CBD, Cannabidiol For Seniors?
I’ve read that a growing number of seniors are using CBD for various medical reasons. What health problems is it good for and how much does it help?
Andrew Weil, M.D. |May 14, 2019
CBD is cannabidiol, one of the major constituents of cannabis. CBD products are made from industrial hemp and come in various forms. Although hemp and cannabis are the same plant, CBD products contain less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabis compound that gets you high. CBD is now available in capsules, liquids, gummies, and sublingual sprays, and can be added to tea, coffee, and smoothies.
Reportedly, increasing numbers of seniors are using CBD to ease anxiety, help them fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as to relieve chronic pain, including arthritis pain and inflammation. An online survey published in the journal Remedy Review elicited information from 1,047 seniors age 54 and older on their experiences with CBD. Results showed that 61 percent of those who reported trying CBD said it helped reduce their pain and 45.6 percent said it improved the quality of their sleep. All told, 66 percent of those participating rated the quality of their life as good after trying CBD, while only 31 percent gave that rating before trying it.
The survey also showed that nearly 29 percent of the seniors who tried CBD found it extremely effective and 39 percent found it moderately effective, while fewer than eight percent found it ineffective. Asked about the prescription medications they took, 39 percent of the participants rated them extremely effective and the same percentage found them moderately effective.
Side effects of CBD can include nausea, fatigue and irritability. It can also increase levels of medications in your blood the same way grapefruit juice does. CBD can also raise blood levels of coumadin, a blood thinner. But according to the Remedy Review survey, nearly three in four seniors participating reported no side effects from it.
Despite the reported benefits among seniors, there’s currently little or no scientific evidence showing that CBD is an effective remedy for pain, anxiety, or insomnia. We do have good evidence that it effectively treats two forms of childhood epilepsy, and the FDA has recommended approval of the CBD drug Epidiolex for this purpose.
You can get CBD derived from hemp throughout the U.S. – it’s technically legal in all 50 states, although some have restrictions on its sale. The U.S. government views CBD as it does marijuana but doesn’t currently enforce federal laws against it as a priority. You can buy CBD products online, but you can’t be sure that any of them actually contain the amount listed on the label. A 2017 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that more than 42 percent of the products sold online contained more CBD than labeled while 26 percent contained less. Only 31 percent contained CBD that was within 10 percent of the amount listed on the product label.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Marcel O. Bonn-Miller et al, “Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online,” JAMA, November 7, 2017, doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
“Why are Seniors Turning to CBD,” Remedy Review, remedyreview.com/data/survey-89-of-seniors-whove-tried-cbd-would-recommend-it-to-a-friend/