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The CBD Bible
Cannabis and the Wellness Revolution that Will Change Your Life
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This book does not advocate or recommend the unlawful use of cannabis for any reason. It is intended for only informational and educational purposes and contains the opinions of the author based on her personal research. This book is not a substitute for taking specific advice from a healthcare professional for any condition or disease. Any course of treatment for medical, lifestyle or wellbeing purposes should only be done under the direct guidance of a registered physician or regulated healthcare professional where legal.
Effective and safe dosing levels can vary greatly between individuals and should be closely monitored by the individual in conjunction with their physician or healthcare provider. This book is not a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition or disease or to be used in place of physician’s advice in any manner.
In the US, the legality of selling and purchasing CBD products varies by state. As of March 2020 the FDA has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug product to treat two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. For current information on the FDA’s regulation of CBD, please refer to https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.
CBD and cannabis products are illegal, prohibited or restricted in many countries, and users should acquaint themselves with the relevant and current local laws and regulations before carrying, administering or using these products. The author and publishers are not liable for any damage or losses arising from the contents of this book or from the use of any CBD or cannabis products.
HOW WE GOT HERE
Cannabis sativa is a plant with multiple medicinal and wellness uses. It contains hundreds of plant chemicals, including over a hundred cannabinoids that work with our bodies to help fight inflammation, protect the brain against stress, lower anxiety, impact sleep and our immune system function and may help keep us balanced, calm and happy in our hectic modern lives. I will fully introduce you to the plant and its history in Chapter Three: Meet the Plant.
CBD is one single chemical from the plant. It has many of these superpowers even on its own, and because it doesn’t contain THC, it won’t make you feel funny, high or intoxicated. Indeed, it is so safe that even if you swallowed an entire bottle of a hemp-based CBD oil from a health store, it probably wouldn’t cause you any harm. There is a lot of fear and misinformation around the use of CBD–I have even seen someone claim to get high from a CBD facial, which would be impossible! CBD doesn’t cause intoxication or make you feel high and is considered safe, especially at the average wellness doses used. According to the report on CBD by the World Health Organization (WHO), the potential toxicity of CBD was extenstively researched and determined to have ‘relatively low’ toxicity. To my knowledge, no one has ever ‘overdosed’ on CBD, so it is arguably safer than many or even most over-the-counter medications for pain, cough and cold symptoms and safer than many other herbal products available at most grocery and health shops (however, always consult a doctor before starting any new supplement and see Chapter Six for those who should probably avoid CBD).
CBD can be an amazing preventative medicine tool. Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory and stress-reducing properties, it may even help prevent health issues that arise due to unchecked chronic inflammation and stress, the perfect botanical helper for modern life.
Now cannabis is reclaiming its historic position as a part of our culture, and radically transforming everything from healthcare to the food industry and beauty products. It may even change the way we socialise, as many people are looking for alternatives to alcohol when it comes to social and stress-relief tools. Unlike alcohol, which is neurotoxic, CBD is neuroprotective (i.e. brain protective) and won’t give you a nasty hangover!
What about the evidence for cannabis and CBD?
Like all herbal medicines, cannabis is tricky to study in the same way as a drug, due to the fact that it contains hundreds of plant chemicals. This is unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which are usually single chemicals with a specific target in the brain or body and dosing that follows a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model.
Doctors, researchers and basically everyone who reads the news have grown used to thinking that the only evidence and research that counts for a medical product is that proven using a randomised placebo-controlled trial (RCT). This model of research was originally designed for multi-billion-dollar companies to develop single-ingredient man-made drugs they could then patent, reclaiming their development costs and controlling all the conditions in a strict lab-like setting. Over the last 30 years, the drug development funnel/RCT together became considered by definition ‘evidence-based medicine’, while everything else was pooh-poohed, disregarded or dismissed as lacking evidence. This agenda resulted in all plant medicines, as well as many other low-risk traditional therapies, being ignored, despite thousands of years of traditional use, doing a disservice to both patients and the pursuit of good science.
Cannabis and other botanical medicines are not as simple to analyse using the same research methods as single-chemical drugs because they contain hundreds of active compounds and come in dozens of forms. Unlike most other single-plant or man-made compounds, CBD on its own works on so many different systems and mechanisms, which accounts for why it seems to work for diverse issues, ranging from skin complaints to epilepsy.
