D. Lu, HI Ali, et al. from Texas A&M and UConn discussed a new technique of studying and characterizing compounds within cannabis (and beyond) that may affect the CB1 receptordifferently than THC. THC is known as an orthosteric agonist or ligand of CB1, meaning THC is the “key” that fits squarely into the CB1 receptor site, or “lock.” However, allosteric ligands are compounds that can bind to the receptor at an alternate site, or locations away from the main “keyhole” to affect the intensity, duration, or character of the biological effect downstream of that receptor.
In other words, using these allosteric sites of receptors instead of orthosteric (traditional docking sites) allow for more nuanced responses that emphasize some effects (e.g., anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, etc.), while avoiding other adverse, side effects (e.g., psychoactivity, anxiety, paranoia, etc.).
3. CBD May Have Anti-Psychotic Properties
The Science of CBD Molecules (or Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, Science!)
What are High CBD Cannabis Strains?
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, the cannabinoid second only to THC when it comes to average volume. Recently, research has shown CBD to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without the psychoactive effects (the "high" or "stoned" feeling) that THC provides. While high THC strains often tout levels of over 20%, generally, CBD levels of over 4% are considered to be high.
Who Do These Cannabis Strains Help?
It was initially thought that cannabidiol’s main function was to counter the psychoactive effects of THC, but more evidence seems to show that medically, CBD packs quite a punch on its own. It looks to be especially promising for conditions that are difficult to treat such as Crohn’s disease, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis. Lately, it is one of the rarest of these conditions, Dravet’s Syndrome, that is getting a lot of attention from both the medical community and the public.
Dravet’s Syndrome is an especially debilitating form of epilepsy that affects children and is notoriously resistant to current approved treatment methods. Sufferers are plagued by seizures, often up to hundreds a day, that worsen as they age and can be life-threatening. Currently, treatment methods include having the child wear an eyepatch, specialized diets, and brain surgery, but all have mixed success rates.
Through families’ stories of the successful management of Dravet’s Syndrome using CBD-rich marijuana strains, cannabidiol is beginning to look like these kids’ best hope. No, this does not mean kids are smoking it. One of the earliest success stories involves a young girl named Charlotte who was given a tincture version of Charlotte’s Web, a strain that was specifically developed to provide her with all the benefits of the drug without the high. In less than 2 years, Charlotte went from a monthly seizure count of 1,200 to about three. Other success stories followed and more parents have begun to speak out, particularly parents who are desperate for access to this life-saving treatment.
An Orange by Any Other Name
Dr. George Kunos’ research group out of the NIH/ Section of Neuroendocrinology presented some of their findings on a dual-target CB1r (cannabinoid type 1 receptor) antagonist that was also capable of affecting other receptors involved in liver fibrosis and inflammation. Liver dysfunction often stems from an interplay between alcoholic liver disease, viral infection, and type 2 diabetes/obesity/metabolic syndrome (fatty liver). The research group synthesized a bevy of compounds that essentially perform functional benefits concerning fat loss, improved blood sugar metabolism, and fatty liver, with far less penetration into the brain tissues. These compounds inhibit the action of CB1 receptors strictly in the periphery (liver, fat, muscle), while sparing adverse effects on brain/behavior.
While still in early stage development, the compounds offer hope and open the door to possibilities that naturally occurring compounds may be capable of influencing the endocannabinoid system to improve obesity, metabolic syndrome, abdominal/visceral fat, and carbohydrate intolerance. In other words, we may be able to restore some of that seemingly unstoppable metabolism of our youth that allowed us to eat more liberally while staying “lean and svelte.”
2. Different Cannabis Compounds May Affect CB1 Receptors Differently
Cannabis and Pets: Treating Seizures with CBD
5 Promising Cannabis Studies That Explore How Cannabinoids Interact with the Human Body
We know that hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of Cannabis Sativa L., but many people wonder if CBD sourced from low-THC/high-CBD strains of cannabis (in this instance, agricultural hemp at less than 0.3% THC concentration) is the same as or comparable to CBD sourced from higher-THC/lower-CBD cannabis (i.e., marijuana). To be clear, whether or not CBD from a low-THC vs. high-THC plant is better/worse/the same because of the presence of other non-CBD molecules (also known as the "entourage effect") is an entirely different question, and one that could vary wildly depending on both the type of ailment/disease the patient is trying to relieve and his or her physiological differences.
