Medical Cannabis is the new wonder medication and you must have been living under a rock if you have not heard about the wonderful claims made about its medical uses.
Cannabis has been in use as a recreational drug, both legally and illegally depending on where you live, for thousands of years. It has also been in use for thousands of years for medical purposes.
One of the very first historical references to Cannabis (or Marijuana) was made by the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (ca. 2900 BC), whom the Chinese credit with bringing civilization to China. He noted that Cannabis was a very popular medicine that possessed both yin and yang.
There is some evidence to suggest that William Shakespeare, in the 1660’s smoked marijuana for its mind-stimulating properties and in the 1700’s George Washington cultivated hemp in the USA.
The uses of Cannabis Sativa are well recorded throughout history. It is also well known that THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive, mind-altering component of the plant. It is believed that the effects of THC are moderated by the other components of the plant.
In more recent times there are scientific studies published and research being undertaken in universities and facilities all over the world to test these other components of medical cannabis, some 480 natural components with 70 or so of these classified as ‘cannabinoids’ – chemicals which are unique to Cannabis.
Subclasses of Medical Cannabis Cannabinoids
- Cannabigerols (CBG)
- Cannabichromenes (CBC)
- Cannabidiols (CBD)
- Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
- Cannabicyclol (CBL)
- Cannabielsoin (CBE)
- Cannabitriol (CBT)
- Cannabivarin (CBV)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
- Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
- Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)
- Cannabigerovarin (CBGV)
- Cannabigerol Monoethyl Ether (CBGM)
There are several subclasses of cannabinoids but Cannabidiol (CBD) is attracting the most attention because it contributes up to 40% of cannabis resin.
Cannabinoids affect the user by interacting with specific receptors, located within different parts of the central nervous system. Two kinds of cannabinoid receptors have been found to date and are termed CB1 and CB2.
What Do These Cannabinoids Do?
The actual effects that cannabinoids have correspond to the areas of the brain they interact with. The interactions tend to occur in our limbic system (that part of the brain that affects memory, cognition and psychomotor performance) and the mesolimbic pathway (this region is associated with feelings of reward) and are also widely distributed in areas of pain perception.
Of particular interest, is that CBD may actually have anti-anxiety effects and lessen the psychoactive effects of THC. This means that a medcial cannabis plant with a greater percentage of CBD may reduce the intensity of the effects of the THC, which in effect lowers the potency of the plant.
Use of a cannabis plant with less CBD has been shown to have an increased psychological impact and result in unwanted effects such as anxiety.
Much of current research is focused on the many potential medical uses of man-made cannabinoids or “synthetic analogues.” This is because pharmaceutical companies are primarily interested in the production of medicines which target a huge range of specific conditions, thereby increasing their profits exponentially.
Cannabis is being cultivated as industrial hemp which is used for all kinds of commercial purposes as well as for its medical properties. Commercial hemp has been developed to contain minimal quantities of THC.
There are also medical marijuana plants which are high in THC where the resultant drug is intended for use where THC is indicated as beneficial.
Plants which have been genetically cultivated specifically for their high CBD content, also have very low THC content. How the medicinal qualities of CBD are extracted is of utmost importance.
Whole Plant Medicine
While science and the pharmaceutical companies which fund scientific research, are focused on isolating the many properties of medical cannabis for profit, there is an age-old argument for using the whole plant as a medicine.
Those 400 compounds of Cannabis which we mentioned earlier act in synergy together to create what is known as an “entourage effect”.
When used together, those compounds found in the whole plant magnify the therapeutic benefits of the individual components. It may be better said that the medicinal impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts.