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A Guide to Cannabinoids – The Science, The Synergy and its Role in Society

People today are more eager than ever to take a more active role in their overall health and wellness. The recent spike in popularity for cannabis and cannabinoid-rich products is a reflection of this movement- one that has led many to want to cultivate a more intentional relationship with this healing herb.

In the last several years there’s been a big spotlight placed on cannabis. It seems as though this medicinal plant is finally getting the recognition it deserves for the many health benefits it offers.  As cannabinoids become one of the most sought-after natural products on the market, we see consumers eager to ask more questions on a personal quest to learn as much as they can about the topic. For this reason, a helpful guide to cannabinoids can assist in educating and clarifying some of the finer points relating to the science of, and the synergy between cannabinoids, as well as some broader questions pertaining to its current place in modern society.

Let’s get started…

The Science-

Cannabinoids affect many important functions in the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. CBD for instance has pain relieving, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea effects, while CBN has been shown to act as a sedative, and is helpful in managing anxiety, while CBC has antibiotic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory properties and helps relieve pain and so on. There has been extensive research regarding the internal interplay when cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes and fatty acids all work in concert to abate symptoms of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, fungal, bacterial infections and more.

Each cannabinoid has a different and beneficial effect in our body. Here are some of the more common ones along with their specific function:

  • Cannabinol (CBN): sedative, antibiotic, anticonvulsant, and anti-inflammatory.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): anticonvulsant, antioxidant, reduces anxiety, treats psychotic disorders, relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and relieves spasms
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ; antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, induces a euphoric high, relieves pain
  • Cannabigerol (CBG): antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and relieves pain
  • Cannabichromene (CBC): antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and relieves pain.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): induces a euphoric high and relieves anxiety.

 

But how does it work?…

Cannabinoids have a profound and positive impact on the body’s own receptor system. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how those chemical compounds interact with each other and within the human body. Although there is increasing evidence that there may be more types, today we know about two receptors: CB1 and CB2. These receptors are distributed on the surface of many different types of cells in the body. CB1 receptors are found primarily on neurons in the brain- like in the amygdala, which influence emotions such as fear and anxiety. A high density of CB1 receptors are also found in the hippocampus, those influence the learning and absorption of new information as well as memory integration. As for the second class of receptor, CB2, those are more abundant in the central nervous system and in the peripheral tissues and organs, particularly in the immune system cells and thus are thought to act in a primarily protective role.

-The Synergy-

Medicinal plants like cannabis contain a wide variety of potentially beneficial compounds. Choosing between full-spectrum and isolate-type products is an important choice when deciding what products to start using. In full-spectrum phytocannabinoid products, the “whole-plant” is used and nothing is held back or left out. That is because whole-plant or FULL-SPECTRUM products are known to include not just CBD but trace amounts of different cannabinoids which introduce various potential benefits that can address a wide variety of ailments both on their own and in conjunction with one another. An isolate is of course effective but studies show that full spectrum CBD is capable of offering greater levels of relief. That is because full-spectrum oils include a wide range of cannabinoids which work synergistically. People seem to respond better to products which contain multiple cannabinoids opposed to single cannabinoids in isolation. And, unsurprisingly, this finding is in line with how cannabinoids are found in nature as opposed to being produced synthetically in a lab. As we can see, when certain isolated components are combined together, they produce a greater more tangible benefit to the user—and this interaction actually has a name, it’s known as the entourage effect.

The term entourage effect was first used decades ago by two Israeli scientists Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam upon realizing that cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant actually work in a similar way as the body’s own endocannabinoid system. Each separate cannabinoid has a different and beneficial effect in our body. While researchers agree that more studies are needed to understand the entourage effect, many can attest that the heightened efficacy when compounds operate together is real and not imagined.  Not only can this be seen between certain cannabinoids but also in how terpenes and flavonoids work synergistically increasing the cerebral blood flow while impacting the blood-brain barrier.  As research continues, our knowledge will collectively broaden. The good news is that the field is wide open for greater exploration and development.

Society-

As the popularity of hemp-derived products continue to grow, so has its acceptance across many of the states in America. Just this summer, a major step was taken to pass legislation that would legalize hemp as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Many agree we seem to be moving in the right direction amidst the changing political landscape of today although, “Is it legal?” is still a common question. Many wish the answers were more straightforward but the reason for the current murkiness is because there are different laws in different states, as well as different laws at the state and also federal levels.

CBD oil that is hemp-derived and consists of no illegal amounts of THC is legal in most states. As of this year, there are states where the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis is also completely legal. They are Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. That means if you live in these states, you are free to use CBD and other products without a prescription. Unfortunately, it seems as though laws are constantly in flux, which adds to the legal confusion. Hopefully, there will be more clarity and consistency coming from state and federal authorities sometime in the near future.

So the short answer to, “Is it legal?’ is, there is no short answer. You must check the local law in the state where you live- and stay up on any and all changes. If you live in a state where the recreational use of cannabis is legal, you can use CBD that comes from marijuana or hemp without issue (with the exception of California and provided you are at least 21 years of age). If you live in a state where medical cannabis is legal, and you have a prescription, you are also in the clear. For everyone else in the country, the laws surrounding CBD are stuck in a temporary gray zone. Eventually, many believe that all the states in the country, even the most culturally conservative ones will submit to peoples’ demands and the growing scientific research and legalize cannabis use for medical purposes- once and for all.

