Cannabis Topicals and How They Work

 

Tens of millions of Americans are afflicted with chronic pain and many are seeking safe, non-addictive solutions to ease their suffering. So too in Australia, where 67% or 11.1 million people aged 15 years and over reported experiencing bodily pain in the previous month (2012). Around one in ten (9%) experienced severe or very severe pain, and many adults experienced chronic pain. Research suggests Cannabis topicals could provide relief for sufferers of ailments ranging from sports injuries and migraines to skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. Image result for cannabis topicals

Topicals represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the legal Cannabis marketplace in the United States. Scientific bodies confirm Cannabis has pain-relieving properties. But to fully understand how topicals can relieve pain and other ailments, we need to take a quick tour of the human Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a vast network of receptors throughout the body. It’s responsible for modulating many physiological systems involving the brain, endocrine, immune and nervous systems. Researchers have found the ECS is essential for maintaining homoeostasis, or balance, in these various systems.

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There are two main types of receptors or ‘message receivers’ in the ECS, classified as CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are predominantly located in the brain and central nervous system; CB2 receptors are primarily in the peripheral nervous system. The messages these receptors receive are actually chemicals that bind to the receptor and either activate it or shut it down, producing a corresponding effect within the body. 

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The chemical compounds in Cannabis that interact with the ECS are called cannabinoids, with the most well-known being neuroactive delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which activates CB1 receptors in the brain to create euphoria. More than 100 cannabinoids have been identified in the Cannabis plant including cannabidiol (CBD) and others like cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv), whose various medicinal properties are under escalating scrutiny.

When you apply a Cannabis topical to your skin, the cannabinoids interact with CB2 receptors in your epidermis and muscles. In a 2016 report in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, researchers found when CB2 receptors were the targets, the result was reduced inflammation, an immune response that plays a role in many ailments including skin conditions and chronic pain. Unlike anti-inflammatory medications, Cannabis topicals can be used without risking unpleasant potential side effects or overdose. Image result for cannabis topicals

Some Cannabis topicals contain THC, but when applied to the skin, the cannabinoids don’t actually enter the bloodstream. Instead, THC interacts with the ECS receptors outside the blood-brain barrier. A research review in Molecular Pharmacology concluded, “activation of CB2 receptors does not appear to produce … psychotropic effects”. Topicals allow consumers to localise and directly target an afflicted area to reduce inflammation. People can and do ingest Cannabis via smoking, vaping or edibles for generalised pain relief, but many prefer to single out that aching knee or sore neck by applying a topical directly. Image result for cannabis topicals

Some research even indicates cannabinoids may accelerate our bodies’ natural healing process. A 2005 study on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the gastrointestinal system found that cannabinoids can promote the healing of epithelial wounds. Our skin is composed of epithelial cells, which also line the surfaces of our organs and blood vessels. So, Cannabis topicals may also promote a quicker healing response for skin conditions and injuries. Perhaps best of all, Cannabis topicals offer consumers a simple, safe and low-stakes entryway into exploring the wellness benefits of Cannabis.

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Many people still harbour fears about Cannabis, but topicals are approachable and in many ways, the best ambassador for the Cannabis plant’s pain-relieving and healing capabilities. The emerging research is clear in showing the tangible ways Cannabis topicals work with our bodies. Just let that knowledge soak in.

Adapted from How Cannabis Topicals Actually Work: A Deep Dive into Your Body’s CB1 / CB2 Receptors (Author Dahlia Mertens is the founder and CEO of Mary Jane’s Medicinals)

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Cannabis for Seizures

A cutting edge paper published in early 2017, from three American physicians, Dustin Sulak, Russel Saneto and Bonni Goldstein, outlined case reports and the applications of Cannabis medicines for epilepsy and seizure disorders.

Highlights: 

  • Physicians have documented the efficacy of artisanal whole plant Cannabis preparations for seizure reduction.
  • In a study of 272 patients, 86% had some degree of seizure reduction while using artisanal Cannabis.
  • A combination of cannabinoids and terpenes, not just CBD, may be most effective for seizures.
  • These clinical findings challenge Big Pharma assumptions that favour single-molecule medications.

Cannabis clinicians treating epileptic patients in three American states, California, Washington and Maine, reported their findings in a peer-reviewed article that underscores the complex challenges and unique therapeutic potential of Cannabis oil concentrates. In this uncontrolled observational study involving 272 patients, some degree of seizure reduction was noted in 86% of cases; 10% (26 patients) experienced complete seizure remission. In addition to documenting the efficacy of “artisanal” (meaning not FDA-approved) Cannabis preparations for seizure reduction, the article highlights the need for flexible treatment protocols involving different cannabinoid ratios, an approach that implicitly calls into question single-molecule strategies favoured by Big Pharma. What follows are excerpts from “The current status of artisanal cannabis for the treatment of epilepsy in the United States” by Dustin Sulak, Russell Saneto and Bonni Goldstein in the journal, Epilepsy & Behavior:

“Of 272 combined patients from Washington state and California, 37 (14%) found Cannabis ineffective at reducing seizures, 29 (17%) experienced a 1-25% reduction in seizures, 60 (18%) experienced a 26-50% reduction in seizures, 45 (17%) experienced a 51-75% reduction in seizures, 75 (28%) experienced a 76-99% reduction in seizures and 26 (10%) experienced a complete clinical response. Overall, adverse effects were mild and infrequent and beneficial side effects such as increased alertness were reported. The majority of patients used cannabidiol (CBD)-enriched artisanal formulas, some with the addition of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)”.

