CBD: What Older Adults Need to Know

27 Jan CBD: What Older Adults Need to Know

What is CBD? 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than a hundred compounds called Cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Another well known Cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana that gives you a high. CBD us derived directly from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana, or manufactured in a laboratory.  

When CBD is sourced from a hemp strain of the cannabis plant, it will contain minimal amounts of THC. This means you can take CBD, but do not have to worry about feeling high. CBD however is still psychoactive, meaning that it has an effect on the neurotransmitters and the chemistry of your brain, just like an antidepressant or a sleep aid would have. CBD is now legal in all states, but beware, CBD products are not regulated by the FDA and may intentionally contain concentrations of THC and other ingredients you may not desire.

How does CBD work?


In your body, you have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of cannabinoid receptors and chemicals found throughout the brain, organs, connective tissues, and immune cells. Enzymes are also a part of the ECS and regulate the levels of endocannabinoids in the body. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC bind to your cannabinoid receptors. The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body by regulating various processes such as pain, inflammation, appetite, mood, and memory. This is the theory of why Cannabinoids like CBD and THC may be able to assist with these type of health concerns.

According to Scott Jennings, CEO and founder of the Pantry, a California cannabis online retail store, “Our focus is on the hopes of improving the health and happiness of consumers and we have seen the biggest impact with many of our senior consumers. It brings me a lot of happiness to know we are improving their quality of life even at such later stages in life." 

How can you take CBD?


CBD is available as an oil, pill, drop or lotion. Today, many CBD-infused food, drink, and beauty products are available online for people and even for their pets.

CBD and Adults over 65

According to a 2020 nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, 20% of Americans 65 years and older said they'd tried CBD oil, up from 14% from the prior year in 2019.

What are the health benefits of CBD?


Early stages of research show some promising findings of the health benefits of CBD.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), drugs containing cannabinoids may be helpful in treating certain rare forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS. In addition, some evidence suggests modest benefits of cannabis or cannabinoids for chronic pain and multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Pain relief. One study found that CBD reduces pain 30% more than traditional medication or medical marijuana (THC) alone.

General anxiety and performance anxiety. One study of individuals with a social anxiety disorder and fear of public speaking gave people a single dose of 600 mg CBD an hour and a half before they participated in public speaking exercise. Those given the CBD experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety and had an easier time with the activity.

Some other areas of research:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing muscle spasms
  • Improving sleep
  • Preventing or reducing symptoms related to Alzheimer's disease
  • Reducing cancer cell growth

The FDA has NOT approved the cannabis plant for any medical use. However, the FDA has approved several drugs that contain individual cannabinoids:

  • A prescription oil called Epidiolex used to treat rare form of epilepsy.
  • Marinol and Syndros, which contain dronabinol (synthetic THC), and Cesamet, which contains nabilone (a synthetic substance similar to THC), to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Dronabinol is also used to treat loss of appetite and weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS.

Where was the CBD product made?



Not all CBD products are made the same way. While Colorado may have trusted CBD manufacturing facilities, a CBD purchased online may come from somewhere overseas where there is no rigorous safety testing. A 2017 analysis of 84 CBD products sold online found that 26 percent contained substantially less CBD than the label indicated, and 43 percent contained substantially more. For this reason, it's important to talk with your doctor before taking and selecting a CBD product.

According to Scott Jennings, “Pantry is a California-based edible brand that delivers clean, sustainable, honestly sourced, plant-based products, with conscious consumption practices and environmental care in mind. Our mission is to harness the power of plant-medicine and provide healthier alternatives for health optimization.”


What is the correct dose of CBD?

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Because CBD is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it is difficult to really know what an effective dose is or know exactly what dose you are taking.  While studies have shown it to be safe in high quantities, seniors are a unique subset of the population and more caution should be taken as they have additional medical issues. 

In healthy adults a starting dose would usually be 5 mg CBD. Experts recommend that the elderly, who are potentially on a number of medications and who are very sensitive to side-effects, to cut the dose in half starting at a very low dose of 2.5 mg CBD. Health experts always recommend working with a doctor to introduce CBD and potentially increasing the dose as needed to suggested 40-100 mg CBD.

Just for reference, the studies that are available have used as low as 5-10 mg CBD per day and others are using it in as high as 1500 mg CBD a day.

Pantry has a dose calculator you can share with your physician to determine the right dose.

Are there other ingredients?

Always read the label of any CBD product to check for additional ingredients that could affect your health or safety. Random samplings of CBD products consistently found misrepresentation between their labels and their contents. Some samples even showed that CBD was entirely absent, in other cases, more harmful substances were found.

And what about adding in a little THC?

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THC is associated with getting high, but it also does have some more immediate benefits than CBD. Experts are now recommending that THC in small doses can be beneficial for problems such as sleep, pain, nausea, appetite stimulation and muscle spasms.

When evaluating a CBD product, make sure it uses CBD from organic hemp, preferably grown in the United States, and that it is third-party lab tested to verify the CBD content and rule out the presence of contaminants.   

Should I stop taking my medication if I want to see if CBD resolves my symptoms? 

No.  As an example, if you have been taking a sleep aid for many years and you want to try CBD, experts DO NOT recommend stopping the sleep aid and start taking CBD, because your insomnia will get worse. Under the guidance of your physician, you would want to determine how to introduce the CBD and then taper off your sleep aid, or other medication until you see improvement and you reach a stable dose.

Can I believe the CBD health claims?


Do not believe all the health claims you read about. Some CBD brands will make false health claims such as CBD can cure cancer or prevent or reverse heart disease.  These health claims are actually illegal because they have not been scientifically verified.

Are there any CBD side effects?

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Potential negative interaction with other medications
  • Liver problems

What are other CBD safety concerns?

Several concerns related to the elderly have been raised :

  • Marijuana may cause orthostatic hypotension (head rush or dizziness on standing up), possibly raising danger from fainting and falls.
  • The use of cannabis has been linked to an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Some people who use cannabis develop cannabis use disorder, which has symptoms such as craving, withdrawal, lack of control, and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities.
  • Cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of injury among older adults.

For a full list of safety concerns, please visit the NIH information pages below: