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Will Cannabis Help Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

October 6, 2020 01:45 pm ET
Will Cannabis Help Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Can you imagine being tired for at least 6 months and no matter how much you rest, you still feel fatigued? Some people don’t have to imagine. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a seemingly complicated disorder which is characterized by extreme fatigue and it worsens with physical or mental activity, but it does not improve with rest. CFS is also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and appears to have no underlying medical condition as a cause. For the individuals suffering from this condition, cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can be used to alleviate CFS/ME symptoms. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

The Mayo Clinic explains that CFS is characterized by extreme fatigue which lasts at least 6 months, it can’t be fully explained by underlying medical conditions, sleep isn’t refreshing, dizziness when moving from lying/sitting to standing as well as difficulties with memory, focus, and concentration. CFS can present itself at any age but mostly affects young to middle-aged adults and it has been recorded that women are more commonly diagnosed than men. 

The exact cause of CFS remains unknown despite theories suggesting it is caused by factors such as viral infections, immune system problems, hormonal imbalance and psychological stress (including trauma), or even a combination of factors. There is currently no test to confirm a diagnosis of CFS and is usually diagnosed by administering tests to eliminate other conditions or/and problems. Medical professionals treat CFS by focusing on improving the symptoms associated with CFS. 

Symptoms:

As with many other conditions, the symptoms an individual may experience in terms of CFS varies from person to person. Additionally, the symptoms can fluctuate in severity on a daily basis. The main symptoms of CFS include feeling tired and generally unwell but also includes the following:

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Sleep problems (including insomnia)
  • Unexplained muscle and/or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Sore throats or glands but they aren’t swollen
  • Problems with memory, thinking or/and concentration
  • Dizziness 
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Unrefreshing rest
  • Exhaustion after physical or mental exercise or/and movement. 

CFS can reduce the individuals’ quality of life as lifestyle restrictions come into play as well as the probability of increased absences at work, depression and even isolating oneself from social situations. 

Understanding the Levels of  Severity

Mild:

Individuals with mild CFS are able to carry out everyday activities but find them challenging. Which often leads to giving up on hobbies and/or social activities in order to rest. 

Moderate:

Individuals with moderate CFS will have difficulties moving around and will have problems carrying out everyday activities. These individuals will often give up on major aspects of their lives such as work or education. They also experience the need to rest often and experience trouble sleeping at night. 

Severe:

Individuals with severe CFS can only perform basic daily tasks and may even be housebound or bedbound. These individuals may require a wheelchair to get around. They also have difficulty concentrating, may be sensitive to light and noise as well as taking longer to recover between activities.

Cannabis for CFS

The current treatment options for CFS are very limited and mostly target symptoms instead of the whole condition due to the fact that its cause is a mystery. Fibromyalgia presents with similar symptoms to CFS and while there is only anecdotal evidence for CFS, there are studies available that support medical benefits from cannabis. For example, a 2011 study conducted by Jimena Fiz and team examines the medical effectiveness of cannabis for symptom relief and improves the quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. The study found that the patients experienced improvements in pain and stiffness as well as improved sleep and perceived overall wellbeing. Interestingly enough, the participants also scored significantly higher for mental health compared to the participants who did not consume cannabis. 

Cannabis Helps The Following CFS Symptoms:

The cannabinoids found in cannabis such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are well known for their abilities to interact with our bodies endocannabinoid system (ECS) and deliver benefits such as pain relief and alleviating anxiety including those mentioned above.  The reason why cannabis can alleviate this condition, even with uncertain causes, is through its’ ability to alleviate the symptoms. The relief you find from cannabis for CFS will largely depend on the strain of cannabis you consume. Indica-dominant strains are associated with relaxation and pain relief, plus they tend to have a higher quantity of CBD. 

Despite the lack of research, cannabis has been around long enough to have accumulated plenty of anecdotal evidence with reports of reduction in the need for pharmaceutical medication and alleviated symptoms related to an array of conditions and illnesses as well as improved quality of life. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be challenging to live with and even more challenging to treat. Cannabis may not have the research to back up its benefits specifically for CFS but there is enough research to prove that the symptoms of CFS will be made better through the consumption of cannabis. 

Individuals suffering from CFS can consume cannabis in whichever method suits them best one should remember that the type strain for CFS is important. You wouldn’t want to take a cannabis strain that ends up providing the opposite of the desired effects, such as making you feel couch-locked. Although most strains available are hybrids, it is important to seek out sativa-dominant hybrids which can offer effects such as bursts of energy, increased focus, and symptom management and relief.  

Suggested Cannabis Strains For Therapeutic Effect:

  • Sour Diesel
  • Jack Herer
  • Amnesia Haze
  • Strawberry Cough
  • Durban Poison
  • Blue Dream

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