Professor David Nutt, one of the world’s foremost experts in drug effects on the brain, and a leading visionary in drug policy and neuropsychiatry, says that: ‘Cannabis is arguably the world’s oldest medicine, which was banned internationally for over 50 years for political reasons. I welcome its return to medical use and believe it will be the biggest innovation in new treatments in the next quarter of a century. But for patients in the UK to benefit maximally requires a change in mindset from the medical profession, who should see medical cannabis as an opportunity not a threat.’
Thankfully there is a great deal of evidence for CBD and cannabis as both wellness tools and serious medicine. This body of evidence is growing exponentially, despite the fact that it has been illegal to study the plant at all for most of the past 100 years. Considering this decades-long hiatus and the fact that plant medicines are tricky to study, we are actually moving at near warp speed when it comes to increasing the evidence for the uses of the cannabis plant.
In herbal medicine, there are some plants I like to think of as ‘power plants’. These are plants with very potent properties that can be used either for good or for bad–to heal or to harm. They are all very active, and can have strong effects even at small doses.
The main power plants that are widely used as either medicines or drugs are:
Poppy–both morphine and heroin come from it.
Coca–most famous as cocaine, but the people of the Andes chew unprocessed coca leaves to ease altitude sickness and help them climb up the mountainsides carrying 50 lb packs. In South America, coca leaf is also sold as a wellness tea widely used to help with focus, similar to the way we might drink a cup of coffee.
Coffee–the morning caffeine hit that can be great in small doses for some of us, but damaging to sleep and stress in others.
Tobacco–nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man, but the plant is also a powerful natural insecticide and used ceremonially in Native American traditions.
Cannabis–one of the oldest herbal remedies, used medicinally and for spiritual purposes in many cultures over thousands of years. In modern times, the plant has been bred on the black market to create super-high-THC types for the sole purpose of getting stoned. It can also be bred for more medicinal strains higher in CBD (and low in THC) that don’t tend to have this effect.
Other than poppy, which is a nervous system sedative, all the other power plants listed here, except cannabis, contain powerful stimulants. Cannabis, on the other hand, can be used to help our brain, nervous system and body return to a state of balance, harmony and equilibrium. Depending on the form and strain chosen, it can be either energising or calming. It has so many variations, and that’s one of the things that makes it both unique and useful for many wide-ranging health uses.
Cannabis is a bridge between drugs and botanical medicine
Cannabis is being used by Western medical doctors and prescribed similarly to a mainstream drug in countries like Canada, the US and the UK alongside pharmaceutical pills. At the same time, it is still a botanical or herbal medicine–a plant medicine–with hundreds of different active chemicals all working together in harmony, unlike any synthetic drug on the planet.
The incredible thing about the cannabis plant is that it is both a botanical medicine and a drug. It can radically decrease seizures in children with drug-resistant epilepsy, with fewer side effects, and it can also change our reaction to stress and trauma.
It is also unique in that it is one of the only botanical medicines that can be used topically as acne cream and for muscle pains, taken internally by mouth, used vaginally and rectally as suppositories, inhaled via vaporising for almost immediate effect, taken ‘transdermally’ through the skin via a patch to affect the whole body and safely combined with many other herbs and drugs.
Cannabis also acts as a bridge between Western medicine and natural herbal medicine, bringing together people across the spectrum, from the most cynical medical doctor to the traditional medicine woman. Naturopaths and herbalists, activists, research scientists, shamans and people from all backgrounds and beliefs can talk to each other about the cannabis plant in some shape or form.
It gets sceptical people who don’t believe in alternative medicines talking to people who haven’t set foot in a medical establishment for years, because no matter what your beliefs, cannabis and CBD may have something to offer you. I’ve trained and practised for many years as both a Western medical doctor and an integrative medicine and herbal medicine specialist, and I can tell you with complete confidence, after treating thousands and thousands of patients, that this plant is special.
No other drug, herb or single ingredient I can put into a pill has the ability to bridge worlds like the cannabis plant. Many people are calling the resurgence of cannabis as a medicine and wellness tool ‘the Green Revolution’ and it may not be an exaggeration.
