located in your upper back, behind each of your shoulders, which connects the upper arm bone (humerus) with the collar bone (clavicle).

Pain in this area is not easy to figure out, since it could indicate something serious, like a heart attack, or something temporary and mild, like having slept in an awkward position. So here’s everything you need to know about it…

Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain

Poor posture or an awkward sleeping position

Sleeping in an uncomfortable position or sitting with bad posture for prolonged periods of time can cause pain in the shoulder blade area, but most of this pain is muscular and doesn’t mean there is an injury, so it can be easily treated via physical therapy and practicing better posture.

Direct injury to the scapula bone

Trauma, falls or taking a hard blow can injure the scapula. It can be bruised or even fractured. Scapula fractures can be type I, II, or III, depending on their severity and bone displacement, and might need surgery to be reset when they are severe, though most don’t.

When surgery is not needed, treatment is usually pain medication, temporary immobilization and physical therapy. These fractures are usually common in car accidents, and can be accompanied by chest trauma and other fractures, but they’re not among the most common fractures in the country.

Mild or severe shoulder or rotator cuff injury

The shoulder has an amazingly wide range of motion, which means it needs a lot of soft tissue and bone support in order to work properly. Since it has so many connections, it can easily get injured or swollen with bad movements or by lifting too much weight. These injuries cause shoulder blade pain and can make it more sensitive to touch.

Joint or bone conditions

Conditions that cause pain and affect the bones and joints, could also cause shoulder blade pain. These conditions are: arthritis (more specifically ankylosing spondylitis), osteoporosis, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, fibromyalgia and frozen shoulder. They cause pain in different bones and joints and can affect the scapula, but their treatment depends on the condition, though applying heat or cold packs, and being careful with movement, usually helps.

Pain irradiated from an organ in distress – referred pain

Since the lungs and heart are so close to the scapula, they can cause pain in its general area when they are malfunctioning. However, other organs and conditions can cause shoulder blade pain, such as back problems, a slipped disk, gallbladder disease, liver problems, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, or abdominal surgery.

The body is connected, so different conditions can cause pain in seemingly unrelated areas, which might be confusing. In this case, the original condition needs to be treated before the referred pain can go away. However, pain medication can sometimes help while the treatment is completed, but it’s healthier to stick to natural solutions, like heat packs, or CBD oil.

Heart Issues

Particularly in women, heart issues can cause sharp shoulder blade pain. The conditions that specifically cause this are: heart attack, a tear in the aorta, and inflammation of the lining of the heart, which is why it’s important to pay attention to other alarming symptoms that occur at the same time.

Lung issues

The lung issues that are known to cause shoulder blade pain are lung cancer, blood clots, or a collapsed lung. These conditions may also cause difficulty breathing, fainting, or other complications.

Cancer

Lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer can cause pain in the shoulder blades. Though extremely rare, heart cancer also causes feelings of pain and tightness in the chest and possibly in the back.

Nerve damage or neuropathy

Nerve damage in the area, or Brachial Plexus Neuropathy can also cause pain in the area where the shoulder blades are and the shoulders. A pinched nerve in the shoulder can cause pain as well.

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Positioning of the Pain

Depending on the disease and the organ, pain can present in different sides of the body, or can be accompanied by other symptoms.

Pain behind left shoulder blade – Left shoulder blade pain in women

Heart attack mostly causes pain in the left shoulder blade, and, for some reason, women are more likely to experience this symptom than men are. However, strain or trauma to the left arm, shoulder, or back can also cause this particular pain.

Pain in upper back between shoulder blades

When the pain is located between the shoulder blades, the cause could be a little different. It could be related to acid reflux, which affects the esophagus and could cause referred pain towards the middle of the upper back. However, pain between shoulder blades in women is also a common occurrence in heart attacks, so don’t ignore it, just pay attention to the way it presents.

Scoliosis, vertebral compression fractures , or epidural anesthesia, can also cause interscapular pain. But, when it comes to epidural anesthesia, the pain should go away as the anesthetic wears off.

Pain behind right shoulder blade

Gallbladder disease generally causes pain in the right shoulder blade, since it is located on the right side of the torso. However, strain or trauma to the right arm, shoulder or back can also cause this pain.

What causes knots under shoulder blade?

Knotting can be painful and annoying. Though it is usually not very serious. These muscle spasms are caused by prolonged bad posture or position, by tension in the neck and shoulders, or by muscle strain and overuse.

It can happen mostly on the dominant side for each person, since it’s the one we put more strain on, but can also happen on both sides.  

Treatment

The appropriate treatment for shoulder blade pain depends on its cause.

For overuse, strain, bruising, or bad posture, the recommended treatments involve rest, hot/cold compresses, painkillers (if absolutely necessary), stretching, massages, physical therapy and light movement exercises.

