CBD in Chinese Medicine

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac., MSOM

With the growing awareness of CBD as a potential health aid, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes may seem like a new concept in the western world; but it has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. In China, hemp is believed to be indigenous to the country and has been cultivated for 6,000 years. It has not only been used medicinally, but also in fiber production for rope, fabric, netting, and seeds used for food and oil. Hemp seeds are the most popular and most regularly used part of the cannabis plant in medicine today due to its laxative properties. Historically, however, all parts of the plant were used including the flowers, leaves, and roots. Besides the seeds, the flower is actually the most mentioned part in ancient Chinese medical texts. This is due to the higher concentrations of CBD and THC in the flowers compared to the roots and leaves. 

Historical uses of cannabis date back 2,000 years in Chinese publications. The Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, who is considered the father of Chinese Medicine, produced the first book describing the healing properties of herbs. CBD which is derived from Cannabis sativa (known as da ma in Chinese medicine) was among the 50 fundamental healing herbs in his book. 

The benefits of cannabis were first described in Chinese medical literature in the text “Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica.” This text was published in the first to second century AD and is still in clinical use today. The text argues that prolonged consumption of cannabis “frees the spirit light and lightens the body.” The authors state that cannabis is able to “break accumulations, relieve impediment and disperse pus.” According to this text, cannabis has acrid and balanced properties. It is said to govern the five taxations (excessive use of the eyes, excessive lying, sitting, standing, and exercise) and the seven damages (over-eating, cold food and drink, climatic extremes, rage, fatigue, grief, and fear). It is said to benefit the five viscera (the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and spleen), and to quicken the blood.

Taking CBD allows our bodies to go back into a state of homeostasis or balance and enables the endocannabinoid system to function at maximum capacity. Studies are showing that CBD and acupuncture work very well together. Acupuncture and CBD both release a chemical known as adenosine. Acupuncture stimulates the release of adenosine to increase the body’s capacity to tolerate pain; while CBD increases the ability of adenosine to fight inflammation which may cause pain. When used in combination, they both boost the endocannabinoid system, enhancing the body’s own tools for combating disease and fighting a wide range of physical problems including not only pain, but also mental illness, anesthesia, seizures, and spasms. 

Meridians are the pathways through which the life force (qi) travels through the entire body. Scientists are speculating that there is a direct connection between meridians and the endocannabinoid system, which explains acupuncture’s reputation for effectiveness. As Dr. Vincenzo di Marzo, lead researcher at the Research Council of Italy, said, “The endocannabinoid system so far is the only endogenous system of chemical signals that is involved in everything.” A Chinese medical practitioner may say that it manages our complete life force.

Acupuncturists stimulate the nervous system with the use of points and needles that help break up blockages in the meridians. This allows for the release of endocannabinoids that are needed to biochemically balance us out. On the other hand, CBD oil activates cannabinoids by stimulating the endocannabinoid system to produce homeostasis. Both operate on a cellular level.   

Furthermore, links are being found between the endocannabinoid system and opioid systems. They are found to share areas of the brain that are related to and control sensations of pleasure, reward, and pain. Both opioid and cannabis containing THC can produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation. These two systems can influence each other.

Scientists are beginning to discover that acupuncture and CBD oil therapy work very well together. Most studies looking at the relationship between acupuncture and the endocannabinoid system suggest that acupuncture stimulates or mimics endocannabinoid activity. The ultimate aim of Chinese medicine is to promote self-healing by restoring homeostasis, and this idea is not too different from the function of the endocannabinoid system. In fact, studies now suggest that one of the ways acupuncture works is through none other than the endocannabinoid system itself!

When choosing CBD oil it is very important to do research. Hemp is known to be a particularly absorbent plant and must be grown with organic hemp seeds in organic soil as it pulls toxins from the soil in which it is grown. At Mke MindBody Wellness, we are now carrying Will Allen’s Beyond Organic local cold pressed and full spectrum CBD oil that is cultivated and bottled with purity in mind.