Emerald has prepared this list of FAQs and answers to provide some basic information on cannabis science.
Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds found in cannabis. To date, more than 60 cannabinoids have been identified. While the best known — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — are well characterized, researchers have only begun to understand the function and potential therapeutic applications of many of these compounds. Cannabinoids activate the endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 located within different parts of the body. Different types of cannabinoids are known to cause different types of responses within the body.
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids naturally produced in the body that are chemically similar to the cannabinoid THC produced by the cannabis plant. Within the brain and other parts of the nervous system, endocannabinoids help control signalling between neurons, regulating mood, memory, appetite, pain levels, and reward.
Phytocannabinoids are molecules derived from the cannabis plant itself. While phytocannabinoids are found in the highest concentrations in cannabis, they are also found in smaller concentrations in Echinacea and Kava.
Synthetic cannabinoids are made in a pharmaceutical lab. Some of the better-known synthetic cannabinoids include Nabilone/Cesamet, Dronabinol/Marinol, Sativex, Dexanabinol, CT-3/Ajulemic acid, Cannabinor, HU 308, HU 331, Rimonabant/Acomplia, and Taranabant/MK-0364
The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in 1988 when researchers identified the first cannabinoid receptor type, CB1, located primarily in the brain but also found in the central and peripheral nervous systems. CB1 Receptors are thought to affect memory, sleep, appetite, stress and pain.A second receptor, CB2, was identified several years later. It is predominantly expressed in the cells of the immune system and is known to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis as well as reducing inflammation and tissue injury.
The endocannabinoid system is comprised of a collection of specialized lipids, receptors and enzymes that help maintain basic functions and respond to illness. Although research is ongoing, some scientists even believe that the ECS helps balance and regulate proper homeostasis, which is the body’s ability to stay at its optimal condition to help keep you balanced and healthy. Through various actions, endocannabinoids are thought to help manage multiple medical conditions and a variety of symptoms.
Functions known to be affected by the endocannabinoid system include:
- Appetite and Digestion
- Cardiovascular function
- Immune function
- Organ function
- Psychiatric disease
Diseases, conditions and symptoms known to be managed by the Endocannabinoid system include:
- Cancer or cancer treatment symptoms
- Chronic pain
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
- HIV or AIDS symptoms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms or pain
- Nerve pain
- Sleep disorders
CBD is the second best known cannabinoid compound. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-oxidant, neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effects. Unlike THC, CBD is not intoxicating and some researchers believe that the CBD in cannabis may reduce some undesirable side effects of THC.
Researchers are focusing increasing attention on CBD for its apparent medical benefits without THC’s psychoactive effects. This is because CBD doesn’t ignite the CB1 receptors that THC does. Some of the symptoms known to be alleviated by CBD include nausea, pain, anxiety, depression and inflammation. More research on the benefits of CBD is currently underway, including studies on how CBD affects schizophrenia, epilepsy and breast cancer.
Other cannabinoids that are commanding greater attention among researchers include:
- CBC (Cannabichromene), which is known to act as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-cancer (anti-proliferation), anti-microbial and bone stimulant.
- CBG (Cannabigerol), which is thought to act as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer (proliferation), anti-microbial and bone stimulant.
- CBN (Cannabinol), which is known to act as an analgesic, sleep aid, anti-spasmodic and anti-convulsant.
- THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin), which is thought to act as an anorectic (suppresses appetite), anti-epileptic, bone stimulant and appetite stimulant.
There is currently limited scientific information on the pharmacology and toxicology of these and other cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are also believed to be effective in suppressing muscle spasticity, spasms, bladder dysfunction and pain symptoms of MS.
Although scientists are still discovering the ways medical cannabis works within the body, what is currently known is that the many different cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, and terpenes are primarily responsible for the effects that the plant has on the human body. The combination of these creates a synergy, known as the entourage effect that works together to create more benefits.
Medical cannabis has been reported to have a plethora of different therapeutic effects for different people. Cannabis has been known to act as a muscle relaxant and provide pain relief for multiple reasons including physical, post-traumatic and neuropath pain. Its reported ability to reduce convulsions and spasms may help treat multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Sometimes prescribed for HIV and cancer patients, medical cannabis is thought to provide nausea relief and can act as an appetite enhancement, replicating the body’s natural appetite triggers. It has been commonly reported to enhance sleep and elevate moods. Although some people associate marijuana with increased anxiety, newer research strongly suggests that some strains may actually help reduce it – particularly those strains with higher CBD levels. Other reported benefits can include immune system regulation, neuron protection and reduction of intra-ocular pressure in the eyes. Cannabis is also reported to act as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogen and antipsychotic.
The first recorded use of cannabis as medicine – by Emperor Shen Neng of China — took place in 2737 BCE. Cannabis was added to the US Pharmacopoeia in 1850 for a long list of ailments, but was removed in 1941 due to controversy surrounding its use after the Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937.