CBD Clues for ALS Treatment

Yet another study shows the potential usefulness of marijuana’s cannabinoids to treat ALS.

Cannabidiol Modulates Genes Linked with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is the partial title of a new article accepted for publication by the Journal of Cellular Biology.  ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a miserable neuromuscular condition, terribly disabling and nearly always fatal. Like other degenerative, inflammatory diseases, ALS is associated with a demon’s brew of “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and excitotoxicity.”

Perhaps this century’s best know sufferer of ALS is physicist and cosmologist Steven Hawking. Defying the odds, Hawking has lived with this disease for nearly half a century. The ALS pathology has destroyed nerves controlling his muscles. As the nerves wasted, so did the muscles, confining Hawking to a wheelchair and robbing him of speech. But while these motor neurons have decayed, the cerebral neurons in his brain have soared into realms of thought few other humans have attained. He ponders, and rigorously researches, the biggest questions of space and time, black holes, and possible alien life. He cannot stand, yet he stands on the shoulders of Einstein, Copernicus, and Galileo.

A desire to conquer this cruel disease recently inspired many a Facebook video of a volunteer enduring drenching in the ALS Bucket Challenge. Perhaps they may find another glimmer of hope in this research.

Intriguingly, this in vitro study shows that CBD, or cannabidiol, modulates gene expression in stem cells (human gingiva-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (hGMSCs)) “connected with ALS pathology.”

The researchers gave reason for their research choice of CBD in their abstract:

Cannabidiol, a non-psychotrophic cannabinoid, has been demonstrated as a potent anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent in neurological preclinical models.

The research demonstrates yet another way CBD and other molecules from cannabis deliver innovative new tools for medical researchers and hope for those suffering neurodegenerative disorders.

 

Cannabinoid Receptors Help Reduce Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Inflammation

Our body’s natural cannabinoid receptors may play an important role in reducing inflammation in Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Parkinson's disease patient showing a flexed w...

Parkinson’s disease patient showing a flexed walking posture pictured in 1892. Photo appeared in Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpètrière, vol. 5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again, ground breaking cannabinoid research is announced by researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University. Chronic inflammation anywhere in our bodies is a destructive process; in the brain it is particularly insidious. “Inflammation is an important pathogenic factor in Parkinson’s disease (PD),” remind the Spanish researchers in this new study. Inflammation can “kill dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra and to enhance the dopaminergic denervation of the striatum.”

Among the many functions of your endocannabinoid system is control of inflammation., and more generally, protecting nerve cells (neuroprotection). Your cannabinoid system activates from interaction with your natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide. Plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, and synthesized research cannabinoids can also modulate your endocannabinoid system, through its receptors CB1 and CB2, (and other receptors and processes).

This new Spanish research focused on receptor CB2.

Unlike CB1 receptors which are found primarily in the outer layer of neurons in the brain and throughout the body, CB2 receptors are more associated with the immune system. This research looked at CB2 in brain cells, not in neurons, but in microglia support cells. About one out of seven of your total brain cells are these microglia immune cells; macrophage-like, they serve as a sensitive as house-keepers, removing damaged neurons and other waste material. When need be, microglial cells mount a powerful protective force against bacterial and other threats to your neurons.

The Spaniards write:

The cannabinoid type-2 (CB2) receptor has been investigated as a potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective target in different neurodegenerative disorders, but still limited evidence has been collected in PD. Here, we show for the first time that CB2 receptors are elevated in microglial cells recruited and activated at lesioned sites in the substantia nigra of PD patients compared to control subjects.

In an earlier study, some of the same researchers examined the possible use of the cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) . See Symptom-relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ⁹-THCV in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. Again, activation of CB2 receptors was the focus. The researchers concluded:

Given its antioxidant properties and its ability to activate CB(2) but to block CB(1) receptors, Δ(9)-THCV has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms.

“Concussion” Is Teachable Moment For Cannabis And Brain Trauma

Will Smith - Concussion

Will Smith – Concussion

Cannabis reduces traumatic brain injury!

Far too few know this benefit of medical marijuana use and treatment. The general public, the NFL, and coaches across the country may soon get that opportunity.

The SONY movie, “Concussion,” examining brain trauma in the NFL, presents a unique opportunity to educate about benefits of cannabis for traumatic brain injury. Will Smith plays a forensic pathologist who discovers the chilling extent of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players, setting them up for depression, dementia, and early death.