For cancer and other conditions that cause pain to irradiate to the shoulder blades, the necessary treatment is the designated one for that particular condition (like chemotherapy for cancer, or medication for heart issues). 

When it comes to knotting and tension, massages and hot compresses are the best options, since massages can help undo the spasms and heat relaxes the tense muscles.

People have also reported feeling some relief while using CBD supplements. This is probably due to the component’s antispasmodic properties as well as mild pain relieving effects.

When should I see a doctor for shoulder blade pain?

Though muscle strain or mild pain caused by poor posture is not really a reason to go to urgent care or schedule a doctor’s appointment, when it has been bothering you for more than 3 months, then a visit to an orthopedist, physiotherapist or chiropractor might be a good idea.

You should see a doctor immediately when the pain is so intense that you are unable to move, or if it’s accompanied by:

  • Sharp chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Tachicardia
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Any other alarming symptoms that significantly affect your ability to function as usual

Prevention and Tips

  • Be aware of your posture and correct it if necessary
  • Don’t lift items that are too heavy, and be careful when pulling or lifting any weight (like when carrying children or heavy suitcases).
  • If you spend a lot of time sitting behind a desk, get up and stretch, walk around and check your posture often.
  • Cut down on sugar and inflammatory foods, which can cause joint pain and muscle weakness. Some inflammatory foods, though not all of them, are: processed meats, sugar, fried foods, refined wheat (white bread, white pasta) and gluten.

I hope this was informative and helpful! Sometimes shoulder and shoulder blade injuries can feel like they will never heal, but you might be able to manage them and improve mobility and pain by changing your lifestyle, being very careful and conscious with your movements, and, believe me, physical therapy works wonders.

I was injured after carrying a heavy suitcase during a three week trip, and for months there were tight knots under my shoulder blades and I couldn’t lift my left arm or walk for too long without feeling excruciating pain on my left shoulder blade and neck.

After months of pain, I finally saw an orthopedist, who sent me to a physical therapist. After three months of careful therapy and applying hot packs on my back, I was moving my arm again, not being woken up by pain, and a lot less annoyed.

Of course, my soft tissue is still injured and will never heal, which is why I need to be careful about a few things, like about sleeping on my left side for too long, lifting my arm too high without being careful, or lifting things that are too heavy… But it no longer feels like it did before, which was as if I would never use my left arm for much again.

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CBD vs Opioids: The Pain Relief Showdown!

Opioid painkillers have been a part of medical practice for a very long time. They are used for a variety of injuries and conditions that cause pain since they have strong, numbing effects, making them very useful in certain situations.

However, their use has become indiscriminate and unnecessary in a lot of cases, and illicit production and sales have risen significantly, which has caused an epidemic of opioid addiction and several cases of overdose which result in death.

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What are opioid painkillers?

Opioids, or narcotics, are a type of drug that produces euphoria, drowsiness, confusion, slow breathing and pain relief. And, because they have a high potential for abuse, they are controlled substances.

They are made from components found in the opium poppy plant, or developed in labs, like fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid.  

For decades, doctors have prescribed opioids like oxycodone or morphine to patients who suffer from strong chronic or acute pain for different reasons: from injuries, to chronic illnesses.

Though these opioids initially do their job and reduce or eliminate pain, they have terrible effects when they are taken long term, as they mostly are nowadays. They create strong dependence, making it very difficult, or even impossible for the patients to stop taking them. But the most serious issue with these painkillers is that they cause an astounding amount of deaths in the United States, and the rest of the world, due to overdose.

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CBD and Opioids

Lately, CBD has proven to be a potential substitute for painkillers as well as helpful in opioid addiction treatments, since it provides pain relief, lifts the mood and lowers anxiety, which is so prevalent in withdrawal syndrome.

Prescription Opioids vs Illegal Opioids

There really is not much difference between opioids prescribed by a doctor and the illegal ones we often hear about in the news. What sets them apart is that legal ones are prescribed and controlled, while illegal ones are sold in the illegal market and completely uncontrolled, which does make it easier for people to overdose due to the uncertainty of what exactly is in them and how strong it is.

The first opium derivative to become popularized for pain management was morphine, which is used to treat moderate to severe chronic pain. Morphine is an isolated compound found in opium poppy which is 10 times stronger than processed opium poppy on its own, which was used for pain relief in the past. And, though it was initially foreseen to have several medicinal benefits, it soon proved to be extremely addictive and dangerous if taken regularly.

Morphine isn’t the only commonly prescribed opioid. We might also know heroin, for example, as a well known narcotic that is illegally sold. However, it is commonly prescribed by doctors for pain management, under the name of diamorphine. Though the name is different, it is exactly the same chemical, and it has the same effects. So, just like a heroin overdose can cause death, so can a diamorphine overdose in a patient who has been prescribed the medication.  

