by David Scott
An Advanced Summary of Chapter 1: History in Cannabis Medicine by David Bearman, M.D. Learn how you can get your FREE copy today!
Cannabis sativa L., including varieties of hemp, have been cultivated across the world over the past 10,000 years to align with the nutritional, nutraceutical, entheogenic, social, and prescriptive demands of their day. Interestingly enough, the “self-defensive” evolution of the plant has proven essential in relation to the medicinal benefits to humans, including cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Beyond these medicinal benefits, hemp was also cultivated for fiber and seeds to make paper, textiles, oils, and foods.
The first written recordings of herbal medicines, including cannabis, occurred between 1065 and 771 B.C.E., and overtime the medicinal use of cannabis spread from Asia to Europe until cannabis was banned by the Pope in the 15th Century, labeling it a tool of the devil for its healing properties. Medicinal cannabis was reintroduced to Europe by William O’Shaughnessy after a visit to India in the 19th Century. Cannabis gained so much popularity that it received the royal treatment from Queen Victoria who consumed cannabis to relieve her menstrual cramps. Sir William Osler soon dubbed cannabis “the best migraine treatment,” particularly the relief associated with pain and nausea. Through the 1920s, physicians wrote three million prescriptions every year for remedies containing cannabis, however use dwindled due to inadequate treatment standards and the relatively short shelf life of bioactive cannabis.
Over time, cannabis fell out of favor with Americans as the government sided with booze over bud, big pharma over small farmer, and factory nylon over industrial hemp. However, the past twenty years has seen the slow undoing of restrictions on cannabis in the states and abroad. Over twenty years ago, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, suggested that cannabis was “one of the safest therapeutic agents known to mankind...safer than eating ten potatoes.” Unfortunately, this was ultimately rejected by President George Bush and DEA Director John Lawn.
After a long hiatus, hemp is rebounding in a big way as a new generation of farmers look to cultivate the future. As regulatory constraints continue to loosen, the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act (aka Farm Bill) established a .3% Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) threshold for the psychoactive component of the plant. According to Richard Schultes, this threshold is arbitrary as there is no botanical science to make a distinction between industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis.
Within the industrial hemp market, a new opportunity is taking form. While industrial hemp products contain only trace amounts of THC and manufacturers must refrain from making unfounded medical claims about additional cannabinoids like Cannabidiol (CBD), there is a whole new wave of research being conducted to help us better understand the industrial hemp plant as researchers explore bioactive properties like terpenes and cannabinoids in addition to valuable fiber, grain, and seed applications.
Rather than blaming the Pope, our government, your body or mind, it may simply be time to seek a whole new approach to cannabis. Industrial hemp products can be some of the best on the market, boosting relaxation without any intoxicating effects. Now that the government is finally coming around, it may be your turn now. Cannabinoids and other bioactive properties have been observed positively interacting with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a naturally occurring system within your body that helps regulate various human functions. Consuming the plant and its natural derivatives, may be helpful to individuals dealing with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, and cancer along with autoimmune, neurological, and vascular disorders. Make sure you stop by our shop or visit us online to begin the FREE consultation form so one of our personal CBD consultants can follow up with you and find the right hemp-based product for you!
Representing approximately 50% of our planet's dry biomass, carbon is considered an essential component to all known life forms on earth. While most forms of carbon are not suited for human consumption, Carbon 60 (C60) is often formulated with other compounds for it's antioxidant and bioactive properties.
Joshua Raderman (Boulder, CO) and Kevin Fortin (Williams, IN) recently submitted a U.S. patent application for a formula including C60 and cannabinoids. They suggest the addition of C60 to cannabinoid-based products improves the active "shelf life of cannabinoids and inhibits degradation of the cannabinoids over time due to oxidation." On a cellular level, C60 "enhance(s) the bioactivity of the cannabinoids" while interacting with the human body.
What is CBD and What Medical Conditions Might It Help?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis, second only to THC in abundance. These plant-derived cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant in Greek), are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-intoxicating and displays a broad range of potential medical applications including helping with anxiety, inflammation, pain, and seizures. These makes CBD an attractive therapeutic compound.
Why Does THC Get You High But Not CBD?
Despite being chemical cousins, THC and CBD have very different effects. The primary difference is that THC get you high while CBD does not. This is because THC and CBD affect our endocannabinoid system (ECS) in different ways. The major ECS receptor in the brain, CB1, is activated by THC but not CBD. In fact, CBD can get in the way of compounds like THC, preventing them from activating the CB1 receptor. This is why the THC:CBD ratio is so important for influencing the effects of cannabis products.