The Christmas 2015 movie has already elevated the issue of traumatic brain injury to the public and NFL players. Although the movie does not address how cannabis can minimize brain injuries, the time will be ripe for such education.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon may be the best educator on this timely issue.

This a retired Harvard psychiatrist and pioneering authority on marijuana’s medical benefits has already specifically addressed the issue of CTE in the NFL, when he petitioned  the organization to fund research into cannabis and brain trauma. Dr. Grinspoon has been educating on the positive health effects of cannabis for decades, since it helped his son with cancer in the 1970s. He has written a dozen books, several on medical marijuana, calling it The Forbidden Medicine.”  He has editorialized in The New York Times that marijuana is a “wonder drug“, where he lists the truly wondrous medical benefits provided, including relief from neuropathic pain. He writes:

If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

 

Cannabis and Brain Injury

Head injury and traumatic brain accident. Fotolia

Head injury and traumatic brain accident. Fotolia

Much of the research showing the protective effects of cannabinoids against traumatic brain injury comes from Israel. Studies reported in 2013 in this small, high-tech country showed that THC and similar cannabinoids can reduce injury both before and after trauma.

Irony alert: This research showing the brain-protective benefits was done at the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases. Sheldon Adelson, that is, the American right-wing gambling billionaire and major benefactor to Israel. Ironically, he put several million dollars into a 2014 Florida campaign to PREVENT medical marijuana in that state. With the help of his money, Floridians were denied the benefits of medical cannabis, such as reducing brain injury and dementia, discovered in his own center! WTF?

Other Israeli researchers concentrated on 2-AG, the human body’s own cannabinoid molecule, along with anandamide, that fits lock-and-key into the same receptors activated by plant cannabinoid in marijuana. They discuss how cannabinoids work on the biological and molecular levels to reduce traumatic brain injury (TBI) and with it minimize the disabling disease CTE. The brain trauma of a concussive hit does not all take place and finish with the hit. In the hours following, inflammation is a destructive factor, caused in part by cytokines, cell messengers, such as the dangerous TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-1beta. 2-AG also reduces blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability, another neuroprotective effect.

More ways cannabinoids reduce traumatic brain injury.

Head trauma, such as a massive acceleration/deceleration of a head during helmet to pad collision, common in NFL football, begins a lengthy neurological response process, often inflicting more harm to the brain. This response is primarily inflammatory. For a specific site, even the whole brain, the culprit is “excitotoxicity, the pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged or killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate and similar substances.” This neurotransmitter overload degrades and kills brain cells, and they die a messy death, creating further toxicity in the form of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), nasty molecules that damage cell structures and your DNA.

So as soon as a football player takes a concussive hit, from then for hours, and longer,  the resulting excitotoxicity attacks neurons and other cells:

  • Dangerous cytokines deliver massive numbers of inflammatory molecules.
  • Glutamate increases wildly, along with other neurotransmitters.
  • NMDA receptors are activated by excess glutamate which causes a flow of calcium and sodium into cells, generating free radicals.
  • Dying mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse release toxic Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), bully molecules swinging dangerous free radical electrons, and smashing up nerve cells.
  • Vasoconstriction reduces blood flow to the brain.

Amazingly, cannabinoids in cannabis exert a healing calm to excitotoxicity and help reduce neurological damage in all areas.

  • Antioxidants action: Even without activating the  endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids themselves are potent anti-oxidants, the perfect remedy to the oxidative stress, as they neutralize these rowdy ROS molecules.
  • Retrograde signalling, found only in the endocannabinoid system, calms neuronal firings with “backwards” retrograde signaling across synapses to reduce nerve cell activity.
  • Apoptosis, cell death is reduced, lowering the resulting volume of inflammatory molecules.
  • Cannabinoids promote vasodilation, restoring healing blood flow to the brain by counteracting the endothelin (ET-1)-induced vasoconstriction that aggravates brain damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory actions are all neuroprotective. And they result in reduced brain swelling.

So, obviously, the investigation of cannabis in reducing traumatic brain injury and CTE in football players and sports participants who suffer concussions presents a life-saving opportunity. Their are ample reasons for undertaking this research and hopefully the NFL will take up Dr. Grinspoon’s challenge to fund it.

