CBD is widely thought to relieve stress and anxiety in humans – but what about elephants? Cannabis Health talks to veterinarian Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska, who is leading a groundbreaking project to find out.
Warsaw Zoo caused a stampede of media coverage last summer when it announced it was going to be testing the effects of CBD on its elephants.
The Hemp for Elephants project, which is thought to be the first study of its kind, aims to determine whether regular doses of CBD oil will reduce stress levels in the animals. If it proves to be successful, the zoo hopes to roll it out to other large mammals in its care, with giraffes, polar bears and rhinos all next in line.
But first, the eyes of the world will be on Fredzia, Fryderyk and Buba – the three elephants at the centre of the Polish zoo’s experiment.
The trio were thought to be the perfect candidates, when the zoo was approached by Polish CBD company Dobrekonopie at the beginning of last year.
Veterinarian, Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska, who is leading the project told Cannabis Health: “There’s always going to be an indication with elephants because they are really social creatures and they live in very complicated social groups.
“Elephants sometimes have various conflicts with each other – sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it is caused by a changing environment – there are many factors that can make an elephant feel uncomfortable and stressed.”
After the death of Edna – the head of the zoo’s elephant herd – Fredzia was having trouble adjusting to her new position as the leader of the pack.
Dr Czujkowska said: “It’s not that there is an emergency in the group right now, because that would be the worst time to conduct this experiment, but we did have some changes. After our oldest elephant Edna died, they had to adjust to a new situation.
“Fredzia has always wanted to dominate and now she can, she’s in control of the other elephants so there is a little bit of stress involved.”
This combined with the fact that the elephants are in a small group, are well trained and the zookeepers know them all well, means it should be easier to monitor their behaviour during the project.
A pilot study was carried out first to measure the amount of cortisol, the hormone produced in the bodies of humans and animals in stressful situations, in the elephant’s saliva and determine which time of day it was highest.
For the study itself CBD hemp extracts will be mixed in with the elephant’s food or administered directly into their mouth at regular intervals.
Dr Czujkowska and her team will begin by following the guidance around dosage in horses – around 40-50 drops every six hours – and will then adjust this for each elephant throughout the project, collecting samples of their blood, faeces, saliva and urine to monitor the levels of cortisol.
“When you conduct an experiment like this, you have to have full control over the group,” she said.
“This is easy in the elephants because the keepers know them really well and they can catch the tiniest differences in their behaviour.”
She added: “We will expand into others such as giraffes, polar bears and rhinos.
“But these are wild animals and the problems that you have to solve are completely different from those in domesticated animals.”
Dr Czujkowska is hopeful that CBD could provide an alternative option to the strong pharmaceuticals that large animals are currently treated with.
“We have a whole pharmacy full of different drugs, but they are not natural and these drugs really change the animals’ behaviour,” she said.
“There are many antipsychotic drugs and true narcotics that you can use in elephants if you don’t have any other choice. For example, if you have to sedate or anaesthetise the animal or it’s a dangerous animal and you cannot approach it, or it has a huge wound that you have to clean every day and it’s not going to cope with the pain.
“Otherwise I think we should look for something natural, and CBD is a very potent substance so why not try it?
Dr Czujkowska continued: “We would rather work really hard through a lot of enrichment to manage the behaviour in the group and try CBD oils than just put them all on Prozac. That is not the solution.
“We have the people, we have the skills so we would rather work harder and give something natural a try, than just go for the easy option.”
The Hemp for Elephants study will be a long-term project, with Dr Czujkowska not expecting to be able to make the first conclusions until around one year down the line.
The study will also have to take into account environmental changes such as weather conditions and other outside factors that may impact on the elephants mood and behaviour.
“We might see that CBD solves some of our problems, maybe not all of the and maybe there will be some side effects. I don’t know and that’s the exciting part of the project,” she said.
“It’s not just about proving that it works. A project like this takes so much labour to collect all those samples and watch the animals, but it might benefit other elephants if people can look up the data and see the results for themselves.
“We thought let’s just try because it’s for the good of the animals, not just the science.”
CBD in the animal kingdom – what the research says
The use of CBD in animals is a growing area of interest and the internet is bursting with anecdotal evidence to suggest how it could help our furry friends – although so far the science to back it up is relatively thin on the ground.
In humans, cannabis is widely-thought to help relieve symptoms such as anxiety, chronic pain and to reduce seizures. Given how close we are to our pets, it was only a matter of time before people started to explore how it could be used to treat similar health concerns in the animal kingdom.
A study by Dr Stephanie McGrath at Colorado State University gave 14 dogs two daily doses of CBD oil for 12 weeks and the results showed a significant decrease in the number of seizures over this period.
Meanwhile Californian company Phyto Farmacy is marketing CBD oils for pain relief in farm animals, particularly horses.
A review of cannabis in veterinary medicine published last year by Dr Joshua Hartzel reported that although it has not seen the same advances as human medicine, there are now several university-based, clinical studies examining CBD from hemp extracts to measure its safety and pharmacokinetics, including the effect of hemp oil extracts on osteoarthritis and epilepsy.