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The authors maintain that artisanal Cannabis products should be considered for patients with refractory epilepsy that have a low likelihood of responding to FDA-approved anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Moreover, a combination of cannabinoid compounds, not just CBD, may be more effective for seizure reduction.

“The patient population that considers herbal Cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy is heterogeneous in etiology, currently predominantly paediatric and has seizures that are usually refractory to multiple conventional treatments. The cannabinoids may reduce seizures via numerous mechanisms of action that warrant further investigation including THC’s reduction of glutamate exotoxicity via the CB1 receptor, CBD’s modulation of numerous non-cannabinoid receptors and several proposed targets of THCA. Objective measurement of treatment response can be challenging and subjective reports of the efficacy of artisanal Cannabis can be strongly influenced by the placebo effect, especially in patients that have invested significant resources into securing access to these formulas”.

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Several other challenges are cited by the authors:

“Availability of a consistent supply of the medication is frequently interrupted due to horticultural, manufacturing and economic factors. Current market prices for artisanal Cannabis preparations observed in Maine, California and online range from 5 to 50 cents per milligram. Higher dosing ranges are financially unfeasible for many patients unless they grow and produce their own medicine, a complex process that presents many potential interruptions in treatment. Sudden loss of access to cannabinoids may result in rebound seizures. The potential for disruption of medical treatment or family structure related to child protective services and other legal agencies, even when the patient and medical provider operate within state laws, must also be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis”.

There are also serious issues of quality control with respect to artisanal Cannabis preparations used by epilepsy patients.

“Inaccurate product labelling is pervasive in this new and often-unregulated industry. A 2015 study of edible Cannabis products available in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles found that of 75 products examined, 17% were accurately labelled for cannabinoid content, 23% were inaccurate with higher than labelled concentrations and 60% contained lower than labelled concentrations. Many patients purchase and use purportedly CBD-dominant “hemp” formulas that are sold online and shipped across state and international borders. Patients are led to believe that such products are legal, even in states without medical Cannabis laws, despite the fact that CBD remains classified as Schedule One. In 2015 and again in 2016, the FDA published analytical results of several commercial CBD products and issued warning letters to their manufacturers. Many products were under-labelled for  CBD content, contained no CBD, or contained significant amounts of THC”.

Image result for inaccurate product labelling california cannabisThe authors referenced the clinical trials of Epidiolex, a CBD isolate developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, evaluated at a dosing range of 2-50 mg/kg/day. Artisanal Cannabis preparations have a wider therapeutic window than Epidiolex (which has caused other drug poisoning) and are safe and effective at various dosages in clinical practice.  One of the authors, Dustin Sulak, observed anti-convulsive effects in patients at doses as low as 0.02 mg cannabinoids per kilogram per day. Ultra-low doses of cannabinoids have been shown to be physiologically active in pre-clinical models: a single application of 0.002 milligrams per kilogram of THC to mice induced long lasting activation of protective signalling in molecules in the brain. Cannabinoids trigger biphasic responses depending on dosage.

Low doses and high doses can elicit opposite effects and this should not be unexpected in clinical practice. The authors comment on the clinical implications of potential biphasic dose-response trends in the anticonvulsant of activity of THCCBD and other modulators of the endocannabinoid system. The extraordinarily wide dosing range of Cannabis is complicated by non-linear dose-response relationships. Clinicians are cautioned to avoid making the simple assumption that higher doses of cannabinoids will yield stronger therapeutic effects. If previous clinical improvements begin to diminish, especially after a dosage increase, clinicians may consider dosage reduction as a potential strategy to improve efficacy. The authors also discuss the use of tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) for seizure reduction.main-cannabinoids

“Delta-9-THC acid is becoming a popular treatment approach for patients with epilepsy in legal states and is sometimes more readily available and/or affordable than CBDTHCA does not produce psychoactive effects in animals at relatively high doses and psychoactivity has not been observed in humans. Though most THCA-dominant preparations will contain at least trace amounts of THCTHCA does not convert into THC in vivo.

In one case, THCA-rich therapy proved effective when treatment with CBD and THC  failed to deliver satisfactory results. Specific terpenes, such as linalool (present in lavender and various Cannabis cultivars), may also confer anticonvulsant effects.

“Low-dose CBD at 0.05 mg/kg/day reportedly improved cognition, but higher doses of CBD caused an increase in myoclonic seizures. THC at 1 mg/kg/day reportedly produced a 4-day seizure-free episode, followed by recurrence of seizures. At 2 mg/kg/ day, THCA resulted in a reported overall 90% seizure reduction and improved tolerance to temperature fluctuations. At one point a new formula of THCA at the same dosage resulted in notably decreased efficacy. A terpenoid analysis of the previous formula demonstrated the presence of high levels of alpha-linalool, absent in the less effective formula. Returning to a THCA formula based on the linalool-dominant chemovar improved her response.

Whereas pharmaceutical companies focus on single-molecule compounds, clinical practice indicates that patients with seizure disorders are more likely to benefit if they have access to a range of whole plant artisanal Cannabis preparations, not just CBD. The authors concluded that despite the inherent challenges in the clinical use of artisanal Cannabis preparations, patients with refractory epilepsy do benefit. To avoid issues related to the variability of artisanal preparations, clinicians can measure serum cannabinoids levels and patients or their families should be advised not to rely on product labels, but to test every batch of medicine for cannabinoid potencies and potential contaminants at analytic laboratories using industry-standard methods. Clinicians can navigate the cannabinoid dosing nuances by providing patients with individualised, methodical titration instructions.