First, do no harm. The NFL’s knee jerk mandate of prohibiting cannabis use by players may be doing huge harms by denying them the medicine that can help prevent, treat, and minimize injuries from the brain trauma they suffer as players.

Beyond that, what can we do as fans of football, and for some, as parent of young players, to help get the NFL to sponsor this vitally needed research into concussion and cannabis?.

Copyright © 2015  Don Fitch

 

Cannabis Fights Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Cannabinoids may well be helpful in slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain known as Alzheimer ’s disease and other dementia.

With properties that help protect nerve cells, especially brain cells, it is reasonable that cannabinoids might be useful in preventing and treating insidious AD.

English: Diagram of how microtubules desintegr...

English: Diagram of how microtubules desintegrate with Alzheimer’s disease

As with other degenerative diseases associated with aging, AD is of special importance to baby boomers and aging populations throughout the world.The number of people so afflicted may triple over the next half century. All the degenerative diseases are cruel, but AD can inflict soul-robbing pathology into families and relationships. With AD comes a slow breakdown of memories and then personality.

Plaques and Tangles

Central to this damage seems to be the formation of fibrous, knotted senile plaques in the brain. Inside these plaques, inflammation festers. Chronic inflammation is dangerous anywhere; it is especially destructive when microglial cells, the brain’s protectors, themselves become sources of inflammation right in the brain.

Two protein substances clog the brains of those afflicted with AD. Remarkably, cannabinoids appear to provide protection against both these threats to our brains and minds.

  1. Amyloid plaques – composed of strands of protein, beta-amyloid peptides. These so-called senile plaques are a clear marker for Alzheimer ’s disease.
  2. Neurofibrillary tangles – composed of protein microtubules, tau.

THC Blocking Plaques

Fresh research reported in late 2006 clarifies some of the mechanisms that make THC such a powerful anti-Alzheimer’s disease agent. San Diego’s Scripps Research Institute, specifically its Worm Institute of Research and Medicine is the source of new findings about the ability of THC to block the formation of plaques in the brain. In test tube trials, THC shows a remarkable ability to stop the formation of these personality-robbing plaques. THC, the San Diego researchers found, inhibited the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a substance that plays a key role in inducing β amyloid plaques.

Side-by-side comparisons with two pharmaceutical drugs currently on the market (and inexorably advertised during television news) are startling. THC, the primary cannabinoid from the source plant cannabis. was over four times more effective than one of the drugs, and roughly 14 times more effective than the other.

At the molecular level, THC bound to the acetylcholinesterase molecule, preventing the enzyme’s key role in creation of amyloid aggregation. Institute director and study coauthor Kim Janda was quite effusive at a 2006 release:

Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead researcher Janda went on to say,

While we are certainly not advocating the use of illegal drugs, these findings offer convincing evidence that THC possesses remarkable inhibitory qualities, especially when compared to [Alzheimer’s drugs] currently available to patients.

 

Look for Part 2 soon at Your Brain on Bliss

 

Football Concussions and the Brain-Saving Effects of Cannabis

© intheskies - Fotolia.com

© intheskies – Fotolia.com

The prevalence of brain injuries associated with football are becoming increasingly clear. More than anyone suspected, banging heads together in football causes mild (and not so mild) traumatic brain injuries( mTBI). New findings and the plights of many former players may fundamentally change the game of American football, from the NFL all the way down through college and high school to Pop Warner. The latter kid’s league is suffers declining participation as parents fear damage to their children’s brains.

During the same time period that the the severity of brain-damaging injuries suffered by football players was becoming clear, research in Israel and Spain began to show that the human brain is protected from TBI by the cannabinoids in cannabis.

It may well turn out to be that the best on-field treatment of a suspected concussion will be taking “hits” of vaporized cannabinoids, right from medical cannabis. Even now, portable vaporizers can be ready to provide a controlled dosage of cannabinoids within a few seconds.

At the same time, new helmets with  accelerometers for measuring impact force and gyrometers for measuring twist will help in the immediate assessment of possible concussion after a violent tackle or block. Perhaps LED lights will read out G force readings right on the helmet’s surface, allowing fellow players, coach, and trainer to spot potential dangers.

