CBD and Psychoactive Plants

Use of psychedelics, stimulants and other types of plants and drugs with mental effects has long been commonplace among many indigenous cultures. Examples include coca leaf in South America, peyote among Native Americans, nutmeg in South and Southeast Asia, blue lotus in ancient Egypt, and mushrooms in Mesoamerica and North Africa.

Cannabis was used in Western medicine starting in the 19th century to treat pain, nervous disorders, insomnia, and other ailments. But during the 1950s and 1960s, controversial therapeutic usage of LSD, psilocybin and mescaline were used in psychotherapy to treat thousands of patients. The last 20 years have brought a renewed interest and a resurgence of scientific and clinical research on the potential for cannabis and psychedelic drugs although legal restrictions and socio-cultural sensitivities are relevant concerns.

What is CBD? Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several cannabinoids in the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike THC, which is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana (the one that causes a “high”), CBD is non-psychoactive. Studies suggest that CBD may work to alleviate anxiety. However, the FDA does not regulate CBD for treating anxiety. This means that the quality, dosages and efficacy can vary widely between products and manufacturers.

According to Harvard Medical School, “We need more research but CBD may prove to be a helpful, relatively non-toxic option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies, we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD currently is typically available as an unregulated supplement, it’s hard to know exactly what you are getting.” Most of the studies that have shown effects on anxiety have been done with internal supplementation. However, some studies and clinical trials are examining whether topical treatment, as is found in many spas, is effective in reducing anxiety.

On the other hand, much attention is being paid these days to psychedelics and other “drug” therapies, such as psilocybin, ayahuasca and ketamine. “From at-home treatment models to retreats in Amsterdam, Jamaica, Costa Rica and beyond, the wellness world is witnessing what every publication from Nature to The New York Times has dubbed the Psychedelic Revolution,” writes Abbie Kozolchyk in a recent issue of Organic Spa magazine.

Travel advisors have likely seen information about ayahuasca getaways in Central and South America. While these psychedelic therapies are said to help with anxiety and PTSD, they are still controversial and largely unregulated. So, if your clients are interested in this type of healing practice, do your research before booking and check your liability waivers.

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