Some of the most common prescription opioids are:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Vicodin  

These are all controlled substances, and are very commonly used and abused by patients or by those who have a narcotic addiction. They might work well for temporary pain relief when a person has been severely injured or has had surgery, but are not recommended for long term use, since they will inevitably cause dependence and, subsequently, are very likely to be abused; or, in the best of cases, they will cause very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

It is estimated that, in 2017, more than 72.000 people died of opioid overdose in the united states. A shocking number, isn’t it? And Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine, and 50 times more potent than heroin, seems to be responsible for the steady rise in this number. And, just like most opioids, it is marketed both illegally and under medical prescription.

Those at Risk…

In this opioid epidemic, the illegal buyers are not the only ones at risk. Even for patients to whom they have been prescribed, opioid painkillers are dangerous. If a person is feeling pain and, out of desperation, takes more than the prescribed amount, an overdose is highly probable.

The drowsiness caused by them can affect some people more than others. So even if some are perfectly able to go about their day after taking morphine, some might be at risk of fainting, falling over, or tripping. They can be seriously injured or even die for reasons other than overdose.

Because most of these are readily prescribed by doctors, addicts have taken to faking injury and severe pain in order to receive opioids in urgent care or the E.R. And, since it’s not necessarily easy to tell who’s faking and who’s not, many get away with it, which calls us to look into other non opioid pain relief for doctors to use in their practice in order to reduce the likelihood of this happening.  

CBD vs Opioids: What are the Effects?

Though they both provide pain relief, CBD and opioids work in completely different ways.

First of all, opioid painkillers are highly processed or synthetic, which means that they are no longer the poppy plant they once were; they are not at all natural, which causes them to have stronger, more dangerous effects than CBD, which is not nearly as processed and is completely natural.

Some of the differences in effects are:

Opioids

  • Cause drowsiness and confusion
  • Slowed breathing and hypoxia (not enough oxygen reaching the brain)
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria
  • Death (caused by overdose)
  • Tolerance, which causes the person to need higher doses or a stronger opioid

CBD

  • Doesn’t cause drowsiness or confusion; it has even been shown to improve concentration and alertness during the day
  • Doesn’t affect oxygenation, but might reduce blood pressure during stressful events
  • Is often used to reduce nausea
  • Doesn’t cause constipation, but in extremely high doses, it might cause diarrhea in some people
  • Improves mood, but doesn’t produce euphoria
  • Has never been observed to cause death, even in extremely high doses
  • Hasn’t been shown to produce tolerance

It is important to point out that this list of effects is for CBD on its own, it doesn’t take into account the effects that supplements that include THC might have.

Opioids, regardless of them being illegally taken or prescribed, shouldn’t be taken by pregnant women, since they could cause miscarriage, low birth weight, and even cause the baby to develop dependence and withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Sometimes, people who use marijuana consistently (daily) in high doses, begin experiencing something called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which causes vomiting and severe stomach cramping, which are only relieved by hot baths. In these cases, the only solution is to stop consuming marijuana.

This syndrome is believed to be caused only by THC, since it hasn’t been observed to occur in people who use high doses of CBD on a daily basis (like children and adults who suffer from epilepsy), only by frequent high THC marijuana consumption.

Is CBD addictive?

This is an interesting question. CBD on its own has not shown any potential for dependence. However, when it comes to THC, or marijuana, about 9% of people who use it regularly develop something called “marijuana use disorder”, which is not necessarily an addiction, but a form of dependence.

Since THC produces psychoactive effects, it is likely the reason marijuana causes dependence, particularly if the habit of consumption begins before the age of 21, when the brain is more susceptible to alterations. However, this dependence and its withdrawal symptoms are usually very mild and go away fast, compared to those of strong opioids like morphine, oxycodone, and others.

CBD derivatives have not been shown to cause dependence, but since they have mood lifting effects, people might report not feeling as uplifted when not using them. In this sense, CBD can be compared to antidepressants: used on their own, they might keep you afloat, but stopping them would cause you to sink back into depression. However, if they are taken along with a disciplined therapeutic and growth process, there might come a time when you can decide, along with your doctor, to stop taking them without issues.

Facts!

Is cannabis an opioid?

No! Cannabis is not an opioid. Opioids are drugs (legal or illegal) derived from the opium poppy plant, or made in a lab to enhance some of its properties (like fentanyl). Cannabis is a different plant entirely.

Are there CBD withdrawal symptoms?

CBD has not been observed to produce withdrawal symptoms when suspended, but changes in dosage might cause different effects, and some people might miss the benefits and take a little while to adapt to not taking it.

CBD helps with withdrawal symptoms…

When you’re wondering how to get off opioids, it is important to work with a healthcare professional. Effects can be varied and hard to deal with, so you’ll need support, and your doctor might recognize CBD as a valid option to facilitate the process. It all depends on the type of opioid you’ve developed dependence to, the dosage you’re currently taking, and the way your body reacts to it. It’s different for everyone.

