By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
My celebrity guest today to help us celebrate Cat Week here at Mercola Healthy Pets is the wonderful Dr. Celeste Yarnall. Celeste was an actress, and you may know her from her roles on Star Trek and co-starring with Elvis. "That was another life," she says. You can see a list of her films at her IMDb page.
I asked Celeste how she made the transition from Star Trek to kitties. "I absolutely love both cats and dogs," she explained. "I love everything that creeps, crawls and swims. I really love the whole of them. But yes, I've had kitties all my life — also Collies, as a matter of fact."
"I went from being an actress in the entertainment industry to commercial real estate, but I still had my hands in the entertainment industry. I was getting stressed because I was working [nonstop]. So I pulled out and completely changed directions. Since then I've devoted over 20 or 25 years to helping cats and cat people all around the world."
I've written three cat books, the last of which I think you know about, which is 'The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care: An Illustrated Handbook,' which I wrote with our wonderful friend, Dr. Jean Hofve. We just poured our hearts into it and included everything imaginable that can help make our cats' lives better and our own at the same time.
I look at taking care of animals as kind of like being on an airplane when the flight attendant tells you to be sure and put on your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help anyone else. I'm usually trying to share protocols that will help the cat's guardian, as well as the cat."
I'll be interviewing Dr. Hofve later in the week to discuss a new technology she's involved with that is beneficial for all life forms. Celeste is actually a lot like Dr. Hofve in that they are both constantly learning and applying what they learn to their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of animals.
"I hopped on the train with Dr. Jean," explains Celeste, "because we're both very passionate about a European medical device technology, which we presented to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA)."
How and Why Celeste Began Using CBD-Rich Hemp Oil
"My other favorite topic," Celeste continued, "which you and I are going to chat about, was the one that ended up on my plate because I'm a cancer survivor. Three years ago, I began intensively researching alternative cancer treatments because I was backed into a corner, forced to accept the traditional standard of care because my situation was so serious.
I had to have surgery, and although I said I would never do chemo, I ended up doing 12 rounds of chemo to keep this nasty stuff at bay. So I've been doggedly researching. Our topic today, which I'll let you introduce, is one of the things I discovered three years ago, and I've continued to play an active role in that particular area."
The topic I asked Celeste to talk with us about today is cannabidiol (CBD) — hemp-based CBD oil. I asked her how she began using CBD oil and when she decided to use it with her cats.
"Everything I look at, I look at with those two hats on — how will it be for our animal companions, as well as myself," Celeste explained. "I've always been of the mind to purchase things graded for human consumption, and not tested on animals.
I refer to it as CBD-rich hemp oil, because what we're talking about are non-drugs. They're nutritional supplements. Proper ones are labeled hemp oil, or in the case of the one I use and recommend and have the most experience with, nano-enhanced liposomal sublingual hemp oil.
Due to the side effects, I don't like prescription drugs. I know they're necessary sometimes, but I avoid them like the plague. The side effects of chemo are, of course, nausea, depression, and anxiety. I wanted something natural to deal with those side effects.
Believe it or not, it was one of my oncology nurses who took me aside because she knows I love alternatives and said, 'You know, lots of people here at our infusion center are bringing along their CBD-rich hemp oils. They're getting great results. I did everything the hard way. I had to go out and get the medical marijuana license. I had to interview the dispensaries. I've researched non-stop over the last three years.
What I found so exciting was that not only human beings, but all the way down to vertebrates, with the exception of insects, have an endocannabinoid system, which is sort of like a lock waiting for a key to put this wonderful hemp oil into our bodies."
CBD-Rich Hemp Oil Has a Calming Effect on Cats
"I think you might recall from Dr. Jean's and my book," Celeste continued, "that I raised 11 generations of my Tonkinese cats on the principles in the book — all organic, raw meat, raw bones, homeopathy, maybe one vaccine if I was forced to.
With my breeding program, we used traditional medicine or Western medicine, allopathic medicine if you will, for emergencies. Those 11 generations of cats were raised on the principles both Dr. Jean and I have put our hearts and souls into, which is homemade food for dogs and cats.
