No trendy wellness fad this, we take a look at what CBD can do for you
• It is not new • It’s legal • It’s not psychoactive • It’s a natural painkiller • It can reduce stress • It can aid sleep
In early January 2019, South African rally driver Ashley Haigh-Smith crashed while testing a new race car. He went off the road at around 130km/h and collided with a bridge pillar, stopping instantly. The impact snapped his spine in seven places (T1-T7), dislodged his diaphragm and cracked four of his ribs. Highly fortunate to not be paralysed, the injuries made for a long road to recovery.
The doctors recommended spinal fusion, but Haigh-Smith refused. “It would’ve lead to about two years of being immobile - one year with the plates in my back and the second learning how to do everything again,” he says. Instead he researched alternative therapies and did a series of hyperbaric chamber treatments (where they simulate the patient being 40m under water and give them 100% pure oxygen in 12 minute doses) in conjunction with a regiment of CBD in tincture form.
CBD (or cannabidiol) is one of over a hundred cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant and the one believed to have many therapeutic effects on the human body and mind. It has come to the fore over recent years as a therapy for various conditions
This is what Haigh-Smith learned about CBD, and why it should be part of your supplement regime, even if you don’t have a career-threatening injury.
It has been used for centuries Examples of the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes have been found dating back as far as 4000 BC. “It is listed in the earliest Chinese Pharmacopoeia,” says Tony Budden co-founder of Hemporium and long-time cannabis activist. According to Budden there is archeological studies which show the plant may have been used anaesthetic in Eastern Europe; as food by certain tribes in Siberia and seeds were even found in the volcanic ashes of Pompeii.
It is legal
Being a professional athlete, Haigh-Smith could not risk taking anything that might cause him to test positive and be sanctioned. He was 100% safe taking CBD, because in September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is not a criminal offence for an adult citizen to use, possess or grow cannabis in private for personal consumption in South Africa.
“Cannabis products considered to be ‘health supplements’ (with no medical claims), have recently been exempted from the medicines and related substances act,” adds Budden. “This, as long as they contain a daily dose less then than 20mg cannabidiol (CBD), as well as those containing less than 0.001% of THC.”
It is not habit forming and not psychoactive
“Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it has no psycho-stimulant properties,” says Budden, who is an internationally acclaimed expert on the subject. “CBD can be extracted from either of the cannabis sativa species - hemp or marijuana (there are countless cultivars of each). “Both come from the cannabis family but hemp plants typically contain less than 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana plants contain higher (and varying, depending on variant) concentrations of THC,” he says.
It is a natural painkiller that aids the body with healing “I’m allergic to nearly all pain killers and anti-inflammatories,” explains Haigh-Smith, “so after my accident the doctors didn’t know what to give me to help me with the pain.” During his extensive research and consultation with medical experts in various fields, he learned that CBD is a natural pain killer and, while it helps numb the pain it doesn’t ‘block’ the body from healing an injured part, as regular pain killers might.
A study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supports this. “Certain types of non-psychoactive cannabinoids can potentiate glycine receptors (GlyRs), an important target for nociceptive regulation at the spinal level. We report that systemic and intrathecal administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance,” reads the study.
“It really felt like the blood was flowing to the muscles and that the recovery was working,” says Haigh-Smith. “And, the results showed, when I went for my four-week check up, the doctors were amazed at the improvement in my spine and they put it down to blood flow and the release of human growth hormone (HGH) into the bloodstream,” he says. Among other things, HGH rebuilds damaged tissue while building stronger muscles.
It helps you focus
Not only is Haigh-Smith a professional driver, but he has various business concerns in the motorsports industry too. “Stress manifests in a different ways,” he says talking business. “For me, racing stress is a good kind of stress that helps me focus and race properly, but something like financial stress on the business side of things is a negative stress,” he says, outlining how the use of CBD helped him manage his stress and focus better at work.
“I’ve struggled with attention span and focus since I was a child, but things have changed so much this year. Now, I get to the the office around 10 in the morning (after my early training session), I take a few drops, take a few deep breaths and then focus on the tasks ahead. My time management is still not where it should be, but I’m a far more efficient worker than in the past, I can concentrate on what is at hand and that is new.”
This, according to Budden is because the the CBD triggers the endocannabinoid system and accelerates the growth and development of nervous tissue with little to no side effects.
It helps you sleep
Because of the nature of his injury, sleeping lying down became barely possible due to pain. “On top of that I used to struggle a bit with insomnia due to stress,” Haigh-Smith explains. He started taking CBD drops before bed and found the results very positive. “I sleep five to six hours now. I don’t wake up groggy or feel that I need a coffee to wake up - which is great because I’m far less dependant on that than I was in the past.”