by Amy Myszko
Of all the health fads in my lifetime, I’m not sure any has had more impact on the wellness market than CBD (cannabidiol, a phytochemical found in hemp and cannabis). Adaptogens (such as ginseng) may just come in a close second. There are many products out there to help people cope with the stressors of modern life, which seem to be at the root of so many health problems. You may be wondering how CBD compares to other botanicals used to treat stress? And should we be including other botanicals in CBD formulas (or vice versa) to enhance the effects? These are great questions.
In my years practicing as an herbalist, something became very clear: Isolating plant compounds and using them as pharmaceutical agents is far less effective than using whole plant extracts, which provide a unique synergy of medicinal constituents. For one thing, the use of herbs as medicine historically has mostly fallen into the category of food (the best way to take in the whole plant). As we learned about extraction methods (hot water for tea, alcohol extractions for tinctures, infused vinegars, honey, etc.) we were still able to harness the majority of active components in each plant. Expanding on this concept that the medicinal components in a single plant work together for a greater effect, combinations of various plants have also proved effective to potentiate or balance the medicinal actions of botanicals.
History of Synergistic Effects in Botanical Medicine
The oldest traditional medical systems (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and to a lesser extent Western herbalism) have certain aspects in common, one of which is the importance of formulation. Particularly in the field of adaptogenic herbs and tonics, combinations of various medicinal plants have had some well-documented results. TCM and Ayurveda, in particular, pay close attention to constitution types, or doshas (for example, whether a person is naturally hot or cold, moist or dry) and focus on pairing herbs that help to balance a person’s unique makeup. Herbs that act as circulatory stimulants are often added to formulations in order to move the other plant constituents to the desired tissues. Most effective formulations include adaptogens or tonics (herbs that build physical vitality), constitution-balancing herbs and blood-moving herbs.
How Does CBD Work?
Cannabidiol is a powerful component found in cannabis (which also has THC) and hemp (which has little to no THC). CBD works in synergy with other cannabinoids in both plants to produce a variety of health benefits, from pain relief, to noticeable stress-relief, to immune system support and improving insomnia. CBD (as well as other cannabinoids such as TCH) work with the body’s own endocannabinoid system to bring balance in the body.
CBD as an Adaptogen
Another term for tonic herbs is adaptogens. These plants help the body cope with stress and improve overall health and well-being. CBD, with all of its amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, health-promoting effects, fits well into the category of adaptogenic herbs. This alone suggests that CBD can make an excellent addition to botanical formulations that include other adaptogens, along with herbs for balancing the constitution and enhancing overall circulation.
What Happens When I Combine CBD With Other Herbs?
Here is where the research is lacking. Since CBD has been on the market for such a brief period of time, the combined effects of CBD and other botanicals is just starting to be understood. It does seem, however, that in alignment with its adaptogenic nature, CBD enhances the actions of other herbal remedies and may also get a synergistic boost of its own from other herbs. Think CBD with ashwagandha, valerian and California poppy for pain-related sleep dysfunction, versus pairing CBD with a sexual tonic like ginseng to promote vitality and stamina. The possibilities are endless, and the potential for effective formulations is great.
Putting It Into Action
There is an exciting potential for the use of CBD paired with other powerful herbs to support pain relief, longevity and well-being. CoSo Health & Beauty, a leading voice in the worlds of CBD, wellness and beauty, is currently developing a CBD pain patch that includes other effective botanicals such as gotu kola and Japanese knotweed (both powerful antioxidant herbs). All the uses, both oral and topical, for the combination of CBD with appropriate adjunct herbal allies remain to be discovered. Are you as excited as I am?
Amy Myszko, a Certified Clinical Herbalist, Certified Lactation Counselor and Licensed Lactation Care Provider, has been practicing herbalism and nutrition since 2007. She recently graduated with a master’s in lactation and is pursuing a career as a Holistic Lactation Therapist.