In 2020, cannabis research is advancing and anecdotal evidence regarding its efficacy is on the rise. This is working to decrease stigma around cannabis, and also making access easier for everyone —including seniors. In fact, reports show a 75% increase in cannabis use among American adults 65 years and older.
It is no surprise then, that this demographic has taken to cannabidiol (or CBD) — a non-intoxicating and potentially anxiety-busting, pain-relieving constituent in cannabis.
A 2019 Gallup study shows that more than 50% of CBD users are above the age of 65.
Why are Seniors Using CBD?
A range of CBD-infused creams, oils, tinctures, capsules, and edibles have exploded into the market, with many brands directly targeting the aging population.
It makes a lot of sense, since part of senior living includes managing a range of conditions that CBD claims to support.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis affecting seniors, occurs when the cartilage between joints wears down so that the bones rub against each other. This can take its toll on the body in many ways, causing pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, bone spurs, and swelling.
CBD is said to reduce inflammation and associated pains, which makes it a common treatment for osteoarthritis, and other types of arthritis.
A 2019 study concluded that CBD “represents an attractive option in chronic pain treatment, not only because of its potential efficacy but also because of its limited misuse and diversion potential as well as safety profile.”
Heart Disease & Stroke
People aged 65 and older are much more likely to develop heart disease or failure. Accumulating preclinical evidence suggests CBD may be beneficial in the cardiovascular system, as it has direct actions on isolated arteries, causing both acute and time-dependent vasorelaxation.
A 2006 study found that CBD “significantly reduces the incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice from an incidence of 86% in non-treated control mice to an incidence of 30% in CBD-treated mice,” indicating that CBD can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
Insomnia is another condition commonly faced by the geriatric population, including difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep. A 2018 study found that older adults are at a higher risk for medical and psychiatric effects of insomnia.
Evidence shows that CBD might have a calming effect on the central nervous system, which can help combat many causes of insomnia. Most CBD brands market this effect and infuse other calming ingredients like melatonin and lavender, which are said to help sleep onset.
Anxiety & Depression
Loneliness, isolation, and loss of independence caused by limiting activity and disability (often the side effect of the above mentioned conditions) can erode one’s quality of life and lead to depression. Certain medications and medical conditions taken by seniors can also cause symptoms of depression.
But although depression is a common problem among older adults, it is not a normal part of aging.
CBD is an increasingly well-known alternative or complementary treatment for anxiety and depression. A 2018 study found that CBD was shown to have “anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective properties.”
Though the research into CBD is still young, there is promising evidence that CBD can aid with mood changes in seniors by helping to boost low serotonin levels and reduce stress that may cause these mood changes.
Polypharmacy is defined as the concurrent use of several (usually five or more) medications daily. A 2015 study into pharmaceutical use in the elderly population found that 57% of all seniors with polypharmacy had contraindicated drug combinations.
Though sometimes necessary, polypharmacy comes with a high risk of adverse reactions that can lead to hospitalization and even death.
What’s more, polypharmacy is sometimes a root cause of additional senior health complaints like mood changes, insomnia and more.
It’s also expensive. Depending on where you live, the cost of life-saving medicine is often astronomical and not always covered by all insurance policies.
By addressing multiple issues at once, CBD may help seniors get off one or more medications. A 2019 study found that “over half of chronic pain patients (53%) reduced or eliminated their opioids within 8 weeks after adding CBD-rich hemp extract to their regimens. Almost all CBD users (94%) reported quality of life improvements.”
How Do I Know which CBD Product is Right for Me or My Aging Parent?
Now that we have established that CBD may be beneficial to seniors, let’s have a look at the different options available.
How do seniors prefer to take CBD?
There are many ways to take CBD: oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies, vapes, and topicals — just to name a few.
A survey by Remedy Review, which studied 1,000 adults over 54 who use CBD, found that 54.4% prefer to take an oral tincture, 21% use drops in a beverage, 21% prefer edibles, 15.6% take it in capsule form, and 10% smoke or vape CBD.