Imagine this scenario in the not-too-far future: At a home game in Seattle or Denver or other state with medical marijuana exemption to tyrannical federal marijuana laws, the home team quarterback sets his squad on a crucial third down. Unfortunately for him, he was swallowed in a pass rush; worse yet when he was floored by a 300 pound left tackle, his helmet smashed into that of another tackler at a high rate of force. He lay stunned, not quite sure why to get up. Coach and team physician approach at a jog alarmed to see the red glow from the helmet LED declaring a probably concussion. As the physician reads the G force readings from the collision, she clicks on the portable vaporizer. She asks the player a few questions, at which he performs badly. He can state his name but is unsure of the date, even the year. This, along with the red light concussion warning and the dangerously high deceleration ‘G’ rating, convinces her to act immediately, bringing the vaporizer to the injured player’s lips and telling him, “breathe in this medicine.”

As the brain-traumatized player inhales cannabinoids into his lungs, they quickly make it to his heart and fountain up to his brain. Within seconds the cannabinoids THC, CBD and others cross the blood-brain-barrier in his brain and begin their neuroprotective functions. In the injured brain, neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate, are overproduced in a frenzy that damages neurons. Inflammatory processes produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), dangling electrons that wound cell walls and DNA. In this unlikely scenario, total time from traumatic brain injury, to diagnosis, to treatment molecules reaching the site of injury was perhaps one minute. This may also be a future protocol in case of stroke, another source of traumatic brain injury.

In the brain these cannabinoids dampen down the frenzied, brain-damaging transmitters. Cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, reduce production of the transmitter glutamate. Cannabinoids also serve as antioxidants to sop up the dangerous ROS oxidants. They calm the brain and reduce inflammation.

In moves it looks like the NFL might actually do, the league should end any restriction for players using cannabis. Not only is it good for their battered brains but also offers the safest medication for several types of pain, including neuropathic pain. There is actually more justification for making cannabis use by NFL players mandatory than there good reasons for its prohibition. Strict enforcement of rules penalizing wounding play actions such as ‘helmeting’ will also help.

Your Brain on CBD: Neurogenesis and Brain Growth!

Neurogenesis in hippocampus

© Sebastian Kaulitzki – Fotolia.com

We rightfully mourn the loss of brain cells, neurons, as we age. As they die we lose memories and capabilities – even our personalities. We are only as robust as our brains, composed mainly of neurons. Formerly, it was thought the as adults we already have all the brain cells we will ever have, and the path was only downward as we lose neurons to stress, alcohol and aging. Happily, this bleak picture was changed when neuroscientists discovered that, under certain conditions, even adult brains can grow new neurons, neurogenesis. New neurons refresh and rejuvenate, and lift mood.

The principal area where neurogenesis can take place is in the hippocampus, a dual area deep within the brain. Although small, hippocampal health appears important to memory and brain organization. It can be damaged. Excess alcohol and many drugs can cause it to lose neurons and shrink, resulting in fading memories and depression.

On the other hand, several conditions seem to spur brain growth. Physical exercise is one: rigorous physical activity spurs the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, most probably providing a rejuvenating effect and boosting memory. Physical activity is crucial in keeping old brains young. Your hippocampal health is one of dozens of great reasons to exercise every day of your life.

Certain anti-depressant drugs are also associated with neurogenesis.  Indeed, it is now thought that the depression relieving effects of SRIs- serotonin reuptake inhibitors – might have more to do with neurogenesis than increasing serotonin levels. Some now believe that the depression lifting effects of these drugs are due to new, young brain cells refreshing the hippocampus.

In 1995 it was reported that cannabinoids, too, can spur neurogenesis. Cannabinoids are molecules from three different sources: 1) Our body produces endocannabinoids that activate our endocannabinoid regulatory systems, pricipally anandamide and 2-AG. 2) Phytocannabinoids come from the plant Cannabis Sativa, AKA marijuana. THC is the best known and produces the psychoactive and some of the medicinal effects of cannabis.  3) Cannabinoids can also be synthesized in the lab.

A Canadian research group reported that Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. This research used a synthetic cannabinoid to activate the same CB1 receptors activated by the plant cannabinoid THC. They attributed the anxiety-relieving and depression-lifting effects of long-term treatment were “likely via promotion of hippocampal neurogenesis.”

Another new study has shown that the cannabinoid CBD from cannabis also promotes neurogenesis. Researchers from the Complutense University in Madrid, along with Brazilian researchers found that CBD relieved stress in mice and it did so by increasing neurogenesis in the hippocampus. They concluded, the “anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system.”

