The Benefits and Downside of CBD Oil

As natural remedies go, hemp – and its more potent cousin, marijuana – have been used to treat a variety of illnesses for thousands of years. That’s thousands – in fact, hemp is one of the fastest- growing plants, and was grown commercially by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers. It also was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago.

Industrial hemp, typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species. And while well known and popular in eastern cultures for its healing properties, U.S. Federal laws aimed at curbing the use and sale of marijuana and Cannabis plant derivatives have restrained the popularity of these medicinal potions in many U.S. states. But now, as the sale of marijuana and products containing THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is becoming legal (for medicinal and recreational use), there is a bounty of options available to consumers.

THC is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis – the product that produces the euphoric “high” that people enjoy. But it’s also used for treating a variety of illnesses and diseases, for pain relief, and for behavioral mental health treatments.

The use of CBD-based oils, lotions and ingestible products is now legal in many states that have not legalized recreational marijuana use, including Connecticut (which has legalized the use of medical marijuana only). Marijuana contains both THC and CBD, and these compounds have different effects. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. This means that CBD does not change a person’s state of mind when they use it. However, products marketed as CBD oil may contain THC, though these only are available through state-sanctioned and taxed dispensaries, or can be obtained, often illegally, through mail-order and black-market sites.

The Advantages of Using CBD Oil

According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. Along with drastically reducing quality of life, chronic pain can increase healthcare costs and have a negative impact on productivity at work. So, any natural remedy is bound to draw a lot of attention.

CBD, or cannabidiol oil, contains CBD and often other active compounds in a carrier oil. There are a number of forms of CBD oil, including softgel capsules, tinctures, and under-the-tongue sprays. Some forms of CBD oil can also be applied directly to the skin, in the form of products like creams and salves. The concentration of CBD varies from product to product.

For many people experiencing chronic pain, CBD has steadily gained popularity as a natural approach to pain relief. Cannabidiol is sometimes touted as an alternative to pain medication in the treatment of common conditions like arthritis and back pain.

The use of cannabis for pain relief dates back to ancient China. It’s thought that CBD oil might help ease chronic pain in part by reducing inflammation. In addition, CBD oil is said to promote sounder sleep and, in turn, treat sleep disruption commonly experienced by people with chronic pain. Emerging research shows that endocannabinoids may play a role in regulating such functions as memory, sleep and mood, as well as metabolic processes like energy balance. In addition, CBD oil may help improve a variety of health conditions including stress, which exacerbates high blood pressure.

As its popularity has grown, so has the hype, and the marketing mania – CBD is promoted by some as a miracle oil that, among other cures, can shrink tumors, quell seizures, and ease chronic pain. Cannabinoid-laced drugs have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treatment of epileptic seizures, and moderate doses of CBD are mildly energizing.

But very high doses of CBD may trigger a biphasic effect, meaning it can produce two different results; the CBD-rich cannabis flower produces sedative and painkilling properties. CBD is not intrinsically sedating, but it may help to restore better sleeping patterns by reducing anxiety.

Industrial hemp typically contains far less cannabidiol than high-resin CBD-rich cannabis flower tops. Huge amounts of industrial hemp are required to extract a small amount of CBD, thereby raising the risk of contaminants because hemp is a “bio-accumulator” that draws toxins from the soil. But plant breeders are now focusing on developing high-resin cannabis varietals (marijuana) that satisfy the legal criteria for industrial hemp – with THC measuring less than 0.3 percent and CBD levels exceeding 10 percent by dry weight.

That may seem like too much technical information, but it’s all to point out that there are a lot of CBD-based potions now on the market that may have some medicinal benefits, and many that won’t. Because CBD oil products are mostly unregulated, there’s no guarantee that any given product contains a safe or effective level of CBD. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online are incorrectly labeled, and could cause serious harm to consumers. Some CBD oils may also contain incorrectly labeled amounts of THC and other compounds.

Some research indicates that the use of CBD oil may trigger a number of side effects, including anxiety, changes in appetite and mood, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth and nausea or vomiting. There’s also some concern that the use of CBD oil may lead to increased levels of liver enzymes (a marker of liver damage or inflammation).

However, on a more positive note, researchers are now finding that CBD may help treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and also is useful in combating addictions to tobacco products and even to THC itself. CBD also may have moderate pain-relieving effects for neuropathic pain without the cannabinoid-like side effects. However, there is currently a lack of proper trials and research confirming these effects.