CBD-rich strains of cannabis that categorize the plant as “hemp” (less than 0.3% THC content) vs. “marijuana” (greater than 0.3% THC) are driven by the expression of genotypes that direct their phenotypic characteristics. The genotypes of various cannabis strains dictate the biosynthetic pathways that result in different phenotypes and variations in cannabinoid,terpene, stilbene, and flavonoid profiles, or “fingerprints.”
Is CBD from Cannabis the same as CBD from Cannabis??
Yes, you read that headline correctly, and while this may seem like a rhetorical question with an obvious answer, the query has been popping up on forums, in dispensaries, and across specialty natural products stores within the cannabis industry and various media platforms. Let’s take a closer look at CBD types in an effort to try and glean some insight.
Hemp vs. Cannabis-Derived CBD
International Cannabinoid Research Society’s (or ICRS) recent 25th annual symposium proved to be a great place to share ideas and learn from a wide variety of highly accomplished scientists in the area of cannabinoid research. The 4-day conference was highly diverse, covering everything from novel chemical cannabinoid entities, to quality control methods for cannabis, to non-THC cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol).
Here are the 5 most promising studies that were highlighted. Remember, as with any scientific conference, it’s important to enter with an open mind to accept new ideas or to extend your understanding of previously held beliefs after critical evaluation. As the American writer Alvin Tofler once said:
"The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those that cannot read or write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."
1. Your Endocannabinoid System Could Impact Your Metabolic Health
Many of us know that medical marijuana can help millions of patients suffering from a variety of diseases and ailments, especially epileptic seizures. Strains and concentrates that are high inCBD are increasingly being used to reduce or manage the number of debilitating seizures that plague sufferers of epilepsy and Dravet's syndrome. But human beings may not be the only ones who benefit from cannabinoid therapy: pets are starting to receive high CBD treatment, too.
Unlike pharmaceutical treatments for Dravet’s, cannabis has no lethal dose or known serious medical side effects, but it is still federally illegal. The fact that this condition affects children as young as a few days old makes it both a prime opportunity for non-psychoactive CBD-rich strains to shine, but it also makes it a touchy subject in a culture where cannabis has been demonized. However, the success of treating a condition that was previously often untreatable begs us to take a closer look at these three little letters. The FDA seems to agree, as it's approved a study to examine the effects of CBD on epilepsy, specifically in young users.
What are Some Cannabis Strains That Generally Have High CBD Levels?
Strains vary from grower to grower, crop to crop and even plant to plant, so keep in mind that the actual medication’s CBD levels may vary. However, here are some strains that have been actively bred in recent years to have higher CBD levels, so they might be a good place to start. We also recommend checking with dispensaries about the specifics of their strains’ CBD levels or see if they provide test results.
What are High CBD Cannabis Strains and How Do They Differ from High THC Strains?
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, confusion, and disorganized thinking. Common pharmaceutical treatment for schizophrenia involves the use of drugs that target dopamine receptors. While THC is the major cannabinoid responsible for some of the adverse effects of marijuana-induced anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations, CBD has emerged as having good therapeutic potential in these areas. J. Renard, J. Loureiro, et al from the University of Western Ontario presented novel findings that further support the anti-psychotic properties of CBD, including some of the underlying, molecular signaling mechanisms within specific parts of the brain.
4. CBD Could Also Prove Beneficial for Various Neurodegenerative Disorders
Cannabis connoisseurs have long prized potency as one of the main factors that makes a particular strain more desirable than another. Potency has long been popular in an illicit market—when the local selection consisted of the offerings of one illegal dealer versus those of another, many consumers were looking to get more bang for their buck and sought out the strongest strain. Traditionally, cannabis users attributed strain potency to high levels of thecannabinoid THC, which has led to the proliferation of strains that are full of it. THC may be the most prevalent active compound in marijuana, but it is only one of at least 85 that we know of. Thanks to marijuana’s growing legitimacy as a medicinal option, CBD is starting to emerge as the cannabinoid poised to steal THC’s thunder..
