For the better part of the last century, cannabis has been ostracized and compartmentalized, essentially shunned to the corner of the party where only the rebels could truly appreciate. Since its return to the social, legal and medical context, the proverbial eggshell has begun to break, where we are learning more and more about the benefits of cannabis. As the public education continues to expand, so too does scientific research. And what we’re learning is that cannabis isn’t just something for young potheads to enjoy. It has benefits across all demographics — including seniors!

There was a time when many seniors would have turned up their noses at the idea of using cannabis (except for that cool grandma, who didn’t mind a joint now and then). But now, non-psychoactive forms of cannabis, such as CBD are offering seniors natural ways to stay healthy and manage some symptoms of getting older. 

Even though aging is a necessary and inevitable aspect of life, it does not need to be a stage of life linked to illness, suffering or copious pill popping. CBD is a form of whole-body therapy, whereby seniors can enjoy benefits all the way from pain relief to better cognitive processing. There’s no threat of intoxication, it is completely safe and there are no adverse side effects.

1. Pain relief

Almost all seniors live with pain in one form or another. The most common illnesses to afflict the elderly population is arthritis, and for many, this is the source of pain. CBD offers a natural form of pain relief, and an extremely effective one at that. In fact, one of the most common reasons to self-medicate using cannabis in the USA is for the treatment of pain symptoms.

CBD can be used as a pain relieving compound both internally and externally. Topical CBD products can be rubbed on sore joints or muscles while CBD oil or tincture can be consumed. In any case, topical CBD offers a more subtle, gentle introduction to CBD for seniors who are a little reluctant.

2. Improved cognition (memory, Alzheimer’s, dementia, mental health)

Researchers and scientists have suggested CBD’s role in neurogenesis, neuroprotection and neuroplasticity. This research has had far-reaching implications, meaning potential treatment for a wide range of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and more. Even the federal US government has patented CBD as “neuroprotective” — which is a big step for the federal government!

For seniors, this neuroprotective element can help to slow down aging processes related to dementia, Alzheimer’s and fading memory. It does so by reducing neuroinflammation and assisting the process of neurogenesis. It also protects neurons from further degeneration. 

3. CBD is anti-inflammatory

One of the most prominent factors underlying illnesses that afflict the elderly population is inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation, as is the neuroinflammatory factor that leads to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, many digestive issues that are particularly prevalent among the elderly are also the result of chronic inflammation that has gone untreated.

CBD is an anti-inflammatory that can moderate many symptoms associated with inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be extremely painful, and by reducing the inflammatory response, CBD can even help manage pain symptoms. Even dementia and Alzheimer’s can be slowed down by CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects.

While CBD can also be used to treat acute inflammation, its therapeutic value for chronic inflammation (especially the kind that causes certain illnesses) is hard to match, especially when compared to the pharmaceutical alternatives. Pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories often pose risks to elderly people, as they are tough for the liver to process. 

4. CBD may help improve bone health

Most people are familiar with the ways in which CBD can affect appetite, sleep and immune function. However, not many are familiar with the ways in which CBD can affect bone remodeling. Bone remodeling is a process that a person goes through from puberty until old age, whereby old bone is constantly replaced by new bone. This process slows down during the later stages of life, which is why the elderly population is much more susceptible to broken bones.

There are cannabinoid receptors all over bone cells, and they have been implicated in the process of bone remodeling. Endogenous cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors have been found to play a role in the regulation of bone mass, the regulation of bone resorption and the regulation of bone formation. It is hypothesized that ingestion of CBD may assist in the maintenance of bone structure especially later in life, when the natural biological process slows down. 

5. CBD improves heart health

When people talk about the endocannabinoid system, the things that come to mind are cognitive functioning, appetite, immune response and nociception. Despite the fact that copious amounts of preclinical studies have been published on the topic, it remains virtually a mystery to anybody outside of the medical community that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in cardiovascular health.

The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in both vasodilation and vasoconstriction. These are important factors when talking about cardiovascular health. There is preclinical data that suggests that the cardiovascular system may be a therapeutic target of CBD. CBD has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, which also plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health. 

6. CBD may restore brain function after a stroke

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Neuropharmacology explored the effects of CBD on rats suffering brain injuries after hypoxia-ischemic attack (stroke). Researchers found that CBD administration after stroke brain injuries led to long lasting neuroprotection and overall improvement in neurobehavioral recovery. Although these tests were conducted on newborn rats, it is hypothesized that CBD has the same effect in any age. However, this has not been confirmed by any scientific research.

It is a plausible hypothesis, especially given what is already known about CBD; it is neuroprotective and promotes neurogenesis. 

7. CBD is natural and removes the need for multiple medications

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of CBD to seniors is the fact that it can target many symptoms all at the same time. This removes the need for copious amounts of prescriptions and medications, some of which may have harmful side effects. Many seniors are faced with the conundrum posed to them by their doctors, whereby their symptoms are only manageable with specific, single-target medications. CBD is unlike this, where it can target multiple symptoms simultaneously. 

Finally, CBD is completely natural. There are no known side effects from CBD and it is virtually impossible to overdose. In some cases, upset stomach and drowsiness can occur if too much is consumed. However, these side -effects are usually short-lived and can be mitigated by reducing the dosage. Many medicines can be replaced by one natural product: CBD.

CBD is an exciting avenue of medicine for seniors to participate in. This safe-to-use, non-intoxicating cannabinoid offers so much to the aging population. Many seniors are now beginning to see the benefits of using CBD, especially in places where the public opinion of medical cannabis is friendly.