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First my apologies to those of you who are lucky enough to live in a state where marijuana and/or CBD products are legalized because you probably already know all of this. I’m hopeful that this will useful for people like me who are trying to get their bearings on the subject. This post is broken into three sections: research, the experiment, and the results.

A few weeks ago I began researching CBD oil. Two things had converged. The first: Texas has legalized the sale of CBD oil. The second: while my current treatment plan is still working, I don’t think it’s working quite as well as I’d like. I’ve been off methotrexate for about a year and rather than going back to it, adding in something different, or perhaps changing treatment plans yet again, I thought a side journey into a more natural-based product might be worth a try.

Research

I’m a researcher by nature so I spent some time doing some research on my own as well as talking to my primary care physician (PCP), my rheumatologist, and my compounding pharmacist (who happens to carry CBD oil in the pharmacy). One of the first things I learned is because of the legal issues surrounding marijuana in the US, there is not a lot of US-based research available. Therefore, many US-based healthcare professionals haven’t been trained in this area and/or are not well-equipped to discuss the topic with their patients. However, it’s a matter of a lot of discussion in the medical community and there has been research done in other countries, so there is some information out there. Both my PCP and my rheumy said patients had been showing up with their bottles of CBD oil to discuss the situation. I won’t say my doctors gave their blessing, but neither objected, knowing that I would find a good-quality product from a reliable source and use it responsibly.

In addition, have friends who not only have used CBD oil for some time to relieve musculoskeletal pain, they believe in it strongly enough they also sell it. They provided invaluable first-person insights and further agreed to be lab rats when I sent them THC test strips to see if anything showed up on a drug test. (It didn’t as the product they use does not have the THC element.)

I won’t bog down this post with the long list of articles and research sources I investigated, but there are a couple I want to include. I passed these along to my healthcare team and they found them useful — not only for themselves, but for their other patients. The first are from Consumer Reports. The first link is basically a primer on CBD which gives you a background on what the terms means (pure vs. broad spectrum, COA, etc.), what to look for (and avoid), what to ask, etc.: https://www.consumerreports.org/cbd/how-to-shop-for-cbd/

The second, also from Consumer Reports, is a resource page about Cannibis and CBD — everything to laws to children/pets to alternates to opioids, etc. It’s a great, one-stop shop for a lot of good information: https://www.consumerreports.org/cbd/cannabis-and-cbd-guide/.

The final source is a side-by-side comparison of some CBD/hemp extract products. It was actually prepared by Recept, one of the products on the list (and sold by my friends), but the list appears to be accurate based on the spot-checking I did. It’s at least a great place to start if you’re starting to investigate these products: https://secure.primemybody.com/hemp-oil-review.php

I think it’s important at this point to note that some CBD products contain trace amounts (legally <0.3%) of THC, the “high” substance in marijuana. Depending on quality controls, this “trace amount” may or may not be accurate. This may linger in your system and may show up positive on a drug test such as, for example, employment or after a car accident. Even if marijuana is legal in your area, your employer can still retain the right to fire you if you fail a drug test and civil and legal consequences for driving while having THC in your system can be substantial.

The Experiment

My final research stop turned out to be the start of my experiment. I had to go to my compounding pharmacist anyway and had the opportunity to spend some time talking with the pharmacist. She explained why she carried the brand of CBD oil in her pharmacy and also that her son uses it (along with therapy) for his severe PTSD. There are several reasons why I decided to purchase the oil then and there but a great deal of it had to do with the fact that I could walk out with it then and there.

The “normal” dosage was one dropper of oil under the tongue 2-3 times a day. I starting using 1/2 a dropper about mid-morning, then a full dropper at bedtime, so I was not quite using a full dose.

The Results

The results were quite promising. I can’t say the deep pain disappeared during the day — I wasn’t using the full therapeutic dose and it’s my understanding it takes some time for the full effect — but I felt better overall. My sleep improved dramatically. I slept deeply and well. I didn’t toss or turn or suffer from “painsomnia”. My restless legs calmed down as did night sweats. I had great dreams and woke up fresh and rested without any trace of lingering hangover (like I occasionally have with prescription or OTC meds). I was greatly encouraged.

The morning of the second day of the experiment, I noticed itchy skin. I had been snacking on peanuts. While I’m not allergic to peanuts, I am allergic to tree nuts and sometimes there is cross contamination in the products and I get itchy if I eat too many. So I stopped eating the peanuts and paid attention to anything else that might be a problem. On the third day, I noticed a few spots on my arms and legs and eliminated all but the most basic foods. On the fourth day, I had a full blown rash on my arms and legs. On the fifth day, I stopped the CBD oil and the next morning the rash was immediately, visibly better. I started a prednisone taper and haven’t had any CBD oil or the rash/itchy skin since.

AAAARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! Just when you think you’ve found something that works.

The CBD oil I tried was a broad-spectrum product which, along with CBD, includes some of the other hemp compounds — as opposed to “pure” CBD oil that is processed to eliminate everything but the CBD. I have a bit of sensitivity to various green/growing things and I suspect that one of these compounds triggered that sensitivity. I haven’t ruled out another experiment using the “pure” CBD oil to see if I can get the benefits without the itch.

The product I used was Charlotte’s Web “original formula” in chocolate mint flavor (which tastes like a really bad marijuana brownie — not that I’d know). The “regular” formula is 43 mg/dose and it does have trace THC. There is both a less- and more-potent version and different flavors. The 1 fl. oz. bottle was $145. I’m sure I could have shopped somewhere besides a compounding pharmacy and found better pricing. You can buy smaller bottles of the less potent formula (30 mg) online for much, much less. There are all kinds of brands and forms — from vapors to balms and everything in between with a wide range of pricing to match. The Consumer Reports article is a good place to get oriented to all of this.

I was incredibly encouraged and now discouraged. But I hope my grand experiment was helpful (or at least interesting) to you. I now have to figure out what’s next.

Thanks for going along on this experiment with me and, as always, thanks for checking in.