Scientific Evidence for CBD’s Medical Effects
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about CBD is the sheer number and variety of its potential therapeutic applications. It is important to recognize that each application may be supported by different levels of evidence. These range from ongoing clinical trials evaluating its efficacy in the treatment of human disorders, to animal studies investigating its behavioral and physiological effects, to in vitro work (test tube experiments) measuring its pharmacological interactions and mechanisms of action. Each type of study comes with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Clinical trials allow us to draw conclusions about the safety and effectiveness of potential therapeutic agents in humans, while animal studies and in vitroexperiments allow researchers to explore their biological actions in greater detail. However, because the latter class of studies are not conducted in humans, the results don’t always lead to the clinical application that we hope for—the majority of drugs that start in human clinical trials never become approved. Nonetheless, animal studies provide us with a strong foundation of biological knowledge, and are where the initial breakthroughs in research are made.
Why Does CBD Have So Many Potential Therapeutic Benefits?
CBD is famous for the promise it holds for treating treatment-resistant forms of childhood epilepsy. A number of clinical trials, testing the efficacy of CBD in human epilepsy patients, are currently underway. But there is also evidence, mainly from animal studies and in vitro experiments, that CBD may have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, and potential therapeutic value in the treatment of motivational disorders like depression, anxiety, and addiction.
What’s the biological basis for this wide range of potential medical uses? A key part of the answer lies in CBD’s promiscuous pharmacology—its ability to influence a wide range of receptor systems in the brain and body, including not only cannabinoid receptors but a host of others.
Receptor Systems in the Brain
The brain contains large numbers of highly specialized cells called neurons. Each neuron connects to many others through structures called synapses. These are sites where one neuron communicates to another by releasing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters (Figure 1 below).
A neuron’s sensitivity to a specific neurotransmitter depends on whether or not it contains a receptor that “fits” that transmitter, like an electrical socket fits a plug. If a neuron contains receptors that match a particular neurotransmitter, then it can respond directly to that transmitter. Otherwise, it generally can’t. All neurons contain multiple neurotransmitter receptors, allowing them to respond to some neurotransmitters but not others.
Brain receptors are not only sensitive to neurotransmitters produced naturally within the brain, like dopamine or serotonin, but also chemical messengers produced outside the body, such as plant cannabinoids like THC or CBD. So when you ingest an edible or inhale some vapor, you’re allowing compounds originally produced by a plant to enter your body, travel through your bloodstream, and enter your brain. Once they arrive, these plant-derived compounds can influence brain activity by interacting with receptors on neurons. But they don’t interact with all neurons, just the ones that have the appropriate receptors.
CBD Has Effects on Many Different Receptor Systems
Although it is a cannabinoid, CBD does not directly interact with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Instead, it affects signaling through CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partly explains why, in contrast to THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. In addition to its indirect influence on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD can increase levels of the body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.
Even more intriguing: CBD also influences many non-cannabinoid receptor systems in the brain, interacting with receptors sensitive to a variety of drugs and neurotransmitters (Figure 2). These include opioid receptors, known for their role in pain regulation. Opioid receptors are the key targets of pharmaceutical pain killers and drugs of abuse such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. CBD can also interact with dopamine receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating many aspects of behavior and cognition, including motivation and reward-seeking behavior.
This raises the intriguing possibility that CBD’s ability to influence either opioid or dopamine receptors may underlie its ability to dampen drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, effects directly relevant to the treatment of addiction. However, we can’t say for sure at this point; more research on CBD’s interactions with the opioid and dopamine receptor systems is still needed.
CBD’s therapeutic potential with respect to addiction also extends to the serotonin system. Animal studies have demonstrated that CBD directly activates multiple serotonin receptors in the brain. These interactions have been implicated in its ability to reduce drug-seeking behavior. CBD’s influence on the serotonin system may also account in part for its anti-anxiety properties, which have been robustly demonstrated across both human and animal studies.
CBD and the Serotonin System: Exciting Possibilities
CBD’s ability to target a specific serotonin receptor, the serotonin 1A receptor, is associated with a remarkable range of therapeutic possibilities. Professor Roger Pertwee, an English pharmacologist renowned for his research on cannabinoids, spoke with Leafly about this aspect of CBD biology.
“It’s apparent ability to enhance the activation of serotonin 1A receptors supports the possibility that it could be used to ameliorate disorders that include: opioid dependence, neuropathic pain, depression and anxiety disorders, nausea and vomiting (e.g. from chemotherapy), and negative symptoms of schizophrenia,” he said. “One big unanswered question is what the human clinical relevance and importance of each of these potential therapeutic uses of CBD, identified solely by examining data from non-human preclinical research, actually is.”
Given that these possibilities come mainly from animal studies, more research will be needed before we can think seriously about human applications.
CBD: Psychiatric Utility From Complex Pharmacology?
Understanding CBD’s neurological effects is a complicated business, because of the wide variety of receptors with which it interacts. But that complexity may be the key to its promise as a therapeutic agent. Motivational disorders like addiction and anxiety are themselves highly complex; they arise from incompletely understood causes that span multiple receptor systems and neural networks in the brain. CBD’s complex, multi-target effects may therefore be crucial to its potential for aiding the treatment of such disorders. Over the coming years, researchers will continue to further understand this complexity and uncover the full scope of CBD’s therapeutic potential.
This article was first published on Leafly by Nick Jikomes 10/10/16