The Miracle Cure?

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Since cannabis has been legalized in Malibu, more and more people are exploring its many uses. Malibu Magazine takes a look at the potential benefits as well as side effects of CBD.

Written by Brenna Spalding

As communities across California are rapidly becoming more and more cannabis friendly, the market for cannabidiol (CBD) products is expanding just as quickly. Cannabis dispensaries and spas, as well as  residents in communities like Malibu are catching on to this less traditional form of medicine and using their voice to promote wellness. 

Yvonne DeLaRosa Green and Sam Boyer, Malibu natives and co-owners of 99 High Tide, a cannabis retail shop located in Malibu, believe in the many healing benefits of CBD. They promote the use of topical oils, creams, and lotions to help people with chronic pain and inflammation, among other things (read more about Yvonne and Sam on page 116). 

“People are consistently realizing how beneficial [CBD] is for lots of things, [including] topical pain relief,” said Green.

In recent years, cannabis has become more accepted among the Malibu community. Following the general election in November 2018, recreational cannabis and CBD products became accessible for recreational purchase at  cannabis retail shops in Malibu for the first time through Measure G. Since passing by a landslide with 3,616 votes yes and 1,543 votes no, Malibuites can now access cannabis products, including full spectrum CBD products, at local dispensaries. Two prominent activists behind Measure G, in fact, were Green and Boyer themselves. 

“We fought for that right because there were so many people that did not have access,” Green said. Through this law, anyone over the age of 21 can legally purchase cannabis products, like CBD. Measure G also helps serve the elderly and the disabled because it allows for delivery of such products. “We were able to get delivery legalized in Malibu which is critical for senior citizens and the disabled,” Green said. 

Measure G not only legalized access to CBD for Malibu residents, but pushed the social boundaries of acceptance of such products, according to Green. 

“Having won by a landslide, we have actual numerical proof that Malibu is close to one hundred percent behind cannabis in our community,” he said. “It’s beautiful.” 

The endless array of CBD oils, creams, and lotions available for purchase can be overwhelming to say the least. In order to understand their benefits and uses, one first must understand what CBD is and how it works.  The human endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an intricate receptor system mapped out throughout the entire human body. This system is responsible for everything from regulating our mood and sleep cycles to influencing pain, stress, and inflammation in our bodies. In order to function properly, the ECS needs activators, called cannabinoids. Some of these are produced naturally by our own bodies, known as endocannabinoids. Others, known as phytocannabinoids, come from plants such as ginger, echinacea, magnolia, clove, and cannabis. The cannabis plant contains CBD, a phytocannabinoid that interacts directly with the human endocannabinoid system. Once CBD is bound to human receptor sites, a cascade of neurotransmitters are released that communicate with cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body. Because of this reaction and its benefits, CBD is becoming widely used across communities and in Malibu to maintain homeostasis and overall health. CBD has been regularly used to treat conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, inflammatory pain, and neuropathic pain. “What many people may know already is that it helps with seizures,it helps children with epilepsy,” Green said. He explained that her godchild struggled with epilepsy until trying CBD. “He used to have [many] seizures a day before cannabis, then that went down to just a few. Some children are fortunate enough to have seizures go away completely. If that isn’t a reason to stand behind cannabis, I don’t know what is.” 

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In fact, the FDA recognized this and allowed for medicinal CBD to be exclusively accessible for cases of epilepsy by approving the medication, “Epidiolex” - the only CBD medicine that exists on the market today - in 2018. Not only has this medication been proven to significantly improve conditions of childhood epilepsy, but it was noted in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research under the US National Library of Medicine - an institution run under the United States Federal Government - that, “In comparison with other drugs used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.”

Although proven to be quite helpful in healing an array of illnesses and ailments, CBD products don’t come without risk of side effects. Some minor side effects of CBD oil include: tiredness, drowsiness, diarrhea, changes in appetite, changes in weight, dry mouth, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and fatigue. Although the effects of CBD have  yet to be studied thoroughly, these side effects, as well as some safety hazards, have presented themselves to experts in recent years. 

Cannabis therapy consultant and holistic health practitioner Dr. Pepper Hernandez noted that CBD, in its pure form, is generally thought to be very safe. However, some studies have found that CBD can interact dangerously with some prescription drugs. These findings are thought to exist due to byproduct of CBD isolates, according to Hernandez. She said, 

“I have yet to hear any side effects,” Dr. Hernandez said. “I think any side effects are coming from these byproducts of CBD. I don’t think they’re coming from a true source. I’ve never heard of anything from the natural plant itself.”

Nonetheless, in a  study conducted by the University of Alabama CBD program in 2017, Epidiolex caused levels of antiepileptic drugs to be higher in the patients’ blood when taken in combination with CBD. Apart from studies involving Epidiolex, there has been no research regarding the effects of CBD when used in combination with other prescription drugs, but experts cannot guarantee that CBD does not affect the levels of other prescription drugs when used.To Hernandez, these studies do not reflect her experience. She noted that even given this research, there is rarely a guarantee of the purity and type of the CBD being used, making it difficult to trust. Hernandez said, “All these tests, they’re not doing it strain-specific.” She continued, “I think there needs to be a lot more research done and I think that… as fine-tuned as they supposedly are with the synthetics in all the testing they’re doing with the purity and clarity of that, they have to make sure that they’re doing that with cannabis too because you don’t know what they’re using.”

