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The cult of Canna

  • Could cannabidiol oil prove to be the ultimate elixir?
  • While cannabidiol is touted for its effects on serious conditions, this oil is beneficial for daily use as well

There is evidence to show that cannabidiol oil helps in epilepsy treatment. Photo: iStock
There is evidence to show that cannabidiol oil helps in epilepsy treatment. Photo: iStock

Even though marijuana has been making news around the world for all the right reasons, it is still regarded with an unhealthy amount of scepticism. While endorsements from celebrities such as actors Whoopi Goldberg (who has her own range of medicinal marijuana products) and Michael J. Fox (who uses cannabidiol, or CBD, oil to alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms) have endorsed it, any cannabis product is considered by many to be a recreational drug.

But CBD isn’t something you would pop at a party; it’s more like a medicine—one that alleviates pain, reduces anxiety and, evidence shows, also reduces the occurrence of epilepsy-induced seizures. Athletes, including MMA fighter Nate Diaz and the US National Football League linebacker Derrick Morgan, are swapping ibuprofen for CBD oil to reduce pain, calm inflammation and get better sleep.

CBD has other medicinal benefits to offer, too. What are these? “After THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is the largest cannabinoid available in cannabis plants," says Rohit Sharma, president and founder, Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA). For the uninitiated, CBD is the medicinal part of cannabiswhile THC (which has its own benefits) gives the high. “There’s 40% CBD in a regular cannabis plant; however, modern farming techniques have ensured that there are new varieties with minimal amounts of THC."

Sharma explains that while plants such as garlic, tulsi and neem have similar properties, the biggest benefit of CBD is that unlike other plant extracts, our body produces cannabinoids naturally. In fact they’re also present in mother’s milk. “CBD helps enhance the endocannabinoid system, which mainly controls sleep, pain and appetite," says Delhi-based sports nutritionist Lovneet Batra, who has counselled the Indian boxing, gymnastics and paralympics teams. “It also helps in regulation of serotonin receptors in the body, which helps in feeling at ease, reducing anxiety and depression-related disorders." Batra says these are also the reasons why it helps alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy, like pain and loss of appetite, and is good for neurological disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

A boon for fighting epilepsy

Empirical evidence shows that this oil provides relief to people suffering from epilepsy. Take the case of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who is epileptic and autistic. He was granted a licence for cannabis-based medicine months after it was confiscated from his mother—who brought it from Canada—at London’s Heathrow airport

Manu Sareen, chairman of the Endoca Foundation and former minister of gender equality in Denmark, also talks about the incredible effect of CBD for patients suffering from epilepsy. Endoca, a company that makes clean CBD products in the European Union and US, now ships products to India, and plans to begin retail operations soon. He talks about one case in particular—a child in Punjab who has a rare case of epilepsy, with 100-500 seizures a day. “We gave him 20 drops of CBD and he calmed down in an hour." Because this oil is relatively expensive (starting from about 10,000 for 10ml), the company is now supplying it to this family free of charge.

Sharma too consults with families that want to use this oil to treat epilepsy in children. In fact, in a study conducted by the NYU School of Medicine, and published in May 2018 in The New England Journal Of Medicine, CBD was shown to reduce the number of seizures in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. It was reported that there was a 41.9% reduction in “drop seizures" (severe loss of muscle control and balance) in patients on a 20 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, a 37.2% reduction in those on a 10 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, and a 17.2% reduction in a group given a placebo.

Sharma, however, advises users to be wary. There is no regulatory authority, so there are several dubious products in the market. To treat epileptic conditions, the CBD oil must be completely pure and good quality—without THC, heavy metals, or pesticides.

Everyday use

While it is touted for its effects on serious conditions, this oil is beneficial for daily use as well. Sareen cites his own example—as minister, he would work 80 hours a week and was constantly stressed. “I didn’t sleep more than 4-5 hours every night and then one of my friends told me to try CBD oil." The first day he tried the oil, he slept like a baby. “In one week, I regained a sense of balance and over the long term it has completely changed my life," he says. “I am more focused and less stressed," he says.

Sharma is also a regular user of CBD oil. “I remember one time when I was about to get the flu, I took four-five drops of the oil, and the symptoms disappeared in an hour." Over the long term, he has become immune to the flu, among other benefits, he claims. “The only thing that one must be careful about is that the product should contain either none or very minuscule amounts of THC," says Batra.

When it’s taken in the right amounts , its votaries say it has the potential to transform your life. But remember, an Indian CBD product must be approved by the ministry of AYUSH, the Drug Controller General of India or the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.

Oil’s well 

  • “There are many people who cook CBD at home, but these strains are highly dangerous and have the potential to even cause fatalities," says Rohit Sharma.
  • Manu Sareen suggests that the product must also be GMP (good manufacturing practice) certified to ensure that it provides high-quality supplementation or medication. It must also be organic to be completely effective. “Just remember, you get what you pay for—if it’s very cheap, then it’s not good quality," says Sareen.
  • For a healthy person, two drops twice a day are enough to prevent illness and create a sense of balance. “The best way to take it is in the oil form, just place two drops under the tongue and hold it there for 30 seconds before swallowing," says Sareen. Lovneet Batra says it’s best to take CBD between meals for best results—but not on an empty stomach. “This is because CBD increases appetite and you may end up overeating."
  • If you are on any sort of medication, consult a medical practitioner. “This is to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the other medicines you may be taking," says Batra.

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