When Brian and Susan Pitts’ son developed epilepsy as a teenager, they were short on answers for how to reduce his seizures. But then, acquaintances started mentioning a potential remedy the couple had never heard of: CBD oil.
CBD — short for cannabidiol — derives from the hemp plant. CBD has a different chemical makeup than THC, which means it cannot produce a high like other cannabis products.
CBD oil has been found to help with pain management, anxiety, and — as the Pitts learned firsthand — certain forms of epilepsy. Studies on CBD oil are in early stages. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the first step this year, officially approving Epidiolex, a form of CBD, as treatment for certain seizure disorders.
The Pitts’ son saw a reduction in his seizures after regular CBD oil consumption. They also saw improvements in their autistic daughter after she started using CBD. The family wanted to spread the word about CBD, and opened Phoenix Natural Wellness, a store that now has two locations in Overland Park, one in Lenexa and one in Ottawa.
The stores are among dozens of CBD shops that recently popped up in the Kansas City area.
The CBD trend is growing nationwide. Its popularity is set to expand even more thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which made the regulated production of hemp legal at the federal and state level. The bill also removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which paves the way for more federally-funded studies of CBD.
Despite the lack of research, the basic premise around CBD has to do with the systems already in our bodies: We all have an endocannabinoid system, which works to promote homeostasis by binding certain neurotransmitters to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. Proponents of CBD oil say that the substance stimulates this system, bringing the body to an equilibrium when it comes to pain management, inflammation and chemical imbalances.
Many who have tried CBD say they’ve seen its effects firsthand.
“We have a lot of people who use it for anxiety; we’ve had people come in (the store) in the middle of a panic attack,” Susan Pitts says. “We do a lot of sampling in the store — people come in here in a lot of pain, and we see that pain diminish.”
Frank Siraguso of Siraguso Family Chiropractic, 7825 N. Oak Trafficway, has had similar experiences.
“I had a lot of patients taking Advil or Tylenol, but a lot of that causes liver and kidney issues,” Siraguso says. “I started offering CBD oil in my office and really, the feedback was overwhelming. It works as a natural anti-inflammatory and we were seeing a ton of success.”
Siraguso decided to open his own CBD store, CBD KC, in North Kansas City.
The CBD industry produces everything from gummies and capsules to creams, soaps and lip balm. The most prevalent form of CBD is liquid dispensed from a small bottle with a dropper. Most simply stir the liquid into water.
“The products in this industry are booming,” says Nikki May, manager of CBD KC. “We’re getting a new catalog almost every other week.”
Vince Sanders began manufacturing CBD products under the name brand American Shaman four years ago. Based in Kansas City, the company is carried by more than 100 retailers nationwide, according to its website.
Several misconceptions around CBD still exist, no matter how much it pushes into the mainstream. Many who try CBD for the first time often ask if it will get them high (it won’t). Others ask if it’s possible to overdose on CBD. According to experts, extreme amounts could produce drowsiness, but an “overdose” in its typical definition is highly unlikely.
Many are still skeptical about CBD’s benefits.
“We had four sisters come in, and a few were skeptical, which we get a lot of — people think it’s just snake oil,” Susan Pitts says. “One of them had a really bad limp, so we gave her the water sample and some of the cream to put on her hip. We were over in the corner talking, and we hear her start crying. It was the first time she had walked without a limp in years.”
It didn’t take long for the woman’s sisters and Pitts to start crying, too.
“That’s just one store,” Pitts says. “We see what (CBD) does for people all the time.”