CBD and Women's Health

Chloe Weber is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist recently finishing her doctorate. She was inspired to create Radical Roots Herbs both because of her direct experience with rare conditions for both her and her son, Remy. We discuss the science, how CBD benefits women's health, and how to ensure you have a high quality product.

Georgie Kovacs: Tell us your background and how you came to found Radical Roots.

Chloe Weber 01:42

So I'm an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. I actually just finished my doctorate, but I've been practicing for about eight years now. And my focus has always been on Chinese herbs. While I absolutely love acupuncture, I still have that Western mind that really appreciates that with the Chinese herbs, you can look up all the pharmacological actions of them. So that's something that really called to me. To me, it's really customizable pharmaceuticals for my patients, for myself, and now also for my son, who is almost seven now, which I absolutely cannot believe.

And Remy was diagnosed at two and a half with a super rare genetic disorder called STXBP1. There's about 300 or 400 kids in the world with it. It's impressively challenging and includes epilepsy, his nonverbal, non-ambulatory Parkinsonian-like tremors, and cognitive disabilities. The whole nine. And before anybody feels bad for me, let me tell you. He is the happiest human being I've ever met. He is 1,000% living his best life. And he is the greatest teacher and blessing that I will ever have the honor of knowing.

With a child with such a rare disorder, obviously, Western medicine has very little to offer us. We were offered anxiety meds and seizure meds. However, when I looked at all the other kids with his disorder on these Facebook groups, I saw that most of the kids had very poor seizure control, even when they were on cocktails of seizure meds.

As an herbalist, I started looking at the options of different things that I could do as opposed to doing the pharmaceuticals for him. I was finding that CBD was safe and effective, but there weren't any products out there that were fitting my psycho mom herbalist standards, and I started the line for him.

Georgie Kovacs: Let’s start with the basics of the difference between CBD and cannabis.

Chloe Weber: Cannabis is the family of the plant. CBD and THC are both cannabinoids within the plant. There are over 100 different cannabinoids (or phytochemicals) in the plant, where CBD and THC are the most well researched in cannabis.

THC is a cannabinoid known for the psychotropic effects that are classic when you're smoking marijuana. So if you have hemp then you have less than 0.3% THC in the product. So then it's classified as hemp oil or CBD oil.

CBD is this other cannabinoid - cannabidiol - which we've grown and potentiated so that some of the hemp is grown so it has really high amounts of CBD and very low amounts of THC. So then when it's extracted, you're getting the positive benefits of the CBD without the psychotropic effects of the THC. Though the THC does have important actions within the body, and I do often recommend that sometimes you're going to want slightly higher amounts of THC depending on what you're working with. But it is really important to have that 0.3% THC in a product because it makes it safer and it makes it more effective and there's a lot of research that indicates that.

Georgie Kovacs: Tell us the biology of how this is beneficial to our bodies.

Chloe Weber: We have this Endocannabinoid within our bodies, which was discovered in the 90s. The endocannabinoid system is sort of the master regulatory system of the body and keeps everything in the Goldilocks zone. You don't want to get too stressed. You don't want to get too tired. It helps regulate so many thingsL the immune system, your stress levels, hormone levels, gut function. It's essential.

The endocannabinoid system has two main receptors. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and throughout the nervous systems. THC works directly on the CB1 receptors, which is why I often recommend that you just want a little bit of THC in there because it's going to act directly upon those receptors. Whereas the CB2 receptors are found more throughout the immune system and the rest of the body.

CBD actually acts somewhat as an SSRI. It blocks the receptors so that there's more anandamide (AEA), which is available within the body. We actually make our own endogenous cannabinoids within our body. Those are called anandamide and 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol). We make our own cannabinoids in order to activate and regulate the endocannabinoid system. But when you're under a lot of stress, and you burn through these endogenous cannabinoids that we're already making, and then instead of being reused, our endogenous cannabinoids are broken down by these enzymes.

So that's different from how we use hormones and different neurotransmitters. Normally, we'll refold things and reuse them a lot of the time. But with our endogenous cannabinoids, we don't do that. So that's something that's really interesting because it indicates that that's something that's going on in our society, since we're under these increased amounts of stress. We’re burning through our stores of anandamide and are then these endogenous cannabinoids. A lot of people are at a deficiency state in their endocannabinoid system, which is why I think that so many people have had such dramatic and miraculous results with high quality CBD products

Georgie Kovacs: Since you started with the SSRIs, I was wondering about drug-drug interactions. There are a lot of people in this country who are on these antidepressant, anti-anxiety drugs. How should one consider the usage of CBD when you're on those types of medications?

Chloe Weber: It's really important that you talk to your doctor about what you're getting on. Even if it's herbs, and especially CBD; there is research on it.

CBD travels through the cytochrome P450 enzyme in the liver. Typically, if you're on a pharmaceutical that has a grapefruit warning, those pharmaceuticals normally go through that same pathway in the liver. It's about a quarter of the pharmaceuticals that are out there on the market, including SSRIs, that go through this pathway.

CBD will often increase the serum levels of those pharmaceuticals, which is a really helpful thing if you're trying to wean off of some of the SSRIs. Obviously, I recommend that everybody do this with the guidance of your prescribing practitioner and an herbalist, if possible. CBD also not only increases the serum levels of many SSRIs and some other medications, which can be dangerous in certain circumstances. So you do really want to talk to your doctors.

CBD also acts on the 5-HT1A, a pathway in the brain, which is one of the ways in which SSRIs work. It also increases neurogenesis in the hippocampus, another way that SSRIs work so they have a lot of synergy. And how they're working in the brain.

And CBD does tend to be better tolerated in many ways than many of the SSRIs, which are often also not recommended for long term use.

Georgie Kovacs: Are you seeing data on CBD versus some of these pharmaceutical products, or even if there isn't the data quite yet, if there's even a trend in less of the pharmaceuticals and more of the CBD?

Chloe Weber: Well, this year is a very interesting year overall. Everybody's under such an increase in stress. It's hard to really know where everybody's going. I haven't seen much of the research. There was a study recently which showed that about 60% of people who started CBD were able to get off of their pharmaceuticals. It was a wide variety of different pharmaceuticals that they were talking about.

Unfortunately, a lot of the research currently going on on CBD is more focused on the CBD isolates that have been made into pharmaceuticals. So GW Pharma, which I believe was just bought, created a seizure medication called Epidiolex, which is the CBD isolate.

So what I was getting at before is that the whole is really better than the parts. In Chinese medicine, Chinese herbology, and in cannabis research, we're seeing that there's something called an entourage effect. It's similar to how Mother Nature has this innate intelligence, and it brings all of these different parts of the plant together to support our bodies in a way that's much better than pulling out this one chemical.

Using that, there's a meta analysis that I saw recently that showed that Epidiolex, a CBD derivative. In order to get the same amount of seizure control as complete spectrum hemp extract, Epidiolex needed to be six times the amount of the full spectrum hemp extract, and had about five or six times the amount of severe side effects.

So really, if you're getting a whole plant extract, you're getting the terpenes, which are these beautiful, volatile oils that have all these medicinal effects. That's what you smell. Terpenes are found in a lot of essential oils and different plants. If you smell marijuana, obviously, or hemp or cannabis, that very distinct smell. Those are terpenes, and they're very important to get in the product and then isolate.

Something that I see commonly is that there are all these isolate products out there. Most of the drinks are all isolates, or if you find a bottle where it's 2000 milligrams of CBD, normally, they're dumping a bunch of isolate in there. So it's not really a full spectrum. It's kind of a cheap and cheater way.

One of the other things that I just find really beautiful about it is that there are receptors for CBD along the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects the gut and the brain and it's one of the ways that we're able to really get into fight or flight. Strengthening the vagus nerve is important and it's one of the ways that I think that is underestimated in terms of how important that is for the anxiety and anxiolytic properties.

Georgie Kovacs: How does CBD help with pain and what are precautions people should take?

Chloe Weber: What’s interesting about CBD is that it acts locally. You can use it topically for pain, and it actually gets into the skin really well, which also indicates that it would be good for skin. I've been playing with starting CBD line mainly because I just like facial oils. I'm in Colorado, and it just sucks all the moisture out of your skin out here. There is some really promising research in terms of it really being helpful.

Internally, it's regulating the neurochemicals and helping stop that pain pathway. A lot of times with pain, part of the problem is that your brain gets stuck in this pain loop and it keeps perpetuating.

CBD seems to be able to not only activate receptors that are going to slow the pain, like the physiological pain, but it's also going to calm down the neurological pain and stop that pain pathway from just looping endlessly. And there was some research that I saw showing that it also potentiated the actions of opioids. That’s interesting and promising to me, because clearly, we have such an epidemic of opioid abuse in our country. Anything that we can do that's safe and effective, which will help reduce the need for opioids or reduce the amount of opioids that people are taking is important.

THC is important for some of those pain conditions, even at least the small amount, but in more severe pain situations, sometimes you want to have an increased amount of THC. What I'll recommend for some patients is if you're in a state in which you can get medical marijuana, what you might want to look for is a 2:1 CBD to THC ratio. So that's going to increase the amount of THC that's in there. It potentiates the actions and calms those neuro pathways in the brain. It actually does also seem to activate some of the opioid receptors in the brain and have similar downstream effects to opioids. But so the 2:1 ratio is going to increase the THC, but you're still not going to get a very powerful psychotropic effect. So you're not going to get super stoned, but it will help potentiate those actions and make it stronger if you have a very severe pain situation.

