My anxiety has no name but takes up space in my apartment. The third person in my relationship, it lays awake at night between us, pumping blood and spewing venom all over the sheets, and the floor, and the walls. It’s 4 30am and I’ve chewed my nails to the meat. I can’t focus on any singular thing, so instead focus on them all. I toss and I pace and I shiver myself asleep eventually, just as the sun begins to threaten a new day.
My anxiety fits in a clutch bag and likes to go to work. It clings to the back of my neck like a jealous humidity and whispers things from behind my ears, that make it hard to keep food down. Food. I cook elaborately for the few moments of peace the ritual affords me, but never get around to eating any of it. My neighbors must be sick to death of Carrot muffins.
A few years ago when anxiety came to stay, my doctor tried to medicate it away. ‘Take one of these a day and try jogging 3 times a week’. Jogging? I had lost 6 kgs in 2 weeks and my skin had gone grey behind the worry in my eyes. My heart beat irregularly, catching my breath in my chest and stopping me in my tracks. Jogging? Getting out of bed was a miracle.
The drugs emptied me of myself. It felt like I was hollow and weightless, blowing through the world like a spectre. I couldn’t grasp onto anything, couldn’t stay present; couldn’t feel things at all. It was like someone had turned the lights out on who I was. Against the better judgment of my person, I weened myself off. I would take the anguish as part of the package deal of my personality. If this was just who I was, I would have to accept that it would never be easy to live inside of my own body.
I’ve smoked weed since my teens. Recreationally of course like most kids that age, but now it seemed to be my only escape. Not only did I feel lighter and unburdened while high, my appetite returned and I slept like a rock through the night. I started leaning more readily on it for some semblance of relief from the war happening in my head. As far as vices go, I prefer it to alcohol, and even stopped drinking altogether, in favour of the light and cheerful person I felt like, while imbibing on the ‘erb. But like all things, dependency is counterintuitive. I was a cripple with a crutch, and I wanted something more permanent. Prolonged use can make you sluggish and lower your productivity. It made me quieter and I found myself retreating back into my head, only this time, to enjoy my peace privately. Antisocial. For the record, mans doesn’t smoke. Anything. Ever. He barely drinks.
He’d been talking about it for weeks, but I finally agreed to look into CBD as a more long term way to engage the same feeling of relief I got while smoking, without the added layers of reduced productivity and eau de fume. We took a trip to Cape Town the weekend before I left for New York, and stumbled into a boutique I had seen once or twice on Instagram. It was a particularly stressful time for me, there was a lot going on with a client, I was about to move across the world (again), and staring down the barrel of another Masters degree, 3 years after completing my first; there was a lot stewing. The sales assistant was out on lunch, but I insisted we wait. When she did return, she was so helpful and gentle and could relate to my story; so few people can. After touring all their wares, I settled on a Clove flavoured, disposable Relax CBD vape pen, and their 100mg CBD drops. They let you test the vapes in store before you settle on a flavor, which I think is very much in the spirit of ‘puff puff pass’. I went back the next day to stock up on double what I had bought.
Cannabis is a fascinating plant that has been used throughout history for its healing qualities, but has only recently begun to make its way into the mainstream, thanks to new decriminalisation regulations. Its modern medicinal uses are only just starting to be revealed, with many more waiting to be discovered, I’m sure. What we know so far is that it’s many parts and constituents have shown remarkable potential to assist everything from anxiety to pain management, sleep to skin care, available in a variety of formulations to best suit your needs.
CBD stands for Cannabidiol, which is a type of Cannabinoid, and is a natural chemical compound extracted from the Cannabis Sativa plant. For those of you who partake in the herb, you already know the differences between Sativa and Indica plants. CBD is the compound in the plant, responsible for the overwhelmingly positive side effects and benefits of Cannabis, whereas THC is solely responsible for the ‘high’ commonly associated with smoking the herb. While CBD can have many positive side effects (aiding in sleep, pain relief, and easing anxiety) CBD will not get you high.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that make up the Cannabis plant. There are over 113 unique Cannabinoids, CBD and THC being the most well-known and studied. Both are unique Cannabinoids with separate properties and offer an array of therapeutic benefits. They work by imitating compounds our bodies naturally produce, called Endocannabinoids, which activate to maintain internal stability and health.
CBD was discovered in 1942, two years after the first individual Cannabinoid discovery was made. CBD until recent years was believed to be a natural precursor to THC because of its molecular similarity. We now know that this wonder compound is produced independently from THC in the Cannabis plant.
