By Shona Curley
Today, thank goodness, the San Francisco fog blew in around my house, freezing and opaque. As it came in off the ocean, it cleared out the latest suffocating layer of wildfire smoke, this current round from the Glass fire raging around Calistoga and the wine countries of Napa and Sonoma County. People in my neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief, opening windows and venturing out in parkas for a foggy walk after days cooped up inside.
The wildfires in California have been horrible on so many levels. It’s devastating to see our beautiful state in so much trouble — so many people displaced, communities and beautiful wildlands burnt to ashes. For those of us with health issues, the smoke can also hit particularly hard.
It’s not just trees that are burning. Cars, appliances, and all nature of industrial materials are on fire. The smoke carries a particular metallic smell: toxic and abrasive. For me and many of my friends with Lyme disease and other chronic health conditions, the toxic smoke can cause flare-ups of symptoms as our bodies struggle to purge the toxins.
After a particularly bad Lyme flare with the first round of fires, I’ve doubled down on my detox protocols. I’ve also increased natural remedies to calm my symptoms while my body catches up with the cleansing process. One of the remedies that’s been helping me is CBD oil. I was lucky enough to have a bottle in my cabinet when the fires started, and I’ve been relying on it to carry me through.
Here are three ways CBD has helped me.
1. CBD Soothes My Anxiety.
As if the wildfires themselves weren’t cause enough for anxiety, Lyme flares greatly increase my feelings of fear and tension. I’ve found that a few drops of high-potency, organic CBD oil can help calm my mind and release tension in my body. When I start to feel the familiar knots in my stomach and sensations of heightened tension in my body, I place a few drops under my tongue and allow them to absorb.
Taking CBD doesn’t have a dramatic effect on me, like taking a Valium might; it’s very gentle. I just feel a little softer and calmer. Usually, if I have a Lyme flare, I can’t watch any kind of drama or action movie — it’s just too stressful when my body is struggling. But with the support of CBD, my husband and I were able to finish a great true crime series I otherwise would have skipped. I’m sure he was grateful not to be confined to the Great British Baking Show, and I was happy for the distraction from the fires.
2. CBD Lessens My Depression.
I think a little depression is entirely understandable right now, during this time of political tumult, COVID-19 infections, lockdowns, and climate disasters all at once. We are all coping with a fair amount of stress and uncertainty. I’m lucky that depression isn’t one of my Lyme symptoms, but I’ve felt depressed regardless lately due to the wildfires. Though feeling this way seems completely normal and appropriate to me, it’s still not helpful for my family.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that CBD extract seems to gently alleviate symptoms of depression for me as well as anxiety. Again, it’s nothing extreme, just gentle support that seems to encourage a positive outlook and a sense that I can help affect change. If I find myself dwelling in negativity, a few drops of CBD under my tongue can help me take some deep breaths and move forward with my day.
3. CBD Eases the Sleepless Nights.
Insomnia is my worst Lyme symptom. It seems to feed on itself, creating anxiety and making sleep even more elusive. I had a few nights of terrible insomnia with the first round of wildfires and toxic smoke. Again, CBD extract was helpful for me.
I keep the bottle on my nightstand and reach for it when I wake up. Just knowing I have a natural remedy there to support me is helpful, and the soothing nature of CBD seems to relax my body and help me go back to sleep. I often combine it with ashwagandha, and the combination is particularly relaxing. I’m so grateful for these soothing herbs and the rest they encourage. Not only is mental health dependent on good sleep, but most detoxification of the brain takes place during deep sleep, and this is vital for healing of any kind.
For anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or insomnia during this time of heightened stress, CBD can be a useful support. And if your body has been stressed by wildfire smoke exposure, CBD may be helpful — taking the edge off while your body does the work of cleansing. CBD is gentle and natural and rarely causes negative side effects. Make sure you buy products like full-spectrum, organic products that are third-party certified for purity and that you check with your health care provider to make sure CBD is right for you.
Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website www.redkitemeditations.com. Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.