How I went from ‘canna-sceptic to ‘canna-convinced’
Like most people, my first exposure to cannabis was being offered high-THC joints at house parties. Many of my friends smoked weed alongside cigarettes and drinking alcohol as part of teenage experimentation. I still to this day have never smoked a cigarette and only tried cannabis for the first time when I was in my twenties–basically to see what all the hype was about. It never played a role of any sort in my life as I went through medical school, recreationally or otherwise, maybe partly because it had been drummed into me that cannabis was bad for your brain, could make you stupid or mess with academic performance.
So even though I was trained in integrative medicine (including botanical medicine!) and used other botanical medicines and natural supplements, as well as teaching my patients breathing exercises and meditation, I had quite a few hesitations about prescribing cannabis. In medical school, we were taught nothing about cannabis as a medicine, only that it was a ‘dangerous’ drug, despite it being available for certain medical patients legally since 2001 in Canada (a fact that no one mentioned anywhere in my training). It was as if medical cannabis was my profession’s best-kept secret.
There were also the regular cautionary updates from our governing bodies about the dangers of prescribing medical cannabis and, especially in the early days, doctors were encouraged to refrain from talking about it to patients, avoid condoning it, and definitely not prescribe it. None of these warnings would ever discuss the differences between CBD and THC, or mention the research being done, unless it was a negative or poorly done study or one involving synthetic man-made cannabis products completely unlike what I would actually prescribe to someone.
Needless to say, after a lifetime of cannabis negative conditioning, I had my own prejudices against this plant to work out. Even though I was a trained natural medicine specialist doctor, I still had deeply held (subconscious, even) beliefs about CBD and medical cannabis, such as:
Medical cannabis was just an excuse for stoners to get high legally.
There was no ‘evidence’ for it working (this was what our regulatory bodies kept telling us, despite evidence to the contrary).
It was highly addictive.
It would increase people’s risk of developing serious mental health problems.
It can cause irreversible damage to the brain in adults.
It was a gateway drug to addiction, ruined lives and hard drugs that destroyed a person from the inside out.
It made people lazy.
I had seen dispensary walk-in clinics giving out cannabis and saw the issues with this model too. I knew personally some of the doctors who worked there prescribing cannabis (which was technically more like a doctor’s note authorising them to use it for medical reasons vs a traditional prescription), and I felt it was done willy-nilly after a 5-minute chat, without any real understanding of the plant–dosages and different strains–or any guidance to the patient on how to use it. There was the perception that this was just an easy way for doctors to make money, writing quick prescriptions and practising bad medicine. I wanted to avoid this so, when I did start prescribing, I treated cannabis as any other integrative medicine intervention: in the context of the bigger picture and alongside other treatments. I also tweaked things like CBD and THC content, strain, dosage and method of use to suit the patient and what they wanted it for.
So what made me say yes to prescribing cannabis in the end? The first thing was my patients. I had seen first-hand patients in rural Canada growing cannabis and using it for years in place of opioids, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications. When they got it right, it did seem to work well. Most of them didn’t smoke it, but used it in other forms like oils and vaporising. The downside of this home-grown, or ‘I got it from a guy’, method was the unpredictability of the result, due to not knowing what exactly they were getting in terms of CBD and THC and other plant chemical content.
I knew that by applying herbal medicine principles and a scientific method, I would be able to help make cannabis more effective and reduce the potential for any side effects or intoxication, which most people wanted to avoid. In essence, they wanted a guide they could trust, someone who understood both modern science and medicine and herbal medicine. I felt it part of my duty to help, especially since my area of interest was natural and botanical medicines. Most of the doctors prescribing cannabis, although they were doing their patients a great service in many cases, had no training in botanical medicine or deep knowledge of the plant. I was lucky enough to have been successfully incorporating these things into my mainstream medical practice for years.
The second thing that tipped me over was that I became a chronic pain patient myself after a traumatic injury and–you guessed it–cannabis helped me to heal (more on that in Chapter Twelve: Managing Pain).
So over the next few years, I devoted myself to what I started calling ‘integrative cannabis medicine’, and treated thousands of patients this way.
