Cannabis has a long history in the United States. For many years, it was illegal to grow, buy, or use anything associated with cannabis plants, from hemp to marijuana. But, when the 2018 Farm Bill passed, it opened up a new world for hemp-derived CBD products, for everything from scientific research to recreational and commercial uses. In recent years, medical experts began exploring CBD oil as a potential treatment for various conditions. They’ve especially focused research on CBD use in seniors, since they are particularly vulnerable to a host of medical conditions, and may benefit from a plant-based treatment option. So, today, we’ll explore some of the CBD benefits for seniors. We’ll especially highlight how seniors can ingest or apply various CBD products to find potential relief from many different ailments.
History of CBD Oil
Before we dive into potential CBD benefits for seniors, we must give you some context in the form of CBD history.
In the early 1900s, various states in the US started banning marijuana use. Ultimately, this movement resulted in the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, which reduced the amount of hemp produced in the United States. (It’s important here to note that industrial hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant with THC concentrations below 0.3%. Marijuana plants have THC concentrations above that level. This is an important distinction since THC is the compound that lends cannabis its psychoactive effects.)
As years passed, anti-marijuana sentiments grew. So, in 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, placing marijuana (and hemp) in the same category as banned substances such as cocaine and heroin.
At the same time, however, researchers uncovered evidence that marijuana carried some medical benefits. Given their findings, the laws regarding marijuana use slowly softened. First, some states legalized marijuana for use in people suffering from conditions such as schizophrenia. Still, there were strict conditions placed on this use: patients needed a medical prescription, and could only buy specific amounts of the substance.
Fast forward to 2019: 33 states legalized some form of medical marijuana. And, today, medical marijuana may be used to address symptoms of many different conditions affecting senior citizens.
What Is Medical Marijuana and How Is CBD Different?
Let’s start with what this isn’t: medical marijuana is not the drug you buy in some alley to get high. In most states, doing so is still illegal.
Remember how we said that hemp and marijuana varieties of cannabis are distinguished by their THC concentrations? Well, that’s true, but THC isn’t the only chemical compound in cannabis plants. Instead, it’s packed with more than 100 compounds known as cannabinoids. We mostly talk about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), because they are the most prominent. And while both of these chemicals have many potential health benefits, so do many of the other cannabinoids.
There is one obvious concern with THC: it induces a psychoactive “high”. And that is the main reason why marijuana strains of cannabis are controlled substances. Hemp-derived, full-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, contains just trace amounts of THC. So you can’t get high from using these CBD products.
CBD became legal in the United States under the 2018 Farm Bill; at the same time, the ban on growing and transporting hemp plants also dissolved. The law states that CBD is legal as long as it contains less than 0.3% of THC. If you want to use THC, you have to be in a state that has legalized its use, or you must access it via prescription (hence the term medical marijuana).
Still, for many people, especially seniors, the idea of consuming a mind-altering substance can be scary. So, for that reason, many people prefer CBD to THC. Similar in structure, these cannabinoids produce many similar beneficial effects, with one crucial difference. Hemp-derived CBD products can’t get you high. And that is very comforting for many cannabinoid users.
What Are the Potential CBD Benefits for Seniors?
CBD has a host of potential health benefits, some of which may be especially important for seniors. These include:
General Pain Relief
Unfortunately, pain can be a part of the aging process. Sometimes it’s the result of bones and joints that wear down, other times it’s caused by chronic or acute conditions. CBD oil may help to relieve this pain, regardless of the affected body part. And seniors don’t have to ingest CBD oil to experience potential pain relief. They can use topical CBD, in the form of creams, lotions, and salves, especially if seniors are dealing with skin, bone, or muscle pain. Actually, localized discomfort is best addressed with topical CBD: the cannabidiol is absorbed by your skin and quickly enters your bloodstream. This way, the CBD can take effect in just minutes, which is ideal if you need quick pain relief.
Mental Health Conditions
Mental health disorders affect a huge percentage of the American population. Some of the most common conditions include anxiety, panic attacks, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Studies show that CBD use may target symptoms of these mental health issues. It seems to stimulate serotonin receptors in your brain, working similarly to many anti-anxiety medications, with one important difference. Unlike many prescription medications, CBD carries minimal, if any, side effects and doesn’t carry a risk of dependency. In fact, research suggests it may help reduce addictions to other substances.
When taking CBD oil for mental health problems, make sure you discuss dosing and supplementation with your physician. Some seniors report worsened mental health symptoms after taking CBD.
Loss of Appetite
Seniors need to follow a nutritious diet to stay healthy. However, as they age, many seniors lose their appetite and don’t eat enough to stay alert and well. In fact, about 80% of deaths relating to anorexia occur among the elderly population. Fortunately, CBD oil may help seniors regain a healthy appetite. Research suggests that many appetite-related conditions are triggered when your body’s endocannabinoid system isn’t working sufficiently. This causes your brain to view food as non-essential, so you don’t have the urge to eat. That’s where CBD oil may help: it can stimulate your endocannabinoid system, shifting your brain’s view on food, and thus bringing about the potential to restore that healthy appetite.
CBD oil may help two common Alzheimer’s symptoms: depression and loss of appetite. Additionally, early research suggests that Alzheimer’s may be caused by the build-up of specific protein clumps in your brain, called beta-amyloids. CBD appears to reduce these protein clumps’ advancement, meaning it may slow disease progression. But we need more research in this area before we draw any conclusions.
CBD oil may be very beneficial to individuals undergoing cancer treatment. While the supplement does not actively target cancer cells, it may help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy sessions.
Specifically, ingesting CBD may help to alleviate nausea and vomiting; as we reviewed earlier, it may also help restore a healthy appetite. In the future, we may know more about CBD oil and cancer: current studies are exploring how CBD oil can actively target tumors and cancer cells.
CBD oil may help seniors cope with certain age-related symptoms and offer other potential benefits. Now, they could also address these symptoms with over the counter drugs or prescription medications. But, since many seniors take numerous medications, each of which can interfere with others, or cause unwanted side effects, it’s worth exploring natural options.
One note of caution: CBD can interact with certain medications. This can create a dangerous situation. So always discuss CBD use with your doctor before starting a new routine, regardless of your age. You should also discuss the suggested dosing with your doctor. And, since CBD oil is available in various forms, including tinctures, pills, capsules, topicals, edibles, and vaping products, it’s worth seeking medical guidance to choose the delivery method that’s best for your unique situation.