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.

0000ECSandBodilySystems

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. 

CB1-CB-2-receptors-1024x1024

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.

Image result for elderly using cannabis topicals

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)

top

Advertisements

Cannabis Promotes Homoeostasis (Balance)


Image result for homoeostasis = balance

The human body is biologically designed to look for balance. This state of equilibrium that the body seeks to achieve is called homoeostasis. Think of homoeostasis as an internal “check and balance” system of the body that helps you function optimally. The trillions of cells within our body work independently and with each other to ensure we are alive and healthy. And because the human body is a single unit, when there is any change in the body’s systems it will affect one or more of the others. A group of nerve cells, known as the hypothalamus, are found deep within our brains. The hypothalamus is essential in regulating key processes we perform everyday, which we never notice, even though they are critical to maintaining homoeostasis. These include:

  • Sleep: Homoeostasis is dependent on a healthy sleep-wake cycle, which is defined as the amount of time that has passed since the last time you got enough sleep. Sleep deficits result in a compensatory increase in the duration and intensity of sleep, while too much sleep will decrease sleep propensity.
  • Blood pressure: Regulated when cells in the body send feedback to the brain. Cells send signals that widen the blood vessels to eliminate pressure or narrow the vessels to increase pressure.
  • Breathing: Respiration rate is affected by how much carbon dioxide you have in your blood, which is controlled and monitored by a part of your brain. This process changes as you engage in certain activities, such as when you breathe deeper and more when you climb up a set of stairs because your muscles are burning more oxygen.
  • Mood: Adjusts based on changes, triggers and stressors in the environment.

Image result for hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is the primary command post, which is responsible for identifying changes in the environment and acting in response to it by releasing hormones as well as neurotransmitters, which then allow cells and structures in the body to communicate. For example, when you exercise, you become red. This is the result of your blood vessels dilating to reduce the increase in body temperature, as well as the increase in heart rate and breathing to make sure that oxygen levels in your body are adequate. These things happen as a response to your body seeking balance after exposed to a stimulus – exercise. When homoeostasis is interrupted because of illness, disease, injuries, or medications, the body cannot achieve that balance. Many of the most common illnesses that plague the world today are caused by disrupted homoeostasis. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, endocrine disorders, and thyroid disorders. Is it a surprise that these conditions are also treated by Cannabis? Age also affects homoeostasis. Things within our body just don’t function as well, and the bones aren’t the only parts that get rickety over time. Even our cells don’t work as well when we get older (senescence or biological ageing).

Image result for age-related conditions lack of homoeostasis

Many age-related conditions have their roots in a lack of homoeostasis, including arthritis and osteoporosis. On the other hand, conditions like chronic pain give us homoeostatic symptoms due to the disruption of the cannabinoid cycle. Patients suffering from chronic pain may also suffer from depression, sleep problems, blood pressure and heart rate issues. These symptoms occur because the Endocannabinoid System has to work overtime due to constant pain. Studies show when cannabinoids are consumed from Cannabis, it can help restore or maintain homoeostasis especially as we age. In fact, the main job of the Endocannabinoid System is to promote homoeostasis. The Endocannabinoid System has three main components:

Cannabinoid receptors, located on the surface of cells, monitor for conditions that occur outside the cell. They are responsible for transmitting information to the inside of the cell, because any change in conditions will trigger the necessary cellular responses. The two primary cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2; CB1 receptors interact with THC in cannabis which results in euphoria (among other welcome effects). CB2 receptors are mostly concentrated in areas beyond the nervous system such as the immune system. But both receptors are found throughout the body.

Image result for cannabinoid receptors 

Endocannabinoids are the molecules that bind to and stimulate the cannabinoid receptors. But unlike THC and CBD, endocannabinoids are naturally produced by cells within the body. The two main endocannabinoids are 2-AG and anandamide, which are produced from molecules similar to fat, located within the membranes. They are produced by the body when needed, which means they are only synthesised and utilised when the body needs them instead of being stored away for future use, just like other molecules within the body.Image result for endocannabinoids anandamide and 2ag

Metabolic enzymes are the third part of the trifecta, which obliterate endocannabinoids when they have been used up. FAAH and MAGL are the two main metabolic enzymes. FAAH metabolises anandamide while MAGL metabolises 2-AG. These two make sure that the endocannabinoids are used when they are needed but not for longer.

