Nothing worked to control my pain from fibromyalgia. Then I tried CBD.
Two miles from our home near Seattle I pleaded with my husband, “Turn around. I can’t do this.” Moaning in pain, my vision blurred as my pain scale hit an 8 and threatened to end our 2,000-mile road trip. Angry nerves fired, burning throughout my body. My chest filled with heartache.
My husband and I were on our way to California to help our newly homeless family. They were victims of the worst wildfire in California’s history and we longed to hug, console, and support them. I released my car seat to recline but it was blocked by a treasured antique, a third generation, Grandma Rickliff heirloom chest. It still wore its original stain and smelled musty. Each drawer had separate keyholes trimmed with cord-like rope, hand carved out of wood. I longed to see my sister-in-law’s face and resettle the chest into a world where they had lost everything, except their lives.
Sobbing, I screamed, “Who am I?” Slowly, over 26 years, fibromyalgia changed me, making me a stranger to myself and my husband. The disorder caused widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied with fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Prescription drugs and pain relievers never worked, and I feared the side effects. Yoga proved helpful, but I couldn’t afford the time for desired results. When a massage therapist laid hands on me, the positive effect was often immediate, but the euphoria proved fleeting.
Just days before the trip, I began experimenting with CBD-active terpenes (with no THC). Now, with my thinking obscured, my husband thought for me. “Why don’t you double the CBD?” he asked.
Why hadn’t I thought of that? The directions were to increase the dose until the CBD became effective, perhaps another dose would work. I pulled the tincture from my purse and gently squirted a lemon-flavored second dose under my tongue. With the limited studies I had assessed, I doubted it would work. I thought of it a bit like snake oil, but I had nothing to lose. It was the role of the dice.
We continued on our journey south. I noticed a difference after about 30 minutes and was able to stop shifting and rest as the pain was alleviating. When I opened my eyes, I focused on the scenic beauty of Oregon.
As we rolled into our hotel in Medford, golden light warmed the car, and I gently started stretching out my muscles with little pain. No, I did not want to go dancing but I was moving, my pain levels were tolerable, enough so that we walked to a quaint Chinese restaurant for dinner. Before turning down the bed I dosed myself with another dropper of CBD. By morning, my pain levels were down to a two or three. I remained comfortable for the remainder of the trip. I had my life back.
One and a half years later, my pain is controlled, and I enjoy most activities. I climb stairs without limitations, and I can stand for prolonged periods of time. I am seldom edgy from pain, and I can function at a computer.
One more thing happened that I didn’t expect. My sleeping patterns changed. I was falling asleep effortlessly and remaining asleep throughout the night like during my childhood. It was a revolutionary experience, clearly not a placebo effect.
As I continue to benefit from CBD, I have studied and learned a great deal. All CBD products are not equal. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of determining guidelines for CBD. Until they do, we need to assume responsibility for what we are using and it’s important to educate ourselves. Here is a little of what I’ve learned and some tips and places to start:
Only Purchase CBD from a Reputable Source: If you live in Western Washington, most Washington State licensed cannabis stores are very knowledgeable about their products and can be an excellent source of information. Most pharmacies carry CBD products and pharmacists can help identify known drug interactions. CBD products do not require a prescription. The Internet can be a valuable resource to compare and purchase products. Remember that only doctors and pharmacists can offer medical advice or suggest products for specific ailments. It is always important to check with your doctor before starting any hemp- or cannabis-derived product.
Get a Certificate of Analysis: When purchasing any CBD product, always ask for a third-party Certificate of Analysis (CoA). A third-party CoA means that the product has been reviewed by an independent laboratory. Look specifically to see if the product has been tested for pesticides and heavy metals. If a brand cannot provide a third-party CoA, move on.
Always Review the Label: We’ve all been told how important it is to read the labels. When buying CBD products, it’s essential. Look for an expiration date, the amount of CBD/Phyto cannabinoids, and check for other ingredients.
Check THC Levels: THC is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. Federally legal CBD products can contain from zero up to 0.3% THC. Washington State products can contain higher levels, which may not be legal in other states. It is important to know how THC affects you, especially if you plan to operate a vehicle, or if you have balance issues. Start with zero or very low THC. I always choose a product that is 100% THC-free.
Consider the “Entourage Effect”: While CBD and THC are the primary cannabinoids that can produce a therapeutic effect, the “entourage effect” theory posits that a combination of chemicals, especially terpenes, play a key role in helping to realize the plant’s full therapeutic benefits. Terpenes are organic, aromatic hydrocarbons that can be found in thousands of plants around the world. I use a product with more than 40 terpenes to achieve homeostasis.
Quality is Important: Remember, generally you get what you pay for. It is true of many purchases and, certainly, CBD.
Safety First: It bears repeating—check with your doctor before starting a hemp- or cannabis-derived product, especially if you are taking other medications.
Try, Try Again: Finally, if you do try CBD, be patient. If it doesn’t work, try a different brand. If your pain is local, try a topical. Although both tinctures and capsules are good for overall pain, tinctures allow more flexibility for dosing than capsules do.
After a lifetime of leadership in senior communities and hospice, Debbie Van Straten is now a published author. Her stories on aging define elderhood as a stage of life as unique and special as childhood or adulthood. She lives in Bremerton, Wash.