CBD, Cannabidiol is an exceedingly interesting molecule, brimming with beneficial health effects. It is one of over 60 cannabinoids produced by the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. Unlike the better known THC, CBD is not psychoactive, although it may modulate the effects of THC. Both cannabinoid molecules interact, in different ways, with our cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The medical potential of CBD has been inadequately studied because of the idiotic illegality of Cannabis Sativa. Even so, the known health effects are impressive: Like THC, CBD is an antioxidant with neuroprotective properties. Like THC, CBD is anti-inflammatory. It relieves pain.  CBD appears to have anti-tumor properties.

So on top of all these medical benefits, CBD may well contribute to neurogenesis, brain rejuvenation and growth! What’s not to like? Well, the DEA does not like these medical benefits and does not allow research on them because it likes the draconian Schedule I – no medical benefits – of cannabis to extend the lucrative war on drugs. This bureaucratic turf battle keeps the DEA in the dough but denies Americans the health-giving, even life-saving benefits of medical cannabis, even non-psychoactive CBD-dominant strains.

Americans should demand access to natural plant molecules such as CBD, along with THC, THCV and dozens of other medical cannabinoids. CBD and these other cannabinoids can help prevent many maladies, can treat dozens of diseases and can provide palliative comfort to the rest.  Along with refreshing and growing our very brains with neurogenesis. If Americans gain their medical freedom with a down-grading of cannabis from ridiculous Schedule I tyranny, the planet’s other six billion people would also gain greater access. Study of this remarkable  plant cannabinoid would blossom world-wide as anti-cannabis doctrine crumbles in the face of huge medical and health benefits.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

DEA tyranny robs personal choice of food and medicine.

In the year 1778 Thomas Jefferson said,

“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take,

their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as the souls who live under tyranny.”

  • Sadly, two centuries after this great patriot’s time, through the misguided drug war legislation of congress, the American people do live under the tyranny of which Jefferson warned. Their US federal government, in the form of the DEA – Drug Enforcement Agency –  has “arbitrarily and capriciously” coerced Americans out of the best of foods and medicines.

FOOD

Hemp seed (and oil from it) may well be nature’s single most nutritious food. Filled with essential fatty acids, with Omega-3s in perfect proportion, hemp seed provides in abundance exactly the nutrients most lacking and needed from modern diets.

With the rapidly increasing visibility of hemp food products, it is sobering to remember that American’s freedom to consume these nutritious foods were outlawed by the DEA until the court order righted this wrong, just eight years ago. The federal police agency claimed that the tiny amount of THC in hemp made it a Schedule I drug.  Americans have had the freedom to choose these astoundingly healthy foods for less than a decade. Even now, ludicrously, the DEA forbids any American farming and production of hemp seeds, all must be imported.

MEDICINE

Were the plant cannabis discovered today, it would be hailed as a major discovery of useful medicine, a cornucopia of new treatments for many of mankind’s afflictions.  Medical cannabis provides a huge array of preventive and curative benefits. Cannabis is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuro-protective.   Americans needing the blindness-preventing effects for glaucoma, the gift of pain relief for neuropathic pain,  and relief from inflammatory diseases have found these and other medical blessings legally in over a dozen US states. If not raided by federal police, dispensaries and medical marijuana providers are pioneering a new open source model for American health care, providing exactly the sort of non-smoked cannabis medication advocated by the 1999 Institute of Medicine report. Very commonly, extremely safe (zero medical deaths) cannabis medications reduce, even replace dangerous and addictive pharmaceutical drugs such as Oxycontin.

Although the DEA’s attempts to deprive Americans from the benefits of hemp foods was squashed by court decision, the DEA still grinds its boot on the neck of medical cannabis. Even in the states where voters expressed their clear desire that they be free to choose cannabis as a medication, the federal designation of Schedule I provide this federal police force all it needs to continue to wage its decade’s long persecution of the plant. The agency’s hard-line approach on cannabis has helped  it to expand wildly in the last 30 years. Eager to spend money and appear tough in the war on drugs, Congress has lavished the DEA massive budget increases every year, with marijuana enforcement being the a major share of the DEA’s pork pie. The hard-line on marijuana enforcement has rewarded DEA agents, US attorneys, prosecutors, police, and prison guards with easy arrests, long careers and lavish pensions.