As for the rest of its uses, the market for CBD products is purely supplemental - rather than medicinal - due to lack of FDA approval. Since CBD can usually only be sold as a supplement, which do not need to be approved by the FDA, there’s not much of a quality guarantee for consumers. In order to maximize its effectiveness, Green recommended consumers purchase “whole plant CBD.” She said, “You want to make sure that you get whole plant CBD product…for us, being so close to all of the research and all of the benefits of whole plant cannabis, we always recommend whole plant CBD. It’s important to start with that because that is, from what we’ve seen, far more beneficial.” This kind of CBD is easily found at a licensed cannabis retailer, which - in some ways - acts as a benefit to consumers. “It’s important that people are careful of where and who they’re getting their CBD products from,” Green said. “With any product that has been found to have so many amazing and profound healing benefits, you get a lot of snake oil out there.”

Dr. Hernandez took it a step further to say that consumers should only be using “full spectrum” CBD. The term “full spectrum” encompasses CBD that is sourced exclusively from a whole flowering cannabis plant. “That’s like the jewel of CBD,” she said. That’s what you should be having in your body.” As for low quality, hemp-derived CBD - commonly found at convenience stores - Hernandez recommended that consumers avoid it at all costs. She explained that the CBD that is frequently found at convenience stores is an isolate from a hemp plant - not cannabis - meaning that the CBD compound has been synthetically removed from its plant form. “Which we know now, any type of manipulation to a plant source or a food source is GMO, genetically modified organisms, and that’s what’s happening with the CBD,” Fernandez said. “People haven’t really said that... but that’s what’s happening.” 

Not only that, but the CBD found in hemp is significantly less effective when compared to CBD from cannabis, due to lack of its counterpart, THC. In small amounts, THC can boost the effectiveness of CBD in the body, while the product remains non-psychoactive. 

According to a study conducted by Marcel Bonn-Miller of Penn Medicine, a majority of cannabidiol products were found to be mislabeled, meaning they either contained less or more than the indicated amount of CBD. Of the 80 different CBD products across 31 companies that were tested, only an astonishing 30% contained amounts of CBD within 10% of the labelled concentration. This could be troublesome for patients across the board as these discrepancies in CBD concentration continue to exist. Differences in concentration between products could directly influence patient results. Whether the patient is receiving too much CBD - or too little - without knowledge of their dosage, results can surely be hindered. While CBD product labels remain unchecked by the FDA, experts say consumers should take matters into their own hands by being knowledgeable about their CBD purchases. Green suggests exclusively buying from a cannabis retailer. “Even CVS is selling CBD products, but there’s nobody really there that’s knowledgeable on CBD or who can consult with you on CBD,” she said. Because of such easy access, it’s possible that consumers are navigating the whirlwind of CBD products blindly and without knowledge of which products will work for them. “So it’s important that people go to cannabis retail shops and ideally a shop that is knowledgeable on CBD to really get a good consultation about it,” said Green. 

Not only are consultations important, but Hernandez also advised consumers to “make your money speak for your choice” by purchasing products from companies who use full spectrum CBD. “Right now, there are major companies that are laser beam focused on doing this particular thing,” she noted. These companies only use organic, flowering cannabis plants that contain less than 2% of THC, meaning that they can legally be sold in stores as hemp. ”They just really dialed it in because they understand all of these pieces,” Hernandez added. In order to seek out these companies, she recommends that consumers reach out to select CBD companies and question what their sources are. “You have to ask them if it’s organic, you have to ask them if it’s from flowering cannabis, sustainable, biodynamic - all the good stuff,” she said. “[Most importantly] you want to ask, ‘is this a full spectrum, or an isolate?’ At least ask that question.”

As for effectiveness in general use of CBD, Hernandez emphasized the importance of choosing a cannabis strain. Different strains of cannabis react more effectively with the associated body systems. She explained, “Truly, if you’re using CBD as medicine, what you’d want to do is dial it in and see what strain of cannabis has the highest amount of CBD in it for your particular body system.” For someone who is looking at CBD for anxiety, she explained that if they are not looking for the right delivery method, the right dosage, or the right plant strain - and it being organic - they are not going to get a benefit from it. “So if someone takes it and says ‘That didn’t work for me.’ Well, no wonder it didn’t work for you, it’s a little bit of [hemp] powder in a glycerin from wherever the heck, of course it didn’t work for you.” She continued, “The real plant will have huge benefits.” 

In Malibu, the benefits of CBD are being seen just about everywhere. Even spas in Malibu have adopted CBD into their relaxation and healing practices. Nalu Malibu, a spa dedicated to alternative and holistic health services is California’s first CBD centric healing center. To Nalu Malibu, CBD as a spa element is regarded as “Truly one of the most remarkable compounds in the natural world with healing powers that are unfolding each day.” 

Through the major successes of Cannabis acceptance in Malibu, Green emphasizes the value of such a movement. “We’ve seen a shift in the past twelve years since we’ve been in this industry just grow and grow and grow,” She explained. “Even from people who were on the fence becoming activists for CBD, they’ve seen how it’s helped themselves and their families.” As Malibu develops more awareness of CBD and its uses, the cannabis community will continue to expand and heal those that are open to it. MM

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