To my complete amazement, this single plant and the medicines made from it started to change my patients’ lives in ways I could never have predicted. I was hearing from them on an almost daily basis that this medicine had saved their marriages, allowed them to connect with their partners, children and grandchildren or simply made them feel human again. I can honestly tell you no one had ever said that about any of the pharmaceutical drugs I had been prescribing, nor about any other single herbal remedy I had used. Something big was happening and I knew it was going to change medicine as we know it.
I’m excited to share with you in The CBD Bible everything I know about CBD and cannabis medicine. The plant is not a cure-all or an instant remedy for complex chronic illnesses, but it is certainly a very powerful tool to help people on many different kinds of healing journeys, and it works best alongside a holistic approach, which we will explore further in the pages that follow.
THE HISTORY OF CANNABIS USE
Cannabis sativa is one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history–we have evidence of likely use by humans as early as 12,000 years ago! It has been used for thousands of years for medical, spiritual and social purposes, and the fibre from the plant has been used to make clothing and rope. The seeds were eaten as a highly nutritious food long before hemp hearts could be found in the aisles at wholefood shops. It’s one of the most widely utilised cultivated medicinal plants in human history across the globe. Today it’s estimated that cannabis is currently consumed at least once per year, in some form, by 200–300 million people worldwide.1 1
True plant nerds may wonder where cannabis came from. The answer from the archaeological records seems to be the Tibetan plateau in central Asia. Its closest plant relative is hops, used to make beer, and the two share some of the same plant chemicals, but it’s likely that cannabis as a distinct species is at least 38 million years old. Humans evolved in places where the cannabis plant grew too, and as we will see in Chapter Four, the plant’s chemical defence system is almost the perfect match for one of our own defence systems, which is why it can work in our bodies in so many ways–essentially, we evolved together.
Contrary to popular belief that until recently there was no evidence from documented medical science on cannabis, research has in fact been ongoing and documented for the past 200 years! Between 1880 and 1950, more than 30 scientific papers about the medical uses of cannabis were published, ranging from the treatment of menstrual pain and stomach ulcers to its use in severe chronic pain, insomnia and depression. This progress in publication was halted abruptly in the Prohibition era of cannabis from the mid-twentieth century until very recently, but thankfully the science and the number of research papers is catching up quite quickly.
If you want to impress your friends with your cannabis IQ, check out the highlights of the history of the cannabis plant that follow. One of the interesting things about this plant is not just how it’s been used medicinally, but also how its reputation has been manipulated for political agendas, especially over the past century. In the twentieth century, thanks to the politically and financially motivated campaign against hemp and cannabis, it went from being a perfectly respectable yet potent botanical medicine to a dangerous gateway drug, in a racist and scientifically incorrect orchestrated takedown.
That may sound like a very strong statement, but it is verifiable. When I first dug into the history of cannabis and discovered its political past, my first reaction was disbelief–how could basically everything I thought I knew about cannabis and CBD be wrong? I grew up in South Carolina in the United States, and still remember the Just Say No campaign at school and the War on Drugs, both of which instilled a deep-seated fear of cannabis in me from a young age. This negative stereotype was not dispelled in medical school, where the only mention of cannabis was under the category of ‘gateway drug of abuse’ with no medicinal value and the potential to cause psychosis. In both the drug war and medical school, all cannabis was lumped together without any understanding of the difference between THC (the chemical responsible for the high) and CBD (which has zero chance of making you high) or the different varieties of the plant. I will get into those details in the next chapter, so hold tight for a full explanation.
Digging into the recent history of cannabis, when I first started to look into prescribing it in my medical practice, left me feeling lied to, deceived and most of all confused at how we as a culture had arrived at this demonised, unscientific view of such a useful medicinal plant. The rhetoric is still quite pervasive today, even in medical schools, but thankfully things are changing due to the recent surge in research on cannabis, CBD and the plant’s medicinal benefits.
