CBD as an Alternative Treatment in Holistic Medicine
What is holistic medicine as alternative treatment and how does it compare to conventional medicine? And...could CBD be considered a viable alternative medicine treatment to pharmaceutical drugs in holistic medicine?
The goal of the medical and pharmaceutical industry has traditionally been to alleviate symptoms. In other words, traditional medicine is about getting patients from, let’s say, a -1 or -3 on a scale of mental and physical health to a 0. But the new definition of health and wellness and the ultimate goal of holistic medicine is to get people from a -1 or -3 to a +1 or +3, for example.
Rather than masking illness and treating symptoms, holistic therapy is about helping people experience a physical and mental state of flourishing. So...Can CBD fall in the category of holistic medicine?
The Holistic Medicine Framework
Holistic medicine aims to help people flourish beyond just being free from mental or physical illness. Holistic medicine embraces the healing power of love, hope, humor, and enthusiasm and aims to relinquish negative emotions and illness.
In the framework of holistic medicine, illness is attributed to the dysfunction of the whole self, not to an isolated cause or event. To combat illness, cultivate positive emotions, and reach a state of flourishing, lifestyle changes and alternative treatment are key pillars of holistic medicine.
Lifestyle approaches to holistic medicine include a nutrient-rich diet, exercising, getting a sufficient amount of sleep, using herbal supplements, and taking advantage of probiotics and prebiotics. Holistic medicine also promotes the use of alternative medicine over pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs.
So could CBD be considered an alternative medicine in holistic therapy? Based on the principles of holistic medicine, it’s important to consider both physical and mental impacts of CBD on the well-being and its role in helping or hindering human flourishing.
Roots of CBD in Alternative Medicine
The American Indian hemp plant (Apocynum cannabinum L.)--also called American hemp and black Indian hem--has been used for centuries as holistic medicine and herbal treatment for a number of mind, body, and soul purposes. CBD is a huge part of this plant, usually making up 40% of hemp extracts.
The high CBD Indian Hemp plant is distinct from the Cannabis indica plant (i.e. Indian hemp of India or hashish) and the Eurasian Cannabis sativa plant (i.e. the marijuana plant). Native Americans and the earliest settlers boiled the root and stem of the hemp plant to dissolve its therapeutic chemical components, including what is now known as the CBD cannabinoid, for physical and psychological relief.
The powdered root bark of the hemp plant, which has large amounts of CBD but small amounts of the mind-altering cannabinoid THC, was extracted to relieve rheumatism (rheumatoid arthritis), dropsies (the swelling of soft tissue or cavities in the body from excess water), asthma, and whooping cough in American Indian medicine, a key underpinning of holistic medicine today.
Another high CBD but low THC cannabis plant native to many parts of North America called A. cannabinum was used by the Iroquois tribe to reduce a combination of fever, intestinal hemorrhages, and diarrhea symptoms. The Penobscots tribe steeped this high CBD hemp plant in water for medicine to clear the digestive tract. The hemp plant was also used by the Forest Potawatomis tribe as a diuretic and urinary medicine. The “green fruit” or the leaf of the plant, which has quite a significant amount of CBD, was boiled for a heart and kidney medicine.
The Flambeau Ojibwas steeped the stalk and root of the A. cannabinum hemp plant to make a tea for women. By extracting the natural therapeutic benefits of CBD in the hemp plant, the tea helped keep the kidneys free and healthy during pregnancy. Similarly, the Meskwakis tribe used hemp extracts high in CBD in a formula to treat womb injuries. The Pillager Ojibwas tribe also featured the “sacred root” in their medicine-lodge ceremony. The high CBD hemp root was placed on live coals. The incense was then inhaled to relieve throat trouble and headache complaints and to purify the mind, body, and soul.
CBD as a Candidate for Holistic Medicine Today?
Mental and physical processes go hand in hand. Oftentimes, treating a mental symptom cures the physical manifestation of illness. And vice versa: treating physical symptoms can impact our mental states. The fundamental argument for CBD as an alternative medicine is that it impacts both the mental AND the physical without making you feel “high” or “stoned”.
CBD products are now in states across the country since hemp, a critical source of CBD, was legalized last year. CBD and other cannabinoids in the family of cannabis (and hemp) plants have a well-documented history in the treatment of debilitating conditions including chronic pain, PTSD, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, MS, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, glaucoma, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), anxiety, depression, and a host of other diseases and complaints.
In addition to overcoming illness and reaching a state of flourishing, prevention is another top priority in holistic medicine. Prevention is far better than treatment, after all. This is great news for CBD in terms of its prospects as an alternative treatment in holistic medicine.
CBD plays a direct role in stimulating our natural self-regulating endocannabinoid system. Because of its success in balancing and harmonizing our internal systems and processes, CBD may be a key component in the prevention of illness and a great candidate for holistic medicine.
But while CBD is arguably the most remarkable cannabinoid in the cannabis family of plants; research and testimonials on the physiological AND psychological benefits of cannabis extend far beyond just CBD oil and supplements alone.
A Broader Look at Cannabis as a Holistic Medicine
The healing power of the cannabis plant is quite extensive and complex. The cannabis (and hemp) plant contains a wide range of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory ingredients, healthy fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and 120+ cannabinoids. Just a few of these plant-derived cannabinoids that provide therapeutic benefits include CBD, THC, and CBG.
Today, a range of cannabinoid drugs and marijuana extracts are developed and recommended to medical patients every day as an alternative treatment. CBD, THC and other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant have been shown to slow the growth and spread of some types of cancer, for example, according to the American Cancer Society. Cannabinoid supplements and marijuana extracts are also tied to a decrease in the use of pharmaceutical pain medications like opioids and over-the-counter medications.
Smoking weed flower, with a vaporizer or another smoking device, also has substantial benefits for epilepsy patients, people with severe pain, and cancer patients. For people suffering from such conditions, smoking cannabis helps to manage neuropathic, joint and inflammatory pain AND treat nausea, vomiting and muscle spasms.
Smoking and vaping weed allows you to extract the entire scope of components in cannabis flower. Beyond CBD, this includes the rest of the cannabinoids that stimulate our balancing endocannabinoid receptors and the other nutrient-dense components in cannabis.
Many medical marijuana patients practicing holistic medicine prefer smoking marijuana compared to taking even low-grade drugs like Tylenol because it provides mental relief without masking the pain someone is experiencing. Many pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter pain meds are designed to cover up pain, which can be dangerous because pain is a vital human response and survival mechanism. When we feel pain, we know we need to back off what we’re doing and/or find a way to relieve the external and internal stimuli causing harm.
Beyond the Mental and Physical Components of CBD
Holistic medicine emphasizes the optimization of the entire self. So, for some, treating the soul is another part of this framework. Before considering how CBD may influence the holistic self beyond the mind and body, let’s quickly take a look at what the philosopher, theologian, and jurist St. Thomas said on the matter.
The famous figure is known for saying that "the soul's rest is pleasure” and that one should seek the "delight of the soul" unless that "pleasure" is harmful, disruptive to the balance of "one's mind and one's life", or inappropriate for the person or occasion. Because of the non-psychoactive effects of CBD and its impact on harmonizing the mind and body, CBD may be a beneficial way to please the mind, body, and soul without doing any harm.
With its role in regulating the body and mind (and potentially nourishing the soul), CBD oil and supplements could do wonders in furthering the mission of holistic medicine. We all know about the psychoactive effects of cannabis. What are your thoughts on the use of non-psychoactive CBD in holistic medicine? What about the broader cannabis plant as a whole?