Since GW Bush nominee and arch medical cannabis foe Michele Leonhart was renominated by President Obama and confirmed unanimously by the senate (retch) to run the DEA, the agency has renewed its attacks. In conjunction with US attorneys and other beneficiaries of the prohibition of marijuana, these federal employees have ramped up major attacks on medical cannabis in the many states where it is protected by state law. The CSA designation of Schedule I gives these federal prosecutors all the cruel legal tools, such as decade’s long mandatory minimums prison terms and property forfeiture it needs to smash these thriving industries and health care services. Although these innovative services have caused no problems and provided major solutions in health care, employment and taxes paid to city and states, they are currently being raided and coerced out of business.

Indeed, if Thomas Jefferson alive today growing his beloved hemp crop at Monticello, screaming squads, arriving in urban tanks, would knock him to the floor and then push him into a cage. For decades. His great estate would be forfeited to seizure by his government. He would be ashamed that federal thugs indeed had stolen from his fellow citizens such basic choices of food, medicine, even which plants to grow in the garden, at pain of penalties inspired by the Inquisition.

At a time when the DEA/US Attorney attacks are effectively dismantling the thriving medical cannabis infrastructure in states with medical exemptions, the freedom of Americans to choose this alternative medication is dying, even though it is favored by a majority. The presidential candidates of both parties and nearly all of congress have no will to change the current aggressive destruction of medical cannabis alternatives by federal police. Indeed, congress is losing many of its few defenders of medical cannabis, including Ron Paul, Barney Frank and Dennis Kucinich.

One small hope for the future of medical cannabis and open-source health care in the USA is an impending challenge of Schedule I status in U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Washington DC . Finally the DEA will have to defends it faulty Schedule I claim in court, against “a mountain of evidence that supports the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine.”

Parkinson’s Disease and the THCV in cannabis.

New British and Spanish research on one of cannabis’ cannabinoids show its great potential for treating Parkinson’s disease. The cannabinoid is the lesser known but hugely interesting THCV, aka Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. The molecule is present to varying decrees in different strains of cannabis, from trace amounts to a hefty proportion.

Unlike your own body’s cannabinoid anandamide, or its phyto(plant based)-cannabinoid cousin, THC, THCV does not activate CB1 receptors in your endocannbinoid regulatory system. Activation of these CB1 receptors, found mainly on nerve cells, is responsible for most of THC’s psychoactive effects and medical benefits. THC also activates CB2 receptors, found more on immune cells and thought responsible for some of cannabis’ beneficial effects on some autoimmune disorders. Like THC, THCV also binds with and activates these CB2 receptors. Like THC, THCV is a powerful antioxidant, capable of sopping up cell-killing free radicals. Unlike THC, THCV does not activate CB1 receptors. Instead, it blocks (serves as an antagonist to) the activation of the CB1 system. It may play a major role in future treatments of cardiometabolic diseases and obesity.

The International Association of Cannabinoid Medicine reported the research as follows:

Parkinson’s disease
Spanish and British researchers investigated the effects of Delta-9-
tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) in an animal model of Parkinson’s
disease
. They concluded that “given its antioxidant properties and
its ability to activate CB2 but to block CB1 receptors, Delta-9-THCV
has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease
progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms.”
(Source: García C, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Feb 16. [in press]).

The fact that the research was British and Spanish, not American, is telling. Americans are not allowed to research cannabis and are denied access to marijuana for research. The pathetic paucity of medical cannabis research in the USA is a literal crime against humanity, a function of politics of prohibition. Americans by the millions suffer untreated pain, blinding glaucoma and immobilizing Parkinson’s disease while all research is denied, decade after decade. Instead of following a science-based assessment (which would demand a rush to research medical cannabis), American science has been held hostage to authoritarian bureaucrats.

Medical cannabis consumers should avoid high fructose corn syrup.

Medical cannabis consumers (and everybody else) should limit high fructose corn syrup. Obesity and metabolic disease menace Americans (and much of the world’s people). Consuming high fructose corn syrup is a risk factor in these degenerative diseases. And it may well be that medical cannabis consumers are at even greater risk.