Read the entire paper, “The current status of artisanal cannabis for the treatment of epilepsy in the United States” (six page pdf)

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Adapted from Medical Marijuana for Seizures

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Higher Cannabis Education – Bridging the Clinical Gap

Cannabis and its role as a medicine is gaining prevalence, despite a distinct lack of governmental recognition of its true medicinal value. Isn’t it about time doctors, all those professionals with their knowledge purportedly rooted in science and reality, gain an adequate Cannabis education? How else can doctors possibly give their patients guidance? Every health expert should know about the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and that almost every living creature with vertebrae has one. Named after the plant that led to its discovery, Cannabis, the Endocannabinoid System is one of the most widespread and powerful physiological control systems in the human body. It helps balance nearly every metabolic process in the body, from fertility to pain perception to emotion and so much more.
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Pointedly, several different chronic diseases and conditions are thought to be a direct result of an ECS imbalance or dysfunction. Understanding how the ECS works with respect to both our endogenous (from within) cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and those exogenously (externally) produced, like in the Cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids), is undeniably vital to human physiology. Given its significance, most conventional health professionals know very little about Cannabis and ECS science. An independent survey by Dr David Allen, an American 30-year veteran heart and general surgeon, showed only 13.3% of the 157 accredited US medical schools taught or offered any type of endocannabinoid and/or Cannabis education. Dr Allen himself claims the ECS is the “single most important discovery in modern medicine since the recognition of sterile surgical technique”.Image result for ECS is the single most important discovery in modern medicineWith such little Cannabis education, it’s no wonder most doctors are so ill-equipped to effectively treat patients with Cannabis. The inability of physicians to guide patients in regard to Cannabis is essentially creating a “clinical gap” between patient and provider.  Cannabis is a versatile yet relatively safe and sophisticated living medicine. Millions worldwide turn to it for relief for numerous ailments every single day. Cannabis breaks the boundaries and limitations of single-molecule synthetic drugs and trumps other plant species with its intra-species diversity and vast clinical applications. For many patients however, navigating the waters of Cannabis therapy can be frustrating and difficult without expert, educated medical guidance on how to approach Cannabis treatment. While knowing that “CBD is good for inflammation” for example, educated Cannabis physicians will understand the lipophilic (“fat-loving”) nature of cannabinoids like CBD, and how they must be used consistently to allow for its “accumulation” in one’s body. The truth is, Cannabis is a complex and tricky plant.

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Sceptics continue to decry, “there isn’t enough research!” Yes, we do need more research around Cannabis. Yet, we already know more about it than most realise. Go to PubMed.gov (US repository for medical literature) and you’ll find over 28,000 studies published on Cannabis, whilst the likes of Ritalin will give over 8,600 results. Aside from this, Cannabis has been recognised as a medicine for thousands of years. Prohibition is fairly recent compared to that and is backed by zero science.  Prohibition also fails to account for the body’s own Endocannabinoid System and how Cannabis has proven to be an excellent supplement for this system, relieving many different types of ailments and conditions. Countries like Israel are light years ahead in their Cannabis research and clinical experience. Image result for israel cannabis researchCannabis has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to large-scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. However, we know enough about the plant and the Endocannabinoid System that this shouldn’t prevent us from embracing it now. The only way we can begin to optimise cannabinoid therapy for patients is by breaking the mould and integrating Endocannabinoid and Cannabis education into the medical curriculum, as well as those in other sectors of healthcare (e.g. nurses etc). In the US, while the DEA continues to stonewall research attempts due to federally restrictive scheduling of Cannabis, there is absolutely nothing stopping allopathic medical schools from teaching future doctors what we do know about the Endocannabinoid System (which is a lot). American Osteopathic and Naturopathic medical schools have already begun, putting them at a clear advantage over their allopathic counterparts.    0000ECSandBodilySystems

The Endocannabinoid System is arguably involved in almost every physiological and biological process involving who we are and the status of our health. We can either pretend this incredibly significant element of the human body doesn’t exist (not recommended), or we can do something about it and start implementing evidence-based Cannabis education into healthcare curriculums around the world. Patients deserve the best, safest and most effective care medicine has to offer. Humanity deserves the opportunity to continue its pursuit of knowledge of the biomechanical and physiological workings of the human body. The mainstream medical community can no longer stand on the sidelines as they do in the US, simply authorising patients for a ‘medical cannabis’ card is not enough. The time to bridge this clinical gap is now; not just for the sake of the patients and physicians, but for all of us.