These three components are located in almost every major system in the human body. When something results in a disruption of homoeostasis, these three things work together to restore homoeostasis. According to Dr Vicenzo Di Marzo, Research Director, Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry, Naples, Italy: “With the ‘pro-homoeostatic action of the ECS’ we mean that this system of chemical signals gets temporarily activated following deviations from cellular homoeostasis. When such deviations are non-physiological, the temporarily activated ECS attempts, in a space- and time-selective manner, to restore the previous physiological situation (homoeostasis)”. A report published in Endocrine, Metabolic, and Immune Disorders – Drug Targets, states: “The ECS (Endocannabinoid System) has deep phylogenetic roots and regulates many aspects of embryological development and homoeostasis, including neuroprotection and neural plasticity, immunity and inflammation, apoptosis and carcinogenesis, pain and emotional memory and the focus of this review: hunger, feeding, and metabolism”.

Image result for endocannabinoids

Dr Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic doctor and Diplomat of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, says the Endocannabinoid System is “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health”. Additionally, by facilitating communication between various cells, endocannabinoids help regulate homoeostasis. “At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitisers from the injured tissue, stabilising the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing and calming nearby immune cells to prevent the release of pro-inflammatory substances”, writes Dr Sulak. Humans, as a functioning, single-unit organism, need a well-balanced internal system in order to grow and function optimally. An imbalanced state of homoeostasis can lead to health problems ranging from minor headaches to more serious, life-threatening conditions including cancer. The Endocannabinoid System helps regulate important processes that maintain homoeostasis by activating cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous and peripheral nervous systems. You can restore homoeostasis by eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising and consuming whole plant Cannabis in a form that suits you best.  

Image result for stunning whole plant cannabis

Adapted from How Cannabis Promotes Homeostasis with How Marijuana Promotes Homeostasis 

top

Why Cannabis is a Superfood

Image result for cannabis superfood

Americans are supposed to get five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day. This equates to roughly two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables. Although this is the recommended amount that should be eaten according to the USDA (United States Dietary Association), most of the American population don’t even come close to meeting this recommendation. In Australia, government dietary guidelines recommend about five serves of veggies per day (where a serve is defined as around 75 grams) and two serves of fruit a day (a serve is about 150 grams). As you can see, serving sizes vary based on the country an individual resides in. Fortunately, a plant consumed for centuries due to its plethora of medicinal, therapeutic and nutritional benefits, Cannabis sativa, has more recently attracted the label superfood from numerous researchers and physicians, whom note Cannabis is worthy of incorporation into the human diet in some way or another. 

Cannabis many medicinal and therapeutic benefits are well established, but the nutritional benefits of Cannabis are still gaining recognition and public coverage. ‘Superfoods are unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients, often derived from fruits, vegetables and herbs. Under this definition, numerous doctors believe Cannabis can be grouped into the superfoods category. Besides Cannabis’ array of medicinal and therapeutic benefits, the plant is an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients. In general, there are various parts of Cannabis that can be consumed, such as leaves, stems and buds, heated or not. To reap Cannabis’ nutritional benefits though, consuming raw parts of the plant is the way to go.

hemp-seed-nutrition1

Hemp seeds contain a multitude of nutritional benefits that can help improve one’s diet. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa (same species), but is grown to produce industrial and commercial products including food, animal feed and other useful materials like rope, textiles, paper and hempcrete. Generally, hemp seeds are consumed for their high nutrient and protein content, especially by vegans and vegetarians. Additionally, hemp seeds are consumed for their fatty acid content in the form of Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s. Overall, humans need to consume a regular amount of fatty acids, particularly due to benefits they have on our heart and brain. Research has found when one consumes Omega fatty acids, inflammation can be reduced, ADHD and arthritic pain can be better managed and high cholesterol can be combatted.

The presence of Omega fatty acids in hemp seeds is worth noting because they also help in the area of protein production. Hemp seeds serves as a much healthier alternative for those who don’t consume fish but need to get their serving of fatty acids. They’re an excellent source of Vitamin E (and other tocopherols), zinc, magnesium, iron, liver enzymes, antioxidants and protein. Not only is hemp extremely versatile, some of its other nutritional benefits include: vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, high plant-based protein content, high Omega fatty acids content, simple to digest, FODMAP suitable, paleo, ketogenic and diabetic-friendly.

