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.

 

Medical Cannabis Refugees

Americans in dire need of medical cannabis for themselves or their children are being forced to flee to states with humane laws providing access to their medicine. For many people and especially parents, access to medical marijuana is literally a matter of life and death.  marijuana and pillsMost US states still adhere to draconian laws regarding any possession of cannabis and afford medical users no protection. Parents face prosecution, even loss of possession of their children for trying to supply them natural compounds that can save their children’s lives from slow death by seizures, sometimes hundreds a day.

Ironically, the main compound sought by these parents is the CBD or cannabidiol. Unlike psychoactive cannabinoid THC, CBD provides no ‘high,’ the mental state seemingly so feared by nearly all researchers. Nevertheless, CBD is itself classified, as are all cannabinoids from marijuana, as a Schedule I drug, highly dangerous and without medical value. This for a compound with no psychoactivity, nor toxicity that may well turn out to be one of the most significant medicines ever discovered. This is your government on drugs.

Certainly to a growing group of parents and stricken children in states like Colorado, CBD is a momentous medical godsend. As reported by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in his documentary Weed, CBD strains of medical marijuana provide blessed relief from childhood seizures and developmental problems caused by Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), aka Dravet Syndrome. Where mixtures of powerful and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs of every type had failed to stop the seizures, and almost killed their small patients, CBD tinctures provided immediate relief.

Seeing such dramatic improvement for such a heart-breaking condition, parents of children with similar conditions across the country of course became excited about the possibility of providing their infants with relief. But because medical cannabis research has been blocked by the DEA and Schedule I status, these new high-CBD medicines are in short supply, available (and legal) pretty much only in Colorado.

The situation is leading to a medical cannabis refugee movement from states with harsh and cruel laws to states where voter’s have mandated legal exemption for medical use, like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California. The first two states on this list also now allow personal use of cannabis, again voted in by the citizens of Colorado and Washington.

An excellent series in the Salt Lake Tribune documents this process of “Families migrating to Colorado for a medical marijuana miracle.” The article’s author, Kirsten Stewart interviews physician Dr. Margaret Gebbe, who calls the results of CBD in treating these epilepsy disorders as “absolutely remarkable.” Dr. Gebbe is also interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta in his Weed documentary.

Sanjay Gupta reports on a similar movement on an international scale, with his story on a British citizen traveling to the Netherlands for access to his preferred pain treatment, cannabis sativa. He shows Gupta vial after vial of pharmaceutical narcotics he has been prescribed but were ineffective and with mind numbing side effects. Treatment with cannabis is unavailable in England, making this middle age man, bedeviled by pain cross the channel as another medical cannabis refugee.

American states and world countries that recognize the idiocy of cannabis prohibition and the powerful medical potential of cannabis will prosper while providing hugely needed relief and succor to these refugees.

Copyright © 2013 by Don Fitch

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