Adapted from Higher Education: Bridging the Clinical Gap in Medical Cannabis

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Cannabidiol (CBD) Is “Psychoactive”

Image result for cannabis budsPerhaps the biggest lie put forth by people in the Cannabis industry is that Cannabidiol (CBD) is a “non-psychoactive” cannabinoid. That’s patently false because CBD does affect the mind, part of what makes it so effective. It’s a question of how the word “psychoactive” is defined. While most people have been using the term “non-psychoactive” as a synonym for “non-intoxicating” when they describe CBD, they’re misusing the term. In truth, a psychoactive substance is something that will alter mental processes or behaviours, but doesn’t mean every psychoactive substance is going to get a user “high”. Typing CBD into a search engine returns almost all results declaring CBD to be “non-psychoactive”; they are wrong. CBD is one of many active compounds in the Cannabis plant, but unlike Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it does not impart upon the user the euphoric effects for which Cannabis is well known. CBD is associated with the opposite, with ameliorating THC’s effects and fighting anxietydepression and possibly even nicotine addiction. For these reasons, CBD is popularly known as “non-psychoactive”, the most-common descriptor applied to CBD, by numerous Cannabis-industry sources, as well as mainstream media accounts published in The New York Times, The Guardian and elsewhere (around the world). All of these sources are guilty of propagating misinformation.cbd

Dr_Ethan_RussoOf course, CBD is psychoactive, that’s the point. Dr Ethan Russo, a neurologist and Director of Research and Development for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute and longtime Cannabis researcher said“Very simply stated, what is clear about CBD is that it must be considered psychoactive because of its ability to act as an anti-anxiety agent and an anti-psychotic agent”. He’s been interested in CBD since the 1960’s, when its chemical structure was first identified. “The first misconception about Cannabidiol was that it was inactive”, he said. During early research on CBD and its euphoria-inducing cousin THC, “All the hubbub was about THC, because of it being the, quote ‘active ingredient’ unquote, but that’s a misconception, as well”. Research on CBD picked up in the 1990’s, Russo said, for which he largely credits Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals for whom he worked, first as a consultant and then as a senior medical adviser, from 1998 to 2014. Very simply stated, what is clear about CBD is that it must be considered psychoactive because of its ability to act as an anti-anxiety agent and an anti-psychotic agent”, he said. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the term “psychoactive” as “affecting the mind or body”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “psychoactive” as something, especially a drug, that affects the mind. There’s no doubt CBD meets those definitions, but the misconception persists.

Image result for legal psychoactive substancesAccording to the World Health Organisation, “psychoactive substances” are “substances that, when taken in or administered into one’s system, affect mental processes, e.g. cognition or affect”. Under both these definitions, CBD is psychoactive because it is affecting mental processes when it mitigates the “high” from THC or when it helps with anxiety and depression. This means that it cannot be possible to say in the same breath that CBD is non-psychoactive and that it will help with anxiety and depression. For example, other psychoactive substances include ibuprofen, caffeine and wine. If they were no more efficacious than a glass of water or a deep breath of air, nobody would partake of them. Martin Lee, co-founder and director of Project CBD, an educational platform founded in 2010 that provides research and resources on Cannabis therapeutics recently said that Project CBD also used to refer to CBD as “non-psychoactive”“At least in the beginning, it was a way for us to emphasise that there was something else going on with the Cannabis plant, that we should look at it differently”, Lee said. “But I’m uncomfortable with that now. As things went along, the obvious fact started staring us in the face: If it changes one’s mood, even if you’re not getting ‘high’, it’s psychoactive”. Pharmacologically, THC and CBD act in similar ways. Both molecules interact with cannabinoid receptors, although at different sites and with different effects.

Image result for project cbdA misunderstanding of how the molecules work, based on old science, may be at the root of the grand CBD myth. Lee’s Project CBD has attempted to correct the record, but like many other rational and reasonable science-based efforts in our post-factual world, it is swimming upstream and working against bad-faith actors intent on marketing CBD in any way possible, to as many Cannabis newcomers as possible. At best, “non-psychoactive” is an honest mistake stemming from a well-intentioned misunderstanding. At worse, “non-psychoactive” is an adman’s trick, an intentional misdirection meant to deceive. The problem is some CBD products, derived from industrial hemp that’s much lower in CBD content than the grown-for-the-purpose Cannabis, might actually be non-psychoactive because there’s not enough CBD present. But that means the product is faulty, not the ingredient itself. Perhaps the most straightforward way to describe CBD is that it “doesn’t create an euphoric high”, said University of British Columbia, Canada, psychology professor Zach Walsh, who studies Cannabis and mental health. “It doesn’t create cognitive alterations that are obvious or overt”, he explained. Walsh thinks the ongoing confusion over whether CBD is psychoactive has to do, in part, with “people struggling with the destigmatisation of Cannabis”.
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I see a lot of people come to me, usually Cannabis-naive people, often people from a generation where Cannabis was more highly stigmatised, and they’re like, ‘I heard there’s a new Cannabis that doesn’t get you high, can I try some?’ Because they’re ambivalent, they want to partake in the potential benefits (that they’ve heard about), but at the same time they don’t want to go insane in a ‘reefer madness’ kind of a way, or they don’t want to be incapacitated or altered in a way that they’ve come to associate with moral failings, or just inappropriate behaviour”, said Walsh. “They want to have the cake and eat it too … If there’s a Cannabis that’s not really Cannabis, I think that’s pretty appealing to some people”. Russo thinks educating the public about CBD requires an approach that’s both “top-down and bottom-up”. “What I mean by that is, there’s a woefully inadequate treatment of not only Cannabis and its pharmacology in medical schools, but also the Endocannabinoid System that underlies a lot of its activity. So we need better-educated doctors that are going to understand this”. Russo continues to see CBD improperly described as “non-psychoactive” not only in the media, but also in scientific publications he peer-reviews. “People like simple explanations, but anything about Cannabis deserves paragraphs, not single phrases”, he said. “So when you’re trying to distil the essence of these pharmacological concepts in single words, it’s easy to run afoul”.