I stopped my breeding program in 2009 and kept two wonderful cats, my kitty son and my kitty daughter. My husband and I refer to them as our fur children. They're very, very healthy. When I was diagnosed with cancer, after a long ordeal in the hospital, we moved in with my daughter.
My husband had to go back and forth every day to feed and cuddle the kitties. One of them became so stressed over the nine months I was away from him that he started licking himself so much he was pulling his fur out. It looked like he was trying to turn himself from a Tonkinese into a Sphinx!
The CBD oil was working very well for me, especially the product I'm working with now, which is nano-enhanced CBD-rich hemp oil, so I decided to try it with my stressed out cat. I take a little bit of the oil in the palm of my hand with a tiny bit of oil from wild-caught sardines, mix them together and rub the mixture over his gums. He just loves it. He doesn't do all that licking anymore. Now he's only half-Sphinx!"
Hemp Oil Can Also Relieve Symptoms and Anxiety in Sick Cats
Celeste used CBD-rich hemp oil to successfully treat an emotional issue with her cat, which is wonderful, since as she points out, stress and anxiety are two huge issues all humans and animal companions deal with. And as we also know, stress leads to inflammation and chronic disease.
"Inflammation wears two hats," explains Celeste. "It's a good thing and it's a bad thing. But one of the side effects of our industrialized society is chronic stress, which is very, very dangerous. I think when we work on that underlying cause, we begin to see our bodies start to heal themselves naturally.
Hemp is the oldest cultivated plant on the planet. It's not marijuana — marijuana and Cannabis sativa are two different things. Marijuana is grown for its recreational psychoactive potential. It has healing potential as well, but pretty much everything the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana can do with regard to activating self-healing mechanisms, the CBD-rich hemp oil can do as well.
In cats, CBD can control pain, inflammation, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), pancreatitis, feline idiopathyc cystitis (FIC), and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). It's neuroprotective, decreases nausea, and stimulates appetite. As we know, it's very important to keep cats eating and hydrated.
CBD can help reduce cancer symptoms, and it's wonderful for the brain. We're seeing geriatric dogs and cats with dementia improve. We're seeing a reduction in bronchospasms in asthmatics, and lowered anxiety. CBD supports the immune system and helps with food allergies and immune-mediated diseases."
Many of the conditions Celeste mentions have roots in emotional stress. There's an emotional-based disease, usually anxiety and stress within the home that can render cats unable to moderate their own inflammatory response, triggering a cascade.
There's a bio-physiologic change, then there's a cellular change and then there's a structural change. But those structural changes come so far down the line they can often be avoided by addressing inflammation and anxiety early, as Celeste did with her over-grooming kitty. She used a nontoxic remedy to help him cope with the emotional aspects of his situation.
Hemp Oil Can Be Legally Purchased Over the Counter or Online
I have used CBD oil extensively to help control seizures, both in cats and dogs, and I want to discuss the legalities of using cannabis. I asked Celeste if the product she sells can be bought over the counter, because the legal issues around veterinarians prescribing or offering CBD are just a nightmare right now.
"I actually have my own website, PrimeMyBody, where I send my colleagues and friends to buy the oil," Celeste explains. "I'm available to help guide them, but in the case of people's cats, they would need to get guidance from their vet because I don't give medical advice.
I work with a scientist who is a liposomal expert. He has developed nano-enhanced hemp oil with a liposomal sublingual delivery system. It's easy to take and pleasant tasting. The hemp plants are grown on biodynamic farms in Europe, because I'm very worried about the pesticides used on hemp grown in the U.S.
We used to say, 'We are what we eat,' but now we say, 'We are what we absorb,' and the product I use is highly bioavailable due to the sublingual delivery system. There are a lot of CBD products out there, and I'm seeing tremendous interest in CBD-rich hemp oils.
