The Endocannabinoid System & PTSD:  Could Hemp Oil Be The Missing Link?

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Written by Fatima Cook and Gregg Cook

Let us begin with the basics.

What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

First documented in the 1990s, this system is a relatively new discovery and is an internal (endo-) receptor for cannabidiol, serving as a modulator and communicator between all the other systems in the body.  These receptors are found in the brain and gut as well as the immune, cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems, and even in the nuclear membrane of cells. When this enormously important endocannabinoid system is properly primed with sufficient cannabinoids – which in optimal health, the body is able to self-produce – the body maintains homeostasis, or balance, and functions the way it is naturally designed to do. In this way, the body can heal itself. We now know that, aside from the endogenous cannabinoids the body produces, they can also be found in small concentrations in such foods as cacao, echinacea, and fish oil, and is even present in mother’s breast milk.  In its most concentrated form, cannabinoids are found in cannabidiol, or hemp oil, also commonly referred to as CBD.

Hemp oil is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant (or the marijuana plant) and is one of the plant’s two main active compounds – the other being delta-9-terahydrocannabinol, or THC, the one producing psychoactive effects – the well-known “high.”  It has shown powerful results as a treatment for a variety of formerly untreatable conditions, ranging from auto-immune and neuro-degenerative diseases, epileptic seizures, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often experienced by Veterans.

How Can Hemp Oil Treat PTSD?       

Hemp oil mitigates two defining characteristics of PTSD: the terror PTSD sufferers experience reliving past trauma and the anxiety that this terror can cause. The immense, unrelenting stress and fear which lead to the disorder cause significant dampening of the endocannabinoid system and the brain’s ability to regulate memories.  Hemp oil fills the gaps, priming the system to self-regulate and expedite the elimination of a conditioned fear. Hemp oil or CBD works synergistically with the body to quell anxiety, therefore allowing for a more restful night’s sleep without the disruption of flashback memories. The added benefit of hemp oil is that it works its magic without the psychoactive component of the hemp plant.

Not All Hemp Oils Are Created Equal

While there are many hemp products in the marketplace today, it is important to know which ones will provide relief and not empty the bank account. The first thing to know is that some CBD products are plant-based while others are lab-created.  Look for plant-based — nature usually does things better than chemicals. Specifically, search for a hemp oil that is derived from the whole plant, including stalks and stems, and pristinely grown without the use of pesticides.

Second, make sure the hemp oil is meticulously extracted so that the amount of remaining THC is undetectable.

Last, but of equal importance, is the bio-availability of the oil.  What we mean by this, is that most dietary supplements need to travel through the digestive tract in order to be processed and for its positive effects to take hold.  In the case of hemp oil, most of the beneficial compounds (upwards of 90%) are destroyed through the digestive process, turning it into a relatively useless, very expensive supplement.  An efficient and bioavailable hemp oil should have two distinct features:

  1. It should be delivered to the body through high-grade liposomes.  A liposome is a microscopic sphere made of phospholipids, the basic building blocks of cell membranes.
  2. Its particle size should be miniscule, ideally, nano-sized (1/100th the width of a single human hair).

When these two features are combined, the absorption of the oil into the body rapidly begins in the mouth.  Consumed regularly, a state of calm focus and restorative well-being can be easily attained.

Looking for more research?  There are thousands upon thousands of studies out there.  Have a look at pubmed.gov and projectcbd.org.

Please contact us at Deep Health Evolution with any questions or concerns about how hemp oil might help reduce the debilitating effects the “invisible wounds” of PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have on Veterans.

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Treating PTSD: An Evolving Science

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War produces many unforeseen consequences.  Not all of these “consequences” are detected – let alone understood – at the time they occur, but the long term effect can be quite unsettling to society for many years after a “war” has ended.

While it has long been known that trauma occurring in combat  can create radical changes in a person’s behavior, it has only been in the last few years that behavioral scientists and those in the medical profession have actively been identifying and studying the effects of Post Traumatic Stress (commonly referred to as “PTSD” for combat veterans from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Veterans with PTSD - War in Afghanistan

In fact, in an article published in the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, they report that:

Military personnel experiencing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering wounds that are much greater in number and variety than those endured by veterans of earlier wars. This circumstance is due, in part, to advances in medical science and technology. Soldiers, sailors and  marines who suffered such severe wounds in earlier wars simply died because they were beyond the reach of then contemporary medicine or technology.