However, CBD has shown to be helpful for opioid withdrawal in most cases, since it reduces anxiety, improves mood, enhances sleep, and reduces pain, which are all issues that are encountered during the process.

CBD vs Opioids What’s the best option?

Though many would prefer certain opioids, like morphine, since they lack the social stigma that cannabis comes tied to, the truth is that:

  • CBD is not addictive, while opioids are
  • You cannot die of CBD overdose, but you can easily die of opioid overdose
  • CBD hasn’t been shown to produce withdrawal symptoms, while opioids produce plenty, which disable the person suffering from them
  • CBD can be used long term without causing the patient to develop resistance to its effects, while opioids do, and eventually results in the need for a stronger version

Clearly, CBD is the least harmful option of the two. And, though it might not have the numbing effects that opioids are capable of producing, if CBD turned into a routine, along with other small life changes, like exercise, meditation and healthy eating, the effects are likely going to be even better and less risky than those of opioids, at least when it comes to long term use.

When it comes to short term use, like after an accident, or surgery, opioids do have their benefits and, as long as they are carefully administered can be a good option, but should not become a habit, or they will surely generate life threatening addiction.

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Happy 420! Special 2019 Edition: Latin America




…and stay on top of the latest buzz on medicinal cannabis legalization in Latin America.

April 20 is an international cultural day when the pro-cannabis community traditionally gets together to express its thoughts on the legalization of cannabis in all its forms.

The term 420 has been used since about 1971, both referring to the date (April 20) and the time of day (4:20pm), as code for cannabis. It has been since adopted by the pro cannabis community, and is now used to bring attention to the issues of legalization and medicinal use.

A new dawn…

The end of the decade is bringing with it a new dawn for cannabis as a medicine. It is slowly but steadily transforming into a scientifically recognized medicinal substance and leaving its social stigma behind.

Currently, a lot of countries around the world are debating the possibility of legalizing cannabis for medicinal or recreational use, while some have already moved past the issue.

This new, worldwide debate has opened the doors for a new market full of possibilities since, until recently, cannabis was solely monopolized by the illegal market and violent criminal groups, which caused the quality of the products to be unsupervised and poor. However, legal cannabis would bring with it regulation and standards which would prevent quality issues that can cause negative health consequences (such as mold or chemicals in the plant making consumers sick).

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Cannabis and CBD in Latin America

Latin America has become an important player in the recent journey of worldwide cannabis legalization. Several Latam countries have taken steps, in recent years, to legalize and produce hemp and different cannabis strains for medicinal purposes, and they are expected to soon become extremely competitive in the international market of processed derivatives, like oils, creams, sprays, and all the different presentations currently available.

It is predicted that by 2028, medicinal cannabis will account for two thirds of the regional total value of the cannabis market, because production is about 80% cheaper than in the US, Canada or Europe.

There are currently more than 40 licensed cannabis producers in Latin America. Some countries, however, seem to be more ahead than others. For example, up until December of 2018, Colombia accounted for 44% of the world production quota.

The estimated total market value of cannabis in Latin America is 9.8 billion USD, and legal sales within the region are expected to rise to 12.7 billion by 2028.

Canada is currently the strongest market for cannabis, since it has fully legalized cannabis use for both medicinal and recreational purposes, and Canadian companies have invested more than 100 million dollars in Colombia for growing purposes. This means Colombia is positioning itself to become one of the largest cannabis exporters in the world.

Legalization

In Latin America, legalization has vast differences from country to country, which comes to show how culture varies from one to another, even if they are thought to be very similar.

The Latin American countries where medicinal cannabis is legal are:

Some insight into the most cannabis-relevant Latin American Countries

Uruguay

In 2013, Uruguay became the first, and so far only, Latin American nation to legalize adult cannabis consumption. Only registered Uruguayans are allowed to purchase cannabis, and it can only be sold by authorized pharmacies.

In 2014 it was made legal to grow up to 6 plants at home.

Brazil

Brazil has the highest cannabis consumption in Latin America.

In 2015, CBD was transferred from the list of prohibited substances to the list of controlled substances, and is now fully covered by the health care system. However, authorizations for the import of cannabis oils are individually evaluated for compassionate use, which means it’s only for patients whose condition is resistant to all other treatments available.

Mexico

Mexico has a history of conservative policies regarding cannabis; but in 2015, special access to CBD Oil was granted to a little girl, and in 2018, the country finally made it legal to grow for private personal use, and declared the prohibition unconstitutional, which suggests that legalization of non medical use will come in 2019.

Chile

Chile has the highest consumption rates per capita in Latin America. And, interestingly, out of all Latin American countries, it has the longest history with successful hemp cultivation for fiber, so the have a lot of experience on good growing practices and know the plant well.