The bottom line is that if you’re thinking of using CBD oil to treat a health problem (and it is legal where you live), make sure to consult your healthcare provider first to discuss whether it’s appropriate for you, and to ensure that the product you buy is truly beneficial.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Seeing Clearly

There are so many positive aspects to aging – while it’s true some people become more crotchety and stubborn, most become wiser, more experienced, more forgiving and appreciative. But as our brains mature, so do our bodies, and certain health problems endemic to our chronological progression occur. That includes changes to our hearing, our mobility and our eyesight. As an example, more than 24.4 million Americans develop cataracts by age 40 and older.  By age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts.

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of our eye. For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night), see the print on signs, watch television and movies and use our computers.

Most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up the eye’s lens. Normally, cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb our eyesight early on. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with vision. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help us deal with cataracts. But if impaired vision interferes with usual activities, stronger prescriptions will no longer improve visual acuity, and cataract surgery may be required. Fortunately, the only real solution, cataract surgery, is generally a safe, effective procedure.

Some inherited genetic disorders that cause other health problems can increase our risk of cataracts. Cataracts can also be caused by other eye conditions, past eye surgery or medical conditions such as diabetes. Long-term use of steroid medications, too, can cause cataracts to develop.

How Does a Cataract Form?

The lens, where cataracts form, is positioned behind the colored part of our eye (iris). The lens focuses light that passes into our eye, producing clear, sharp images on the retina — the light-sensitive membrane in the eye that functions like the film in a camera.

As we age, the lenses in our eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker. Age-related and other medical conditions cause tissues within the lens to break down and clump together, clouding small areas within the lens.

As the cataract continues to develop, the clouding becomes denser and involves a bigger part of the lens. A cataract scatters and blocks the light as it passes through the lens, preventing a sharply defined image from reaching our retina. As a result, vision becomes blurred.

Cataracts generally develop in both eyes, but not evenly. The cataract in one eye may be more advanced than the other, causing a difference in vision between eyes.

Typical signs and symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Clouded, blurred or dim vision
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision in a single eye

At first, the cloudiness in vision caused by a cataract may affect only a small part of the eye’s lens and we may be unaware of any vision loss. As the cataract grows larger, it clouds more of our lens and distorts the light passing through the lens. This may lead to more noticeable symptoms.

Factors that increase the risk of cataracts include:

  • Increasing age
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

How to Minimize the Onset of Cataracts

No studies have proved how to prevent cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts. But doctors think several strategies may be helpful, including:

  • Have regular eye examinations.Eye examinations can help detect cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages. Ask your doctor how often you should have an eye examination.
  • Quit smoking.Ask your doctor for suggestions about how to stop smoking. Medications, counseling and other strategies are available to help.
  • Manage other health problems.Follow your treatment plan if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that can increase your risk of cataracts.
  • Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.Studies have shown that a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals was associated with a reduced risk of developing cataracts. Adding a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to our diet ensures that we’re getting many vitamins and nutrients. Fruits and vegetables have many antioxidants, which help maintain the health of our eyes.
  • Wear sunglasses.Ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays when outdoors.
  • Reduce alcohol use.Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of cataracts.Top of Form

What Happens During Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens. The artificial lens, called an intraocular lens, is positioned in the same place as our natural lens. It remains a permanent part of our eye. For some people, other eye problems prohibit the use of an artificial lens. In these situations, once the cataract is removed, vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Cataract surgery is generally done on an outpatient basis, so there isn’t an overnight stay involved. During cataract surgery, the eye doctor uses local anesthetic to numb the area around the eye, but the patient usually stays awake during the procedure.

Cataract surgery is generally safe, but it carries a risk of infection and bleeding. Cataract surgery also increases the risk of retinal detachment.

After the procedure, patients have some discomfort for a few days. Healing generally occurs within eight weeks. If cataract surgery is required in both eyes, the doctor will schedule surgery to remove the cataract in the second eye after the patient has healed from the first surgery.

June is National Cataract Awareness Month, and since this age-related disorder afflicts many Americans, it pays to learn cataract warning signs. For most people who have cataract surgery, the results are startling – significantly improved vision, a return to all activities, and for many, the elimination of eyeglasses or the need to wear them for either distance or reading only. Check in with your eye doctor at least annually, and know that even though it may be disconcerting, corrective measures are readily available and highly successful.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Excuse Me While I Veg Out

There is nothing quite like fruits and vegetables plucked fresh from the bush or vine, or recently pulled out of the ground or off the stalk. Connecticut is abundant in fresh produce – especially in the summer – and seeking out this unprocessed bounty rich in nutrients and often lower in pesticides or genetic mutations is healthy nutritionally and emotionally.