New research out of Princeton University found that High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. As the title indicates, rats fed water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) got fatter; heavier and had more fatty triglycerides in their blood than those whose water was sweetened with sugar. Even when consuming equal calories, the HFCS rats got fatter. Worse yet, the researchers note, “This increase in body weight with HFCS was accompanied by an increase in adipose fat, notably in the abdominal region, and elevated circulating triglyceride levels.” So in addition to obesity, these last two symptoms characterize Metabolic Syndrome, a dangerous but common medical condition associated with cardiovascular disease.

The Princeton study is only the last to implicate HFCS as a special villain in the ongoing obesity epidemic. Michael Pollan, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma documents how American propensity to grow corn, the Farm Bill, and fuel-based fertilizers produce a river of corn calories from the country’s farmlands. A convenient, profitable and vast market is enabled when the corn calories are converted into HFCS and added to any number of foods, greatly upping the caloric intake of the average person, especially Americans. If, as the Princeton and other research suggests, consuming more HFCS not only just ups calories but also has special properties for causing fat tissue, especially abdominal fat, then it must be minimized in the diet.

Medical marijuana users should closely monitor their own weight and physical condition, and work to avoid over weight and excess fat. Cannabis is known to stimulate appetite, and is very useful against wasting diseases. But that is the opposite problem for most of us. All people living in an obesogenic environment of little physical labor and easy access to calorie dense food are at risk of excess fat. Cannabis consumers might be at extra risk.

A possible problem is that activation of the endocannabinoid receptor system is associated with some negative cardio-metabolic indicators. This receptor system is activated in response to consumption of cannabis, especially by THC. Although many of THC’s actions as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and perhaps anti-tumor properties are welcome, some of its cardio-metabolic effects are more in question. This topic will be covered more in future posts. In any case the medical cannabis user is wise to guard against obesity and abdominal fat.

Specific ways medical cannabis users and anyone else interested in avoiding (or reducing) obesity and metabolic syndrome are:

  • Consume no soft drink calories. Soft drinks sweetened with HFCS are especially damaging, but sugared beverages are chocked with calories. If you drink soft drinks, drink only 0 calorie drinks.
  • Eliminate fast food. Nearly all fast food is filled with extra calories from HFCS.
  • Eat nutrient dense food, especially nuts, fruits and vegetables. Walnuts are incredibly nutritious; so are hemp seeds.
  • Walk at least 10,000 steps per day, measured with a pedometer. Interval training with some faster steps, such as running, is optimal.
  • Don’t sit too much or too long. Activity breaks are essential for your metabolic health.

A Cannabis Productivity Revolution

The liberation of cannabis from repressive laws around the globe will unleash a fountain of true human productivity. New foods, new fuels, new fibers and new medicines will issue forth when people are finally free to explore and expand the gifts of this plant. Americans in particular will be quick to exploit the multiple ways cannabis can serve to amplify human productivity when prohibition ends.

The most basic human needs are air, water and food. Regarding air, most of the physical structure of cannabis and other plants is made up of carbon atoms from carbon dioxide pulled out of the surrounding air. While the plant is consuming carbon from the atmosphere, it is also producing oxygen, each human’s most immediate need. The plant also transpires clean water vapor into the air, moisture that will return to earth as rain.

At its most elemental level, human productivity is about creating or gaining food to feed the family. The cannabis plant makes a stellar addition to humankind’s ability to produce nutritional plant foods. The seeds and oil of Cannabis Sativa are arguably nature’s most perfect foods. Cannabis hemp seeds and oil are filled with precious nutritional gems, including omega-3s, essential fatty acids and essential proteins. Silly regulations bluntly enforced by the DEA prevent fellow citizens from growing these powerhouse foodstuffs on American soil.

Shelled Hemp seed

Shelled Hemp seed

Currently, hemp seed and oil must be imported from China, where it is an ancient food, yet currently consumed each day. More hemp products come from Canada. None are grown in the USA, thanks to the DEA and cannabis’ Schedule I status.

So, let’s get this right, the so-called communist Chinese people have the personal liberty to grow and consume hemp, and to sell it to Americans. But the so-called free Americans are bludgeoned by our own government with long-prison terms and social and financial ruin if we plant this same crop?

Another basic aspect of human productivity is in providing clothing and shelter; people need clothes and they need places to live and to work. Again, hemp fibers from the cannabis plant offer bountiful resources. Hemp textiles are exploding in popularity. Part of their attraction is that cloth from hemp offers great environmental benefits, as compared to cotton.