Panama

In Panama, cannabis is still illegal, even medicinal. In 2016 a “legalization” bill passed, but regulation is pending. Only personal dose is allowed, and there are exceptional sanitary permits.

This year, the national assembly is due to vote on bill 595, which legalizes medicinal consumption, but prohibits domestic cultivation.

Like Panama, some Countries around the world have this strange phenomenon, where regulation is pending. Colombia had this issue in 1986, when a law was passed, which allowed regulation, but the regulations took a couple of decades to arrive.

Colombia

Colombia has quickly become one of the strongest countries when it comes to cannabis cultivation. And, at the moment, it’s the only one aggressively promoting cannabis exports.

It has several conditions that favor it in this particular industry, like:

  • A variety of climates.
  • 12 hour day/night cycle, which allows for year round outdoor cultivation.
  • Long culture of exportation.
  • Central location, which is good for commerce.
  • Fertile soil.
  • Existing legislation.
  • The government’s commitment.

In 2018, Colombia was granted a growing quota equivalent to 44% of the world production authorized by the International Narcotics Control Board.

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Legalization

Colombia had an interesting journey. Though legalization technically happened in 1986, the country’s issues with drug trafficking and violence prevented further regulation, which caused cannabis to still be treated as illegal. It took several years before any other legal disposition was made concerning cannabis. The timeline is as follows:

February, 1986: Colombia legalized manufacture, export, sales, medical and scientific use of cannabis. However, due to the lack of regulation, production could not be initiated.

1994: Consumption was decriminalized.

2009: The Constitution is modified, criminalizing possession and consumption, except with medical prescription.

2012: Possession is decriminalized (up to 20gr).

June, 2015: Home cultivation of up to 20 plants is decriminalized.

December, 2015: Cannabis is legalized for medical and scientific purposes.

May, 2016: The Ministry of Health defined licensing requirements for production and manufacture of cannabis derivatives.

June, 2016: The first manufacturing license was issued to a large-scale cannabis corporation.

July, 2016: Law 1797 established a regulatory framework for medical and scientific use of cannabis.

April, 2017: Decree 613 amended law 1787, ensuring government support for small growers, distinguishing between psychoactive and non-psychoactive cannabis, and creating regulations for seeds.

At the moment, Colombia is the only latinamerican country that distinguishes between psychoactive and non psychoactive medical cannabis. Psychoactive cannabis is only permitted in its processed form (oils, pills, and different topical presentations), but not as flowers or dried plants. Cannabis-based medication (like Sativex) is only available with a medical prescription, and can only be distributed in government authorized pharmacies.

Since November 2018, several cannabis licenses have been granted:

  • 19 for use of seeds
  • 62 for psychoactive cannabis cultivation
  • 89 for hemp cultivation
  • 73 entities were granted licenses for psychoactive cannabis derivative manufacturing (68 for export, 64 for domestic use and 28 for scientific research)

Colombia aims to grow as a cannabis derivative exporter, starting with the regional market before expanding to other countries, like Canada.

Foreign operators are welcome in the Colombian cannabis industry, and residency requirements have not been established, though the company must at least have a local branch or independent company within the territory, and is expected to comply with the local tax regulation.

At the moment, several major Canadian cannabis companies are already involved in Colombia. And the government has now granted benefits to small and medium growers, which benefit the country’s growing economy.

According to BBC Mundo, “Colombia has the best conditions in Latin America for investing in the [medical] marijuana industry.” And Canadian analyst, Michael McCune, a member of the Canadian lobbying group called iTrust Cannabis, said, “We see Colombia as a global leader in the cannabis industry, with enormous production and export capacity.”

This is an important view, since Colombia and Canada are currently the two main leaders of the cannabis market.

Colombia’s economy is slowly being reborn from the ashes of the conflict that has plagued it for decades. And it’s interesting to see how cannabis is one of the industries that has begun to take shape after the illegal drug-fueled conflict. Not to mention that the economic development brought by it is reaching some of the most conflict-affected areas of the country, like Valle del Cauca and Magdalena.

It’s perfect timing, since the government is questioning itself on how it can generate rural development without relying on hydrocarbons, which are now an unstable market. And by 2025, Colombia’s cannabis exports are predicted to exceed those of coal, while Procolombia also believes that the country is capable of quickly capturing one fifth of the cannabis market in the next few years.

The Change….

The punitive approach to cannabis in Latin America and the rest of the world is changing steadily due to the increasing number of patients who have been successfully treated with it; and that change will only be accelerated by the fact that the World Health Organization has recommended its rescheduling as a controlled substance. This encourages a debate between the medical and scientific world and those who still feel that it is necessary to maintain the punitive approach towards cannabis.