Connecticut features vegetable and dairy farms and fruit orchards throughout the state. The growing season is long and the climate is perfect for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Beans, squash, broccoli and cabbages start to come in around May and are available through October. Strawberries ripen in June, and in July the farms explode with produce, especially raspberries, blueberries, peaches and sweet corn. In August, the pepper and tomato crops are ready, and as summer comes to a close in September, pumpkins and seasonal squash are ready in plenty of time to welcome the autumn.

Beyond the psychological value of searching out and eating locally grown food, there are practical and healthy reasons to celebrate foods that are in season. That’s when you get the most flavor and nutritional value. It’s also the time when it is the most affordable. Additionally, you’ll enjoy the greatest freshness when you look for foods that are both locally grown and are in season.

An Abundance of Nutrients

Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, as do other plant-based foods such as whole grains, nut, beans and tea.

More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Phytonutrients aren’t essential for keeping us alive, unlike the vitamins and minerals that plant foods contain. But when we eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep our body working properly.

Here is a primer in eating healthfully through fresh fruits and vegetables you can find easily at local farms, in markets, or in your own garden:

  • Carotenoids: More than 600 carotenoids provide yellow, orange, and red colors in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids act as antioxidantsin our body, tackling harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout our body. The types of carotenoids that may have other health benefits include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Bodies convert all of these to vitamin A, which helps keep immune systems working properly, and is needed for eye health. Yellow and orange foods like pumpkins and carrots are good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene. These also contain beta-cryptoxanthin, as do sweet red peppers.
  • Lycopene:This nutrient gives red or pink color to tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit. Lycopene has been linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer.
  • Luteinand zeaxanthin: These may help protect us from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, two types of eye problems which are common as we age. Good sources of these phytonutrients are greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens.
  • Ellagic Acid: This acid is found in a number of berries and other plant foods, especially strawberries, raspberries and Ellagic acid may help protect against cancerseveral different ways. For example, it may slow the growth of cancer cells and may help our livers neutralize cancer-causing chemicals in our system.
  • Flavonoids: A large number of phytonutrients fall into the flavonoid category, which may help prevent certain types of cancers. They are found in a variety of plant foods. Flavonoids include Catechins, found in green tea; Hesperidin, found in citrus fruits (works as an antioxidant reducing inflammation in the body to help prevent chronic disease); and Quercetin, a flavanol found in apples, berries, kale and onions. These are thought to help reduce risk of asthma, certain types of cancer, and coronary heart disease.
  • Resveratrol: Found in grapes, purple grape juice and red wine, resveratrol acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s believed to help in reducing heart disease and certain cancers.
  • Glucosinolates: These chemicals give vegetables their distinctive odor and flavor. They are typically found in cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and broccoli. The glucosinolates turn into other chemicals during the cooking process and while we digest these foods. These chemicals may help hold in check the development and growth of cancer.
  • Phytoestrogens: Because of their structure, phytoestrogens can exert estrogen-like effects. They also can block the effects of natural supplies of estrogen. Soy foods contain isoflavones – a type of phytoestrogen – and have been linked to lower risk of endometrial cancer and bone loss in women. Our bodies also convert lignans, another type of phytonutrient, into chemicals with some estrogen-like effects. Two especially good sources of lignans are flaxseeds and Sesame seeds.

Food that’s in season not only tastes better, but contain ingredients that suit the body’s needs for that time of year, such as summer fruits with their high fluid content. Additionally, buying locally sustains our State’s farmers, supports the economy and helps remind us about the importance of understanding food sources and nutritional value.


Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Deal with Stress Before It Deals with You

“What an awful day.” Have you ever heard yourself – or someone close to you – express that sentiment? Some days are tougher than others . . . nothing seems to go right, time feels like your enemy, and whatever is plaguing you throughout the day follows you home like a stray cat. There you cope with bills, things that are broken (there’s always something broken), kid troubles, dog troubles, neighbor troubles – it’s a long list that seems overwhelming, especially when your work life is stressing you out, as well. Then you can’t sleep, and tired and cranky, you arise to face another day, frustrated, worried and exhausted.

Stress and work go hand in hand, but the physical and emotional costs of employee stress taxes employers as well through reduced productivity, low morale and teamwork issues. Together, these problems affect quality, service and overall performance.

Stress is insidious and pervasive. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence, more than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress. The APA also found high levels of employee stress, with two-thirds of those surveyed citing work as a significant source of stress, and more than a third reporting that they typically feel stressed during the workday.

These numbers help put into perspective what organizational development experts see as an epidemic-level wave of unhappy employees. If you’re wondering what the impact of this unhappiness may be on your workplace, consider that stress at work manifests itself in increased absenteeism and presenteeism, lower productivity and increased service errors, and has a negative impact on safety, quality and teamwork.

