By Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L
Numerous Lyme disease patients are turning to CBD (cannabidiol) to help manage a myriad of symptoms. From capsules, tinctures, and balms, it’s readily available in many preparations at health food stores around the country. But what is CBD?
CBD is one of several components found in the Cannabis sativa and indica plants that make up hemp oil. It may contain trace amounts of THC, but it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects of medical cannabis (marijuana).
If you’ve been in the Lyme community for any length of time, you’ll hear countless patients sing the praises of this emerging compound. Here, I examine four studies that demonstrate ways in which CBD may help mitigate Lyme disease symptoms.
Science-Backed Uses of CBD
1. It lowers anxiety.
Anxiety is a frequent complaint among Lyme patients, and many patients aren’t satisfied with the pharmaceutical options to control this condition. A 2015 study in Neurotherapeutics, a peer-reviewed medical journal, showed substantial evidence of CBD’s ability to reduce anxiety in healthy individuals, people who have anxiety disorders, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Furthermore, CBD may be a potential therapeutic intervention for people with PTSD and improve the outcomes of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, the study points out that additional research is needed to examine the impact CBD could have with consistent use over a long span of time.
Could we one-day soon see physicians offering CBD as a therapeutic agent for anxiety? This study suggests it’s a possibility.
2. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory.
Copious amounts of Lyme patients struggle with chronic pain, and often, they can’t find an appropriate medication to relieve this distressing symptom. Currently, CBD oil is a hot topic in the Lyme community, and perhaps, rightfully so. In fact, a 2012 study in Journal of Experimental Medicine demonstrated this unique compound’s ability to suppress inflammation and nerve pain without losing its effectiveness in rodents. For humans, this means CBD, along with other compounds, may be an innovative Lyme disease strategy for people who suffer from chronic pain. But unlike some traditional pain medications, you’re unlikely to build up a tolerance to it.
3. It reduces acne.
A few years ago I was given two medications from my doctor: one to help me sleep and another to provide me with energy. An unfortunate side effect of these prescriptions was that they gave me acne. Sometimes, it was the painful, cystic-type of acne, which can be challenging to manage. I tried every cream I could get my hands on to get rid of the breakouts. To my dismay, nothing worked on my skin. What options did I have left? Perhaps CBD.
But according to a 2014 study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, CBD has the potential to reduce acne — the most common skin disease. The study showed that CBD lessened the production of sebum — an oily substance secreted by the skin’s sebaceous glands. Plus, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties on the body helped curtail the occurrence of acne as well.
4. It has a neuroprotective effect.
By definition, a neuroprotective substance is one that protects the nerve cells from damage, degeneration, and dysfunction. In Lyme patients, the die-off reactions that occur when treatments kill the infections result in a flood of neurotoxins in the body. Some of the symptoms of neurotoxicity include brain fog, depression, dysregulation of hormones, autoimmune conditions, insomnia, seizures, and more. CBD may be helpful for reducing neurotoxicity. In 2003, research showed CBD had a neuroprotective quality by blocking the formation of nitrotyrosine — a marker that indicates damage to the cells. Moreover, the study showed that CBD is a potent antioxidant capable of protecting the brain from oxidative stress.
Is CBD Legal?
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the use of cbd derived from hemp in all 50 states. Previously, there had been an ongoing, political debate over who controlled the substance. The discussions centered around how CBD should be categorized. Was it derived from a psychoactive plant (and therefore, a controlled substance)? Or, was it derived from hemp (which didn’t fall under the category of a controlled substance)?
Finally, lawmakers reached a consensus on the conditions of use for this specific compound. CBD products can legally be purchased in stores and online and used in all 50 states.
Are there side effects from CBD?
The studies mentioned in this article report that CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated by most people. However, the long-term effects of this compound are unknown at this time. CBD is metabolized in the cytochrome p450 pathway of the liver and could potentially interact with other drugs that utilize this pathway (steroids, anti-anxiety medications, pain medications, etc.). Please talk to your doctor before incorporating it into your Lyme disease protocol.
Some people report mild side effects like tiredness, digest upset, low blood pressure, and lightheadedness. But these side effects may vary from person-to-person and by the dosages taken.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on October 29, 2017 and was updated on January 14, 2021.
- Blessing, E., Steenkamp, M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. (2015, October 12). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 12(4): 825–836. DOI: 10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Oláh, A., et al. (2014, April 16). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 124(9): 3713–3724. DOI: 10.1172/JCI64628
- Xiong, W., et al. (2012, June 4). Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting a3 glycine receptors. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 209 (6), 1121. DOI: 10.1084/jem.20120242
- El-Remessy, A., et al. (2003, Nov). Neuroprotective Effect of(?)?9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol in N-Methyl-d-Aspartate-Induced Retinal Neurotoxicity. The American Journal of Pathology. 163(5): 1997–2008. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1892413/
Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L, is a well-known freelance writer and occupational therapist whose life was transformed by Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and interstitial cystitis. She is ProHealth’s Content Manager and creator of the DVD, New Dawn Pilates: pilates-inspired exercises adapted for people with pelvic pain. Jenny writes about her healing journey on The Lyme Road as she continues to pursue better health with the support of her husband and two rescue pups. You can find her on Instagram: @jenny_buttaccio or Twitter: @jennybuttaccio.