Each Latin American country has its own regulations, which vary depending on their individual culture and history. These regulations have different implications for companies that wish to enter the country’s economy or expand in it.

The two most commonly used business models for this industry in Latin America are:

  • Vertically integrated operations (a license-holder is allowed to produce, process, sell, and export their product).
  • Corporate model for agriculture (small and medium-sized producers sell their harvest to a company that processes, packages, and distributes the product).

This is something the region needs. An estimated 4.5 million Colombians and 60 million Latin Americans suffer from cancer, MS, or epilepsy. The region is in need of better, less harmful treatments that can help people have a better quality of life.

What will legalization bring to the table?

Legalization is a game changer. It brings with it regulations that keep products in check and set a standard for quality and good practices. It stops being a business lead by criminal organizations that take advantage of the low standards and becomes a market pushed forward by doctors, scientists and serious entrepreneurs who know how to provide good service and quality products.

It also opens the doors wider for medical and scientific studies, trials and research that will allow us to look into new treatments and even cures for devastating illnesses.  

Vicente Fox, board member of Khiron Life Sciences Corp. and former president of Mexico, believes that moving from prohibition to legalization is a good thing. It takes money and power away from violent, illegal organizations and gives it to entrepreneurs, farmers, the legal side of economy; it generates jobs, medical and scientific research, and accelerates development.

Though public opinion is quickly shifting and people are now less fearful than they have ever been about cannabis, this particular industry needs to be more careful than others. Every company needs to be on its best behaviour because one mistake can ruin everything. The cannabis industry hasn’t yet established credibility, so it is up to the new companies to do so.

If everything goes well, people will understand that there’s a big difference between an industry run by criminals and an industry run by doctors, experts, and farmers.

There seems to be a misconception about cannabis being an extremely harmful drug, but this is nothing more than a misconception, which will, in time, hopefully change.

“I have never heard of anyone dying from cannabis; on the other hand, billions have perished from alcohol, sugar excess, and cigarettes.” Vicente Fox

For it to work…

For this industry to succeed, different factors need to come into play.

  • The collaboration between different countries will surely bring the best of two worlds together, and result in a product that has outstanding quality and good manufacturing practices.
  • Operational costs must be maintained low for Latam countries to become competitive and maintain that competitiveness when others begin exporting.
  • Brands need to stand out globally and have exceptional quality and good practices.
  • It is important for companies to understand and adapt to the individual regulations in the countries they have chosen to work in, in order to avoid unnecessary legal issues.
  • t’s important to maintain supply, since demand can jump unexpectedly.
  • It is also necessary to stimulate home grown market and inform people on good home growing practices in order to avoid widespread health issues.
  • Cannaturism is also a broad opportunity for Latin Amercan countries while legalization moves forward.

2020s?

There’s a lot of hope for the 2020s! It’s the beginning of a new era for medicine, science, and society. A new era for less prohibition and more regulation in order to ensure quality and good practices in the marketing of cannabis products.

If regulations continue to advance, the next decade will possibly bring with it better medical treatments for painful, debilitating illnesses and a significant improvement in mood disorders, anxiety and depression.

Having a legal cannabis market will also serve as a strong blow to violent organizations that take advantage of circumstances and are not interested in the community’s well-being. They have caused a lot of harm to individuals and entire counties. So taking away some of their power, is bound to be a positive change…

Happy 420!

And here’s to a new era.   

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A Walk through the History of Chronic Pain Management

Pain and pain management have always been a part of humanity. Pain is a primal constituent of the experience of being alive. And the feeling of pain as a result of disease has been crucial to shape how we understand the universe both in and outside our bodies.

Figuring out the causes of pain, the source of the sensation and the remedies to alleviate its burden on the body and the soul has been a constant journey — one going from divine punishment and religious beliefs to the depths of human anatomy and scientific proof.

Let’s take a look at how we have dealt with chronic pain throughout history. The quest will take us to review important pain theories, dig up ancient pharmacopeia, Highlight exciting scientific discoveries, and see where we are today.

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Chronic Pain Management in Ancient Times

Across ancient civilizations and primitive cultures, chronic pain meant evil spirits, malevolent demons and enraged gods taking over and punishing the body. Alleviating pain was a superhuman endeavor. Shamans, healers, priests, sorcerers, and medicine men were in charge of it. And it took place during ritual practices involving sacrifices, chants, prayers, plants, and magic.

Rattles, gongs, and other noise-making devices frightened evil spirits out of the body.Native-Americans tried to suck pain out of a pipe against a person’s skin. And in the Andes, the Incas cut holes in the head to alleviate pain. The process, which used coca leaf as an analgesic, was known as trepanation.

