By Nona Tepper
When Melody Kratz turned 13, she started getting migraines, the pain centered behind her left eye, making her feel so nauseous that moving felt unbearable. Kratz's father took her to the doctor, who thought she had allergies and prescribed weekly injections. They didn't work. "You start questioning everything," she said, "like, 'What are you even doing here if you're going to live in this much pain?'"
Kratz tried acupuncture, botox and visiting a chiropractor. She was prescribed a variety of drugs, including Topamax, a preventive medicine that made her "feel lightheaded, kind of fearful that I might pass out, my vision kind of blurred." She tried Excedrin Migraines and "those seemed to work for me. I just have to take too much of it unfortunately," she said.
"So that's why I'm grateful now for CBD. My intake is much less."
Last summer, Kratz started using cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a way to treat anxiety. The World Health Organization says CBD may have therapeutic effects for those suffering from several ailments, including epilepsy, psychosis, multiple sclerosis and more. Kratz credits the oil with drastically reducing her migraines. She has since introduced CBD to Studio 8, the "vintage made modern" shop she opened last year at 7316 Madison St. She represents just one local business that has started carrying the product. Team Blonde carries CBD lotions, Vapes by Iteo has CBD lozenges, and Dr. Jared Kalina's Circle Avenue practice carries CBD oil, among others.
"We think everybody on Madison Street here in Forest Park will be selling this by the end of this year," said Brian Shamhart, who runs Studio 8 with Kratz. "At least, a lot more than currently do. But there's this lack of knowledge, and that's why we investigate it pretty heavily."
CBD oil is derived from hemp, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis that has had a rocky legal history in the United States. Hemp has been used as a natural herbal medicine for thousands of years. But in 1937, Congress lumped it into the same category as marijuana and voted to outlaw it under the Marijuana Tax Act, amid strong immigrant anti-sentiment and against the advice of doctors and engineers. About 60 years later, the U.S. began to import hemp and hemp oil for sale to consumers.
In 2014, President Barack Obama legalized hemp's growth in certain states. In late December, President Donald Trump expanded the measure, classifying hemp as an "agricultural product" available to be grown and sold across the nation. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies CBD as illegal, although it doesn't go after anyone using or possessing it, and it hasn't said if it will reclassify CBD now that hemp is legal.
Kratz and Shamhart believe CBD products will only increase in popularity.
"I'm a business owner and I have kids and I'm always anxious about trying to keep up with everything and being the best I could be," Kratz said. "Sometimes you just got to let it go." She tried CBD oil on Amazon that came highly reviewed but said it did nothing for her. She tried some from Sugar Beet Co-op in Oak Park that also had no effect.
Kratz then did her research, consulted a physician about the best CBD oil and tried products from CBD Distillery. After a month of regular intake — using a dropper once daily to place the oil underneath her tongue for about a minute to absorb — Kratz realized she hadn't had a migraine recently. She had suffered about three migraines weekly, triggered by barometric pressure changes, hormones and maybe food; she's now averaging five monthly.
"It's not completely gone but they're so much more manageable today," she said. "I'm off all my medications. It's truly given me a whole new lease on life so then I was adamant about us selling it."
Studio 8 introduced CBD oil, lotion and gummies in the fall, and has done little to advertise the product. Still, customers have discovered it. One customer said it helped treat her multiple sclerosis. Another customer said it eased their plantar fasciitis. Another said it helped cure their insomnia.
"I think most people are at the introductory level," Shamhart said. "They're not at the level of like, 'Well, I've been cooking with olive oil for 10 years and I only get it imported from Italy from this distributor.' I don't think the market is there yet for CBD. But the seniors do know about it. They're the ones who are most interested because they have the ailments that it will help."
When selecting a CBD oil, Shamhart said, consumers should look into the extraction process and quality of the raw material that's farmed, advising customers to stick to hemp grown in the U.S. and make their own decision about whether they value organic growing methods.
"It's kind of like, 'What's your raw material starting with? How good is that plant and how's it been cultivated and farmed?'" Shamhart said.
Studio 8 is toying with the idea of adding new lines to their store — currently they only carry CBD Distillery brand oil, lotion and gummies, which Kratz uses herself – and are "considering" opening a CBD and Kratom store in Forest Park. Kratom is a plant native to southeast Asia that has effects similar to opioids and stimulants.
"We just made a small order and then we were ordering every 2-3 weeks and trying to keep up," Kratz said. "So we're just playing with the idea of adding a couple different lines just to give us some variety and some alternatives. But again, I don't want to do anything that I can't personally say I believe in."