The Cannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system
Our bodies consist of an endocannabinoid system that controls signal processes in the body. If you are ill, it is possible that the body is short of cannabinoids. Therefore, it may be necessary to add cannabinoids.
Researchers have discovered that there is an interaction between our inner cannabinoids that influence the maintenance of the signals and balance in our body.
The most well-known cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2, and the best known endocannabinoids are Anandamid and 2-AG. The CB1-receptors connect the signals to our nervous system, while the CB2-receptor connects with signals to our immune system.
We contain a large quantity of various cannabinoids and receptors that maintain our body’s balance system.
There is a great deal of research at work to map the endocannabinoid system and its function in the body. So far, we have only seen a small area and it is vital for research in cannabinoids and diseases that we map the endocannabinoid system.
The external cannabinoids
You can find cannabinoids in many different plants, but the cannabis plant contains an unusually high concentration.
Besides cannabinoids, the plant also contains other components such as terpenes that have a medical effect in interaction with the cannabinoids. This is probably why the cannabis plant in different component variations have been used medically for 1.000 years.
Of all the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, the best known are THC and CBD that in its unprocessed form contains an acid. By heating, storage and/or sunlight, the cannabinoids change and lose their acid. E.g. THC-A will become THC and later CBN. CBD-A to CBD works in a similar way. However, this will not make the cannabinoid more medically active, it is just a different medical effect. The acid cannabinoids do have a medical effect, but not much research has been done in this area yet.
When we ingest the cannabinoid THC, it connects itself to both the CB1 and the CB2 receptors and can in this way work both as pain relief and as a suppression/balance a confused immune system – usually in connection with so-called autoimmune illnesses.
The CB1 and CB2-receptors are everywhere in the body. However, there is a majority of CB1-receptors in the brain, while the CB2-receptors are spread throughout the body.
The most recent research has shown that THC can break blood barriers and work within our cells and cause cell death in regenerated cells while healthy cells are protected.
This is possibly why cannabis works well with chemotherapy which is otherwise very harmful to the cells.
The other well-known cannabinoid, CBD, acts somewhat different than THC, and is first and foremost highly anti-inflammatory and keeps the effect of getting high/stoned from THC down.
With this ability, CBD is also known for being an antidepressant. CBD has also shown to have influence on epileptic seizures in some cases and newest research also shows promising results on cancer cell death in estrogen hormonal cancer types.
According to scientists, CBD along with THC and other cannabinoids as well as terpenes seem to give the optimal therapeutic effect, which is also shown in the tendency of the practical usage.
A study in Israel has shown that a single molecule CBD had far from the same medicinal effect compared the high-cannabinoid CBD-dominated plant sort – Avidekel. This is supported by several other studies in the area.
The most predominant cannabinoids are: THC, CBD, CBN, THC-A, CBD-A, THCV, CBDV, CBC and CBG.
In the next 10-20 years, we will probably see some ‘darlings’ within cannabinoids such as research in THCV’s use as a slimming aid (unlike THC, which induces appetite) or as a regulator for blood sugar. CBN’s ability to work as strong pain relief and sleep medication. ability to help rebuild bone tissue. CBG’s possible ability to fight MRSA.
It doesn’t take a huge quantity of terpenes to get a medicinal effect. Unfortunately, so far that has not been much research within this subject, but we do know that terpenes have a huge effect on how you want the cannabinoids to act on the psyche.
If one does not know the content of terpenes in a cannabis product, it can be difficult to dose the product correctly.
For instance, terpenes have a crucial say in whether a cannabis product has a tranquilizing or uplifting effect.
If, for instance, a cannabis product contains the terpenes Myrcene and/or Linalool, it is often tranquilizing and will put you to sleep, whereas the terpenes Limonene and A-Pinene give a good energy level and a very wake condition.
Some terpenes can also act like cannabinoids e.g. Caryophyllene that binds to the CB2-receptor and regulate these signals as well as THC does.
Research in plant based cannabis
Quite a lot of research in cannabinoids has been done, but not much clinical research in plant based cannabis. Furthermore, there is not much research that has made it to phase 3 trials, which is necessary to be approved as a drug.
GW Pharmaceuticals has developed the two plant based drugs Sativex and Epidiolex primarily for sclerosis and some forms of epilepsy. By the company’s clinical trials comes much of the evidence which enables prescription of cannabis today.
There are many studies that indicate that plant based cannabis can be used for a variety of illnesses and afflictions, but that is not the same as the kind of evidence of effect that doctors request.
On the other hand, there a great deal of literature about side effects, interactions and counteractions that can be used to for a relatively safe prescription.
We need a lot more research in the plant based cannabis with the different components, it can contain.
It can be relatively difficult research when you have to take in to account not just one or two components effects together, but more components in a given dosage. Because which components have an effect on what factors and how in a given relation does it work most effectively.
At Cannabis Danmark, we try to push research ahead, but we are aware that is an area where we have to work across borders. There are some new methods that need to be takes into use when we work with such complexity and where each human body reacts differently to cannabis even though it could be the same disease being treated.
The Israeli scientist David Meiri has attempted to find a solution to how to research in plant based cannabis by involving big data, working across borders and breaking down the many components of the cannabis plant.