Sure, you had other options too: rubbing the affected area, applying cold water, draining fluids and, mostly, herbal potions were the norm. Many cultures have known for millennia about natural analgesic remedies derived from plants. And among them, the four most important ones were:

Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum)

The root of mandrake was “probably the most widely used analgesic of antiquity. The Babylonians used it more than 4000 years ago for pain relief”. And its fruits rested on Tutankhamen’s tomb in Ancient Egypt. In addition to its analgesic properties, its soporific effect to induces sleep. But its excessive intake could be fatal.

Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)

The Sumerians in Mesopotamia cultivated the poppy plant around 3400 BC. The Sumerian clay tablet one of the oldest lists of medical prescriptions, mentions opium among 250 various plants. It use was medicinal. But known as Hul Gil, meaning the joy plant, its use as recreational narcotic is also documented.

Opium was also well known in ancient Egypt. The Eber papyrus, “which contained medical prescriptions and charms” referring up to 700 plant species and drugs for therapy, also recommended preparations including opium. Even the goddess Isis prescribed it for King Ra to ease his severe headaches.

Hemp (Cannabis sativa)

Even though Egyptians and Assyrians knew about the benefits of hemp, the epicenter for its use as a medicine has to be sought for in China. The Pen-Tsao-ching, considered one of the earliest pharmacopeia of herbal medicine, mentions cannabis as being “useful in the treatment of over 100 ailments, including rheumatic pain, gout, and malaria”.

In India, the plant was considered one of the five sacred plants of Hinduism. It was a daily companion in devotional services. And its extensive religious use opened the door to explore its medicinal applications. Among them, cannabis was used “as an analgesic, anticonvulsant, anesthetic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.” All qualities were valuable to treat diseases like epilepsy, rabies, and anxiety.

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)

It was one of the most important plants in the early history of anesthesia. Henbane was also referenced in Babylonian clay tablets as a remedy for dental pain. Its high toxicity and potent hallucinogenic effects made it a dangerous medication. But despite its deathly consequences, it was frequently used as a sedative and anesthetic.

Hippocrates and a new approach for pain management

In Ancient Greece, physicians, philosophers, and writers alike were concerned about the matter of pain and its mechanisms. But the works of Hippocrates, the most prominent figure amongst Greek physicians, and considered the father of medicine, were perhaps the most significant turning point in our approach and understanding of pain in ancient times.

Beliefs of pain and disease being caused by divine punishment and offended deities still prove popular. But Hippocrates took the first steps towards moving away from superstition and supernatural phenomena. His approach? He focused his work on observation and the search for physical causes of pain.

As part of it, he developed the theory of the four humors–– blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile––.

And he described their effects on the human body and its emotions. For him, pain was produced by the excess or deficiency in one of those fluids. And his mission, along with the rest of Hippocratic physicians, was to rebalance that equilibrium and return it back to health.

To do it, he proposed a holistic approach. In it, he combined the use of animal, plant, and mineral based medicines with baths, diets, and exercise. Four centuries later, around the year 65 BC, Dioscorides, a Greek physician and pharmacologist, wrote De Materia Medica. The work, a go-to manual for 1500 years, listed 600 natural substances. And among them, said to alleviate different pains, were poppy, mandrake, and henbane.

Renaissance and the anatomy of pain

The Middles Ages were stagnant when it comes to chronic pain treatment. For the most part, theories by Hippocrates and Galen remained valid, and herb remedies thrived on monastery gardens. Physicians-monks, experts on the preparation of drugs, grew a myriad of plants. And they used them for healing purposes following Greek and Arab medical guidelines.

Research was limited due to the ban on the dissection of human bodies, and supernatural ideas were once again prevalent. Illness and pain were attributed to sins, demons, witchcraft, and astrology. But the variety of natural remedies instead of ritual practices was remarkable.

Now, on the other hand, the Renaissance was a fertile time for chronic pain management development. Exploration inside the human body sparked significant advancements in anatomy and physiology. And the scientific method gave way to a more accurate understanding of the causes of pain.

Laudanum, an opium-based tincture, was famous across Europe as an effective painkiller. Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, and alchemist credited to introduce the drug called it “the immortality stone.” And he carried it with him all the time.

Chronic Pain Management in Modern Times

The four centuries from 1600 to 1900 marked the emergence of a predominant opium approach to alleviate chronic pain. In the 17th century, “many Europeans doctors gave their patients opium to relieve pain.” But it was in the 19th century when the most significant turning point came with the discovery of morphine.

Obtained by the German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner, morphine popularity grew fast. But so did the concerns and fears about abuse and addiction when prescribed by doctors.

From then on, medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies have developed opioid analgesic alternatives. These efforts gave way to a broad spectrum of known opioid substances. Hydrocodone, tramadol, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, and methadone supported pain treatment, combined with anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin.

Today, in the wake of the opioid crisis, there is a growing trend towards non-opioid analgesic strategies. Non-opioid pharmacotherapy includes anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants. But is the multidisciplinary approach for treating pain that it’s making big waves.

