CBD Breakthroughs Stun Medical Community
Modern Medicine in for a rude wake up call as all natural compound found in ancient herb could make pharmaceutical drugs obsolete
On a mostly overcast day in Black Forest Colorado on October 18, 2006, Matt and Paige Figi could barely contain their joy as the young couple and their son happily welcomed not one, but two healthy bundles of joy into their lives – twin sisters Chase and Charlotte. Born with dark hair and bluish grey eyes, the girls began their lives as perfectly healthy and happy babies with big, beautiful smiles. By all accounts, they were completely normal children.
But at only three months old, Charlotte – nicknamed Charlie – had her first seizure lying on her back during a diaper change after taking a bath. It lasted 30 minutes. A week later, she had another one and over the next few months, the frequency and severity of the episodes began to increase.
The doctors were at a loss. After a battery of tests that went on for over two years, Charlie was finally diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare yet severe form of intractable epilepsy.
Drug resistance is a well-recognized feature of seizures in this syndrome, and anti-seizure drug therapies have limited efficacy. Nevertheless, as her seizures got worse, doctors had no choice but to prescribe more medication, and stronger medication – some of them highly addictive and potentially damaging to her body and brain.
Not surprisingly, the meds didn’t work.
Specialists then put her on a ketogenic diet – a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet meant to control the seizures. Unfortunately, after a prolonged period of time, her tiny body was unable to tolerate the diet and her body deteriorated – resulting in bone loss and a compromised immune system.
And the seizures came back.
By the time she was five, Charlie was having 300 seizures a week. And some seizures would last for more than 30 minutes at a time. The episodes became so violent that each new attack had the potential to end her life. After her heart had already given out several times, and after suffering brain damage from seizure activity and probably the medicine, her parents eventually put a do-not-resuscitate order in her medical records.
Finally, at their wits end and with their daughter unable to walk, talk, or even eat, Matt and Paige Figi decided it was time to try something radical.
The miraculous breakthrough
After pouring over research online, the parents decided to give Charlie cannabis. More specifically, they decided to extract the oil from a cannabis strain that was low in delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis, and high in cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound that was rumored to be highly effective in treating epilepsy.
Paige Figi took a small dose of CBD oil, placed it under Charlie’s tongue and waited… and waited… and waited.
The results could only be described as miraculous.
Charlie didn’t have a seizure that day. Nor did she have a seizure the next day or the day after. In fact, Charlie didn’t have a single seizure in the first seven days of treatment. The CBD worked.
Her story was so awe-inspiring that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, used her story as part of a documentary meant to shed light on the therapeutic value of medical marijuana and CBD in particular.
Practically overnight, Charlie had become an international sensation – a beacon of hope for cannabis and CBD advocates who had been extolling the virtues of the ancient herb and its extracts for years.
Today, Charlie’s seizures only happen two to three times per month, almost solely in her sleep. Not only is she walking, she can ride her bicycle, she feeds herself, and she’s talking more and more each day.
And the strain of cannabis that she takes? It’s produced by the Stanley brothers in Colorado who now call it Charlotte’s Web, aptly named after the miracle child herself, Charlotte Figi.
The case for CBD vs. pharmaceutical drugs
Charlie isn’t the only one being helped by CBD. In 2016, Charlie’s twin sister Chase began presenting with seizures herself but this time, her mother knew exactly what to do. Chase is now on full spectrum hemp oil just like her sister.
But evidence from individual cases isn’t enough to convince the federal government to completely legalize cannabis extracts. So, researchers have taken it upon themselves to study the therapeutic value of CBD as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical medicines for a wide range of conditions and to make the case that it should become more widely available.
For example, a joint study conducted by researchers from the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Romania, demonstrated that CBD was effective for pain relief versus traditional opioid drugs in patients with advanced cancer. The 117 patients who took part in the study were late stage cancer patients who were not getting enough pain relief despite chronic high doses of powerful opioids.