There was a time when you could only get CBD from ‘someone who knows a guy’. Access to CBD was limited to what seemed like an inner circle of people who somehow knew someone that got ‘really good stuff’. And that’s pretty much all it took – word-of-mouth and a thumbs-up.
As the CBD market expands and becomes ever more crowded with products, promotion and promises, the source of the CBD and how it got from seed to shelf is becoming increasingly more important. Where does it come from? Where was it grown and extracted?
Whether its a local or global brand, grown in Lesotho or California, traceability is a concept that’s gaining momentum in all Cannabis-derived products - and not just for ethical reasons - but for ensuring the industry is held to consistent health and safety standards to build trust with consumers globally.
The other, more obvious point is to ensure it is THC-free. Quite simply, the more you know where a product comes from – whether it’s a coffee bean or an apple – the more you’ll inherently trust a brand and a supplier. With a natural product like Cannabis, transparency, honesty and trust are arguably more important than slick marketing campaigns and fancy packaging.
Key questions to ask your CBD supplier as provided by Goodleaf, the supplier of the CBD products I use:
Where was the Hemp grown (continent, country, state, local area?)
Where was the product processed? Was is lab-tested by an independent third party?
How was the CBD extracted?
What is the amount of CBD in each dosage? Do they fall under the legal threshold? (Your recommended daily dose is 20mg of CBD)
Is it 100% THC free? (ie, does it contact 0.3% THC or less?
What other ingredients are listed? There shouldn’t be a long list of other stuff.
Did you know that there is a system in our bodies comprised of receptors that interact exclusively with Cannabinoids like CBD?
‘The discovery of receptors in the brain that respond to Cannabis – and the subsequent identification of Endogenous Cannabinoid compounds in our own bodies that bind to these receptors – has significantly advanced our understanding of human biology, health, and disease. This concept is the cornerstone of cannabis as medicine. These active ingredients in Cannabis directly interact with a complex network of receptors in the human body called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Think of it as a system of docking sites located in the brain and throughout the body, specifically designed to interact with substances like CBD. The receptors in the ECS are the most prevalent neuro-receptors in the brain and are prolific in the immune system, organs, bones and skin.’ – Goodleaf
Studies in humans and animals have shown that CBD has effects that are simply astounding. In contrast to THC, CBD has no effect on heart rate or blood pressure under normal conditions, but in certain cases of stress it reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
All natural lock & key. Think of the ECS like a lock-and-key system inside your body. The lock (or internal receptor) is always present, waiting for the key. We know of two forms of ‘keys’ that can activate the receptor, one of them being Endocannabinoids. These are naturally occurring compounds found in the human body. Phytocannabinoids are the ones found in plants that interact with the body in the same way. These phytocannabinoids found in cannabis that make up our CBD products.
Scientific research on the effects of CBD remains scarce, growing anecdotal evidence shows it could help people with everything from general aches and pains to insomnia and may even help cancer patients overcome chemo-related nausea.
‘A recent Harris Poll (https://theharrispoll.com/) surveyed more than 2 000 people in the US about their experience, knowledge, and opinions regarding CBD and found that more than 85% of Americans have heard of CBD, and of those, more than one in five have tried it.’ – Goodleaf
And what are all these people using CBD for? ‘More than half of the CBD-users surveyed – some 55% – said they use it to relax. Half reported using it to reduce stress and anxiety, and the proportions of people who use CBD to improve their sleep and relieve pain (including muscle, chronic, and joint pain) were not far behind. Also on the list were relief from migraines, menstrual symptoms, nausea, and sexual enhancement.’ (source: Quartzy, 17 April 2019)
The majority of available evidence suggests that CBD may complement cancer treatment by stimulating appetite, reducing inflammation and combating nausea. CBD indirectly acts on the certain receptors, which may help with widespread pain relief by reducing inflammation.
Mans and I went for a walk; I puffed and he talked and I felt my feet return to the ground. I felt the weight in all my steps, the heat in my cheeks. I felt centred. It’s been a couple weeks now, and although I still smoke, I can do so recreationally again, and not for fear that I won’t sleep for 2 days. Anxiety is such a complex affliction, it requires so much effort and engagement. I have to watch my habits closely lest I spiral and there is no one around to point me towards the light. For now, I’m pleased to report that my adventure with CBD has proven successful, and I feel more and more connected every day. If you’ve tried CBD products, I would love to know what you think and what you use!