Image result for cannabis superfood

Although various cannabinoids deliver medicinal and therapeutic benefits when they’re heated up or decarboxylated, the true nutritional benefits come from the consumption of raw cannabinoids. Some raw cannabinoids’ benefits:

  • Improve productivity and efficiency of cells within the body
  • Initiate the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to activate antioxidant release
  • Released antioxidants act as a ‘cleaner’ by removing damaged cells from the body
  • When orally ingested, therapeutic benefits are achieved more effectively
  • Can be incorporated into diet in numerous ways

You can grind up raw Cannabis leaves, buds or stems to use as seasonings or toppings for salads, soups, stews, oatmeal, porridge etc. Also, juicing raw Cannabis leaves is nutritionally beneficial, according to Dr William Courtney. He recommends using 20-30 big leaves or two or three raw buds daily to reap numerous nutritional and therapeutic benefits. You can also grind up raw Cannabis parts and add to smoothies, shakes and sauces.

0000ECSandBodilySystems

All humans and mammals have an ECS, one of the most integral physiological systems involved in the establishment and maintenance of one’s health and creating homoeostasis across all bodily systems (balance). This system plays a vital role in the functioning of the brain, endocrine and immune tissues. The ECS plays a significant part in the secretion of hormones associated with reproductive functions and stress responses. In addition, the ECS regulates homeostasis and influences the function of the food consumption centres of the body’s central nervous system (CNS) and gastrointestinal tract activity. Throughout our bodies are endocannabinoids and their receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are within the brain, connective tissues, glands, immune cells, and various organs. Within each tissue, the ECS plays a role in maintaining homoeostasis, which is the maintenance of a stable internal environment regardless of different instabilities in the external environment.

endocannabinoid-homeostasis

One study stated the following about this integral system: “This system plays a significant role in a wide range of physiologic processes and behaviours including neurogenesis, neural development, immune function, metabolism and energy homoeostasis, synaptic plasticity and learning, pain, emotional state, arousal and sleep, stress reactivity and reward processing/addiction to other drugs of abuse”. Overall, not only is Cannabis medically and therapeutically beneficial, this plant and byproducts of it can be nutritionally beneficial if raw forms of it are consumed. Whether you want a vitamin, nutrient, or mineral boost or an improvement in your well-being, try consuming raw cannabinoids and/or hemp seeds and see how much it improves your health and lifestyle.

Adapted from Top three reasons why cannabis is a powerful superfood

top

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.
endocannabinoid-homeostasis
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.

tetrahydrocannabinol

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

top

The Endocannabinoid System For Beginners

The Endocannabinoid System is made up of neurons, endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. There are nerve cells called neurons throughout the brain and body which are linked together by neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are molecules called agonists that move from one neuron to another through the minute space between them, which is called the synapse. The agonists plug into neural receptors, causing a chain reaction. In the case of the Endocannabinoid System, these receptors are called CB1 (Cannabinoid receptor 1) and CB2 (Cannabinoid receptor 2). CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain, with some in the liver, lungs and kidneys. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body. There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than any other type of neural receptor and a common analogy is that the agonists are keys and the receptors are locks.


The Endocannabinoid System sends signals within the brain and around the body.
Cannabinoids transmit signals from one neuron to another.
CB1 = Cannabinoid Receptor 1, found mostly in the Brain
CB2 = Cannabinoid Receptor 2, found mostly in the BodyCB1-CB-2-receptors-1024x1024


The Endocannabinoid System is activated by cannabinoids. The cannabinoids naturally produced by the body, which are known as endocannabinoids, and cannabinoids found in Cannabis, known as phytocannabinoids. The key and lock analogy is based upon the CB1 and CB2 receptors only being activated by cannabinoids, not any other type of agonist molecule. The cannabinoid ‘keys’ are the only ones that will fit the receptor ‘locks’.

Phyto = prefix meaning a plant or plants
Endo = prefix meaning within or inside
Phytocannabinoids, also called classic
cannabinoids, 
come from plants

Endocannabinoids come from inside the body

CB1 receptors are activated by the phytocannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, so when the ‘head-rush’ effect caused by sativa-dominant, THC-heavy strains is mentioned, there’s a literal quality to that statement! CB2 receptors are activated by the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol or CBD, giving a relaxing, body-centric effect. This makes the location of, and difference between, the two receptors easy to remember!