Legally, we must keep it in the nutritional supplement category, which is why we refer to it as hemp oil, or in the case of the product I sell, nano-enhanced hemp oil. Hemp oil is the richest form of cannabidiol. It has an entourage effect when it's properly prepared with terpenes. It works brilliantly. For example, it just helped me get through six more rounds of chemo."
Celeste answered a couple of my top questions about hemp oil. Is it legal and over-the-counter? Yes. Can anyone buy it? Yes. It's worth noting, as Celeste pointed out, that many hemp oil and CBD-derived products do have a terrible taste. And while humans can usually handle it because we understand the benefits, trying to get a finicky or sick cat to swallow something foul tasting is pretty much impossible. So it's wonderful Celeste has found a product that is pleasant tasting.
The Best Way to Offer Hemp Oil to Kitties
My next question concerns dosing. I asked Celeste if it's possible to give too much hemp oil to a cat. Let's say your cat has a chronic painful condition. Would you feel comfortable giving it to him several times a day for the rest of his life?
"Yes, absolutely," she answered. "First of all, I just want to mention that we should never, ever let a cat, a dog, or a child anywhere near marijuana. No nibbling on plant leaves. It's a big no-no. But in this case, we're not talking about marijuana. We're talking about hemp oil.
Dr. Jean actually figured the dosage for me because I was writing a blog on CBD-rich hemp oil for cats. Our bottles come with a pump, which dispenses the right dose for a body weight of around 150 pounds. For cats, we put the oil in a 1-milliliter glass dropper.
I recommend starting with a low dose. Put one drop in the palm of your hand. You can mix it with a little water or clustered water, or wild-caught organic sardine oil. Just feed and pet the kitty. Take it slow at first. Many cats really love having their gums massaged. Obviously, if you have a biting cat, you'd probably want to use one of the little finger toothbrushes. But I've never had a problem with massaging my cats' gums with my finger."
I asked Celeste how to give the oil to a cat who can't be handled, for example, a feral kitty. Can it be added to their food?
"I would rather you try to put it on a paw," she says. "You don't want to expose the CBD-rich hemp oil to the hydrochloric acid in the gut. This is one of the problems with other products on the market. They're being swallowed in tincture form. Delivering the oil sublingually (under the tongue) or topically is 20 percent more effective than anything that must processed through the gut.
Obviously, as a last resort you can give it with food, but maybe just take a small piece of food the cat likes, put a little bit of the oil on it, and just let him lick it. Or let him lick it off your fingers if he's agreeable. CBD and THC products were originally designed to be rubbed on the gums or placed under the tongue. But as time passed, people began consuming them. They're not as effective ingested as they are when taken sublingually, bypassing the digestive tract."
In my experience, CBD-rich hemp oil works well with conventional drugs and treatments. It can actually decrease the amount of pain medication a sick patient requires. As we know, cats are extremely sensitive to drugs. Offering hemp oil is a wonderful, nontoxic way to decrease the amount of drugs a sick cat needs.
"If someone is using a flea product, we don't want to use the oil at the same time," Celeste explains. "It should be offered away from the administration of pharmaceuticals or chemicals, including IV drugs. I recommend giving it 10 minutes before feeding so the oral mucosa's clean and primed to receive the oil right into the endocannabinoid system."
Many Thanks to Dr. Celeste Yarnall for Sharing Her Story
Hopefully this discussion has been enlightening for pet parents who may have fears or concerns about CBD for pets. Celeste and countless others have had great results using it themselves, and offering it to pets dealing with a variety of physical and emotional challenges.
I hope Celeste's personal testimony offers inspiration for pet parents, and cat parents specifically, who are looking for nontoxic options to improve the quality of life of animals suffering from debilitating or painful medical conditions. I believe many, many cats have unaddressed pain, and this is a beautiful solution to pain management.
"It's also excellent as an anti-aging strategy," adds Celeste. "It has a healing and balancing effect. We can use it for basic wellness, as well as with both acute and chronic conditions."
I so appreciate that Celeste took time today to share her personal story with us, as well as her invaluable work with nano-enhanced CBD-rich hemp oil. I wish her all the very best on her own healing journey.