Cannabis (also referred to by some as ‘The Sacred Plant’), is the most controversial whole food in the world for several reasons. It has been used as a medicine for millennia while it now is considered a harmful substance.
In 1937 when it was classified as a ‘Schedule I Controlled Substance’ by the FDA of the United States of America. This categorically means that it has no therapeutic value and that it is harmful when consumed by humans. It could not be prescribed, processed or grown under the federal law of the USA. A fact which is very strange if you consider that the USA has a patent (Patent No US 6,630,507 B1) on cannabinoids as an antioxidant and neuroprotector. Also, on the American Cancer Society website it states that:
‘Scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer. There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.’
All this controversy urged me to look into the research to see what we know already. The most research is done in Israel, Spain, Germany, the UK and Italy. Because it is a forbidden substance in the US research there is impossible. What is very striking is that despite very promising results and many positive testimonies, very few human studies have been conducted so far. Because of the limited availability of clinical trials, we must rely on invitro studies, animal studies and case studies for much of our information regarding cannabis as a potential remedy. Although much research is still needed to explain the exact mechanism by which cannabis works, there is enough information already to give a clear picture that the plant has much potential.
It is important to keep in mind that this newsletter is NOT a guide to the use of cannabis but only an attempt to point out the main issues to consider when you do decide to use cannabis as a medicinal or recreational substance. It is also beneficial to educate yourself regarding the laws in your country regarding cannabis and to NEVER travel with it in your possession. The following factors play a role when you determine what is the right product for you:
1. Reliable sources, not only for information but also for the cultivation and manufacturing of the product. Because the world is only now waking up to the potential of cannabis, it still is an unregulated business in most countries which could pose a problem. Many growers and dealers would take advantage to sell a low-grade product to ignorant people.
2. What distinguishes cannabis from other plants is its variable amounts of compounds (there are more than 450) present in the different strains. This variability depends on how it is grown and complicates the application of the plant as a remedy. While each compound has its own benefits, the specific ratio of the compounds determines how it will affect the body. This is further complicated by the fact that each person responds differently to cannabis and therefore must figure out which strain will work best for his or her circumstance. The two most stable compounds are THC and CBD.
a. THC which is known to:
i. Have psychoactive effects (causes a ‘high’) and thus developed a reputation of causing addiction. Apart from its euphoric effect it could also cause rapid pulse rate, uncontrollable laughing, confusion and anxiety. While none of these are life threatening to the user, it could be unpleasant. These negative effects are counteracted by adding CBD to the product.
ii. Protect nerve cells against damage.
iii. THC is the compound which binds to the receptors and is needed for the other substances to be more effective.
iv. It has been proven to kill cancer cells and reduce chronic pain.
b. CBD which is known to:
i. Be a non-toxic compound, and sometimes mistakenly regarded as the only medicinal substance. Truth is that is seems to work best in conjunction with THC.
ii. CBD relieves anxiety, depression, spasms and pediatric seizure disorders and epilepsy.
Apart from the two compounds listed above, each with their own list of health claims, the ratio in which it occurs with respect to each other also determines its applicability. There are many websites that will provide insight to the potential advantage of each of these ratios. However, more research is needed to perfect these guidelines. Examples of websites are ProjectCBD.org and Alpha-cat. Commonly used ratios are:
· 1:1 CBD to THC which appears to be effective for:
o and serves as an appetite stimulant.
· 3or4:1 CBD to THC which seems to be helpful with autoimmune diseases.
· A 15-20:1 CBD to THC ratio seems to work best for:
o Neurological disorders
o Mood disorders
o as well as post-traumatic stress.
3. The entourage effect (Russo, 2011) of cannabis: It also appears that the more of the 450+ compounds of the plant are present in the product; the less negative side effects and more side benefits will be present. Some of these compounds are the same as found in other plants and include terpenes, flavonoids and phytochemicals. The ultimate form of this would be the fresh leaves of the plant or its flowers, which could be juiced or eaten as part of a salad.
4. Products: Cannabis could be used in many ways; from smoking, inhalations, different types of oils or edibles which could be digested, to topical applications. Each avenue of introduction will have its own benefits and side effects.
Research showed promising effects in the following areas:
With a lack of research and guidelines from the medical community, we could learn from people who has benefitted from cannabis. What is clear is that when considering cannabis, you start out on a personal journey to establish what works best for you keeping in mind all the variables listed above. Start doing your own research about the plant, find a reliable healthcare professional/supplier in your community and most of all, with regards to dosing: GO LOW AND GO SLOW!