CB1 = THC = head
CB2 = CBD = body

Image result for homoeostasis
The Endocannabinoid System regulates the body’s systems to maintain homoeostasis: the state of balance necessary for healthy function. Homoeostasis can be thought of as the narrow range of states within which bodies work as they should. For example, blood sugar levels, internal temperature, pH levels of blood, regulation of water and minerals in the body and the removal of metabolic waste are all governed by homoeostatic processes.

endocannabinoid-homeostasis
Most agonists only travel in one direction. Cannabinoids are unusual in that they can travel both ways between neurons. This is known as a negative feedback loop. It is what makes the Endocannabinoid System such an essential system for most lifeforms. It tells the body when to begin a process (for example, sweating to cool down) but also when to stop it (otherwise we’d all be sweating constantly).
What is the endocannabinoid system and how does it work? Explained in an infographic.Bodies constantly make endocannabinoids to interact with their Endocannabinoid System, ensuring homoeostasis continues. If not enough endocannabinoids are created, it is thought  Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency may occur. It is also thought this can be treated by introducing phytocannabinoids, something humanity has been doing with varying degrees of therapeutic success since before recorded history.

Image result for endocannabinoid system homoeostasis


The reason Cannabis can treat so many different conditions is that the
Endocannabinoid System is spread throughout the body and responsible for
the correct functioning of so many different parts and aspects of it.


All vertebrates (creatures with a backbone) and invertebrates (creatures without a backbone) have an Endocannabinoid System. This explains why Cannabis products are having such success when used on pets and have the potential to treat a virtually unlimited number of species. There are a few species that don’t have one, such as sea sponges, nematode worms and anemones, since their evolution diverged so long ago. The earliest lifeform known to have cannabinoid receptors is the sea-squirt.  This primitive tube-shaped creature evolved more than 600 million years ago and vomits up its internal organs as a self-defence move! There is even a type of slime mould that “possesses a rudimentary endocannabinoid system”. You might think, since the Endocannabinoid System is so ancient, so vital and so common in lifeforms, it would have been discovered long ago. You would be wrong. The Endocannabinoid System was only confirmed in the form that we know it today (CB1 and CB2 receptors, triggered by two known endocannabinoids) in 1995!

1940 – CBD first isolated
1963 – CBD first synthesised
1964 – THC first synthesised
1988 – CB1 identified (in rats)
1991 – CB1 in humans successfully cloned
1992 – Anandamide, the first endocannabinoid, discovered in human brain
1993 – CB2 identified in humans and successfully cloned
1995 – 2-AG, the second endocannabinoid, discovered

The phytocannabinoid CBD was first isolated in 1940, but not until 1963 did Professor Raphael Mechoulam and his team discover its chemical structure and successfully synthesise it. Their feat was replicated with THC a year later. In 1988, the first Cannabis receptor was identified, and in 1993, the second. The first endocannabinoid, Anandamide, was only discovered in 1992 and the second, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, known as 2-AG, followed in 1995. Professor Mechoulam, said, with simple eloquence:

“By using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered
a new physiological system of immense importance … We wouldn’t
have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant”.

Image result for endocannabinoid system
Adapted from What is the endocannabinoid system and how does it work? A beginner’s guide
top

Mad About Saffron

spices that interact with the endocannabinoid system

Modern science is starting to catch on to the wisdom of our ancestors, who knew a lot about using aromatic herbs and spices for medicinal purposes. The use of spices for cooking, healing and dyeing fabric has shaped much of human history. In ancient times these highly precious commodities were traded along well-travelled spice routes throughout Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe. Some spices were literally worth their weight in gold. Yet, it’s only recently that scientists have discovered the bio-active constituents and molecular mechanisms of several common kitchen spices, shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation while modulating multiple healing pathways simultaneously. A number of scientific studies confirm the health-promoting properties of various spices are mediated by the same receptors in the human brain and body that respond pharmacologically to Cannabis.

Saffron: Nerve Tonic

Image

A 2013 report in Pharmacognosy Review  examined the neuro-protective effects of Saffron extracts, which inhibited the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain in animal models of Alzheimer’s. The same article noted that Saffron extracts could “prevent retinal damage and age-related macular degeneration”. An Italian research team subsequently showed Saffron can counteract effects of continuous bright light exposure in lab rats by enhancing retinal blood flow. Saffron “engages” both the CB1 and the CB2 cannabinoid receptors “in order to afford retinal protection” the Italian scientists concluded. Described as “the most expensive cultivated herb in the world” Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a much-revered food seasoning and a natural colourant.