Georgie Kovacs: When it comes to pain, how should one look at CBD because I can only imagine being in pain, and not being able to find a solution. But then there's that fine line between helping with the pain and hiding the problem.

Chloe Weber: What I love about CBD is that it gives people a little bit of space so that they can explore these other options and get to the root cause of what's going on. It's gonna help with pain, and anxiety. However, it is essential that whoever's taking any products, whether they're herbs or pharmaceuticals, that you're working with practitioners who are looking for those root causes, whether it's a gut issue, whether it's a vertebrate issue, and you need to go to PT or to an osteopath. You want to work on those root issues as you're taking it.

CBD seems to be very well tolerated long term, and I'm not personally concerned about that from the research that I've seen. But to me, you don't want to be on anything forever, and CBD is a strong product. I think it's a supplement that there's an argument that taking some of it regularly, like almost like an Omega supplement is a good thing because it's going to keep your endocannabinoid system functioning optimally. I don't see any negative impacts to that.

If you're leaning on it hardcore for pain management, you still have to look at what's going on underneath because there's still going to be so many other things. And there's so many great practitioners out there who can help with pain management, and make sure that you're going to get the best support that you can. There's so many different ways to work with it. And it works really synergistically with so many different things.

Georgie Kovacs: When it comes to women's health, what are other benefits that someone may not even think of such as pelvic pain, endometriosis, perimenopause symptoms, postpartum depression, or postpartum anxiety?

Chloe Weber: There's little to no research on using CBD or THC during pregnancy or while nursing so obviously you have to work with your practitioner for that. For me, I often will talk to patients and look at the cost risk analysis versus being on an antianxiety med or being on CBD and which seems safer in reality, and what they feel more comfortable with and talk to their doctors.

To me, it seems very clear that I would feel much more comfortable with taking Chinese herbs and CBD than I would take in the pharmaceutical postpartum or during pregnancy for anxiety. And clearly that severe anxiety is going to have, or depression is going to have, an impact on the baby. Us moms need all the support we can get. I have so many patients with endometriosis, PID and hormonal issues taking CBD, and it has been fantastic. I have patients who create suppositories from our products.

Palmetto Harmony is a line that I used to use before I created mine and they have suppositories that you can get online. They're fantastic. I know that their products are really high quality. And those are really fantastic for patients with endo with severe pain.

Again, once you calm the mind and sort of help regulate your nervous system, the hormonal fluctuations get under regulation. I'm actually learning how to do neurofeedback right now, which is really exciting. My teacher kept saying this is going to help regulate your hormones, this is going to regulate all of these other things because it's regulating your brain. So it makes complete sense that it's going to have these downstream effects that are going to be really helpful and beneficial, especially for women who are under such extreme levels of stress.

Georgie Kovacs: With respect to makeup and other face products with CBD, what truly is the benefit?

Chloe Weber: We have endocannabinoid receptors in our skin as well, which will be activated by CBD that's put on topically.

One of the things that I think is really important for people to know is that hemp is a hyperaccumulator, which means it is going to leach out toxins from the earth. It's very important that it's grown organically.

It's very important that any company that you buy any CBD products from have their certificates of analysis up on their website and available for you to have. I'm a little slow about getting them up on mine, but you can see them on my website, and you can see what we're testing for. And you can see that there's absolutely no molds, no heavy metals, no glyphosate, like all of those things are tested for. But you've got to get a company that's going to test for all of that because otherwise that hemp is going to pull up all of those chemicals, and then you're just going to be clogging your face with more of those chemicals clogging your system. I haven't delved too deeply into the research on skincare, but it is going to activate the endocannabinoid system on the skin. And I would assume that it's going to reduce inflammation, because that makes sense. It's reducing inflammation everywhere else.

Georgie Kovacs: With a certificate of analysis, how is it because I know labeling is really important. So is there a standard certificate, and if someone puts it on their website, then the product should be trusted?

Chloe Weber: The dangerous thing about hemp is that there are so many companies out there trying to take advantage of this trend, so there's a lot of mass produced hemp. You should be able to go on most websites and see what they do test for. So what you want to look for is:

  • Are they testing for mold?

  • Are they testing for heavy metals?

  • Are they testing for pesticides?

And as long as they're doing those three things, those are the main ones you want to look for. But those again, can be really high in some products. And there's really no regulation around that, so it's pretty terrifying to me.

For Radical Roots, those things are things that I'm super proud of. So that's really well highlighted on our page, or I hope it is.