When you walk into a cannabis store, the shelves are lined with a rainbow of marijuana strains — indica, sativa, hybrids, red bud, purple bud, orange bud, white bud and many others, along with oils, extracts, edibles and topicals.
All of those products come with labels touting their THC and CBD levels.
In very simple terms, THC is the part that gets you high, while CBD is the part that provides most of the therapeutic benefits.
Cannabidiol, the scientific name for CBD, is one of hundreds of active cannabinoids in pot, and is said to “significantly reduce” symptoms of a range of painful, inflammatory or chronic ailments — epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, seizures, fibromyalgia, chemotherapy among them. The list also includes psychological-emotional challenges, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, smoking and drug addiction.
The Food and Drug Administration and the medical profession remain leery of embracing or legitimizing medical marijuana, which is still illegal in 21 states and listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government. That has limited — in some cases outlawed — testing on its effectiveness for various conditions.
In November, the FDA sent warning letters to four makers of CBD products in Colorado, Nevada and Florida. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement, "We don't let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer, and we're not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products."
With that hammer hanging overhead, people who work in cannabis stores are hesitant to recommend medicinal strains of marijuana for specific illnesses. Local dispensary advisers can tell you it’s used to “support” treatment of various ailments, but they can’t say it cures or heals anything.
“Every situation and person is different. We’re not doctors,” says Jill Lefebvre, manager of Breeze Botanicals in Ashland. “We have extensive knowledge to back it up, but science is still trying to catch up on the folklore (about cannabis). We’re at the tip of the iceberg now.”
Some naturopaths, homeopaths and alternative practitioners (and a doctor or two) in the valley are recommending it — and, of course, they don’t need to give you a prescription or send you to the drug store.
As with high-THC cannabis varieties sold for the buzz they provide, you’ll find an array of delivery methods for CBD varieties, including smoking, vaping, transdermal (skin) patches, sublingual (under the tongue) tinctures, dabbing (delivered with a “dab rig,” similar to a bong) and even suppositories. You can also mix CBD extracts with juice.
Stacy Gilbert, general manager of Breeze Botanicals in Gold Hill and Ashland, notes there is no clear line separating THC and CBD strains — with one for the mind and one for the body.
“There are over 120 cannabinoids in cannabis. Five are at the top of our radar,” she notes. “I call every strain a medical marijuana strain. … All of it has pain-relieving properties.”
The small print on packaging labels detail the percentages of THC and CBD. That's critical for those seeking the healing benefits of CBDs but not the high, though in some cases the two biochemicals need each other for maximum benefit. Many strains developed for their CBD content also will have 2 or 3 percent THC, an amount that won't produce much of a high.
“THC works on the nervous system receptors (for cannabis). It helps carry it and complement CBDs. It’s a natural muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory,” Gilbert says.
Megan McFarland, head budtender at Talent Health Club, says she needs both CBDs and THC to handle her chronic pain.
“The more cannabinoids I get, the better to target any illness,” she says. “It’s good to get both working together. You work with different ratios. If it’s 100 percent CBD, the results are not as great. There’s no guarantee, because everyone is different. You finagle the mix.”
CBDs, she says, are “relaxing and calming, with anti-anxiety properties.”
Andrew Robison, manager of Talent Health Club, says he uses CBDs to deal with back and knee pain, as well as anxiety and depression.
“I’m more able to focus on the tasks that need to get done to make my day full and complete,” he says.
“It has a lot of potential health benefits for anxiety, Type 1 diabetes, inflammation, cancer, epilepsy, insomnia and to quit smoking,” says Chris Bourne, who is growing acres of high-CBD hemp at MediSun Farms in Talent.
“You want full-spectrum oil. If you’re not educated, it may be harder to know the difference. You’re most likely to have positive results and get synergistic value from the plant with all the cannabinoids working together for optimal medicinal value.”
As with everyone in the trade, Bourne emphasizes that people need to experiment to find the right medicine.
“It’s a massive project to research, but I believe in individualized medicine," Bourne says. "The research has been suppressed because the federal government and many states believe there is no medical value. So the people have taken it into their own hands, and with more legalization and documentation, we’re establishing what works.”
Suffering from surgery on a shoulder injury and inguinal hernia, Bourne said he was told to expect six months' recovery. But, he says, he did it in half that time with high-CBD cannabis in vape form and sublingual use of tinctures.
Bourne recommends the Project CBD site at www.projectCBD.org for more information.
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.