Cultivated originally in Persia and Asia Minor, this legendary spice comes from a light purple flower with thread-like red-orange stigma that contains 150 bioactive components, including carotenoids, flavonoids and other potent polyphenols. A rich source of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and free-radical scavengers, saffron has a long history of use as a folk medicine for treating cancer, convulsions, headaches, skin conditions, asthma, ulcers, premenstrual distress and other diseases. The Ebers papyrus (1550 BC) refers to Saffron as a “cheering cardiac medicament” and a cure for kidney problems. Scientific studies indicate Saffron improves learning and memory by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine. Saffron also enhances the functioning of the GABA receptor, which explains in part its efficacy as a relaxant and nerve tonic. Clinical trials evaluated the anti-depressant properties of Saffron and concluded it was more effective than a placebo and equivalent to Prozac.

Turmeric: Holy Powder

ImageTurmeric (Curcuma longa), a perennial plant of the Ginger family, has a safe 6,000-year track record as a medicinal herb, a culinary spice and a dye for fabric and food. The fleshy rhizome of this all-star botanical is ground into a deep orange-yellow powder and used to season South Asian cuisine. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curries, as well as a staple of Ayurvedic medical practice, which utilises Turmeric (typically in combination with other herbs) to treat indigestion, throat infections, metabolic dysfunction, common colds and many other ailments. Known as “the holy powder of India”, Turmeric is also applied topically as an antibacterial and anti-fungal remedy for skin sores and to clean wounds. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), perennial handmaiden of Big Pharma, recognises Turmeric as a food-colouring agent but not as a therapeutic substance, despite more than 5,600 peer-reviewed studies of Turmeric and its main polyphenolic component, Curcumin, that document numerous healing attributes. There is more evidence-based scientific literature (1,500 science articles) supporting the use of Curcumin against cancer than any other nutrient, including vitamin D.

Much like Saffron, Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that confers neuro-protective effects through multiple molecular channels. Turmeric protects against alcohol-induced brain damage, improves insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular function, inhibits platelet aggregation and facilitates the clearing of beta-amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer’s dementia. It’s worth noting the incidence of Alzheimer’s and other neuro-degenerative diseases among people living in the Asian subcontinent, where Turmeric is ubiquitous, is significantly lower than in North America. Turmeric’s versatility as a medicinal herb derives in part from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which regulates numerous physiological processes. In May 2012, Neurochemical Research Identified the CB1 cannabinoid receptor as a mediator of Curcumin’s antidepressant effect: “treatment with Curcumin”, the report notes, “results in the sustained elevation … of endocannabinoids”. In December 2013, the European Journal of Pharmacology disclosed that Curcumin reduces liver fibrosis by modulating cannabinoid receptor transmission.

Peppercorn: Black Gold

Image

Employed since antiquity as both a food seasoning and a folk cure, Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is the world’s most traded spice. Touted as “black gold”, the dried fruit of this woody vine, the peppercorn, was considered such a valuable commodity, it served as a substitute for money in business transactions. During the Middle Ages in Europe, Black Pepper was a luxury item only the wealthy could afford. Today, it is one of most commonly used spices on the planet. The manifold therapeutic properties of Black Pepper have been validated by modern science. Essential oil of Black Pepper reduces nicotine cravings and eases withdrawal symptoms. An anti-spasmodic and anti-convulsant, it can also lower blood pressure and relieve digestive distress. Piperine, Black Pepper’s principal bioactive constituent (an alkaloid), has been shown to inhibit cancer cell proliferation in animal models of osteosarcoma, and also potentiates anti-tumoural and apoptotic effects of Turmeric by enhancing the bioavailability of Curcumin. When co-administered, Piperine and Curcumin interact synergistically to confer a stronger antidepressant effect than either compound delivers on its own.

In addition to Piperine, Black Pepper contains vitamin K, iron and manganese along with a robust array of aromatic terpenes, which should be familiar to Cannabis connoisseurs: Pinene, Limonene, Linalool … Black Pepper is particularly well endowed with the sesquiterpene Beta-caryophyllene, an important medicinal component of many Cannabis strains. Beta-caryophyllene is the only terpene known to bind directly to CB2, the cannabinoid receptor that regulates immune function, peripheral nervous system, metabolic tissue activity and other physiological processes. Black Pepper’s potent anti-inflammatory effect is mediated by the CB2 receptor. THC binds directly to the CB2 receptor, although this is not what causes a person to experience euphoria when he or she consumes Cannabis. That’s because CB2 receptors are not present to a significant degree in the brain and central nervous system. Beta-caryophyllene is a significant component of several other common kitchen spices, including Clove, Cinnamon and Oregano.

