MARIJUANA AS MEDICINE – PART 3
By Lono Ho’ala – Biochemist, Author, and expert at Natural Medicine. Lono is the Chief Executive Officer of Eagle’s Nest Wellness Center in Cascade CO, a recognized leader in the use of medical-grade marijuana for serious disease.
© 2015 Eagle’s Nest Wellness Center, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
In Part 1 of this series we discuss the potential for harm when ingesting marijuana grown with Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs.) This is a problem seriously underestimated by both growers and consumers of cannabis products.
In Part 2 we explained the history of the politics justifying why marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 Narcotic with no accepted medical use.
In this Part 3 we explain the components that create the medicinal value of marijuana.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
After several decades of research, scientists studying the effects of marijuana made several important discoveries. Not only did they identify the active ingredient in marijuana, but they also discovered where and how it works in the brain via a new system they called the endocannabinoid (EC) system.
The EC system is a unique communications system in the brain and body that affects many important functions, including how a person feels, moves, and reacts.
The natural chemicals produced by the body that interact within the EC system are called cannabinoids. They interact with receptors to regulate these important body functions.
Marijuana is known to be composed of about 480 natural compounds. About 66 of these have been classified as “cannabinoids.”
The cannabinoids are separated into subclasses:
Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL)
Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and other miscellaneous types).
These are all active, organic compounds in the marijuana plant—and each offers unique benefits that researchers are just starting to understand.
The most famous and controversial of the cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. It does this by mimicking certain cannabinoids manufactured naturally by the body’s own recently discovered endocannabinoid system.
Cannabinoid receptors associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception are concentrated in certain areas of the brain. THC attaches to these receptors and activates them thereby affecting a person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, as well sensory and time perception.
Because of THC, marijuana is often termed a “narcotic” by the federal government and law enforcement. In fact, this is a gross mischaracterization. Marijuana is not addictive in the sense of opiate derived drugs or stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. However, THC does produce a euphoria that can easily become a habit.
The proper way to look at cannabis is as a euphoriant that can be habituating rather than a narcotic that is addictive. If a person wants to have an intelligent conversation about this plant it is important to recognize the difference.
The psychological effects of THC are moderated by the influence of the other components of the plant, most particularly cannabidiol (CBD.)
CBD or cannabidiol is the most-studied cannabinoid. It has potentially therapeutic effects on conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, nausea, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
First identified in 1940 many researchers feel that CBD is quite possibly the single most important cannabinoid in the marijuana plant. That is because CBD is the cannabinoid that seems to possess the greatest therapeutic potential.
Studies demonstrate a wide range of therapeutic effects of cannabidiol on several conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral ischemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, other inflammatory diseases, nausea and cancer.
A team of Italian and Israeli investigators have discovered that CBD possesses anxiolytic, antipsychotic, antiepileptic, neuroprotective, vasorelaxant, antispasmodic, anti-ischemic, anticancer, antiemetic, antibacterial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, and bone stimulating properties.
Martin Lee, cofounder and director of the non-profit group Project CBD – which identifies and promotes CBD-rich strains of cannabis – agrees. Cannabidiol is “the Cinderella molecule,” writes Lee in his new book, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational, and Scientific (Scribner, 2012). “[It’s] the little substance that could. [It’s] nontoxic, nonpsychoactive, and multicapable.”
CBD is also exceptionally safe for human consumption. According to a just published clinical trial in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design, the oral administration of 600 mg of CBD in 16 subjects was associated with no acute behavioral and physiological effects, such as increased heart rate or sedation. “In healthy volunteers, … CBD has proven to be safe and well tolerated,” authors affirmed. A 2011 literature review published in Current Drug Safety similarly concluded that CBD administration, even in doses of up to 1,450 milligrams per day, is non-toxic, well tolerated, and safe for human consumption.
Presently, however, options for US patients wishing to utilize CBD are extremely limited. Most domestically grown strains of cannabis contain relatively little CBD and many cannabis dispensaries do not consistently carry such boutique varieties.
The informed consumer should know that many products contain CBD oil that originates in China, where the hemp plant is used to detoxify soils at industrial sites. This oil can contain high levels of toxic heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic. Products made with this oil are unsuitable to be used as medicines and must be avoided.
Those interested in availing themselves of the therapeutic benefits of CBD are best advised to work with one of the small handful of prominent cannabis dispensaries staffed by professionals experienced at using marijuana as a medicine.