Weeding out a CBD treatment

By Maria Johnson

I was at wit’s end.

To shush my mewling left ankle, which I’d aggravated while playing tennis, I’d tried all sorts of remedies: anti-inflammatory pills, gels, and a cortisone injection, which worked — until it didn’t.

A doctor sent me to a physical therapist, who showed me how to build up my foot and ankle muscles. My peroneus brevis never looked so good. She ended our sessions by dressing my ankle with a battery-powered patch that pushed some anti-ouchy medicine into the gristle end of my boney-ass-chicken-drumstick leg — my words, not hers.

The relief lasted for a couple of hours at a time, probably because I was so caught up in the cool factor of wearing a battery-powered bandage. It reminded me of the light-up tennis shoes that both of my sons wanted so much, at age 3, that they endured the rigors of giving mom and dad what they wanted — potty-trained sons — in exchange for the fly kicks.

Who knows? Maybe if the patch had packed a stronger battery and a flashing dump truck, I’d have been cured. Alas, the wee batteries died, and I went back to being my gimpy, unelectrified self.

I tried simpler fixes, too, soaking up enough fragrant Epsom salt to pass as a lavender-scented country ham. And, of course, I’d worn out the RICE regimen, which orthopedic folks use as shorthand for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, but which the rest of us know as Relax In a Chair and Eat the ice cream you got out of the freezer when you fetched the gel pack.

I was desperate for relief. So when post-yoga chitchat turned to a new hemp store nearby, and someone volunteered that she’d rubbed hemp oil into her hip to soothe an aching flexor, I was on it.

Skeptical, but on it.

I hobbled on over to the ol’ hempatorium. Graphics on the windows suggested that CBD — or cannabidiol, a non-la-la-inducing compound in hemp — could be used to treat a wide array of health problems:

Anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, autism, scurvy, rickets, dropsy, hysteria, ringworm, imbalance of the humours. I exaggerate, but not much.

The kid who was minding the store was extremely friendly, in a floaty, underwater sort of way.

“How . . . can . . . I . . . help  . . . you?” he asked languidly.

“I was wondering if you have any kind of ointment that might help a strained tendon in my ankle,” I replied.

“Everyone  . . . your  . . . age . . . wants . . . topicals . . . instead . . . of . . . smokables  . . . and  . . . chewables,” he observed in approximately the time it would take me to watch a whole season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

I was tempted to say, “Been there, done that. Why, I recollect a concert by them Who fellers back in nineteen and eighty-two,” but I preferred to focus on my ankle while I was still ambulatory.

He led me over to a wall of shelves and picked up a small white jar with a smudged label that looked to have come from a home printer. “Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Pain Salve, 500mg/1oz,” it read. Everything was spelled correctly, which I took as a positive sign, medically speaking.

“My . . . aunt . . . has . . . bad . . . arthritis . . . in . . . her . . . back . . . and…”

“Good for her,” I said. “I’ll take it.”

I panned the rest of the seascape: tinctures of oil; packs of multicolored gummies; bottles of lotions; tubes of salve promising to relieve, relax or restore one thing or another; a few textile products woven from hemp fiber; and some prerolled joints.

A tray of loose-leaf hemp lay next to the register.

“Is it, uh, legal to sell it that way?” I asked.

“Yeah . . . as  . . . long . . . as . . . it . . . contains . . . less . . . than . . . point . . . three . . . percent . . .THC,” he said, using the initials of Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in weed that makes you high.

I looked it up later. Hemp, a low-grade strain of marijuana, contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which is currently the legal limit in North Carolina. In states that allow the sale of recreational or medicinal pot, the THC content can be more than 20 percent.

Back in the day of  “them Who fellers,” it was 3 to 4 percent.

I’ll leave it to politicians, pundits and public health folks to hash out whether society’s widespread embrace of cannabis makes sense.

But I can tell you that after a few days of rubbing the hemp oil balm on my ankle, the pain faded away.

In fairness to cause-and-effect, maybe it was because I’d laid off the high-impact exercise. Or because I’d flexed my foot and ankle muscles into a state of Marvel Comics buffness. Maybe in the year since the original injury, the frazzled tendon had finally mended on its own.

Or maybe it was because of the healing properties of CBD.

There’s a seed of truth in there somewhere.  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry magazine. She can he reached at

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