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Adapted from CBD Is Psychoactive — And That’s OK and Have you heard that CBD is ‘non-psychoactive’? It’s not true

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Bees and Cannabis

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Very little research appears in the literature about how honey bees (Apis mellifera) interact with Cannabis plants which contain levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) appropriate for recreational or medical use (only one scholarly article about the interaction between Cannabis plants and bees can be found). So what are the biologic and physiological relationships between Cannabis and Apis mellifera? In 2016, Sharon Schmidt, who holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology, is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, beekeeper and a volunteer Director for the Oregon (US) Honey Festival, located some bee hives on a property that had beautiful land resources; organic plants and flowers in the summer and a clean, continuously flowing stream in the vicinity of the hives. Facing south-east with a big thicket of tall, mature plants on the north side of the hives to protect against winter winds, there were pigs in a neighbouring field that would stir up and loll in puddles of muck and sometimes the bees seemed attracted to the puddles. Community gardens, visible from the property, interested the bees greatly. The setting was idyllic and the bees proved to be good pollinators. 

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There was no warning the bees would eventually be in the middle of a Cannabis grow. However, on the day Oregon law changed to allow citizens to grow Cannabis, an odour some described as ‘heavenly’ and others referred to as ‘skunk-like’ emanated from the fields. When told the bees had access to Cannabis, people would ask whether the bees were ‘buzzed’ and whether their honey would make people ‘high’ (euphoric). This was a fascinating question! Would the bees (quite unintentionally) produce neuro-active honey? This began a line of inquiry by Sharon to determine whether bees are interested in Cannabis, what they might glean from it nutritionally and the effects of Cannabis on bees and bee products. Her observation of the bees revealed there was apparently no interaction in spite of the abundance of Cannabis plants in close proximity to the hives. Why not? One hypothesis was that the bees were not attracted to the aroma of Cannabis plants.  

Bees have an exquisite olfactory sense that they use to detect pheromones of other bees and to find nectar. They are also attracted to colours and these two appeals to the senses are like neon billboards for finding food and mating opportunities. Cannabis does not have these attributes. It does not produce a smell that would attract bees, nor is it colourful and finally, and most importantly, it is unable to provide a reward in the form of floral nectar.  As those familiar with Apis mellifera know, it is nectar and not pollen that is required by bees to make honey. There are other reasons bees would not find Cannabis attractive. However, an apparently contradictory piece of video footage turned up on social media in 2015. The video showed seemingly excited honey bees buzzing around and alighting upon a Cannabis plant from which they appeared to be feeding. Many viewers seeing that footage probably believe the bees derived some chemical excitement from their contact with the plant. However this is very unlikely because bees have no neuro-receptors that would allow them to apprehend the neuro-active elements present in Cannabis. Image result for Nicholas Trainerbee

In a 2001 article, Cannabinoid receptors are absent in insects, the authors revealed insects do not produce arachidonic acid (polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid) which is a precursor of necessary ligands (molecules that bind to other, usually larger molecules). It is thought that the cannabinoid (CB) receptor was lost in insects over the course of evolution. The authors also noted the CB receptor appears to be the only known neuro-receptor present in mammals and absent in insects. Because of its documented absence, bees are unable to experience Cannabis the same way humans do. Apparently the story circulating behind the bee video footage was that middle-aged French bee-keeper ‘Nicolas Trainerbees’ (a pseudonym), freely admitted to spraying ‘sugar water’ on female Cannabis flowers to entice the bees. He was trying to ‘train’ them to harvest the resin of the Cannabis plant to make propolis, a special gum which the bees use everywhere in the hive. As to his purported ‘Canna Honey’, the female Cannabis flowers produce tiny, resinous, crystal like structures called trichomes. These sticky structures help pollen to stick to the flower for pollination and within these trichomes are the cannabinoids.

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However, trichomes are oil-soluble, not water-soluble and honey is water-based. The next often asked question is whether honey made by bees having access to Cannabis plants contains THC and whether it exerts a neuro-active effect on those consuming it. The Cannabis plant is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are produced by different individuals, male and female plants. The Cannabis plant is also anemophilious, wind pollinated (mostly), and therefore has not evolved to attract bees, except perhaps in extreme dearth situations. Male flowers, which produce pollen, do not contain any cannabinoids, however, so lack the active ingredients which are what give the desired ‘effects’. The existing scholarly article, Cannabis sativa – an important subsistence pollen source for apis mellifera, on the topic notes that Cannabis pollen seems to be a food of last resort for bees. The author notes that bees (in India) turned to Cannabis plants as a source of protein but only visited male plants during times of dehiscence (spontaneous bursting open) when the male plant’s reproductive organs released pollen and that bees were only interested in that pollen during a pollen dearth. 

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The Abstract of Cannabis sativa – an important subsistence pollen source for apis mellifera, states:

Cannabis sativa is an important source of pollen for Apis mellifera during the period of floral scarcity (May and June) when major flora is absent. Foraging of bees on the herb under experiment took place during morning and evening hours, while during rest of the day activity remained totally ceased. All the foraging bees were pollen gatherers as the plant provides pollen only. Maximum foraging took place during  morning, however pollen was also collected thoroughly by specific sweeping activity and scrabbling behaviour during evening hours. Foraging frequency of bees was more during morning as compared to that at evening. Average pollen load observed was 4 mg / bee. Abundance, Foraging behaviour and pollen loads indicated that this annual herb is a good source of pollen during dearth period in summer”.