This approach is based on lifestyle changes and low-tech alternatives. They look more like what a doctor would suggest in classical times. And maybe not what you would expect in these days led by the pharmaceutical industry. Actually, the key areas go back in time and seem to circle around to the basics of chronic pain treatment:

Physical therapy. The techniques used are timeless. Think about stretching exercises, hot or cold applications, and massage. And add transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). It sounds sophisticated. But the truth is that the principle existed in Ancient Egypt, where they gave electric shocks to the sufferers using eels and torpedo fish.

Complementary and alternative medicine. The rebirth of these techniques has been increasingly attracting patients. On the one hand, you have promising advancements on the new plant-based natural remedies such as hemp CBD oil. And on the other you have millennial practices making a big comeback.

Look Back and Look Forward when finding the right treatment

We are talking about acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. Used in traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture it’s been a part of pain treatment for over 2000 years. And it has been proven helpful in the treatment of conditions like osteoarthritis, chronic pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic lower back pain.

Finally, the important thing to know today is that you have options. But don’t rely on the idea that the latest scientific and technological advancement is the way to go. Sometimes you want to look back in time. Who knows. Maybe history is where you can find the remedy you have been looking for all your life.

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Painkillers vs CBD. Is CBD oil for pain relief the best alternative?

Pain is something most people deal with from time to time. But if chronic pain keeps you from living a healthy, happy life, you’ll want to get relief.

While it’s easy to swallow a pill to get pain relief, it may not be the best option for long-term use. Read on to learn how pain killer drugs work and why many people are turning to CBD oil for pain.

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Types of Painkiller Drugs

Painkillers, also called analgesics, are classified into several different categories. There are two main types of painkiller drugs you can buy without a doctor’s prescription. These include acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are examples of NSAIDs.

Opioids are much stronger pain relievers that your doctor must prescribe for you. You’ll pick up the medicine at a pharmacy and will need to have it refilled by the pharmacist when you run out. Common opioid medications include hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone and methadone. Brand names include Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, Dilaudid, and others.

How do Painkiller Drugs Work?

Pain relievers work with your body’s nervous system to stop your brain from generating the feeling of pain. You have millions of nerve endings in your skin and tissues. Nerves allow your body to communicate with your brain. When you are injured, these nerves tells your brain where the pain is located in your body and what it feels like.

Painkiller drugs keep the nerves from telling your brain about the pain. Opioids and non-prescription drugs work similarly, but opioids also trigger the pleasure centers of your brain. That’s why these drugs are only used to treat severe pain.

Long-Term Side Effects

While painkiller drugs are an effective way to stop pain, they do come with side effects. For example, NSAIDs can be extremely hard on your stomach and kidneys. Some also cause heart damage. Prolonged use of these drugs can lead to ulcers, bleeding in your gut, or kidney failure.  Tylenol can cause liver damage, especially when taken in high doses or mixed with alcohol.

Opioids are also quite dangerous to take for chronic pain relief. At low doses, opioids can make you feel sleepy or dizzy. At higher doses, they can slow your heart rate and breathing rate, leading to death. Since these drugs not only kill pain but also boost feelings of pleasure, many people become addicted to them. When people are addicted, they take the drug in higher doses, often leading to overdose and death. In 2017, 72,000 people in the United States died from drug overdose.

CBD Oil for Pain Relief

To avoid the dangerous side effects that come with traditional painkillers, many people are using CBD oil for pain management. Extracted from marijuana or hemp plants, the oil contains only trace amounts of THC, the component that makes people feel “high.” Additionally, non-toxic CBD oil does not affect the same brain receptors as THC.

Your body regulates a variety of bodily functions including:

  • Appetite
  • Sleep
  • Pain and Immune system response

Taking CBD oil helps your body regulate these functions naturally.  Pure CBD oil helps reduce pain, inflammation and anxiety, while improving sleep and appetite.

In fact, multiple studies have confirmed the effects of cannabis-based medicine for pain relief. A NCBI study at the Royal Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in the United Kingdom found “a significant analgesic effect was observed and disease activity was significantly suppressed following…treatment.” The study used a cannabis-based medication to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study of patients with migraine headaches points to the active ingredients in CBD oil as a way to treat these debilitating headaches.

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CBD Oil Side Effects

Along with treating pain naturally, CBD oil doesn’t come with any of the side effects of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers. Unlike NSAIDS and acetaminophen, CBD oil will not damage your other systems. And, unlike opioids, there’s no chance of becoming addicted. So if you’re looking for a safe, effective way to relieve pain, CBD is a good option.

You don’t need a prescription to buy pure CBD oil, and it’s easy to buy hemp-based CBD online, regardless of where you live. Visit our website to learn more about the benefits of pure organic hemp oil and browse our catalog of products to find the best CBD oil for pain.

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