CBD: What It Is, What It Isn't,

And Why You Should Know

By Dawn Williams, Senior News Associate Publisher

Needless to say, we all care about our health, and just as certainly, we each go about maintaining it in the way that is best for our particular lifestyles, conditions, and beliefs. I’ll gladly whip up a batch of immune-boosting elderberry syrup for a sick friend, use vetted health supplements regularly, drink ginger root tea for an upset stomach, because enough research exists to support those remedies. At the same time, I will avail myself of necessary treatments for more serious ailments. In fact, as I write this article, I am recovering from a bout of pneumonia, thanks to the miracle of antibiotics and steroids. In short, I look for the best cure with the fewest side effects to ensure my health, relying on scientific research as the deciding factor.

Recently I was offered the opportunity to experience for myself the benefits of a plant-based substance called CBD, short for cannabidiol, derived from the hemp plant. Before agreeing to such an experiment, I read through a great number of studies from peer-reviewed medical and pharmacology journals. Research on the effects of cannabidiol has been in progress for decades, beginning in the early 1960s. Since then, research has shown pharmacological benefits including antiepileptic, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anxiolytic (calming) properties. CBD, according to one researcher, has the potential to treat conditions including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cerebral ischemia (stroke), diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, nausea, and even cancer. There is also a large and still growing body of evidence supporting the efficacy of CBD in the treatment of pain relief, depression and anxiety, PTSD, autism, and addiction.

Research is essential. Experience is convincing. For this reason, I agreed to use a selection of high-quality CBD products related to chronic conditions that I, and many others in my age cohort, experience, and to share my experience with others.

First, let’s be clear. There is a great deal of confusion about CBD, and these misconceptions prevent many people from learning about it, let alone considering its use. CBD is not marijuana. It does not make you high. The psychoactive compound in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This phytochemical is found in the buds of the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol, by contrast, contains no psychoactive properties. The compound is derived from the stems and leaves of the hemp plant. While medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, and recreational marijuana is legal in a handful of states, CBD is not a drug, and is legal in all 50 states. 

“I have always followed my passion for helping people, but I knew I needed to research and study to understand CBD and to find the best possible suppliers of the product,” said Sandi Pufahl, Director of Marketing for Heartland CannAssist, a local company with a strong commitment to providing only certified, high-quality products and educating the public about the proper use and benefits of CBD. “Over the past year, I have found and formed relationships with the companies that make the quality CBD that I am comfortable using myself.  When I get a follow-up call from someone trying CBD for the first time, and they tell me how good they feel, my heart sings.”

CBD products are available in a number of forms. Tinctures are liquid drops that can be taken sublingually or mixed in food or beverages. Edible forms include gummy bears and CBD-infused honey or even “cakepops”. Topicals, ideal for muscle and joint pain as well as some skin conditions, that are absorbed through the skin, inhibiting pain and itch. This is not by any means a complete description of the types of products available, but products vary by distributor. There are even CBD products for pets! All products used in my experimentation were provided by Heartland CannAssist.

I began this experiment with both healthy skepticism and an open mind, and carefully logged the effects I experienced to ensure they were replicable and accurate, rather than a placebo effect. The conditions I was most interested in testing for were muscle and joint pain relief, anxiety, focus, and insomnia. I discontinued use of prescription and over-the-counter medications that I had been using for those conditions during the trial.

Before I share the results of my experiment, it is important to understand how CBD works.

“My research into just HOW CBD works in our bodies led me to learning about our Endocannabinoid System in our bodies and how the CBD phytocannabinoids work together to bring our bodies into sync,” Pufahl explained.  “It’s like a handshake! The fact that it’s natural plant health that interacts so perfectly with the human body, without side effects, has convinced me that the current research is not to be ignored. My own experience, and that of so many people I’ve worked with, has convinced me that CBD has significant potential in promoting human health and well being. ” 

According to the National Institutes of Health, the endocannabinoid system is a modulatory system in the human body. Its function appears to be to regulate the means by which all other systems in the body work together, with the intended result of maintaining balance (homeostasis) among all other systems. The ECS is a collection of cell receptors and molecules throughout the body. These receptors, called CB1 and CB2 receptors, and endocannabinoids are the body’s chemical signal that activates the receptors. This, in turn, tells the body when to initiate specific physiological responses needed to maintain balance among the systems. Our body produces some endocannabinoids, but most come from the foods we eat. Enzymes in the body break down any cannabinoids that haven’t bound with a receptor. Some researchers believe the presence of certain conditions suggests these enzymes activate prematurely, thereby throwing the body out of balance.

Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids add to the endocannabioids produced by the body, but that doesn’t affect the enzymes that break them down. However, full spectrum CBD prevents the breakdown of one particularly important endocannabinoid called anandamide, a neurotransmitter which is essential to the immune function, appetite, sleep, and pain. CBD products fit the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same way our naturally produced endocannabioids do, thus allowing the ECS to correct imbalances and restore the body to a state of homeostasis.

This all sounds a bit technical, and while the research seems sound, the health benefits are what we’re after. Here’s what I experienced during my experimentation.

Muscle pain in my back and joint pain in my left knee were the least subjective areas to evaluate. The topical pain relief cream provided substantial muscle relief the first night, reducing the number of times pain awoke me. After several nights, I noticed the effect was lasting into the following day, even after I showered. By the end of the first week, most of my minor aches had completely subsided, and the more serious pain points – pain I considered “normal” because it was so often present – had lessened to the degree that I was able to bend and stretch without interference.

My knee pain had begun last summer when my two large dogs jerked my body in one direction when my feet were planted in the opposite one. The aftermath was painful, but did not seem serious enough to require medical assistance. Ice, rest, and wearing a knee brace when I was able to return to my exercise regimen seemed to heal the worst of it, but a persistent ache returned when I did too much kneeling, and when the weather changed. The topical CBD eased that pain as well.

CBD is known for its calming properties. I was not surprised that it worked, but more so in the manner in which it worked. Where benzodiazapenes like Xanax calm the central nervous system, CBD went further, leaving me with a sense of well being and none of the foggy thinking or drowsiness that Xanax creates. A little more than a week of regular use of several tinctures and edibles, I realized it wasn’t just calm that I felt. I would almost call it a subtle confidence, a sense that all was well. Nothing in my life had changed to account for this healthy optimism. Although this is a very subjective way to describe the effect, the anecdotal evidence was significant to me, since I had recently been prescribed Xanax and thus had both treatment outcomes to compare. CBD provided a far superior result with no side effects.

The Focus CBD product performed very well, better on some days than others. I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I was recovering from pneumonia, and as many of you know, the process takes time and symptoms ebb and flow. On my easier-breathing days, Focus seemed to help me ignore distractions and stay on task better than usual. However, the very troublesome symptoms of pneumonia seemed to lessen the positive effect at times. I experienced enough of an effect to believe this product has greater potential than I was able to enjoy due to my illness, and plan to experiment with it more when the illness has run its course.

Sleep quality is an issue that seems to affect many of us as we age. Many seniors turn to over-the-counter sleep medication, and the long-term effects of its use have been correlated with both bladder and memory problems. And even once the medication gets you to sleep, staying asleep remains difficult. I found CBD to be more effective than OTC remedies, helping me fall asleep easily. During the period of experimentation, I woke far less, if at all, and awoke feeling rested and refreshed. Yes, I continued to enjoy my morning coffee, but the fact was that I didn’t require it in order to function. For the first time in several years, I put away the Zquil and get better sleep than before.

It is imperative to ensure you are purchasing a high-quality product for optimum results. Educate yourself, do your research, and reach out to educators who can answer your questions so you can make the best decisions for yourself. 

 “I truly believe in the potential of quality CBD products,” Pufahl said. “We only sell products that are made from organic hemp, grown in the USA or Europe (where organics are even more controlled than in the USA).  Our products are produced in the USA with CO2 extraction and never harsh chemical extraction. We have products for people as well as their pets! CBD is legal in all 50 states and we ship our products all over the US.”

For more information, visit www.shopheartlandcannassist.com, or call 630-283-7760. For a limited time, all readers of Senior News 50 and Better can get a 10% discount off of their CBD order; just use the code SN10 when checking out online.