So how do we account for reports of persons who say they have seen bees congregating and apparently foraging on female plants or of images available on social media? Sharon approached Norman Carreck (Science and Senior Director of the Journal of the Apiculture Research) who suggested the possible source of the female plant’s attractiveness to bees could be ‘extra floral nectaries’ documented as an attribute of the Cannabis plant by John Free (1970) in his book, Insect Pollination of Crops. Extra floral nectaries include glands residing outside the calyx producing both water and sugars. There are no formal reports of extra floral nectaries in Cannabis plants other than the one referenced by Mr Free. However, if Cannabis plants are shown to have these, they could serve a defensive purpose by attracting ants which protect the plant from herbivores, or they might serve to attract bees. However, Cannabis is known to have glandular trichomes (plant hairs that secrete fluid), which could also be a plant feature interesting to bees suggested Dr Marjorie Weber, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Population Biology, University of California Davis, in January 2016.

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In Cannabis plants, bulbous type trichomes are the smallest at 15-30 microns and barely visible. Capitate-sessile trichomes measure from 25-100 microns across and capitate-stalked trichomes measure from 150-500 microns and are the most abundant. The latter contain the majority of the neuro-active cannabinoids (THC, THCV, CBN) and the effects of use are at least partly mediated by how much degradation is allowed prior to harvest. It appears that trichomes may have evolved for the purpose of making a plant less tasty to animals and insects, making the idea that bees are feeding from trichomes less plausible and more likely that they might be collecting resin from them. In a discussion with noted entomologist, Dr Dewey Caron, more ideas were advanced. First, that another naturally occurring source of interest for bees called ‘honeydew’ is often the object of their interest. Honeydew is simply the waste product of scale or other sucking insects which Cannabis is likely to host. These tiny insects probably concentrate their feeding (and excretion) at the tender surfaces of new plant growth and produce tasty waste products that bees might feed on.

Honey bees and cannabis

Second is the possibility that bees might be collecting resins for purposes of making propolis (a sticky bee product used to sanitise, reinforce and weatherproof the hive) and third, that bees demonstrating activity on Cannabis plants might even be seeking moisture from irrigation, as suggested by Dr Caron. Presently, it seems that some aspects of the relationship between bees and Cannabis are not yet verified. Judging from statements occurring in public discourse, misinformation about bees, Cannabis and honey based upon legend and lore exists among some of the public. Much may yet be discovered, but some hypotheses are more likely true than others: First, it appears that bees cannot experience altered neuro-physiology as a result of exposure to Cannabis given they have no neuro-receptors for the chemical it contains. Second, the literature suggests they do not prefer Cannabis pollen but will resort to visiting male plants and collecting pollen from them mostly during a floral dearth. Third, if bees congregate and appear to be feeding upon female plants it is not to collect floral nectar because Cannabis does not produce flowers containing nectar; there is no known reason for the plant to produce nectar to attract pollinators due to the fact that it has evolved as a wind pollinated plant. 

Image result for Cannabis bees propolis

However the plant may produce water and sugars if extra floral nectaries are proved to be present, which could account for observations and anecdotes about bees congregating. Fourth, it is possible that an extra floral plant exudate might be used by bees to make honey and one can speculate about the presence of the precursors of neuro-active chemicals. It seems unlikely though unless the bees are actually foraging on trichomes. Trichomes have evolved to protect the plant from the predatory interests of animals and insects so the idea of bees foraging from them seems unlikely. The common use of the term ‘sugar’ to describe the frosty looking trichomes which have become opaque may further cloud the issue, bringing some to equate trichomes with sweetness. In fact, people who advocate juicing Cannabis reference the need to mix it with other vegetable juice to cut the bitter taste. Generally bees do not seem to seek out bitter fluids. Fifth, even if the resulting honey did contain such alkaloids, bee products would not be neuro-active without heat being applied for the purpose of converting alkaloids from an inactive to an active state (decarboxylation). 

Image result for cannabis honeyThus persons reporting euphoria after eating raw honey made by bees with access to Cannabis are much more likely to be reporting a psychological phenomenon rather than a physiological one. Bees also have an affinity for honeydew (waste products of scale and other insects that inhabit and forage in Cannabis plants) therefore any interest bees demonstrate toward this plant could be based on the presence of honeydew, or even due to bees’ interest in collecting moisture or resin. A final possibility is that bees might be ‘trained’ to collect whatever substances are available from the plant as a result of experiencing a conditioning paradigm. Under such circumstances they might learn to associate the plant odour with a reward (sugar water) which could account for the enthusiasm they appear to be showing in the above-referenced video. Future observation will likely yield more information about Cannabis and how bees interact with this plant. Not known is the composition of contents of the guts of bees appearing to forage on Cannabis or even the composition of their propolis. No micro observation of their interaction with the plant is readily available either. Given the expansion of legal Cannabis growing in some American states it seems likely there will be more interest and opportunity for systematic observation and research allowing anecdotal reports and scientific data to be accurately reconciled. 