Because any type of cannabis use has been so vilified, often when I meet patients for the first time they confide in me that they have secretly been using it medicinally for years for various conditions. They may have started to do so as an alternative to the potentially more dangerous and addictive drugs their doctors had recommended and prescribed. They often feel a great sense of relief and catharsis to be able to tell a medical doctor what has been working so well for them for so many years without being criticised, judged or made to feel like a criminal or a lesser human. This first real conversation about the medicinal effects of cannabis with a doctor is in itself very healing. It helps the patient take control back from a medical system that has often disempowered them without offering an alternative solution. Even people who have been using mainly CBD-rich products often feel extreme guilt because it comes from that plant. Breaking the guilt and shame around CBD and cannabis has become one of my life’s missions, because I believe plants shouldn’t have morals–good or bad–attached to them.
History highlights timeline
From ancient times to the Middle Ages
Ten thousand years ago, way before the Great Pyramids were built, a human drew what appears to be a recognisable cannabis leaf on the wall of a cave in Japan on the island of Okinoshima. So it’s reasonable to assume that even our cave-dwelling ancestors may have had some knowledge of the power of cannabis.
Cannabis was used in ancient Japan and China, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, Rome and ancient India as part of both medicine and spiritual tradition. The only ancient civilisations not to use it were the New World cultures of the Incas and the Aztecs, as Cannabis sativa was not native to the Americas, and was only brought there by colonialism from the 1600s onwards.
Some of the first-known uses of cannabis in a major ancient culture come from China, where it was cultivated as early as 6000 BC. It was used as a medicine and for spiritual and religious purposes, as well as grown for fibre to make garments long before the hippies made hemp clothing cool.2,3,4
The ancient Sumerians, Akkadians and Egyptians got in on the action too, using cannabis as a medicine for problems ranging from grief to seizures and eye conditions, and even in the relief of labour pain.5 The Romans and Persians followed suit.
However, the ancient culture with perhaps the most well-known associations with cannabis was in India. Cannabis, or bhang, is mentioned in the Hindu religious texts, the Vedas, as one of the five sacred plants that release us from anxiety. This long relationship with cannabis as a medicine and a spiritual tool continues even today, something I experienced first-hand on a six-month sabbatical in rural India studying yoga, meditation and Ayurveda (Indian herbal medicine) with traditional teachers. In the places I travelled to, holy towns, alcohol and meat were prohibited, but a cannabis drink called bhang, and charas, a sticky resin form, were everywhere, especially as part of the wandering ascetic culture of the sadhus. Followers of the god Shiva, often shown smoking cannabis, use it regularly, and share it with passers-by, who stop to sit with them. To refuse charas is considered rude or even unspiritual by some, so people from all walks of life can be seen sharing cannabis with one of these holy men on random street corners in many parts of India.
Interestingly, a study done on such sadhus living in Varanasi found that moderate long-term cannabis use in this population was not associated with any harmful effects.6 That is not to say that there are no potential issues with the use of cannabis (especially high-THC, low-CBD forms, which I do not recommend for most people), but in this study, the risks appeared quite low. For the sadhus, it is a sacred plant, used to help attain altered states of awareness. No negative morals are attached to using it regularly for this purpose, although under current Indian and Nepalese law, cannabis use is illegal.7,8
Cannabis has also been used for thousands of years in the traditional Indian herbal medical system, Ayurveda, as an important ingredient in herbal concoctions made to treat conditions as diverse as fever, asthma, digestive issues, anxiety, seizures and skin disorders.9 Without this ingredient, many of the recipes just didn’t work as well–it was as though the potency had been removed from them, possibly due to the loss of synergy between cannabis and other ingredients. Ayurvedic practitioners also followed the ‘less is more’ approach to avoid THC overmedication and side effects, understanding that too much THC can actually cause imbalances rather than help them.
Throughout medieval Europe, the Ottoman Empire and Africa, cannabis was also widely used for a variety of purposes, including as an important medicine.
Although the cannabis plant is not native to the Americas, it was brought to the US by European explorers in the 1600s and became the most important cash crop there. In fact, in 1619 a law was passed requiring every American farmer to grow hemp, which was in some states used as a form of currency as it was so valuable.
It wasn’t until 1753 that Carl Linnaeus gave cannabis the name by which we now know it: Cannabis sativa.
The Victorian era
- On Sale
- Sep 15, 2020
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Grand Central Publishing