A sketchy outline of the cannabis genome already exists, but it’s highly fragmented, scattered into about 60,000 pieces. Kane’s ambitious goal, which will take many years to achieve, is to assemble those fragments in the right order. “The analogy I use is, we have 60,000 pages of what promises to be an excellent book, but they’re strewn all over the floor,” he says. “We have no idea yet how those pages fit together to make a good story.”
A survey led by the McGill University Health Centre in Canada revealed that cannabis use results in an improvement in non-cancer pain, sleep, and the mood patterns. In the same survey, it also revealed that ‘high’ and dry mouth were the most commonly reported side effects. People who suffer from cancer also turn to cannabis-related options, including therapeutic grade CBD oil, when the pain of chemotherapy or the disease itself becomes unbearable.
CBD interacts with the body through the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) or endocannabinoid system. First discovered in the late 1980’s, the endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s homeostasis, or general state of balance, impacting such functions as mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, and pain and immune response. Like an acrobat on a highwire, as the environment around us impacts our normal balance, the endocannabinoid system “corrects” by mediating our body’s reaction to keep us level.
Studies suggest one of the effects of cannabis oil could aid patients with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The THC and CBD chemicals interact with the body’s cells, which plays an important role in immune responses and gut functions. The THC-like compounds that the body produce increase the permeability of the intestines, which allows bacteria in. The cannabinoids from cannabis oil block these body-made cannabinoids helping to prevent the permeability and ensuring the intestinal cells have a tightened bond.
“It can affect everything from emotion to pain to appetite to energy metabolism to brain function to even the immune system and inflammation,” says Hector Lopez, M.D., a consultant to PlusCBD Oil, one of the top-selling brands. “When you have a system that cross talks with all those pathways, then there are very few things the endocannabinoid system does not influence.”
No, hemp oil is not the same as cannabis oil. All-natural hemp oil is obtained by cold pressing of hemp seeds whereas cannabis oil is obtained by separating the resins from cannabis flowers. Their uses and chemical composition are quite different. Cannabis oil is much higher in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content, which has certain effects, whereas hemp oil tends to be higher in CBD (cannabidiol) levels.
Medical reviews published in 2017 and 2018 incorporating numerous clinical trials concluded that cannabidiol is an effective treatment for certain types of childhood epilepsy. An orally administered cannabidiol solution (brand name Epidiolex) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in June 2018 as a treatment for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
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Kane fingers one of his innocuous-looking plants, expressing mild bemusement at the U.S. ban on commercial hemp cultivation. “Hemp produces fibers of unparalleled quality,” he notes. “It’s a tremendously high biomass crop that replenishes the soil and doesn’t require much in terms of inputs. We import tons and tons of hemp each year from China and even Canada, yet as a matter of federal policy, we can’t legally grow it. There are places where farmers in the U.S. can literally look across the Canadian border and see fields that are yielding huge profits.”
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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