The Benefits Of Cannabis-Infused Honey

Elizabeth Vernon, known as “Queen Bee” in her home state of New Jersey in the US, is an apiarist and certified massage therapist with a degree in Eastern Medicine. She combines her two passions, healing and beekeeping, by infusing botanicals like Cannabis into honey with her Magical Butter machine. Adding Cannabis to honey creates a powerful and healthy natural remedy, since both are known to have healing anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabis-infused honey can be used topically or ingested, depending on the desired effects. Infusing honey has been practiced for over 3,000 years. Honey is an extremely versatile base with a large number of healing properties. Adding different herbs and blends of herbs can create a powerful combination that can prevent and fight illness and disease. There are many different methods and the best practice with crafting anything is to find your own balance, do research and figure out what works best for you.

Image result for bees on cannabis flowers

There are so many different variables to consider; Working with fresh ingredients or dry? Planning a cold infusion or warm infusion? What season is it? Honey is always best to work with when the temperature is warmer and using a Magical Butter machine (or similar) saves time and energy. As honey can’t bind to Cannabis, and honey can’t be made into Cannabis-infused honey by bees themselves, the best way is to make a tincture and to add it to the honey. But without any fat, the herb has nothing to bind to, so adding infused coconut oil with the tincture works amazingly well, as without binding the THC to a fat molecule in the likes of coconut oil, most of the effect will be lost. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, allowing maximum absorption of cannabinoids and is much more healthful for you than saturated animal fat; definitely the best option for vegans and those concerned about health. Tinctures are, without a doubt, the oldest mass-market way of extracting and consuming cannabinoids and terpenes found in the trichomes of the Cannabis plant. During the majority of the 19th century, physicians from North America, the United Kingdom and Europe dispensed, recommended and prescribed Cannabis tinctures for a wide variety of common ailments. 

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Adapted from Bees and Cannabis with The Benefits Of Cannabis-Infused Honey

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Is the Government Removing ‘Medical Cannabis’ Competition?

This man was arrested for giving patients Cannabis medicine for free. Despite purported legalisation, it remains extremely difficult to access ‘medical Cannabis’ in Australia. 

Prominent Cannabis Grower Tony Bower Is Arrested For Gifting Cannabis Oil To Patients
Tony Bower – If You Can, Please Support His Legal Fund

Mullaways-Medical-Cannabis

On 28th March 2018, police arrested prolific Australian Cannabis grower and founder of Mullaways Medical Cannabis (company registered 21 October, 2008), Tony Bower. His company develops Cannabis-based medicines to treat a variety of illnesses and conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy (particularly intractable paediatric forms), cancer/s and the likes of multiple sclerosis. As a result of his arrest, over 150 individuals who rely on his Cannabis-based treatments will need to look elsewhere, at least in the short term. Tony’s wife, Julie, said the couple had only a relatively small amount of Cannabis oil left in stock at the time of Tony’s arrest. 

“A 62-year-old Crescent Head man remains in custody following his latest appearance in court on three drug-related charges. Police executed a raid on a property near Kempsey. Anthony Bower was charged by police from the Mid North Coast Police District after they executed a search warrant with assistance of the Dog Unit. Police facts allege they located a large amount of cash, Cannabis leaf and 280 plants. Bower was arrested and charged with cultivating prohibited plant, deal in proceeds of crime, possess prohibited drug and supply prohibited drug. He was refused bail and remains in custody. His next court appearance is on 20 June”.

Tony waits in the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre for a June bail hearing after bail was refused in Local Court as he was deemed a high risk of ‘re-offending’. Anyone who knows, or has heard of, Tony, ‘Mullaway’, knows he is anything but criminal. To even suggest such seems, in effect, criminal, as laws based on lies are ‘pretend laws’ after all! However, the authorities have been trying to stop him and his important, life-saving work for years. Tony’s first time in court for growing and supplying Cannabis was in 1998, charged for cultivation. In 2013, he was charged with possession. Sentenced to one year’s incarceration, he appealed and was released after only six weeks. The following year, caught with more Cannabis plants, he was charged once again.

“A pretend law, made in excess of power, is not and never has been a law at all. Anyone in the country is entitled to disregard it”, Chief Justice Sir John Latham, 1942, South Australia v Commonwealth.

Mullaways_Medical_Cannabis_Research_Crop
Tony has long experimented with plant breeding to cultivate safe cannabinoid medicines. From Mullaways’ website;

“The Research by Mullaways Medical Cannabis has made it possible for the first time to; Design, Cultivate, Trial and Evaluate Cannabinoid Treatments using SAFE Doses of Cannabinoids / THCA / THC. While the rest of the Medical Cannabis Research world tries to genetically engineer Cannabis without any THC or tries to produce a rich Blend of Cannabinoids / THC from low THC Cannabis Mullaway’s Research has already produced the Jewel in the Crown of Medical Cannabis Research”.

However, Tony’s plans have been put on hold as he once again sits behind bars. In February 2016, Australia officially legalised ‘medical Cannabis’. Since then, government has signalled its intention to expand its ‘medical Cannabis’ operations, stating it would approve exports, becoming the fourth country in the world to do so. The country’s health minister said his government aims “to give farmers and producers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal Cannabis”.

Mullaways

Without legal permits, Tony was an easy target for law enforcement. But many in the community see Mullaways’ independent operation as a necessary alternative to the government-run, overly bureaucratic program. Many patients report accessing ‘medical Cannabis’ in Australia remains difficult. According to some estimates, only roughly one in ten users has been granted permission to access Cannabis legally, regardless of the government streamlining the current convoluted process.


Support Tony Bower with Legal Fees

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Thank you for your interest.

