In 10 years with RA, I’ve grown weary of the world of holistic treatments. I certainly believe in their virtues; I would argue a balance of exercise and natural foods has measurably reduced my RA symptoms. But I dislike how anytime there is a new discovery, it becomes a fad and a moneymaking opportunity.
The latest is cannabidiol (CBD) oil. CBD oil is an extract of cannabis without THC — the psychoactive element of the plant. I first heard about it a few years ago when my uncle had colon cancer and was given one month to live. Back then, CBD oil had yet to become the craze it is now. CBD has become a buzzword used by product sellers to get you to buy anything from lotions to granola bars.
My uncle made it himself, via an exhaustive extraction procedure. He went on to live two more years with a high quality of life. That testimonial told me not to dismiss CBD oil as a fad. Then I learned about its use in treating chronic pain. I wondered if it could work for my RA?
I decided to try CBD oil for one month. A physical therapist friend of mine, who concocts dosages for her patients, sent me a generous supply. On the label was an encouraging message.
Emil’s oil to help “Kick RA’s Ass.” / Emil DeAndreis
She advised me to take five drops in the morning, and five at night. Each drop had 5 mgs of CBD, meaning I was ingesting 50 mg of CBD each day. I was warned that though the taste might be bitter, I ought to try to hold the oil under my tongue for about five minutes so the tiny blood vessels beneath my tongue could absorb the oil and transfer it directly into my bloodstream.
Emil’s daily dose of five drops under the tongue, morning and night. / Emil DeAndreis
I admit, initially I was uncomfortable. I’d had a couple of bad experiences with edible marijuana and had also witnessed a pitbull accidentally enter the fourth dimension one night after eating “weed butter.” I was not trying to be Hunter S. Thompson and have traumatizing hallucinations while on journalistic assignment.
My wife, Kendall, who fears nothing, tried it with me. That way, we’d have each other to curl into if our world began melting. I waited for it to happen. It didn’t; apparently everyone who told me over and over that there was no THC, and thus no mind-altering component, had been right.
First, a disclaimer: The same week I started CBD, I took my RA meds. My prescription is a weekly self-injection of Orencia, a biologic. So my results may have been affected by that.
As I said before, I am resistant to hype. I would rather say something isn’t working (even if it is), than fall victim to placebo effect. With that in mind, I feel fairly certain that CBD oil has had a quantifiable effect on my symptoms. My joints felt like they’d received a dose of WD-40. Tasks that were typically hard for me in the morning — making a fist, turning the key in the ignition — I could do without wincing. This went on for a week and I told myself: It’s probably just the Orencia doing its job.
Days went by. At the gym, usually when I did certain lifts, such as power cleans, or light bench press, I would pay for it the next day with tender, stiff elbows and wrists, but I noticed I was waking up the next day limber.
It has now been 38 days, and I have not taken my RA meds. Is this the first time that has ever happened? No. I’ve gone stretches without meds if my symptoms aren’t acting up. But I will say, this is rare. Do I think I will take my meds again? Absolutely. I think this CBD treatment has had an impact on my pain, but not the disease itself. I’ve had no side effects, physical or mental. For anyone managing RA pain, I think this treatment is worth investigating and considering. Of course, before implementing anything new, you should consult with your rheumatologist.