Look for what are known as “full-spectrum” CBD products. These products contain other compounds of the hemp plant in addition to CBD. It’s believed that the compounds work together to provide the claimed benefits, much as eating an orange is usually a better choice than drinking orange juice. One key exception is if you’re subject to workplace drug testing. A CBD isolate, in which the rest of the plant’s compounds are removed, should reduce the already tiny chance of trace amounts of THC being present.
Further testing found what the world now knows: This compound is the plant’s principal active ingredient, its mind-altering essence—the stuff that makes you high. Mechoulam, along with a colleague, had discovered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). He and his team also elucidated the chemical structure of cannabidiol (CBD), another key ingredient in marijuana, one that has many potential medical uses but no psychoactive effect on humans.
If he had his way, what Mechoulam regards as the often irresponsible silliness of recreational pot culture would give way to an earnest and enthusiastic embrace of cannabis—but only as a medical substance to be strictly regulated and relentlessly researched. “Right now,” he complains, “people don’t know what they’re getting. For it to work in the medical world, it has to be quantitative. If you can’t count it, it’s not science.”
In 2014, for the first time, the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham conducted a study suggesting that cannabinoids affect blood vessels by causing them to relax and widen. By relaxing blood vessels, cannabis presents a natural way to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Because this is the first human study evaluating the efficacy of cannabis in treating conditions of the heart, there is still more research to be done to prove that this is a safe method of treatment.
A wide variety of solvents can be used for extraction, such as chloroform, dichloromethane, petroleum ether, naphtha, benzene, butane, methanol, ethanol, isopropanol, and olive oil. Currently, resinoids are often obtained by extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide. The alcohols extract undesirable water-soluble substances such as chlorophylls and sugars (which can be removed later by washing with water). Non-polar solvents such as benzene, chloroform and petroleum ether will not extract the water-soluble constituents of marijuana or hashish while still producing hash oil. In general, non-polar cannabis extracts taste much better than polar extracts. Alkali washing further improves the odor and taste.
Epidiolex is a type of medical cannabis that has been developed and trialled under licence in the US and UK. The cannabidiol (CBD) therapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of refractory epilepsy for some with Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes, tuberous sclerosis and infantile spasms. The drug is also being evaluated as an add-on therapy for adults with poorly controlled focal seizures. This cannabidiol product contains virtually no THC.
Typically, pharmaceutical companies making cannabis-based medicines have sought to isolate individual compounds from the plant. But Mechoulam strongly suspects that in some cases those chemicals would work much better in concert with other compounds found in marijuana. He calls this the entourage effect, and it’s just one of the many cannabis mysteries that he says require further study.
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