A collaboration between the Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod and Triple M dispensary, a medical marijuana dispensary in Mashpee, is touting the benefits of cannabis to help patients with Lyme disease.
“The proof is there,” said Ronald F. Gangemi, founder of the Mashpee-based awareness group.
Lyme Awareness opened what is believed to be the nation’s first wellness center dedicated to treating Lyme disease in 2015 at Trinity Place. The center helps connect patients to a variety of treatment options, from finding physicians to introducing alternative approaches such as yoga and infrared saunas.
Based on feedback from some of their patients, the center has found a new tool to add to its repertoire: medical marijuana.
Mr. Gangemi said that medical marijuana can help anxious Lyme patients with sleep, and that topical creams with cannabis can help with pain management on sore or achy joints.
“It’s another tool to use,” he said.
Last night, Lyme Awareness along with Triple M and MedWell Health & Wellness, a Massachusetts-based group, was scheduled to hold an informational meeting at Mashpee TV.
MedWell, aside from providing state residents with medical marijuana cards, provides information about the benefits of medical marijuana. A medical card can allow patients to legally purchase marijuana from a medical dispensary. MedWell has offices across the state.
The use of medical marijuana to help Lyme patients is not a new concept, although it could be to the region.
‘There’s an important distinction. Marijuana is not going to treat Lyme. But, it is has a role in the treatment.’
Dr. Daniel A. Kinderlehrer
A Denver-based physician, Dr. Daniel A. Kinderlehrer, said that he has seen the benefits first-hand.
He said that about three-quarters of his patients that try some form of cannabis have seen beneficial results.
“There’s an important destinction. Marijuana is not going to treat Lyme,” Dr. Kinderlehrer said. “But, it is has a role in the treatment.”
The Denver-based doctor’s practice deals specifically with Lyme disease and co-infectious diseases.
Marijuana, he said, can help with inflammation that Lyme can cause as well as with the anxiety resulting from the disease’s assault on the immune system.
A vast majority of Lyme patients have systemic inflammation which results in symptoms like muscle aches, mood irregularities, headaches, and numbness. Marijuana can help reduce this inflammation.
As Dr. Kinderlehrer describes it, marijuana has some 480 of what are called phytocannabanoids, or naturally occurring compounds in the body that can effect mood, sleep or appetite. The most common found in marijuana is THC and CBD. THC provides the high marijuana has come to be known for, while CBD can decrease inflammation, both keys to help with Lyme.
The key benefit of CBD, Dr. Kinderlehrer said, the compound can ease inflammation on a neurological level.
In a healthy body, an immune system has a boundary protection on the cellular level. The boundary can discern a healthy cell or possible foreign virus, and then choose whether to take it out or let it through. With Lyme, the boundary is thrown out of whack and can start to attack its own immune system.
Marijuana, Dr. Kinderlehrer said, helps restore the system.
“The bug is creating chaos and the chaos is making us sick,” he said. “With cannabis, we are interrupting that to a degree. We are restoring some order here and interfering with the chaos the bug creates.”
The THC and CBD compounds in the marijuana can also help sleep, whether helping to fall asleep or stay asleep longer, and it can help with pain as well, Dr. Kinderlehrer said.
The Denver-based doctor is cautious, however, calling marijuana the silver bullet. A small few have been allergic to it, while others the medicine can make patients too sleepy. Other patients can overuse it, causing additional problems.
Still, he has seen good results.
“We have had a whole lot of patients on CBD and come back and say they love the stuff,” he said.
Local observations about the effect of medical marijuana on Lyme were not immediately available.
Robin Lord, a spokeswoman with Cape Cod Healthcare, said that the topic was not something infectious disease physicians here could speak to. At Triple M in Mashpee, store manager Renee Pannoni said that she has not heard from Lyme patients, although the dispensary has only been open less than two months, and a patient may not have disclosed their illness.
Still, Ms. Pannoni did note the benefits of medical marijuana and the treatment help that the substance can bring.