October 2018, I drove out to Suncadia, Washington to attend the “Break Free” Woman’s Retreat hosted by an old high school girlfriend who had become a successful health and wellness coach. The ride was beautiful as fall was arriving to the Pacific Northwest and the trees intoxicated me with their interchange of tint, tone, and texture.
Arriving in the late afternoon all the attendees meet and mingled in the sprawling seven thousand square foot luxury home we were renting. After an in-house vegan prepared dinner and barre class sweat session most of us sank into the outdoor hot tub to enjoy the scenery and company. At the time my children were 3 and 7 and I was the owner of two entrepreneurial businesses and I was teaching fitness classes in my “spare time.” Needless to say this momma was much deprived of “Adulting” and some serious rest and relaxation so I found the company I kept that evening to be very captivating. I stayed and chatted with these wonderful woman in a hot tub for several hours not thinking much of it. I got out and prepared myself for bed only to be vexed by deep, painful, itching and swelling of my lower legs. This was nothing new to me, I have sensitive skin and assumed it was an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the hot tub. Not thinking much of it I prepared myself to drive to the nearest urgent care and seek out a cortisone injection.
Just as I was preparing to pack my things one of the woman in attendance happened to have just launched a new CBD product in her business and suggested that I try to use her medicinal salve to see if it might help. Well, sure, why not? I slathered that shit on real good but continued to pack my things assuming I would still need some western intervention but in what might have been 15 minutes I noticed a considerable reduction in my pain and itching. The swelling was still there, maybe only mildly decreased, but the pain, the itch? IT WAS GONE! I was blown away. I left that retreat with a new mindset on many things, CBD being a big one. I shouted out my colleagues’ product on Facebook and bought a bunch of it to use in my private massage practice and on my family.
Since then CBD products have blown up.
But what is CBD?
I'll geek out just for a minute before wrapping this thing back around, don’t worry.
CBD is short for cannabidiol. According to Harvard Health, cannabidiol, “… is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana).” cannabinoids are natural phytochemical found within the cannabis plant. There are over a hundred different types of cannabinoids in these plants (113 to be matter-of-fact), however the two most popular phytochemical players on Team Cannabis are known as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. So cannabinoids are phytochemicals. And what are phytochemicals? In my Nerdist view these are some of the most fascinating cells in plants! You can think of phytochemical as a plants natural cellular defense system, much like our own immune system!
Phytochemicals help plants like cannabis and fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes to protect themselves from predators like insects, spiders, caterpillars, etc. That’s why you will often hear nutritionist, herbologists (me), or even your essential oil fanatics (definitely me) rave about antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. A fun example is caffeine which is arguably the worlds most consumed phytochemical. Did you know that caffeine is actually a neurotoxin? Shocker right?! Caffeine is an alkaloid whose molecular structure is shaped very similar to adenosine, a nucleotide which is very important in energy transfer and neurotransmission (remember ATP in biology 101?) Its role in energy production is why, when humans ingest it, it make us feel energized and stimulated and why, when spiders ingest it, it drives them insane! Seriously, Google “Images of spiders on caffeine” You will find some of the tripiest Halloween inspired broken asymmetrical webs. Poor spiders.
So phytochemical are in plants and plants, just like us, mirror their environment. They are a microcosm of the macrocosm that is our planet. Plants have intrinsic systems in place to protect, nourish, defend, and to heal… we are using plants as medicine because they are microcosms of our own bodies. They mirror our own immune system. Their cellular anatomy – their structure and function – is not that far from our own!
When ingested or topically applied cannabinoids (a phytochemical) transfuse into our blood stream and begin an interaction with our own cellular systems, specifically our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Think of this system as a complex network of lock-and-key mechanisms (in the brain and spinal cord) that regulate a wide array of biological functions that ultimately expresses its effects in memory, cognitive performance, pain perception, stress management, mood regulation, and immune response (just to name a few).
I just want to take a minute to stop here and emphasize that these processes are affected as a direct result of all kinds of different cannabinoids (not just CBD). The western mind is one that is precise and extremely specific – this is how we have learned so much about our world. What are western mind forgets to do once we have cut away everything to study to one thing is to apply the knowledge back to the whole. The whole is in the part and the part is in the whole – this is how plant medicine works. You see each cannabinoid has a unique relationship with the endocannabinoid system. That’s why you feel “high” when you ingest larger amounts of THC and why you don’t feel high but rather calm or even sleepy when you ingest larger amounts of CBD. That’s the difference between full-spectrum Hemp, broad-spectrum Hemp, or CBD isolates – but that is a rabbit hole intended for another article.
In short, it’s no wonder why CBD and THC seem to be miracle drugs for our overworked, high strung, anxiety riddled minds and bodies. We are wreaking havoc on ourselves! From environmental pollutants, contamination of water, adulterations and genetic modifications of our food, to polluting our minds with fear and busyness, a sense of lack, motivations of greed and power -whatever the stressor - we accumulate toxicity; which spreads far and wide in our minds and bodies on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
This is where I come in, or rather, Massage, Acupuncture, Yoga, Mindfulness, Meditation and Wellness – basically everything your traditional high deductible health care plan won’t even consider covering. So how can you utilize CBD in your life and your own wellness practices? The answer is as unique as the person who asks the question.