Senior Health

4/14/2021 | By Annie Tobey

Today’s seniors are not newbies to the topic of cannabis. After all, they were young adults during the pot-smoking peak of the 1970s, among the 56 percent of users or the 44 percent of critics and abstainers. But with the increase in public conversations about marijuana and its close cousin, CBD, seniors may realize they don’t know as much about cannabis as they assumed. What’s more, they may not realize the many benefits of CBD for seniors.

Is CBD a form of marijuana?

A quick overview of the facts can aid understanding of CBD. And even if you’re not a supporter of marijuana, you just might find yourself a convert to CBD.

Cannabis: Marijuana is a cannabis plant, and hemp is a cannabis plant. Similarly, hot habanero and sweet bell peppers come from Capsicum pepper plants – both are peppers but quite different “bite for bite”! Both marijuana and hemp contain THC and CBD.

THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient that contributes to marijuana’s “high.”

CBD: Cannabidiol, a compound that provides health benefits without a psychoactive effect or other significant side effects.

The important difference is that marijuana contains a high level of the mood-altering substance THC, while hemp contains more beneficial CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Different hemp varieties – notably Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa – also provide different benefits.

OK, so what are these benefits of CBD for seniors?

“The benefits of a full-spectrum cannabinoid hemp oil are almost limitless,” Baylor Rice, president and pharmacist at South River Compounding Pharmacy in Midlothian, Virginia, told Boomer.

As a natural remedy with few side effects, CBD is typically safer than doctor-prescribed or over-the-counter medications, too. In addition, it’s not addictive like many medications, which patients may continue to crave even after the initial cause of a problem has been controlled.

The benefits of CBD for seniors include:

Combating arthritis. As an anti-inflammatory, CBD can help mitigate the pain and discomfort of arthritis, improving movement and function.

Managing pain. Similarly, CBD can be used to manage other sources of pain, such as fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, and migraines.

Easing anxiety. CBD can ease anxiety and relieve symptoms of anxiety disorders such as PTSD and depression. It works to relieve stress by triggering the brain’s serotonin receptors to produce more cortisol. It is both an antipsychotic and an antidepressant, thus contributing positively to mental health.

Improving sleep. Sleep can become even more challenging as we age, but it’s no less important. Not only does a good night’s sleep help us feel more energetic the next day, it’s essential for maintaining brain health. CBD helps with sleep, in part by easing anxiety and pain.

Controlling cancer treatment side effects. Like its cousin, marijuana, hemp-based CBD can ease nausea and vomiting and stimulate appetite.

Aiding brain health. CBD can help slow the deterioration of certain parts of the brain that are affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Besides its anti-inflammatory properties, it acts on the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which manages mood, memory, and other brain activities.

Helping heart health. Directly and through lowering stress and anxiety, CBD may help lower blood pressure.

Other purported benefits include countering asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and autism as well as promoting relaxation, focus and creativity, and athletic performance and recovery.

Is CBD safe?

“We know that doses of CBD are very safe, that there has been no documented overdose of CBD, that it does not cause euphoria, and that it is safe to be used in quite high quantities,” Dr. Danial Schecter, an Ontario-based physician and co-founder of cannabis-based medicine clinics, told Forbes.

Health professionals recommend starting with low doses and gradually working up. “Everyone’s endocannabinoid tone is different, their metabolism is different, you’re on a certain number of medications that will potentially affect the metabolism of CBD,” said Schecter. “The only way to know if it is going to work and what the dosage is, is by taking a standardized approach, starting low and going slow.”

CBD products are not yet approved by the FDA, so when choosing a CBD product, choose from those that use organic hemp, preferably grown in the U.S., and that are tested by a third-party laboratory to verify ingredients and rule out the presence of contaminants.

“Please make sure you are taking a high-quality brand,” counseled Rice. “The company we deal with has testing performed on each lot to include cannabinoid/THC content, pesticides, microbes, heavy metals, etc.”

Occasional side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue, and irritability. However, it can increase the level of the blood thinner coumadin and interfere with some medications, like grapefruit juice does. So if you are on other medications, be sure to consult with your medical care provider before taking CBD.

Evidence also indicates that CBD can increase intraocular pressure of the eye (IOP) and contribute to glaucoma. (THC, on the other hand, has been demonstrated to ease IOP.)

How do I take CBD?

Consumers can choose from a variety of methods to take in the natural tonic: sublingual oils, capsules, candy, tea, honey, liquids for mixing with food and for vaping, and topical creams. Pet-loving consumers can also choose from CBD products created for furry and feathered friends.

CBD products are also broken down to “isolate” (with just the CBD and no THC or other plant compounds), “broad-spectrum” (all plant compounds except THC), or “full spectrum” and “whole plant.”

CBD offers important benefits for seniors, and so does THC. “The idea … exists that THC is bad and CBD is good, when in actuality, both of these molecules have a very important place in clinical practice,” says Schecter. “And while THC has received a bad rap because it is associated with getting high, in actuality, it has more immediate benefits than CBD … In doses that do not cause you to get high, it can be very beneficial for things such as sleep, pain, nausea, appetite stimulation, and muscle spasms.”

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey