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Pot derivative offers pain relief without the high

A derivative of the cannabis plant, CBD relieved Molly Branch’s migraine pain, she said, so she decided to stock shelves of Portsmouth’s Herbal Path store with various CBD products sold to people of all ages, hoping for a range of cures.

An herbalist and the store manager, Branch said one customer bought CBD for her 8-year-old son to manage his attention deficit disorder, on the advice of a school nurse. She said others buy CBD products for their parents in nursing homes, while people in recovery are buying CBD vapes to help with their sobriety.

A jar on the counter of her 1262 Woodbury Ave. store is filled with 85-cent CBD-infused “Lazy Bones” dog treats that Branch said relieves pets’ joint pain and calms them during thunderstorms, or before trips to a veterinarian. She said she tried one of the dog treats herself and reports they’re tasty with a cup of coffee.

Matt Robertson, a neurologist with Portsmouth Regional Hospital’s Appledore Neurology Associates, offered his opinion about CBD oil in a recent “HCA Today” column shared with Seacoast Sunday.

“Some of the areas where it has proven success are anxiety, insomnia and, more recently, epilepsy,” he wrote. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first medication that is a derivative of cannabis and is specific for seizures or epilepsy. There will probably be more drugs that come to market in the future, but this was a ground breaker.”

Robertson described CBD oil as follows, “Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a sub-group of one of the chemicals found in the marijuana plant. CBD has been purported to help with many pain-related symptoms. What it is not is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the psychoactive or, intoxicating, substance found in marijuana. CBD and THC are two different compounds found in marijuana but each has distinctly different effects on the brain and the body.”

CBD is legal and it doesn’t get users high, he said, while noting some of his older patients with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, “struggle more with the social implications of using CBD.”

“They’ll say, ‘I’ve never used drugs in my life,’” he reported.

Branch said some of her older customers have joked while buying CBD products that they would be getting “the munchies,” snack cravings associated with THC-inclusive marijuana use. That’s not the case with CBD, she said.

Herbal Path sells CBD salves, salt soaks, massage oil, drops, teas, time-released patches, vapes and edibles at its stores in Portsmouth and Dover. A small bottle of concentrated CBD oil, approximately 20 doses, sells for $47.99 at the Portsmouth shop.

Robertson reported that CBD oil has minimal side effects and “people have said that it makes them relaxed or sleepy.” He said the primary effects of CBD “are around the perception of pain.”

“There are two aspects of pain, whatever caused the instigating injury, and the suffering associated with that painful sensory input,” he said. “CBD doesn’t change the sensory input. In other words, someone can still feel a sunburn but the perception is the person doesn’t suffer from the pain associated with the sunburn. So, many people use it either for the reduction of cancer-related pain, neuropathic pain due to a condition such as diabetes and spasticity-related pain from cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, for example.”

Branch said because CBD has relieved her migraine pain, “I want to share that with people.” She said customers are finding her products because of a roadside sign, as well as word of mouth.

“Customers are coming in just for that,” she said. “We’ve been really growing.”

Branch sells only New England-based products, among them the Healing Rose Co. from Massachusetts and Green Mountain and Elmore Mountain Therapeutics from Vermont.

Robertson advised CBD consumers to know where they are sourced.

“There are a lot of knockoffs with CBD oil and other products that look nice and shiny on the surface, but it’s from a backwater wholesaler looking to make extra money,” he advised.

“CBD is understudied,” he concluded. “There are a lot of things it may be helpful for, but we just don’t know enough about it. We need to do more research and treat it the same way we treat other pharmaceuticals so that we have a regimented approach.”

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