The review concluded: “Due to the nearly universal distribution of the endocannabinoid system in all chordates, and in many invertebrates, the same or similar beneﬁts of cannabinoids found in humans also can be applied to most veterinary species.”
Despite concerns around treating animals with cannabis, a study published by the Veterinary Information Network showed that 80 percent of dogs that were given CBD to help relieve pain and anxiety experienced no adverse effects. However, the British Veterinary Association is reluctant to support CBD use in animals until more evidence about its impact emerges.
Photos courtesy of Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska, Warsaw Zoo
CBD guides: Could CBD help with women’s intimate healthcare?
The endocannabinoid system can play a huge role in helping women’s health issues.
As the number of intimate care CBD products on the market continues to increase, we examine how CBD could help.
CBD has been associated with women’s health issues such as period pain relief, menopause insomnia and even hormonal acne. But as CBD is also thought to help us achieve homeostasis (balance) in the body, could it help to maintain vaginal health?
Women’s health and the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system is thought to regulate different functions in the body such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory and fertility. It is made up of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoid that are found naturally all over the body. There are two major receptors called CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is usually found in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found in the peripheral nervous system. Endocannabinoids bind to the receptors to help with different problems such as pain.
The vagina, bladder and urinary tract also have endocannabinoid receptors.
CBD, unlike THC, does not bind the receptors. CBD may supplement the endocannabinoid system helping to regulate your system. The cannabinoids travel the receptor that has been stimulated and needs extra help to achieve a balance.
Depending on the dose and which receptor it is, CBD is thought to help anxiety, sleep problems, inflammation and pain.
This could be especially useful for those struggling with conditions such as endometriosis, painful periods or anxiety around sex.
When it comes to vaginal health and women’s health concerns in general, how could CBD help?
CBD may help with painful periods due to its anti-inflammatory properties. During a period, the uterus contracts to shed its lining while releasing hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. These substances are involved in inflammation and pain while triggering muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins may mean more painful menstrual cramps.
One study from 2019 revealed that women with endometriosis self-rated cannabis or CBD as most effective for soothing pain. This was compared with other practises such as yoga and stretching.
Another study, which was focused on arthritis in rats, found that CBD gel applied to the area may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Endometriosis is an extremely painful condition that can be debilitating. The tissue from the uterus can become attach itself to other organs in the body such as fallopian tubes, ovaries or pelvis.
Studies have shown that women are increasingly turning to CBD for help alleviating the pain of endometriosis. There are on-going studies into how exactly CBD suppositories or tampons may help endometriosis but there are no results as of yet.
A study into fibromyalgia and pelvic pain for women from 2021 revealed that over one-third of the women surveyed were current CBD users with 81 per cent of this group stating the use had ‘improved their pain.’ A further 76 per cent of users said they were able to substitute CBD for other medications including opioids, NSAIDS, gabapentinoids and benzodiazapams.
There are many different reasons for vaginal dryness including menopause, medication and even particular times of a menstrual cycle.
CBD may help to soothe any redness or irritation caused by vaginal dryness. If the skin is more sensitive as a result the anti-inflammatory properties may reduce any swelling or issues of eczema or dermatitis.
CBD is thought to be potentially anti-fungal which may help with yeast infections.
However, its important to note, before you grab your CBD oil, that there are no direct studies for yeast infection. CBD may be able to boost the effects of caryophyllene oxide or beta-caryophyllene. Both of these are terpenes that are found in the cannabis plant. An older study from 1999 highlighted caryophyllene as a potential help for fungal infections in nails and the skin.
CBD may also offer some relief for irritated or itchy skin as a result of fungal infections such as candida. This is due to its potential anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce redness or swelling.
What is the best CBD to use internally?
While it may be tempting to use our existing CBD products in our intimate areas, it’s best not to.
CBD products for intimate areas are formulated to be used internally which means they are safe. Oils or topicals may contain ingredients or perfumes that can cause infections. The vagina contains a type of bacteria, a Lactobacillus. It produces lactic acid and helps to lower the pH of the vagina, but any form of imbalance can result in infections or thrush.
How to use CBD internally
The most common ways to use CBD vaginally are lubricants and suppositories.
While suppositories may seem scary, they can be one of the easiest ways to take CBD. They are made from from oils such as coconut, that can melt at body temperature. The CBD can take a few minutes to be absorbed by the body once it has melted the oil. It is worth noting that it can be a bit messy when the oil melts, so using something like a sanitary pad can place a barrier between your clothing and the oil.
Sex and women’s health
Latex and safety
Another way that oil-based products may cause a problem, is with latex. Oil can erode latex condoms or glide dams causing them to break or split. If CBD products are being used during sex, always make sure that the CBD being used is water-soluble.
Some people can feel really anxious around sex, due to past experiences, pain or being intimate with a new partner.
A lot of the studies conducted on anxiety and sexual anxiety appear to be focused on men. However, more general anxiety and CBD studies do have a more mixed-gender ratio.
A review from 2020 suggested that CBD could help with anxiety disorders. In reducing anxiety, a person’s libido may increase helping them to feel like sex more.