CBD is best delivered in fatty foods and drinks like smoothies, acai bowls, and butter— which can be delicious and convenient ways to get your CBD, despite the absorption drawbacks. Coffee is another great way to deliver CBD, with reports that CBD may help offset any caffeine jitters, although not yet fully understood. The best way to deliver CBD orally is to buy a potent product to start, take it with a fatty diet, monitor results and adjust from there.
Strictly speaking, vaping or smoking CBD is one of the most efficient ways to deliver whole-body effects of the chemical; however, this may seem unhealthy. It is true that inhalation of combustibles comes with adverse effects, but inhalation also skips the digestive tract and the liver, where the resulting dose of CBD can be modified.
CBD topicals (salves, creams, lotions, and patches) are very discreet and effective for localized aches and pains from arthritis and other conditions. Studies have shown CBD to be well-absorbed topically, particularly in animal studies, but those opting for this delivery method should make sure to massage the product thoroughly into the skin.
Quality is Important: Broad Spectrum Vs. Full Spectrum
CBD oil can be made from the flowers of hemp plants or CBD-rich strains.
The term “full spectrum” means that all of the plant’s compounds are preserved in the final product, whereas “broad spectrum” products contain all of the plant’s cannabinoids, except for THC.
Regardless of your preferred delivery method, it is always best to get a CBD product with a low amount of THC, rather than none at all. This is because CBD is rendered more effective when THC is present, on account of the entourage effect, or the way all these cannabinoids act synergistically together.
Does CBD have any Side Effects?
In response to consumer’s success with the cannabinoid, CBD has been marketed by some as a completely-safe miracle drug. But research into CBD is young, and scientists are still learning about its effects — some of which may be negative. Possible side effects of CBD, according to Medical News Today, include drowsiness, digestive issues, decreased appetite, mood changes and in extreme cases — liver injury.
Always consult with a medical professional before adding CBD into your self-care routine.
The Best CBD Products for Seniors
1. Best Whole Body Relief: Releaf Capsules by Papa & Barkley
These capsules made by Papa & Barkley come in both THC and CBD-rich varieties and are triple-tested for quality. They are vegan, gluten-free, and potent. Each capsule is activated with 30mg of cannabinoids.
2. Best for Stiffness: Pain Relief Patch by the Good Patch
The Good Patch’s hemp-infused patches come in a variety of formulas. Several of these are ideal for seniors, including Nite Nite, which has 15mg of premium hemp extract and melatonin to promote a deeper, more relaxed sleep. Their Pain Relief Patch may provide temporary relief of mild to moderate discomfort in muscles and joints. These patches work by being placed on a venous area of the arm for up to 12 hours. Talk about discreet.
3. Best Scent: Relief & Recovery Roll-On by Sagely Naturals
This easy-to-use Relief and Recovery roll-on by Sagely Naturals delivers 50 mg of CBD with every application, as well as a blend of essential oils containing peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus and menthol. For best results, roll the product on pressure points and let it soak in.
4. Best for Relaxation: Bath Gem (CBD Bath Bomb) by Prima
Sometimes pairing your CBD treatment with a bath is a great way to go for seniors—and Prima knows it. The Bath Gem mineral soak infused with 25 mg of broad-spectrum hemp-derived CBD is a great way to ease tension in the mind and body at the same time.
5. Best for Sleep: CBD Softgels with Malatonin by Joy Organics
The Bottom Line on CBD for Seniors
Part of aging can include managing multiple health conditions simultaneously, which can lead to depression and polypharmacy.
For many seniors, CBD can offer an easy, discreet, and effective alternative to certain pharmaceuticals. Although the research is still preliminary, the potential side effects are limited and anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD has several benefits.
The quality of product and delivery method are both important factors to consider. Whether you are looking into CBD for yourself or an aging parent, it is always recommended to consult with a medical professional before making any decisions.