Nutmeg: Cannabinoid Booster

Image

Nutmeg (the dried kernel of Myristica fragrans) does not directly activate the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the brain or the CB2 cannabinoid receptor in immune cells. This commonly used kitchen spice can have a powerful impact on the endocannabinoid system as a 2016 study in Pharmaceutical Biology reported, Nutmeg interacts with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting certain key enzymes that catabolise (break down) the two main endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2AG. Likened to the brain’s own Cannabis, these short-lived endogenous cannabinoid compounds bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. This triggers a signalling cascade on a cellular level that protects neurons against toxic insults (stress) and promotes neurogenesis (creation of new stem cells in adult mammals). Two catabolic enzymes, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoglycerol lipase (MAGL), are involved in the breakdown of anandamide and 2AG, respectively.

Simply put, less FAAH  and MAGL means more anandamide and 2AG. So by inhibiting these catabolic enzymes, Nutmeg raises the level of anandamide and 2AG in the brain and boosts cannabinoid receptor signalling throughout the body. FAAH and MAGL  inhibition has proven to be beneficial for easing pain, anxiety, hypertension and various inflammatory conditions in preclinical research, which lends credence to traditional medical uses of Nutmeg. Ayurvedic healers in India utilise Nutmeg as an anxiolytic or anxiety-reducing agent. But there are conflicting accounts of Nutmeg’s effect on anxiety and depression; higher doses cause a biphasic response, exacerbating mood disorders and triggering hallucinations. Nutmeg has long been known for its central nervous system activity. In an article in Nature (1966), Alexander Shulgin identified “myristicin as a psychotropic substance”.  Many prison inmates, including Malcolm X before his conversion to Islam, sniffed and swallowed Nutmeg to ‘get high’. Now we know how and why Nutmeg has a neuro-active effect; it stimulates cannabinoid receptor transmission by suppressing the enzymes that break down the brain’s own Cannabis.

Ecological medicine

Image

Herbs and spices are ecological medicines that 75-90% of the world’s rural people still rely on as their primary mode of healthcare. Numerous plants, not just Cannabis, are endowed with compounds that interact directly or indirectly with the endocannabinoid system. The health benefits of many common kitchen spices are mediated by the same cannabinoid receptors in the human brain and body that Cannabis activates. Scientific research into Cannabis’ effects on the brain has opened the door to whole new vistas of understanding human biology and physiology. As we welcome Cannabis back into the pantheon of approved medicinal herbs, perhaps we should rethink our ideas about the endocannabinoid system, so named after the plant that led to its discovery, and stretch its boundaries to encompass an abundance of botanicals.

Adapted from an article by MARTIN A. LEE, Director, Project CBD, author Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana — Medical, Recreational and Scientific