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Cannabinoids, CBD and One Woman’s Journey with Multiple Sclerosis – A Personal Story

Ingrid was barely 26 years old when she was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The first sign something was amiss came when she was on vacation in the Dominican Republic in the early 1980’s. She woke up in her hotel room with double vision- in both eyes. She walked over to the mirror but all she could see was a hazy gray cloud staring back at her. She went to a nearby clinic in Santo Domingo but they didn’t really know what to tell her. After a general exam, they asked if she had insurance back home and recommended she see a doctor as soon as she got back. She had just had her first baby and decided not to tell my parents about the incident. When she landed in Miami, with her vision back intact, she dismissed the experience as a one-off and went back to work on Monday. Six months later she was driving home from work during the tail end of rush hour. She remembers the night was warm and the flickering brake lights reminded her of the dusky, setting sun. As the traffic around her came to a stop, she placed her foot on the brake, or tried to, but her leg did not respond. She tried again. Nothing. She recalls how terrifying it was realizing she could not move her leg, it was as though her brain and body were not connecting. And she was right. She slammed into the cars in front of her but luckily no one was seriously hurt. After that incident she went to a doctor, got a spinal tap and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

And that is how, on a warm summer night, her journey with MS began- as well as our family’s journey with MS. For the next two decades my sister would be in remission. She worked a full time job (took the train to work) and managed to have three more children. She just became a grandmother in her 50’s, and has a large, loving and supportive family around her. But this progressive disease finally caught up to her. She is now unable to stand on her own or bathe herself independently and spends most days in a wheelchair in front of the television.

Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes throughout centuries and is now recommended and prescribed to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases. I have been researching the beneficial effects of cannabis in multiple sclerosis for years but there is still much to be done in the way of education and clinical testing. Even so, anecdotal as well as many randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials have shown the efficacy of various cannabinoid treatments in managing spasticity, pain, bladder problems, sleep disturbances and tremor due to MS.

Every case of MS is different as is every person affected. Thankfully my sister does not suffer from pain-related symptoms. She’s had two seizures though, back to back in recent years and because of them has suffered some cognitive loss as well as other progressive symptoms like tremor and incontinence. She was able to obtain a license for medical marijuana this year and was prescribed a medicine which contained some THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.

She accepted the recommendation of the clinician without question or doubt. However, in no time we noticed some disturbing side effects. Things like short-term memory impairment, some disruption in her psycho-motor control and a somewhat weird, and distorted sense of time. For example, in July she asked where the Christmas decorations were. Around the same time, her caretaker reported panic on my sister’s part during a routine hair-washing session. This was unlike her and was clearly not the intended result and definitely not what we expected. I felt guilt having been the one to propose the idea that she start this regiment in the first place. What did I miss? It was a big anti-climactic disappointment; we had waited months for the license and had high hopes that it would bring her some relief. But the opposite occurred- this prescribed cannabis treatment not only didn’t work, it actually made her worse.

I knew that cannabinoids mimic naturally occurring compounds in the body called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids have been widely studied and implicated in a variety of physiological functions specifically with MS. When we take in cannabinoids, they interact with the same receptors found in all human cells. What I didn’t fully appreciate was that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) affects the central nervous system (CNS) through these receptors- most densely in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. Cognition, especially in certain groups, such as patients suffering from diseases of the CNS like my sister, were particularly vulnerable to adverse effects.  However, some of the other constituents of cannabis, such as CBD (cannabidiol), have well-documented biological effects like anti-anxiety and anticonvulsive properties without any of the psychotropic actions. We realized that CBD might hold greater therapeutic potential for her than THC or any combination containing THC, since the psychoactive properties that accompany THC did not agree with her at all.  

We decided to give it one more shot and take matters into our own hands. We were on the lookout for a high quality- hemp derived, Full Spectrum CBD product. We were fortunate to find RAW, a high-grade, cannabinoid oil tincture. It contains unfiltered industrial full spectrum hemp oil, coconut MCT oil, and vitamin E as well as a variety of valuable phyto-nutrients, synergistic cannabinoids and essential oils. With RAW, we hit the jackpot. Not only did it work well, but it began working almost immediately.

One of my focuses of my freelance writing in the cannabis and medicinal marijuana space was to help my sister combat her MS symptoms and to help her live a fuller life. I saw that start to happen with RAW. As someone who does consistent research on the subject, I recommend this product as well as encourage everyone to do their own research.

From my experience, and from interviewing others, I understand that the manufacturing and selling of CBD products has become big business. I now know how to discern the differences between high quality products and subpar products as well as understand the different extraction methods available. Other finer points like the question of full spectrum vs. isolate products are important to understand before making a decision.

Ingrid began using RAW in the morning and at night, taking .5ml under her tongue, twice a day. After about a week she experienced less spasticity, less fatigue and tremor, and was just more alert and lucid. We have also seen a big improvement with her MS-related urinary symptoms. Her increased sense of well-being is also visible; the other day she commented that she “felt really strong”. When she visits her daughters, we pack ETS’s new veggie capsules in her overnight bag- we find that it’s easier for her to manage when she’s traveling.

We were concerned initially how this new regiment would interact chemically with her other prescribed drugs- but so far, she’s had no issues. We are thrilled, over the moon, and grateful that we didn’t give up. And you shouldn’t either. Cannabis derived compounds can hold real potential for those looking to treat symptoms of MS. The most important points to keep in mind are quality and consistency. You need to do your research, seek out the highest quality product you can find, and stay consistent with the dosing. For those looking to try any of EST’s products, the great news is you do not need a special marijuana card or prescription to do so.

Click here find out more about ETS.