When the vagina is aroused, the mucous membranes in the vulva and vagina begin to produce a natural lubricant. This is also referred to as vasodilation, the natural process of our bodies expanding our blood vessels to allow more oxygen into certain tissues.
Some studies show that CBD may help with this process by increasing sensitivity and blood flow around the body. CBD is absorbed through the mucous membranes in the vagina and straight into the blood vessels. It is one of the quickest ways to absorb a dose of CBD as it doesn’t have to pass through the digestive system.
CBD suppositories and lubricants are designed to be used internally.
Does the endocannabinoid system have an effect on exercise euphoria?
What causes a runner’s high? Is it CBD, endorphins or our endocannabinoid systems?
The euphoric feeling after exercise, often referred to as a ‘runner’s high’, is associated with a reduction in pain, stress and anxiety.
Research now links the runner’s high to our endocannabinoid system, suggesting that the exercise-induced endorphin release it was always attributed to, is not solely responsible.
But what is our endocannabinoid system? And how does it work?
We examine endocannabinoids, endorphins and how CBD plays a part in balancing the body and exercise
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system is thought to regulate different functions in the body such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory and fertility. It is made up of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found naturally all over the body. There are two major receptors called CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is usually found in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found in the peripheral nervous system. Endocannabinoids bind to the receptors to help with different problems such as pain. It is not fully understood how cannabinoids bind with receptors.
Endocannabinoids are actually naturally produced molecules that are similar to cannabinoids. So far, researchers have identified two key endocannabinoids: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
Enzymes break down the endocannabinoids once they are no longer needed. The two major enzymes are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG.
What is the difference between endocannabinoids and endorphins?
Endorphins are chemicals released by the body in response to pain or exercise. They were traditionally associated with the euphoria felt after a run. However, endorphins cannot cross into the brain through the blood-brain barrier which exists to protect the brain from toxins and pathogens.
How does CBD feature in all of this?
CBD interferes with the receptors found in the endocannabinoid system to help them balance the body. However, it is not fully understood how this happens.
CBD, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid found in the plant, does not bind the receptors. CBD may supplement the endocannabinoid system helping to regulate your system. The cannabinoids travel the receptor that has been stimulated and needs extra help to achieve a balance. Depending on the dose and which receptor it is, CBD is thought to help anxiety, sleep problems, inflammation and pain.
This is why a lot of runners or athletes depend on CBD as part of their recovery routine after a strenuous workout. It may help to alleviate some of the muscle pain they endure during a run.
How this US brand is helping veterans access free CBD
“U.S. military veterans are some of the most selfless individuals so we thought the project would be a perfect fit.”
US vaping supply brand, CCELL, has partnered with the Veteran’s Walk and Talk project to provide free access to CBD.
CCELL will be partnering with the Veterans Walk and Talk (VWAT) to gift its members with limited edition CBD vapes that highlight their military service.
Veterans Walk and Talk is a community project based in the US, offering support, psychedelic therapy and cannabis.
It was founded in 2016 by Colin Wells, who served in the US Army, as a way for veterans in Southern California, Sacramento and Oklahoma, to take control of their health journey.
The project now holds regular community outreach events that provide veterans with a one-on-one psychedelic or cannabis walk and talk therapy or group hikes. They also hold trail and beach clean-ups where the community come together to give back to nature along with book clubs and comedy nights.
To mark the firm’s fifth anniversary, the CCELL team decided to join forces with VWAT.
Speaking with Cannabis Health, Joe Strain, vice president of CCELL said: “VWAT started with veterans in mind. Founder Colin Wells, who served in the US Army and experienced withdrawal traumas, began posting on social media to see if anybody wanted to join him on his hikes as a means to relieve stress.
“On these hikes, he’d provide free cannabis, education and a safe space for people to talk. These hikes inspired him to start VWAT as a way to give back to his community, with the main goal of reducing the suicide epidemic among veterans. Now, VWAT has 12 chapters across the country, all carrying the same mission.”
Joe added: “US military veterans are some of the most selfless individuals, so we thought they would be a perfect fit. We heard about what VWAT is doing for veterans and decided to support the organisation on its mission to help improve the lives and health of veterans by providing them with CBD vaporisers. The alignment was undeniable, and we’re honoured to be a part of helping them further their mission.”
Mental health and veterans
Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be common among veterans. The symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating causing flashbacks, nightmares or physical effects such as nausea or pain.
A study from 2017 highlighted the difference in PTSD between veterans and civilians. In the study of 5,826 veterans, researchers recorded a rate of 13 per cent with PTSD. This is almost double the seven per cent of the US population with a PTSD diagnosis.
Studies show CBD may help PTSD by interacting with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body.
Joe explained: “It’s known that many veterans deal with PTSD after they have served. Studies have shown that CBD can be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. This can potentially afford members the opportunity to manage their symptoms without excessive pharmaceutical drugs, which often cause side effects.”
He added: “CCELL has produced limited edition CBD vapes which will signify that the users of the vapes are members of Veteran’s Walk and Talk. Not only is this great for the members, but it is also significant for this non-profit organisation as it helps to spread awareness about the great work that VWAT does and will help encourage more people in need to join.”
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