Do you know someone who uses hemp oil and touts its health benefits? Have you heard of CBD oil and wondered if it would be good for you? If so, read on to learn more about this herbal agent and its wide range of benefits.

Hemp is a plant in the cannabis family. It is related to, but not the same as the herb used for recreational and medical marijuana use. Hemp contains a natural constituent called cannabidiol (CBD) in large quantity, while marijuana contains much larger amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects and is regulated as a drug. Because hemp seeds contain no THC they are for sale without a prescription, will not cause a “high,” and can be consumed as food. Think of hemp milk or hemp powder on the shelves of your local health food store.

Your body contains receptors for cannabinoids, the class of chemicals that includes CBD. When CBD binds to a receptor, one outcome is a decrease in pain signaling for a prolonged period compared to other methods of pain relief. CBD oil is especially well suited to treat neuropathic pain, the kind that causes numbness and tingling or shooting sensations.

In addition to pain relief, CBD has been used successfully to treat anxiety and insomnia. It has anti-inflammatory and anticonvulsant actions and is being investigated for the treatment of a wide range of conditions including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Medications used to treat these illnesses may have unwanted side effects which are not found with CBD administration. For example, CBD does not elicit dependence, significantly alter blood pressure, or produce cognitive or motor impairment.

The human body produces substances similar to CBD that bind to the cannabinoid receptors. A deficiency of endogenous cannabinoids or receptors can occur if your diet is lacking omega-3 oils, the good fats found in fish, nuts and seeds. Such a deficiency may lead to irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and migraines. Taking supplements derived from hemp can help correct the deficiency until the body resumes making sufficient quantities on its own.

CBD comes in many forms including capsules, liquid drops, sprays, and topical salves. While CBD is generally safe, it may interact with certain medications, so it’s best to consult with a health care practitioner if you take prescription or over-the-counter medications regularly. Also be aware that the dose found in CBD preparations can vary widely, from 1 milligram to hundreds of milligrams per serving. It’s best to start with a low dose and work your way up slowly.

Dr. Jessica Needle is a naturopathic doctor practicing at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

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