  • Akhonzadeh S, et al, “Saffron in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease,” J Clini Parm Ther, 2010 Oct.
  • Bhutani, MK, et al, “Anti-depressant effect of curcumin and its combination with piperine in unpredictable chronic stress-induced behavioral, biochemical and neurochemical changes,” Pharmocol Biochem Behav, 2009 March.
  • Cordell, Barbara  and Buckle, Jane, “The effects of aromatherapy on nicotine craving on a U.S. campus: a small comparison study.” J Altern Complement Med. 2013 July 31.
  • El-Alfy, Abir T, et al, “Indirect modulation of the endocannabinoid system by specific fractions of nutmeg total extract,” Pharmaceutical Biology, 2016.
  • Gertsch, J, et al, “Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid,” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2008 July.
  • Gohari, Ahmad Reza, et al, “An overview on saffron, phytochemicals, and medicinal properties,” Pharmacogn Rev, 2013 Jan-Jun.
  • Hassan M, et al, “Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of black pepper and piperine in gastrointestinal disorders,” Anticancer Res. 2009 Dec 01.
  • Hassanzadeh P, et al, “The CB1 receptor-mediated endocannabinoid signaling and NGF: the novel targets of curcumin,” Neurochemical Research, 2012 May.
  • Javadi, B, et al, “A Survey of Saffron in Major Islamic Traditional Medicine Books,” Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 2013.
  • Ji, Sayer, “600 Reasons Turmeric May Be the World’s Most Important Herb,” GreenMedInfo.com, July 10, 2013.
  • Ji, Sayer, “Better than Chemo: Turmeric Kills Cancer Not Patients,” GreenMedInfo.com, Sept. 12, 2015.
  • Kannappan, Ramaswamy, et al, “Neuroprotection by Spice-Derived Nutraceuticals,” Molecular Neurobiology, 2011 October.
  • Kazem M, et al, “Antispasmodic effect of Piper nigrum fruit hot water extract on rat ileum,” Pak J Biol Sci, 2008 Jun 01.
  • Khazdair, Mohammad Reza, et al, “The effects of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents on nervous system: A review,” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, Sept-Oct 2015.
  • Khorasany, AR, et al, “Therapeutic effects of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in digestive disorders: a review,” Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 2016.
  • Mishra A, et al, “Anticonvulsant mechanisms of piperine, a piperidine alkaloid,” Channels (Austin). 2015 Sep 02.
  • Natoli, R, et al, “Gene and noncoding RNA regulation underlying photoreceptor protection: microarray study of dietary antioxidant saffron and photobiomodulation in rat retina,” Molecular Vision, 2016.
  • Patil, Vaishali M, et al, “Quantum Chemical and Docking Insights Into Bioavailability Enhancement of Curcumin by Piperine in Pepper,” J Phys Chem A, 2016 May 26.
  • Rapino, Cinzia, et al, “Type-1 and Type-2 Cannabinoid Receptor Signaling is Involved in the Neuroprotective Effect of Saffron of Rat Retina,” poster at International Cannabinoid Research Society conference, 2016 June.
  • Rose, J E and Behm FM, “Inhalation of vapor from black pepper extract reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms,” Drug Alcohol Depend. 1994 Feb 01.
  • Samarghandian, Saeed, et al, “Anticarcinogenic effect of saffron (crocus sativus L.) and its ingredients,” Pharmacognosy Res, 2014 Apr-Jun.
  • Zhang J, et al, “Piperine inhibits proliferation of human osteosarcoma cells via G2/M phase arrest and metastasis by suppressing MMP-2/-9 expression,” Int Immunopharmacol. 2014 Dec 31.
  • Zhang Z, et al, “Curcumin modulates cannabinoid receptors in liver fibrosis in vivo and inhibits extracellular matrix expression in hepatic stellate cells by suppressing cannabinoid receptor type-1 in vitro,” European Journal of Pharmacology, 2013 Dec 5.

For the Goodness of Your Health’s Sake, Look After Your Endocannabinoid System

There are many who really want to look after their health and with that in mind, there’s a biological system we should all become better acquainted with, regardless of age. One that since discovery in the 1980’s-1990’s barely gets taught at medical school, but one that performs an extraordinarily vital role in keeping our health in balance (homoeostasis). It’s called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and it is responsible for modulating, regulating and maintaining many physiological systems in the human brain and body including sleep, appetite, mood, immune system, reproduction, pain, inflammation and much more involved with everyday experience.

Homeostasis, maintenance of a constant internal environment in response to changes

When scientists were first studying Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they realised most mammals have a vast network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain, central nervous, immune and gastrointestinal systems. The discovery of receptors in the brain that respond pharmacologically to cannabinoids (chemical compounds that trigger cannabinoid and other receptors) and the subsequent identification of endogenous (endo meaning ‘within’ the body) cannabinoid compounds, endocannabinoids, which bind to these receptors and act like locks on the surface of cells waiting to be opened, has significantly advanced a better understanding of human biology, health and disease. The ECS has been likened to a dimmer switch, working to keep the primary functions within the body operating at optimum level.

ECS Man and Woman

Over 100 cannabinoids have been identified in the Cannabis plant. Of these molecules, THC and cannabidiol (CBD) have been studied most extensively along with the endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2AG. In recent years, scientists associated with the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS have elucidated a therapeutic impact. Dr Sean McAllister and colleagues, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco laboratory, stated the best results were obtained when CBD was administered along with THC. Several studies underscore the therapeutic advantages for combining CBD and THC, particularly for treating peripheral neuropathy, a painful condition associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, arthritis and other neurodegenerative ailments.

Clinical research conducted with GW Pharmaceuticals has also shown that CBD is most effective as an analgesic when administered in combination with whole plant THC. Unfortunately, through stresses of modern living (most in western ‘civilisation’ live in a toxic soup with faux food and synthetic ‘medicines’), the ECS can become depleted, meaning it cannot effectively carry out its role of bringing balance to the body. American Neurologist Ethan Russo termed this, ‘Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency’, suggesting it lies at the root of illnesses such as fibromyalgia, muscular sclerosis, IBD/IBS and migraines.