Yet despite growing awareness of the importance of a healthy workplace, few employees say their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress and meet their mental health needs.

People want to see an employer show an interest in them as human beings, and want to be recognized for their hard work, dedication and value. And since health is important to all of us, investing in health and wellness planning, and involving your workforce in both the planning and execution can result in a significant return on investment.

Taking time to ask employees what they think is important. That can be done informally at lunches, team meetings, small-group interactions, and one-on-one. There are a variety of inexpensive online tools available for surveying attitudes and communication, as well. But the easy steps, like building employees into planning and decision making is invaluable for improved execution and buy-in. And recognizing performance, personally and in front of the team, pays back in spades. Small gestures like gift certificates, comp time, and team lunches go a long way toward improving morale.

Additionally, you can sponsor team walks, charity events and after-hours athletic activities, supplement fitness center fees, host on-site health screenings, and take many other steps to foster improved wellness and comradery – the list of potential steps is long, as are the benefits.

Coping with Financial Stress

There’s an insidious nature to how we spend money, how we talk with our significant others about it, and the impact finances have on our mental and physical health. Worrying about money and debt causes increased anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, and stress that taxes our hearts, contributes to high blood pressure, aggravates stomach issues like acid reflux and ulcers, and can lead to strokes and heart disease.

Three out of four American families are in debt, and the weight of all that anxiety can become more apparent in our performance in the workplace, as well. Whether it’s lack of sleep, irritability, lower productivity or increased absenteeism due to the side effects of stress and depression, money woes cost us professionally and personally across a wide spectrum. Unhealthy spending behaviors and debt are a major cause of relationship problems and often cited as a contributing factor in many divorces and breakups.

There’s a difference between active coping and comfort coping – some of us eat more, spend more, or devise short-term solutions. Instead we should be thinking about informed, collaborative planning and strategies for dealing with our money issues. Creating goals is important–working toward a home purchase, a special vacation, college, or retirement savings. We need a clear game plan and tools to help realize our dreams. It’s important to think long term, but live with short-term daily strategies, as well.

Employers pay attention to the health and well-being of their employees, so why should employees’ financial health be any less important? Financial experts and coaches are available to come into the workplace for “lunch and learn” or after-work discussions, and employers can encourage employees to seek outside counseling and guidance, or offer to supplement the cost of these kinds of programs.

Here are tips to share for improving financial health:

  • Make a budget. While it sounds simple, many people fail to truly organize their financial lives and understand what they bring in and what they can afford. Is it possible that you spend $25 a week on coffee? Sure it is – and that’s okay, if you can afford the extra hundred dollars a month. If you have a detailed budget and you stick to it, buying things during the day that make you happy is okay. If you can’t pay your bills, you may consider making your own coffee at home for a fraction of the price.
  • Track your expenses. Write it in a notebook, record it on your computer, or download a spending application on your phone. Tracking what you spend is an important way to understanding your spending habits, course correcting, and establishing a realistic budget.
  • Avoid credit or use it wisely. Credit cards can be a good way to build your credit, but only if you use them infrequently and wisely. If you can afford something, buy it with cash or use a debit card. Use a credit card as a last resort for important purchases you don’t have the money for upfront, but be diligent about paying it off as quickly as possible to avoid exorbitant finance charges.
  • Talk to others about your financial concerns. Share your worries and issues with people close to you, especially your partner. The stigma and shame that accompanies money problems – and the weight of hiding those pressures – causes stress, anxiety and depression. Good communication and honesty can help alleviate some of the stress and the sense of hopelessness that comes with every bill or debt collector’s call.
  • Consult a financial expert. You don’t need investment income to seek guidance from a financial planner or consultant. They can help you devise a savings strategy, prioritize your debt, build your budget, and plan for the future more effectively.
  • Refinance your debt. Consolidation loans with a lower monthly finance charge can help you rid yourself of credit cards. If you can, pay more than the minimum monthly payment and avoid missed payments.

There also are services available to help negotiate payment plans and for consolidating debt, but many of them charge a service fee for this assistance. Look for support groups, free counseling services, and programs such as Debtors Anonymous (DA), a confidential 12-step program available online and across the country, where people with debt or spending issues can come together to examine solutions to their money issues, and find fellowship and support.

We all have to deal with stress – the question becomes, can we face our challenges in a healthy way, and get help when we need it, at home and at work, before it takes its toll on our physical and mental health and productivity? Employers can play an important role in helping to recognize and mitigate stressful factors and consequences.

If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!