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

THCV: A Marijuana Cannabinoid for Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention?

Fotolia

Fotolia

The cannabis sativa plant, marijuana, produces dozens of cannabinoids. The THC cannabinoid that elicits psychoactivity, and numerous medical benefits, is but one of over 60 phyto (plant-based) cannabinoids found in cannabis. Cannabidiol or CBD, is a second, now under intense study for its anti-inflammatory and other health properties. Another of these phytocannabinoids is  tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV. Cannabis strains favoring this cannabinoid might serve as tools for weight loss and preventing diabetes.

Medical research on cannabinoids has flourished in recent years and most research points to health positive effects of medical cannabis for a wide range of conditions. Cannabis has been found to be neuroprotective, anti-painantioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatoryanti-tumor as well as cardioprotective. One area, though, where research is less positive is in the metabolic effects of cannabinoid receptor activation. Activation of the endocannabinoid regulatory system, an effect of THC and human endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, seemed to correlate with some health-negative metabolic conditions. Conversely, blockage of this activation with synthetic cannabinoid antagonists (e.g. rimonabant) correlated with health positive cardio-metabolic changes. As listed by the European RIO study, some positive changes induced by blocking CB1 receptors include positive changes in body weight, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, adiponectin, fasting insulin and insulin resistance.

Because of these effects on the endocannabinoid system, it has long been assumed that cannabis consumption would tend to cause weight gain. These metabolic effects and enhanced eating because of amplified taste, i.e. “munchie effects” would theoretically make marijuana users ravenous and fat. To the surprise of many, several studies have now found that cannabis users are actually less fat than their abstaining counterparts. As reported here, marijuana users tend to be less obese and less diabetic than non-users.  Their waists were smaller. These real life observations seem to contradict the supposed munchie effect and predicted effects of CB1 activation. Such health positive indication by cannabis users may even be amplified with development of THCV-heavy cannabis weight loss products e.g. edibles for appetite suppression.

For some people eating does often follow use of THC-heavy marijuana.  Indeed, important medical uses of cannabis include treatment of the wasting syndrome and lack of appetite from chemotherapy. But by no means does everyone using cannabis each time become ravenous. Depending on the person, the setting and the cannabis, consuming cannabis is often a prelude to cardiovascular exercise, not gluttonous indolence. As much as taste enjoyment is enhanced by cannabis for some, for others (or for the same people at other times.) the sensory enjoyment of exercise is enhanced. With cannabis, activities like running can hurt less and feels better, even ecstatic. Might a higher THCV-content cannabis both dampen appetite and create an energetic cannabis experience encouraging exercise?

For a short time in 2005 and 2006, it looked this CB1 receptor antagonist, the synthetic cannabinoid rimonabant, might be a powerful anti-obesity drug. Problems arose for this promising weight loss and metabolic drug, though, from its blockage of the endocannabinoid system. Ananadamide and THC are blissful, because they activate this system. Blockage of the system, it seems, is anti-blissful, with feelings of anxiety and depression common. Also worrisome was blockage of the positive health effects of medical cannabis, e.g. glaucoma reduction and pain relief. For example, cannabis is an anti-nausea drug offering immense relief to chemotherapy patients. And indeed, nausea was another of the symptoms bothering those taking this synthetic “anti-marijuana.” Depression and nausea are probably not part of an effective weigh loss program.

After approval in Europe and other countries, rimonabant was rejected by the FDA. It has since lost favor in Europe. An obese world lost a potentially useful weight control product. Could there be other options? As it turns out one of the phyto-cannabinoids from the cannabis plants, THCV, may have potential. Although its interactions with THC, other cannabinoids and the cannabinoid receptor system are complex, recent research found that THCV is a CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist. Seemingly, this would make for “downer cannabis,” blocking the CB1 receptors that THC activate, but that does not seem to be the case. It is possible THCV intensive cannabis might offer the appetite reduction and  and positive cardiometabolic effects of Rimonabant without the negatives of the synthetic drug. This is especially true when the THCV is mixed, with other cannabinoids, as found in cannabis. A cannabis with high THCV and low or moderate THC and CBD might be ideal.

Seminal cannabis researcher and discoverer of THC, Raphael Mechoulam, in British Journal of Pharmacology in 2005, discussed the apparent unique properties and posed several research questions. He notes, as has Scottish researcher Roger G. Pertwee, that THCV content can be very high in hashish from Pakistan. Despite these high levels of the supposed CB1 receptor antagonist THCV, Pakistani hashish has no apparent  “downer” aspect depressing the user. Perhaps this is due to the presence of the other 60 cannabinoids.