According to Dr Russo, “If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would be sick, meaning nauseated. You would have a lowered seizure threshold. And just a whole litany of other problems”. To strengthen the ECS, Dr Russo suggests ‘topping up’ the body’s endocannabinoids with cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant (cannabis and hemp). This will restart the ECS, bringing homoeostasis. While this remains just a theory, the ability of the cannabis plant to re-calibrate the Endocannabinoid System can be demonstrated in cases of children suffering from extreme forms of epilepsy who have responded favourably to whole plant therapy.
2016-12-19-1482166044-9496965-running573762_640.jpg

To boost the Endocanabinoid System, you can try the following:

1. Exercise: Studies show that as well as releasing endorphins when we do cardiovascular exercise, the body produces the ‘feel good’ endocannabinoid, anandamide (the ‘bliss’ molecule), explaining the ‘runners’ high’.

2. Omega 3 (hemp is perfect): Vital to ECS health, without it scientists believe endocannabinoid CB1 receptors may not form correctly, potentially resulting in “impaired emotional behaviour”.

3. Cut Out Alcoholstudies show ethanol dampens the ECS. A great imperative to go dry. A good replacement for boozy alcohol could be one of an almost endless variety of herbal teas, many are low or zero caffeine and all can be sweetened naturally with home-grown Stevia perhaps or a little organic Honey or Maple syrup.

4. Augment Anandamide:proven to relieve stress-related affective and anxiety disorders. Cannabis may be an effective safe therapeutic strategy to mitigate adverse behavioural and physiological consequences of stress. Both THC and CBD are proven beneficial for the treatment of anxiety through several mechanisms. 

spotdiff3-480x316

5. Eat Your Greens: leafy green vegetables (including organic ‘home-grown’ Cannabis leaves) contain many therapeutically useful terpenes. A dietary cannabinoid (terpene) called beta-caryophyllene (BCP) has researchers attributing its anti-inflammatory effect to activation of the cannabinoid receptor CB2.

6. Terpenes: many found in Cannabis produce anti-anxiety effects by binding to receptor sites  of the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, creating the same effect as benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. Five different terpenes in cannabis provide anti-anxiety results: β-Caryophyllene (BCP), Limonene, Linalool, Pinene and Phytol.

7. Copaiba Essential Oil: has a high (45-55%) BCP content. Due to targeting CB2 receptors, BCP is an effective way to medicate while avoiding any alteration in perception or motor skills. It can be used to treat several inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis and colitis. BCP has been shown to fight cancer, reduce anxiety and is gastroprotective (used to treat ulcers). There is a mountain of evidence to support the use of BCP for easing tension and discomfort, providing protective effects for kidney and liver systems, providing protection against auto-immune disruptionseasing depressive feelings and even helping to abstain from unhealthy habits such as alcohol dependence. Copaiba also shows skin-enhancing benefits. Applied directly to acne pimples and scars, it reduces inflammation and speeds up skin healing. 
bcp
Copaiba may afford even more relief due to there being no THC, it won’t give a false positive on a drug test. BCP’s are in plenty of foods and other essential oils but nowhere near the concentration nor purity found in Copaiba. According to Dr Ethan B. Russo in his 2011 study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects

β-Caryophyllene is generally the most common sesquiterpenoid encountered in cannabis … Caryophyllene is anti-inflammatory … comparable in potency to the toxic phenylbutazone and an essential oil (EO) containing it was on par with etodolac and indomethacin. In contrast to the latter agents, however, caryophyllene was a gastric cytoprotective, as had been claimed in the past in treating duodenal ulcers in the UK with Cannabis extract. Caryophyllene may have contributed to antimalarial effects as an EO component. Perhaps the greatest revelation regarding caryophyllene has been its demonstration as a selective full agonist at CB2”.

2017-01-04-1483533556-2883206-vegetablejuices1725835_640.jpg

Your Endocannabinoid System works tirelessly to keep you happy, healthy and on an even keel. Now you know, there’s no turning back. Be sure to look after your ECS and it will look after you.

Adapted from If You Do One Thing In 2017 For Your Health, Look After Your Endocannabinoid System with Endocannabinoid System, and Copaiba – Natural Anti-inflammatory – Better Than Cannabidiol.