In addition, in earlier wars, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not even given a name, let alone recognized as a valid form of war-related casualty. Now, PTSD is thoroughly documented and a whole array of treatments are available to veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan Wars. Friedman (2006) summarized PTSD symptoms as being typified by numbing, evasion, hyper-vigilance, and re-experiencing of disturbing incidents via flashbacks. Veterans and other non-combatant participants in war who have outlived traumatic experiences typically suffer from PTSD.    Read more . . .

Given their own particular situation, many reading this article may disagree with the premise it is only recently that PTSD is now recognized as a “valid form of war-related casualty.”  Nevertheless, the public at large has little knowledge of the terrible toll that PTSD and TBI have on our Veterans and their loved ones.

As I reported last week in a column entitled “What the Greeks Knew About PTSD,” I highlighted some of the current literature that casts light on the symptoms of PTSD and possible therapy programs.

If the general public “buys into the silver bullet” therapy afforded by self-serving soundbites, you can rest assured that our politicians and administrators of VA and DoD programs will most likely conclude that they have the problem well in hand.

Quite the contrary is true, considering the number of Veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI demanding access to new treatment methodologies.    Sadly, coverage for inexpensive treatments such as Hyperbaric Oxygen (“HBOT”) and “service dogs” are currently being denied Veterans because the VA has yet to prove their efficacy.

Fortunately, independent organizations have seized the initiative and are now actively providing alternative therapy programs to help Veterans and their loved ones cope with the terrible consequences of PTSD.

In fact, many of these self-help programs have been going on for years.  For instance, the Veteran Treatment Court provides Veterans facing jail-time the opportunity to recover their life by going “drug-free” for two years and gain a high school diploma.  Their mentors in these Court-sanctioned programs is often a Vietnam Vet who has faced similar demons from a war fought decades ago.

The camaraderie of military Veterans is, in my opinion, critical in building self-sustaining communities of trust as Veterans seek to reclaim their lives.

We are still a long way to being able to provide our brave Veterans and active duty personnel the support they deserve.  However, I sense that there is growing frustration by Veterans and the public at large that our political institutions – particularly the VA – lack the commitment to bring about meaningful change.

Frankly, if our politicians are willing to commit brave young men and women into harm’s way, the least we can expect from our elected leaders is the commitment that they will be properly cared for when they return home.  Other than sound-bites, this commitment is currently lacking.

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Dog Therapy and Treating PTSD for Veterans

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As most Veterans are aware, “the VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD.” While acknowledging that dogs can be useful in treating the symptoms and conditions of PTSD, they have concluded that there is not sufficient clinical research to justify the use of service dogs.

Specifically, the VA says the following about the use of service dogs in treating PTSD:

Clinically, there is not enough research yet to know if dogs actually help treat PTSD and its symptoms. Evidence-based therapies and medications for PTSD are supported by research. We encourage you to learn more about these treatments because it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from the few studies on dogs and PTSD that have been done.

Research is underway to better understand if dogs can provide a disability service for persons with PTSD. VA has started a research study to determine if there are things a dog can do for a Veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a Service Dog for PTSD. The study is expected to take several years to complete. The National Center for PTSD is not involved in this study, but we will provide results when they become available.

Currently, VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD. VA does provide veterinary care for service dogs that are deemed medically necessary for the rehabilitation or restorative care plan of Veterans with permanent physical impairments. If research supports the use of service dogs for PTSD, VA will provide veterinary care for such dogs. Read more information on VA and service dogs.

While the VA’s position is quite clear, many grass-roots organizations have emerged to provide Veterans with service dogs to help these brave young men and women cope with the everyday difficulties of PTSD.  Found below is just one of the many video stories of Veterans with service dogs:

While many can find merit of the position of the VA for refusing canine therapy until clinical results have been evaluated, hundreds of Veterans are finding relief from the daily traumas of PTSD with the help of specially trained dogs.

Dog Therapy for Veterans – TADSAW

Train a Dog – Save a Warrior is a program that has been vetted and supported by SFTT. Train a Dog – Save a Warrior (or “TADSAW”) provides for the training of a Medical Alert Service Dog, as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2010 guidelines, for ANY wounded warrior, Active Duty or Veteran, surviving with PTSD, MST and/or TBI, in order to restore and improve the warrior’s Quality of Life with a canine “Battle Buddy”, at no charge to the warrior.

Demand for this independently funding program is quite high, so if you are a Veteran seeking information on this PTSD therapy program please contact SFTT for more information.

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