THCV’s appetite-reducing and fat loss potential await studies, as do new cannabis cultivars enhancing this cannabinoid. Except, of course, no studies on the medical potential of cannabis are allowed in the USA by the DEA.  Americans, so in need of useful weight loss products, will have to wait until the research is done in places like Israel, Spain and Portugal.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

Your brain on exercise: rewarded with dopamine by cannabinoid receptors.

Lack of enough physical activity is a huge problem in the obesity-plagued modern world. With much of physical activity removed from work and daily life, to be fit and not obese, we have to exercise for extended periods of time, in activities like jogging, fast walking, bike riding and other aerobic exercise. Our willingness to exercise in this way is really a cornerstone of our health, and our society’s health. Probably more than anything single factor, our health care system would benefit from people getting more exercise. New research now reports the crucial role of cannabinoid receptors and our endocannabinoid regulatory system in our motivation to keep moving.

Research out of France, reported in Biological Psychiatry shows how small protein cannabinoid receptors operating in the walls of nerve cells in the  brain reward exercise. This unlocks a key to voluntary exercise, and perhaps ways to promote it.  Also reported in ScienceDaily, the research reported that the endocannabinoid system, especially CB1 receptors in certain parts of the brain, reward our bodies and minds with pleasurable sensations. This research was with mice, not humans, but the physiology and responses are very similar. Lack (or blockage) of these receptors caused a sharp drop in the amount of exercise control mice were willing to do.

For us to continue to exercise, rather than stopping, depends a lot on how we feel. If tired and uncomfortable we might well stop; if exhilarated and “in the zone,” we continue. How we feel during exercise, it turns out, depends much on how much of the feel-good substance, dopamine, our brains produce and receive.  Our dopamine levels, this research shows, are controlled in part by our endocannabinoid systems and CB1 receptors in certain parts of the brain. CB1 receptors are activated by our natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide. They also fit like lock and key and are activated by plant cannabinoids, especially THC, from cannabis.

Dopamine is an organic chemical produced in several areas of the brain. Many brain functions involve dopamine, especially learning, voluntary movement, reward and motivation. We feel higher dopamine levels as enjoyment and are rewarded by the experience, making us want to continue or repeat. Drugs like cocaine increase and prolong dopamine levels. The Bordeaux, France researchers studied dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA) known to play an important role in motivation. By working with mice with CB1 receptors present or absent or blocked, they found marked difference in how much running wheel time the rodents would spend.

The researchers had previously found “that the endogenous stimulation of cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptors is a prerequisite for voluntary running in mice,” but did not understand the mechanisms. In experiments involving “in vivo electrophysiology, the consequences of wheel running on VTA dopamine (DA) neuronal activity” on mice with combinations of CB1 blockage and GABA blockage. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces levels of dopamine produced by other neurons. Cannabinoid receptor activation in GABA neurons inhibits this inhibitory effect on dopamine. This “inhibition of inhibition” results in an increased level of dopamine produced in this motivation area of the brain.

Exercise promotes endocannabinoid activation of CB1 receptors and this activation encourages continued exercise. If we exercise enough to allow them, our bodies reward us for the physical activities that are so good for us.

Not mentioned in this research, the “runner’s high” is likely a function of endocannabinoids, along with the endorphins. For earlier evidence of the runner’s high association with the endocannabinoid system check Runner’s high – your body rewarding exercise.

Protecting the brain with cannabinoid receptor activation.

Cannabinoid receptors, small protein structures in the cell walls of neurons (and other cells) have been shown positive effects in protecting the brain from degeneration. Now, new research out of Bonn, Germany confirms how important CB1 receptors and the activation of these receptors, are to the well-being of our aging brains. Science Daily‘s write up of the research was entitled, Bodyguard for the Brain: Researchers Identify Mechanism That Seems to Protect Brain from Aging. The bodyguard mentioned is none other than the CB1 receptor, which is activated by endocannabinoids such as anandamide and also by the plant cannabinoid, THC.  Activation of the CB1 receptors helped protect the brain from inflammation, memory loss, and learning deficiency. It prevented nerve cell loss in the critical hippocampus structure. These were mouse studies but with strong correlation to human learning, aging, memory and dementia.

Seemingly, this research would have important implications for medical cannabis. One of the main effects of  cannabis and its cannabinoids such as THC is the activation of these CB receptors in the brain. This research would imply that such activation provides a neuroprotective, anti-aging effect.