Hemp textiles and clothing.

Hemp textiles and clothing.

In terms of working and building materials, hemp, of course, amplified the productivity of early Americans by providing them rope, canvass and a host of other materials. Deemed such an important contributor to colonial productivity and prosperity, some colonies required the growing of hemp. Its use declined with the availability of endless forests for wood building materials and with the introduction of oil-base synthetic fibers. With end of exploitative forestry and the passing of cheap oil, hemp fiber again has a great future as a source of construction material, building material and fiber for fabrication.

  • Many building materials incorporating organic material from cannabis sativa are gaining favor.
  • Hemp can be incorporated into fiber board, insulation, and hempcrete, a more natural form of concrete.
  • Productivity with these materials is multiplied. First, they are carbon negative, a crucial consideration in a warming world. Cannabis plant material comprising hempcrete and similar products sequesters carbon away, out of the atmosphere. Such materials may be locally sourced, as hemp can grow nearly anywhere, saving transportation and carbon costs.
  • Paper has been integral to mankind’s productivity ascent, as books and publications allowed idea sharing. But paper, when rendered from the wood of trees, exerts huge environmental costs. Hemp based paper, made from one year-old plants instead of centuries old trees could revolutionize, and clean up, the paper industry. Better paper products for less inputs equals true productivity.

Another aspect of the American economy in vast need of productivity improvements is health care. Huge cost increases in the American system have not resulted in superior health status. Other countries do far more for far less.

Cannabis, again, offers the American health care system a quantum leap from its pharmaceutical-based doldrums. The drug so outlawed by its Schedule I status as having no medical value now demonstrates its overwhelming medical, preventative and palliative benefits. As Americans demand their medical liberty in the coming years, the non-elected bureaucrats in the federal government will not much longer keep from its citizens this medication they demand.

True health care productivity is demonstrated when a patient can dispense with an entire array of debilitating pharmaceutical drugs after finding relief with medical cannabis. This is the actual case for many victims of disease, injury and pain. Relief is attained with far fewer narcotizing opioid drugs when supplemented (or even replaced) by phyto-cannabinoids, pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing, antioxidant molecules from the cannabis plant.

Even now in California, where voters have demanded cannabis medical liberty, health care innovation exploiting the plant is underway. New cannabis strains are being developed to best address the vast array of medical problems treatable with cannabis. Genetic mixtures of phyto-cannabinoids mix cannabinoid molecules such as THC, CBD, and THCV, to better treat different medical conditions. Novel harm-reducing ways of taking cannabis medicine have developed. Smoking has been replaced or supplemented with vaporization along with tinctures, teas, and edibles. The open-source nature of medical cannabis makes its economics exactly the opposite of pharmaceutical drugs it will, in many cases, replace.

Arguably, in a state in desperate need of jobs, innovation and prosperity, the most thriving new industry in California is the cannabis medicine sector.

Harm reduction is a term often associated with drug prohibition and enforcement.  This approach is diametrically opposite the American drug war harm maximization model that uses militarized police, private property forfeiture and decade’s long incarcerations for “crimes” involving nothing but a plant.

Harm minimization can also refer to productivity. Productivity gains made as a result of exploitative activities that cause environmental damage are false. A true productivity gain does not occur if the process of creating the product creates other, larger problems. Productivity is not true if it squanders resources and despoils surroundings. A mine that produces minerals for a few years, then despoils a stream for a century is not a productive resource.

Cannabis and hemp-based foods, fuels, fibers and medications do create opportunities for innovation, propel productivity increase, and gain prosperity in a way that minimizes harm. Every cannabis plant grown sequesters carbon dioxide. It is a local resource, open-source, available to everyone to grow, to innovate, to increase prosperity and to improve health.

The major impediment to these real world solutions are bureaucratic. Cannabis and hemp need to be freed from their dishonest and draconian Schedule I status. The jack-boot of the DEA needs to be removed from the necks of American citizens. Onerous international treaties, those that mandate prohibition of cannabis and its products, need be repudiated.

The planet and its people are in need of productivity and prosperity gains that don’t harm the biosphere. Americans, in this time of economic flux, need be able to explore and to use the huge productive resources of cannabis hemp. Much of this freedom could be attained from the rescheduling, by the President or Attorney General, of cannabis, hemp and cannabinoids from Schedule I to Schedule V.