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Peripheral Neuropathy and a “New” Treatment

Peripheral Neuropathy and a “New” Treatment

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By Mark Birmingham, DPM
Board-Certified Podiatry Specialist - Foot & Ankle Surgeon

I will often see patients who have some form of peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy, meaning nerve disease or damage, is often used as an umbrella term for a condition that encompasses multiple reasons people may not have things appropriately. Symptoms can include burning sensations, pins, needles, numbness, or, more typically, “decreased sensation.”

Neuropathy Background

Two centuries ago, the main reason for neuropathy was syphilis. Today, we see that most cases are due to uncontrolled blood sugar in those with diabetes.

Interestingly and increasingly, I am seeing individuals that carry the diagnosis of idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. This is a fancy way of saying that we, like doctors, don’t know why our patients have nerve symptoms. I have my suspicions as to why, but we’ll get there.

I am also seeing more patients who have been to well-trained medical professionals with the idiopathic peripheral neuropathy diagnosis only to be told that “there is no cure” or “you get to live with it.” Who wants that answer? Who wants to give that answer?

This situation is at the top of my list of things that make my heart hurt for my patients. Patients are often given the option to treat just the symptoms. Neuropathy treatment typically comes in the form of oral medications or topical forms of those medications. These solutions do work for some people. Sadly, and increasingly, I see that they aren’t working for many.

An Alternative:  The Endocannabinoid (EC) System

    More people will be saved by manipulating the EC system than are currently saved by surgery.”
—Dr. David Allen,
Retired Cardiac Surgeon

I grew up in Kansas — an amazing state. That said, it happens to be only one of the states in the U.S. that doesn’t acknowledge the medical benefits of marijuana. Colorado has had laws accepting medical marijuana since the year 2000.

This isn’t another pro-marijuana blog. It’s an introduction to the endocannabinoid (EC) system.

The EC system helps affect the cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and nervous systems. We know of receptors in this system that affect the central nervous system and those receptors in the peripheral nervous system, CB1, and CB2, respectively. The EC system has become a popular phrase in Google searches lately because of the increasing acceptance of marijuana and its derivatives. The psychoactive substance in pot acts upon CB1 receptors to make you ‘high.’ We see the majority of anti-inflammatory effects at the CB2 receptors with achy joints and painful, rogue nerves in the periphery causing all the aforementioned symptoms in peripheral neuropathy.

I was recently introduced to Copaiba essential oil, a “new thing” that is actually 500 years old. The essential oil is derived from the resin of the Copaiba tree, which is found in tropical South America. Used for centuries and harvested from trees that can grow up to 100 feet tall, it has recently been discovered that Copaiba oil acts on the EC system.

Copaiba oil is derived from Copaiba tree resin. The psychoactive substance in marijuana acts upon CB1 receptors; the majority of anti-inflammatory impact the CB2 receptors.

Getting back to Kansas, there is still a stigma there with the use of marijuana. I appreciate that it’s not easy to change one’s mindset regarding pot. We are continuing to learn both the positive and negative effects of cannabis. Copaiba essential oil is a way for those who want the benefits of positively influencing the EC system without having to head to your local dispensary. I highly recommend making an appointment with our office if you have questions about neuropathy in your feet and how this natural substance may positively affect your symptoms.

Should you decide to buy Copaiba essential oil off-the-shelf, it is important to understand that most essential oils are diluted and are not in their purest form. Please do your research; we can help.

And now, as mentioned earlier, I have my suspicions as to why individuals experience neuropathy symptoms. The majority of our health issues start with inflammation, which can be described as an immune system response to trauma or injury in our bodies. I believe the harmful effect of inflammation is likely the culprit causing idiopathic neuropathy. There are multiple ways that individuals can reduce the inflammation in their body, starting with good food, adequate exercise and sleep, and a stable state of mind.

A better knowledge of the EC system reminds us we can regain health with naturally occurring substances.


About Mark Birmingham, DPM
Podiatry at Boulder Medical Center

Mark Birmingham, DPM, is a board-certified Doctor of Podiatric Medicine. DPMs are qualified by their education and training to evaluate and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg.

Dr. Birmingham offers clinical, arthroscopy, and surgical expertise for general foot and ankle care, sports injuries, complex deformities, chronic ankle instability, fractures, arthritis, and more.

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