Another implication would include caution towards the use of CB1 receptor antagonists and/or CB1 receptor inverse agonist. Rimonabant, is just such a compound, acting as a blocker and perhaps inverse activator of CB1 receptors. Five years ago there was great hope that this “anti-marijuana” would make an effective weight loss drug, by causing the “anti-munchies.” But just as cannabis provides a mild uplifting “high,” this drug predictably caused the opposite effect, that is depression. It failed approval by the FDA and was later removed in some European markets for its depressive (and sometimes nauseating) effects. The new German research should spur caution about the possible brain degenerative effects of blocking CB receptors.

Regarding the importance of the identification of the CB1 receptor in brain neuroprotection, one of the lead German researchers noted: “The root cause of aging is one of the secrets of life. This study has begun to open the door to solving this enigma.”

Cannabinoids in glaucoma prevention and treatment.

Glaucoma is a major blinding disease, the second leading cause of loss of sight in the USA. The chief mechanism is excessive pressure inside the eyeball. Treatments focus on reducing this pressure, often through trying to reduce production of the intraocular liquid, aqueous humor, or to increase its drainage

Imagine inflating a basketball to twice its recommended pressure. Not only would it bounce and handle poorly, it would also be in some danger of exploding. In the eye, excess pressure can deform the back of the eyeball where the optic nerve leads deep into the brain. The pressure can cause “cupping,” and with it, irreversible optic nerve damage. The crushing effect causes excitotoxicity in the damaged retinal ganglion cells, and further injury results from this oxidation stress.

The function of cannabinoids in lowering this damaging interocular pressure is well known; the treatment of glaucoma with cannabis is one of the most readily identified medical uses of marijuana.

Now it is clear that the benefits go far beyond this crucial lowering of intraocular pressure. Activation of the endocannabinoid receptor system also now appears to provide robust neuroprotective effects. Not only does cannabis lower eye pressures, it also serves to help protect the visual nerve cells from damage.

Our eyes are well endowed with endocannabinoid receptors of both types, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors have been shown to flourish in  the human anterior eye, where the excess pressure is generated, and the retina, where the damage of glaucoma takes place.

Research, reported in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, found CB1 receptors in all the frontal eye anatomy thought important in controlling IOP (intraocular pressure). These include Schlemm’s canal and “ciliary epithelium, trabecular meshwork, and in the blood vessels of the ciliary body.”  The authors surmised that evidence of CB1 receptors in the “ciliary pigment epithelium suggests that cannabinoids may have an effect on aqueous humor production.”  CB1 presence in the trabecular meshwork and Schlemm’s canal “suggests that cannabinoids may influence conventional outflow.” Evidence of effects on uveoscleral outflow are inferred by CB1in the ciliary muscle.

CB1 receptors are also present on the other (back) end of the eye, the all important retina and its attachment to the optic nerve with retinal ganglion cells. Here, the neuroprotective effects of activation of cannabinoid receptors may prevent and reduce damage caused by high IOP.  Research out of Finland concluded that “at least some cannabinoids may ameliorate optic neuronal damage through suppression of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor hyperexcitability, stimulation of neural microcirculation, and the suppression of both apoptosis and damaging free radical reactions, among other mechanisms.”

Research our of University of Aberdeen, UK remind that not all neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids come from their activation of the endocannabinoid system; cannabinoids are powerful antioxidants in their own right. Writing in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers note that “Classic cannabinoids such as Δ9-THC, HU-211, and CBD have antioxidant properties that are not mediated by the CB1 receptor. As a result, they can prevent neuronal death by scavenging toxic reactive oxygen species produced by overstimulation of receptors for the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamic acid.” The British researchers also note that regarding the CB2 receptor, “The anti-inflammatory properties of CB2 receptor agonists might also prove to be of therapeutic relevance in different forms of inflammatory eye disease.”

Tragically, little of this research has been done in the USA. Even though glaucoma blinds hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, the anti-cannabis bias of the controlling agencies (DEA, NIDA ) has not allowed research with this natural plant substance that can prevent these blindings. They cling to the fiction (and blatant lie) that marijuana has no medical value and disallow all research even while their countrymen and women needlessly lose precious, precious sight.

So strong is this prejudice that even so-called advocacy groups such as the Glaucoma Research Foundation appear uninterested in a natural substance that helps prevent glaucoma. “Information” on medical marijuana at this site appears to have been written by the propaganda officers of the DEA.

Meanwhile, across the globe, research moves forward identifying evermore ways humans can gain health benefits from the cannabis plant. At the forefront are the IOP lowering, optic nerve-protecting effects of THC and other cannabinoids.

Running speed and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Running speed a great indicator of health.