Adapted from Prominent Cannabis Grower Tony Bower is Arrested For Gifting Cannabis Oil to Patients with Man remains in custody on cannabis charges, Patient Access to Medicinal Cannabis Products in Australia

Cannabis and Psychosis; Correlation Still Does Not Imply Causation

Image result for Dr Charles Ksir WyomingImage result for Dr Charles Ksir WyomingIn the United States during the first quarter of 2016, Professor’s Charles Ksir (University of Wyoming, Psychology) and Carl L. Hart (Columbia University, New York, Psychology) read with intense interest the meta-analysis by Tabea Schoeler (Kings College, London, United Kingdom) and colleagues, on continued Cannabis use in patients with psychosis. They applauded the authors for covering this timely, important issue, commending them for attempting to provide empirical evidence to inform public policy. However, their enthusiasm was dampened because the interpretation extended beyond the available data.

Large image of Figure 1.

Meta-Analysis Study Selection

They noted that it is of utmost importance to remember the meta-analysis was based on correlational studies. Each study pointed out causation has not been shown; however, a strong tendency exists to accept Cannabis use as a so-called component cause of psychosis, which then leads to the conclusion it is imperative to reduce Cannabis use in patients with, or at risk, for psychosis. Although the Professor’s understood this impulse is motivated by a concern for public health, they agreed it should not allow the consistency of these correlational findings to substitute for actual evidence of causality. In 2016, Professor’s Ksir and Hart published a critical review of the scientific literature on Cannabis and psychosis and concluded that the literature supports the hypothesis that both psychosis and Cannabis use are more likely in individuals with a shared vulnerability to misuse of various substances and increased risk for various mental disorders. In other words, the correlation between Cannabis use and psychosis is not specific, either with regard to the chemicals found in Cannabis or to psychosis as opposed to other disorders.Image result for no clear evidence causal relation Cannabis and psychosis

Schoeler and colleagues stated that rates of Cannabis use in patients with psychosis are “higher than … those of people with other psychiatric diagnoses”. To support this statement the authors cited an article by Agosti and colleagues, even though Agosti and colleagues clearly concluded, “Alcohol dependence, antisocial personality disorder and conduct disorder had the strongest associations with Cannabis ‘dependence’, followed by anxiety and mood disorders”. They did not report any association between Cannabis and psychosis, presumably because of the low frequency of psychosis in the participants studied. In their own review, Professor’s Ksir and Hart included seven studies published between 2013 and 2016 that provided information on the issue of specificity. After reviewing the scientific literature they found evidence that bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and mood disorder have all been correlated with Cannabis use and reported that psychosis has been correlated with heavy tobacco smoking, heavy alcohol use, stimulant misuse and sedative misuse. They found no clear evidence for a causal relation between Cannabis and psychosis.Image result for no clear evidence causal relation Cannabis and psychosis

The Professors’ reviewed research reports on Cannabis and psychosis, giving particular attention to how each report provided evidence relating to two hypotheses:
1) Cannabis as a contributing cause, and
2) shared vulnerability.
Two primary kinds of data are brought to bear on this issue: studies done with schizophrenic patients and studies of first-episode psychosis. Evidence reviewed suggests that Cannabis does not in itself cause a psychosis disorder. Rather, the evidence leads to the conclusion that both early use and heavy use of Cannabis are more likely in individuals with a vulnerability to psychosis. The role of early and heavy Cannabis use as a prodromal sign (early symptom that may mark onset of a disease) merits further examination, along with a variety of other problem behaviours (e.g., early or heavy use of cigarettes or alcohol and poor school performance).

Image result for psychotic episodes

According to their shared vulnerability hypothesis, in a given group of Cannabis users who have had psychotic episodes, the individuals with the greatest degree of the shared vulnerability would be the most likely to continue Cannabis use rather than to discontinue and they would be the most likely to have recurring episodes of psychosis and require more hospital treatment. As such, these two outcomes should be correlated, even if neither is a cause of the other. As to whether a public health benefit can be obtained from efforts to reduce Cannabis use in patients with psychosis, two randomised controlled trials, published in 2013, comparing treatment as usual with treatment as usual plus motivational interviewing and cognitive behaviour therapy that concentrated on Cannabis use, found no beneficial effect of either intervention on either psychotic symptoms or amount of Cannabis use.

Image result for no clear evidence causal relation Cannabis and psychosis
Interest in the relationship between Cannabis use and psychosis has increased dramatically in recent years, in part because of concerns related to the growing availability of Cannabis and potential risks to health and human functioning. There now exists a plethora of scientific articles addressing this issue, but few provide a clear verdict about the causal nature of the Cannabis-psychosis association. The Professors’ greatest concern is not that someone might be advised to stop using Cannabis. They are concerned that a misunderstanding of the relation between Cannabis use and psychotic behaviour leads to an oversimplification of the complex developmental nature of substance use and mental disorders. Furthermore, they proposed that future studies that limit their data collection to focus exclusively on the Cannabis-psychosis association only will do little to enhance understanding of the complexity of this comorbidity. Research studies of this ilk will therefore be of little value in the quest to better understand psychosis and how and why it occurs.

“I have to make sure I don’t engage in conversations with
people who don’t abide by the rules of evidence”, 
Carl Hart

 


Adapted from Correspondence in the Lancet, Psychiatry, May 2016, and 
Cannabis and Psychosis: a Critical Overview of the Relationship