As a guide, the World Health Organization proposes that doctors use an analgesic ladder to guide pain relief for patients in palliative care. Step 1 suggests the use of paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As pain worsens, doctors can move to Step 2 by administering weak opioids along with paracetamol, NSAIDs, and adjuvant analgesic medications. In Step 3, the final step, strong opioids like morphine are often administered in combination with all of the other drugs as a last resort for severe pain relief.
Unfortunately, many patients still report serious pain even while maxing out their opioid intake. What’s worse, these drugs have also been linked to a number of unwanted side effects including constipation, sedation, nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, histamine release, agitation, hallucinations and confusion.
The good news is that the study found that twice as many patients taking a THC:CBD extract showed a reduction of more than 30% from baseline pain. In other words, the THC:CBD extract proved to be a very effective form of pain relief for patients with advanced cancer pain but were not fully relieved by powerful opioids. Their findings were published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.
Another example of cannabinoids showing immense promise as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs is in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Today, the major Alzheimer’s medications available on the market are called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors. AChE inhibitor drugs such as tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine work by inhibiting the AChE enzyme from breaking down acetylcholine which increases its levels and duration of actions in the brain. Acetylcholine is an essential neurotransmitter that plays an important role in memory. A shortage of acetylcholine is linked to cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s patients.
But although AChE inhibitors can help alleviate some of the symptoms, they do not delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. More importantly, their side effects are well known to include abdominal pain, lack of appetite, yellowed skin, dizziness, slow heartbeat, and sudden or substantial weight loss.
But researchers Ki-Yeol Yoo and So-Young Park from Dankook University in Korea found that CBD is an excellent potential anti-Alzheimer’s disease medication. The strong antioxidant effect of CBD provides neuroprotection for the brain. It also alleviates neuro-inflammation which has been known to play a major role in the development of the disease.
CBD can also reduce tau protein hyperphosphorylation, one of pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
Tau proteins are responsible for stabilizing microtubules which act like railroad tracks to transport proteins and other cargo along the neuron’s axon. Phosphor groups normally help microtubules with binding, but when tau proteins become hyperphosphorylated (or tagged with phosphor groups at multiple sites), they become defective and can no longer stabilize microtubules properly.
These defective proteins then detach completely from microtubules and begin clumping together to form into tangles called NFTs. Today, doctors can use the spread of tau NFTs in the brain to directly track the progress of Alzheimer’s dementia.
Modern Medicine needs to smarten up
As you can see, CBD researchers from all over the world are beginning to prove that CBD can be a highly effective alternative treatment for a range of conditions including epilepsy, late stage cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
For Charlotte Figi’s epilepsy, heavy-duty and highly addictive drugs such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines damaged her body and her brain, yet they did little to help her nearly fatal condition. CBD was a last resort for Charlotte’s parents when it should’ve been utilized much sooner – as evidenced by her twin sister Chase.
Likewise, for patients suffering from late stage cancer, even the strongest opioids aren’t enough to help them deal with the severe pain caused by cancer. Because pain control in palliative care is critical, more can be done medically to make their last few weeks or months relatively pain-free – especially for patients who don’t respond well to opioids.
And for Alzheimer’s patients, the only major treatments available today are AChE inhibitors which only help to alleviate some of the symptoms but don’t delay the disease’s progression. Researchers believe new medications are essential for treating the disease before the damage becomes irreversible.
For these conditions and many others, the generally accepted practice is to prescribe more medication, and stronger medication – even if they don’t really help the underlying problem and can cause extremely harmful damage to a patient’s body.
But if there are natural alternatives out there that are non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and have genuine therapeutic value, shouldn’t they at least be included in the discussion?
Mounting evidence points overwhelmingly to yes.
Modern medicine needs to get serious about CBD otherwise we could very easily lose the next Charlotte Figi. Let’s try our best to make sure it never comes to that.
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