Running speed a great indicator of health.

The key role of cardiovascular exercise in keeping healthy and hearty has been confirmed in a couple of important studies. They point out the amount of time it takes you to run a mile is a great indicator of cardiovascular health and your danger of heart attack and stroke.

Reported in Red Orbit and elsewhere, two studies of this behavioral indicator of cardiovascular health, showed that for middle-aged men, the length of time required to run one mile (1,609 meters) predicted heart attack and stroke better than did blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Faster times predict fewer heart and brain attacks. A 55 year old male who requires 15 minutes to walk/run a mile (only 4 miles per hour) faces a 30% chance of suffering cardiovascular disease. A man of the same age who can run a mile in just 8 minutes (7.5 miles per hour) faces far lower danger of cardiovascular disease, less than 10 percent.

One way to increase running speed is with interval training, brief bursts at higher speed. After warm up jogging, a common interval is one minute slow jogging speed followed by one minute high intensity running, then repeating the sequence up to 10 times. This writer has been experimenting with slow jog/fast walk for 90 seconds, interspersed with 30 seconds high speed. This rhythm seems well suited for a non-punishing work-out made plenty intense with the periods at high speed. These high speed intervals quickly boost heart rate and sweating, both goals of a good conditioning, fat-burning workout.

High levels of physical activity such as running seem to correspond with activation of the endocannabinoid regulatory system, the receptor based system also activated by the THC in cannabis. Indeed, the fabled “runner’s high” might be the result of this system, rather than (or in addition to) to endorphins. More about this in a future post.

Caution: For those poorly conditioned, increasing activity and especially trying to push up maximum speed can present some dangers. A consultation with your (fit) medical practitioner and taking a stress EKG test is a good precaution.

Caution: Being poorly conditioned and not participating in physical activity presents an enormous risk of cardiovascular disease, along with obesity, diabetes and a host of other diseases.

Cinnamon, spices and cannabis for anti-inflammation.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Both the spice, cinnamon and the medicinal herb, cannabis, provide beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. At least some of these healthy effects are from stimulation of the same receptors in your endocannabinoid receptor system.

Although useful and beneficial when protecting the body against bacterial intruders and other perils, inflammation becomes a medical problem if it becomes chronic. Diseases ending in “itis,” such as arthritis and gingivitis are just two of dozens of such maladies, laden with toxic effects to the tissues affected and destructive to the body in general. Indeed, chronic inflammation has become a key medical villain in the degenerative diseases that bedevil modern society. Such inflammation is now seen as a generator of atherosclerosis and is a potent cardiovascular risk factor.

Cinnamon has long been recognized for health-enhancing properties, including providing anti-inflammatory effects. The spice’s component coumarin, in cinnamomum aromaticum thins the blood. Increasingly, cinnamon appears to be very useful in addressing insulin resistance and diabetes.

At least some of the spice’s anti-inflammatory properties come from its another component shared with other spices, beta-caryophyllene. Cloves, black pepper, rosemary, hops and other spices all provide this component of essential oils.

The plant cannabis also provides anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD provide anti-inflammatory effects, but at least some of the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis also come from the plant terpene, beta-caryophyllene.

Research published in 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA, an international team of researchers show that beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. A cannabinoid is a substance that activates (or otherwise modulates) our endocannabinoid receptor system. This newly discovered and ubiquitous system has been shown be be a key regulatory system for many of our body’s functions. Activation of the key components of this system, cannabinoid receptors, has been shown to provide health benefits. These receptors come in at least two types, CB1, found mainly on neurons but also elsewhere and CB2, found mainly on immune cells. Activation of CB1 receptors, primarily by THC, provides cannabis its psychotropic effect.

Activation of CB2 receptors, on the other hand, provokes no psychotropic response but does seem to provide useful modulation of the immune response. CB2 receptors are activated by THC, CBD (cannabidiol) and other cannabinoids, and the terpene beta-caryophyllene. CB2 receptor activation triggers an anti-inflammatory, neuron protecting response. The NSA research concludes it abstract with, “These results identify (E)-BCP (beta-caryophyllene) as a functional nonpsychoactive CB2 receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic antiinflammatory cannabinoid in Cannabis.

As a general anti-inflammatory tactic, consider adding or increasing cinnamon in your diet. Few foods are more nutritious and heart healthy than say, oatmeal flavored with natural cinnamon. Those battling insulin resistance and diabetes might find special benefit. A great move is to replace reduced salt in food with additional beta-caryophyllene bearing spices of several types.

Just be sure to eat your spices, not smoke them.

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.