For those of you whose eyes have glazed over because you typically handle organic chemistry with extreme aversion, a) we don’t blame you, and b) bear with us here. Basically, the laws of physics, chemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemistry remain the same whether a molecule is synthesized within and sourced from a cannabis hemp plant or a cannabis marijuana plant. A molecule of any compound is composed of a specific arrangement and configuration of atoms with a specific bonding pattern. The strain of cannabis plant, regardless of its percentage or ratio of CBD/THC, does not change these fundamental truths.
Furthermore, from a physiological standpoint, the human body does not recognize whether a CBD compound was sourced from hemp or a high-THC strain of cannabis – all of the body’s biologic activity, interactions with various enzymes, and receptors specific to CBD also remains the same. Human physiology does not make a conscious decision to treat CBD differently because it was sourced from whole-plant hemp material vs. whole-plant marijuana material.
However, although the CBD compound itself is the same, it’s a different matter as to whether CBD from different plants interact with their distinct cannabinoid and flavonoid profiles in a unique way. There are over 90 other cannabinoid compounds that have been characterized in cannabis, the majority of which have yet to be studied more extensively in biological systems. Thus, we’re still in the dark as to how exactly these cannabinoids interact with each other and whether they contribute to CBD’s non-euphoric, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, metabolic health, and neuroprotective benefits as part of an “entourage effect.”
We can draw an analogy from vitamin C derived from oranges being “different” than that from grapefruits or acerola cherries. Although it’s different in that it’s produced from different fruits, vitamin C retains its same chemical and biologic characteristics irrespective of the source.
The very same can be said about the CBD, CBC, CBG, THC, or any other cannabinoid not being “different” despite being sourced from different strains of cannabis. Although the CBD compound itself is the same whether it’s derived from agricultural hemp or a higher-THC cannabis strain, and the human body treats them the same, more research is needed to examine the relationship between CBD and other cannabinoids to see whether these additional compounds interact in a way that impacts the effects administered to the consumer.
In the near future we’ll be able to better determine how the entourage effect of different cannabis compounds working together creates a synergy of effects. There’s still much to discover about this wondrous plant!
C.E. Herron et al. from University College of Dublin, Ireland explored CBD, the non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis, as a potential therapeutic agent for a number of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s dementia. CBD exerts anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects on the toxic beta-amyloid plaques and tau proteins cultured brain cells. This new data was carried over into an animal model, showing that CBD pre-treatment was able to protect and restore the long-term potentiation deficits (LTP) critical to memory function within the hippocampus of the brain. These positive effects were observed despite no change in tau protein or beta-amyloid oligomerization.
5. CBG May Minimize Muscle Loss from Various Diseases
D.I. Brierley et al. from University of Reading, Berkshire, UK presented interesting data on how CBG (cannabigerol) was able to mitigate the muscle wasting typical of cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome that occurs with up to 80% of advanced cancer patients. This co-morbidity not only diminishes quality of life and treatment response, but also increases mortality.
A considerable body of evidence has emerged showing both cancer and chemotherapy induces progressive muscle loss via systemic inflammation, metabolic dysfunction, and cytotoxic effects of chemotherapy itself. This recent data showed that CBG oral administration in rats treated with cisplatin chemotherapy not only increased feeding behavior, but also partially reversed the bodyweight and muscle mass loss caused by the cisplatin. The ever-important type IIA and IIx muscle fibers (known to be the ones most responsive to loaded exercise that have both high force capacity, growth potential, and fatigue resistance) appeared to be relatively spared in the CBG treatment group.
Further work is necessary to dive into the underlying mechanisms of this protective effect. It could be affecting the pathways that control muscle protein synthesis/anabolism, or protein breakdown/catabolism…or both!