The compound from hemp plants shows promise for age-related health problems
by Garrett Schaffel, AARP,
Boomers are turning to CBD oil for pain management and other health issues.
Nancy Giacobbe husband Chris had trouble sleeping due to painful spasms and tremors caused by treatments for a rare form of cancer. Giacobbe, 61, soon saw the medicinal benefits of the hemp plant’s cannabidiol, or CBD — when Chris began to use it for his pain.
Giacobbe realized Chris could just use CBD without psychoactive effects. “When he would sleep, his face would just be at peace,” Giacobbe says.
CBD, which comes in a wide variety of forms including salves, edibles and oils, does not produce the high typically associated with marijuana. CBD seems to help people deal with pain, inflammation and even seizures.
Her husband passed away three years ago, but Giacobbe, who lives in Bodega Bay, Calif., now uses topical CBD for her arthritis, which has the potential to severely hinder her work as an aesthetician because she uses her hands every day. She can use the CBD ointment during the day because it causes no side effects and has no smell. At night, she says, “I put the salve on my hands and put on cotton gloves. Within an hour, I’m a happy person and can do a full 35-hour workweek.”
Giacobbe is just one of many older adults who now use CBD as a treatment — for mental and physical health issues.
“We see really great interest amongst seniors,” says Martin Lee, director of the Northern California nonprofit Project CBD, which promotes the use of the compound as a natural alternative to traditional forms of drug therapy.
Mikhail Kogan, M.D., medical director of the George Washington University Center for Integrative Medicine, has prescribed CBD for his patients since the compound was legalized for medical use in the District of Columbia in 2011. Kogan says cannabinoids are “safer than Tylenol or caffeine by tenfold. If you compare them to opiates, they’re about 10,000 times safer.” He recommends placing a few drops of the oil under the tongue.
CBD products are widely available in states where it is legal. These products have varying ratios of CBD, and because there are no official medical guidelines on dosage, patients are left to determine for themselves how much to take or how to modify their ratio. “You have to find the point at which you’re comfortable,” Lee says. “Some people do better at higher doses of CBD.”
Clinical trials both in the U.S. and around the world have shown that CBD works. The compound has been proven to dramatically reduce seizures in children with rare forms of epilepsy, and in 2017, GW Pharmaceuticals submitted Epidiolex, a pure CBD plant extract, to the FDA for approval as an epilepsy drug. It received a recommendation for approval from an administration advisory panel in April.
As a physician specializing in integrative medicine, Kogan says that CBD is an excellent component of his care model because of their documented use throughout history. “Cannabis use goes back in every existing society,” he says.
Lee, who uses CBD to help with his own health issues stemming from a stroke in 2006, sees people 50 and older as the critical generation that is turning back the stigma of cannabis-based therapy. “It’s the baby boomers,” he says. “We have all sorts of health problems. CBD can really speak to a lot of those problems.”
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