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CBD Oil, Cannabis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)

CBD Oil, Cannabis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness with an array of different symptoms. The most common and debilitating is extreme tiredness. CFS is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, more commonly referred to as ME. CFS or ME can affect anyone, including children. However, it is most prevalent in women and typically develops between 25 and 45 years of age.

What are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)?

The primary symptom of CFS/ME is feeling extremely tired and unwell in general. As well as the tiredness, many people with CFS/ME can have other symptoms, such as:

  • Sleep Problems
  • Muscle or Joint Pain
  • Headaches
  • Problems with thought and memory
  • Migraines
  • Sore throat
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling dizzy and ill
  • Irregular heartbeat

Many people with CFS/ME struggle to exercise as it seems to exacerbate their symptoms. The severity of symptoms varies on a daily basis. It is important to see a GP to determine whether the feeling of tiredness is in fact ME or CFS.

How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosed?

There is yet to be a specific test for CFS/ME so it is diagnosed purely on your symptoms and by eliminating other conditions based on what symptoms the patient has. Medical history, blood tests and urine tests can be utilised to achieve a diagnosis. The core symptoms of CFS and ME are very similar to many other common illnesses that usually clear up after time or regular treatment. A diagnosis of ME or CFS may only be considered if the patient does not get better as quickly as can be expected in a healthy individual.

Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)

The main reason for CFS and ME treatment is to relieve the patient’s symptoms. The treatment option decided on by a physician will depend on how CFS is affecting the patient. Treatments that are commonly prescribed are: 

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • A structure exercise regime named graded exercise therapy
  • Medication to manage pain, nausea and sleeping issues

The majority of people with CFS recover over time, however there are some instances where the sufferer never quite make a full recovery. 

What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

It is not fully understood what causes CFS or ME. There are many theories with the main theory being that CFS is triggered by an infection or certain external factors that can allow the illness to develop.

Triggers of CFS/ME include:

  • A hormone imbalance
  • Immune system problems
  • Viral infections such as glandular fever
  • Bacterial infections like pneumonia
  • Genetics, some families seem to be prone to ME 

What is CBD oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and it is one of over one hundred cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. CBD does not get you high and has no psychoactive effects. It is the cannabinoid named THC that causes the psychoactive effects and the infamous high that is commonly associated with cannabis.

CBD can be consumed in various different ways such as CBD oils, CBD patches, CBD pills and CBD drinks. CBD is commonly said to have pain relieving properties as well as effects that can help with anxiety and sleep problems. Below is a list of symptoms that CBD can supposedly help with: 

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Neuroinflammation which is a suspected feature of ME and CFS
  • Preventing the growth of cancerous tumours
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Schizophrenia

Research into CBD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) 

Definitive research and evidence have yet to materialise regarding CBD as a treatment option for CFS/ME. That is not to say that there cannot be speculation into a potential relationship between CBD and CFS/ME. CBD is being research as a potential treatment for numerous conditions. Many of those conditions share symptoms with ME and CFS. While there can be no certainty that the effective use of CBD in treating symptoms in those conditions pertains to CFS/ME too. Hopefully there is some research into CBD treating CFS/ME in the near future. 

CBD oil is believed to be effective in battling pain and inflammation. The theory that ME/CFS is related to neuroinflammation and the belief that it is fundamentally an inflammation disease. CBD could certainly be a trusted aid to those who suffer from CFS/ME. 

A paper published in 2017 suggested that CBD could a way to dimmish the activity of brain cells called glia that lead to central sensitisation. This results in a hypersensitive central nervous system which is a major feature of CFS/ME and other central sensitivity syndromes like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and fibromyalgia.

CBD is believed to assist with the body’s homeostasis which regulates things like temperature and respiration. Homeostasis is often out of balance in people with CFS/ME. A condition called endocannabinoids deficiency that is characterised by lower amounts of naturally produced endocannabinoids. This condition has been linked to fibromyalgia, this is why cannabis could be a promising treatment for both CFS/ME and fibromyalgia.

Side Effects of CBD

Some potential side effects of CBD are: 

  • Dry mouth
  • Alterations to liver enzymes that process drugs
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased tremor in Parkinson’s disease at very high doses
  • Light headedness
  • Low blood pressure

Is CBD Legal?

CBD is legal in the UK so long as the THC content is below 0.2%. There is incoming Novel Food legislation that dictates that all CBD products that are ingestible must be formulated using CBD isolate. This is to ensure that all products are definitely pure CBD and there is minimal risk of any products containing THC. The products must also be stability tested to ensure that the product does not mutate over time and that the information about the product on the label remains true until the product has expired. 

Can Cannabis help with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)?

The therapeutic benefits of cannabis are being constantly proven and there are numerous studies that provide evidence that cannabis can be used to treat various symptoms. The therapeutic benefits of cannabis, particularly in relation to immune suppression in autoimmune diseases and pain management. The widespread influence of the endocannabinoid system on a diversity of systems within the body. Cannabis has the potential to assist in treating many symptoms of CFS/ME.

If you are interested in being prescribed medical cannabis for persistent CFS/ME, it is best to initially speak to your GP and then ask to be referred to a specialist who can then assess whether you are eligible to be prescribed medical cannabis.

Conclusion

While there is yet to be a study into the efficacy of treating CFS/ME with CBD or medical cannabis. With an increasing number of studies taking place involving CBD and medical cannabis, it seems like it is only a matter of time before a significant study is undertaken to research the relationship between CBD and CFS/ME.

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