Medical Marijuana has caused quite a stir in the past few years. From government regulations to amazing patient success stories, it seems like everyone has an opinion about it. But what is it when you get down to it? There are so many different terms thrown around, it’s certainly confusing. Let’s unpack a few things about medical marijuana. What the endocannabinoid system is in our bodies, the different types of CBD, medical marijuana and its various forms and finally what the research shows about marijuana and Multiple Sclerosis.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a complex system in our bodies that is meant to keep our bodies in homeostasis at all times. Or another way of looking at it is the endocannabinoid system works to keep our bodies perfectly regulated. It does this by regulating key aspects of our biology like, our appetite, metabolism, pain sensations, sleep, mood, movement, temperature, immune function, inflammation, memory, cardiovascular function, digestion and reproduction. Along with these basic functions, the endocannabinoid system also acts in response to illness. Within the ECS there are three major components; Cannabinoid Receptors, Endocannabinoids and Metabolic Enzymes. Each of these three components play a different role in the regulatory process. Cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of cells. Endocannabinoids are the small molecules that activate the Cannabinoid Receptors. Metabolic Enzymes are substances that break down the Endocannabinoids after they are no longer needed and have been used.
Cannabinoid Receptors sit on the outside surface of the cell and observe the conditions. They send information about changes in conditions to the inside of the cell, which will initiate the appropriate cellular response. The most well known and highly studied cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. CB 1 receptors are mostly found in the brain and spinal cord and are concentrated in areas of the brain correlated with the specific behavior they influence. CB2 Receptors are mostly found in the peripheral nervous system and are highly concentrated in immune cells. When they are activated they work to reduce inflammation. I found conflicting reports about THC binding to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but the majority of my sources state that THC will bind to both. However, CBD does not bind directly to Cannabinoid Receptors.
There are two major Endocannabinoids scientist know of; 2-AG and Anandamide. Anandamide was The first to be discovered in 1992, and shortly thereafter in 1995 scientist discovered 2-AG. Anandamide is found throughout the body and 2-AG is found in the brain. Both Endocannabinoids are able to bind to either receptor (CB1 or CB2), but they differ in their ability to activate each receptor. Both Endocannabinoids are made on demand, which means they are made and used when needed rather than ahead of time and stored like many other molecules in the body. There are other Endocannabinoids currently being studied, but there are specific roles in the body are not fully understood.
Metabolic enzymes are responsible for destroying Endocannabinoids once they are used. The enzyme FAAH breaks down Anandamide and MAGL breaks down 2-AG. these enzymes make sure that the specific Endocannabinoids are not used longer than they need to be. This is a very different from other signals in the body which can continue for longer then they are needed or stored for later. These three components of the ECS help to keep the body in homeostasis and because of this, they are found in all parts of the body. Currently there are only two ways of targeting the ECS from an outside source: medical marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids. Both THC and CBD, the active compounds found in medical marijuana, are what create the therapeutic effects and they do so by interacting with the ECS. Synthetic cannabinoids are created to copy the activity of existing cannabinoids and therefore can be specifically targeted to treat certain symptoms. For example, there are several synthetic cannabinoids that have been created to treat nausea in patients with cancer as well as several that have been created for advanced pain management in chronic pain disorder‘s.
Now that we have gone over how CBD and THC are used in the body, let’s discuss the differences between the different types and forms of each. And more importantly, how the plant they originate from can change their potency and medicinal uses. First, let’s define both CBD and THC. CBD is short for Cannabidiol, and it accounts for up to 40% of the marijuana plants extract and usually has a down regulating effect on the body. THC, otherwise known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. In the United States, it is listed as a schedule one drug, along side Heroin, MDMA and Fentanyl (!!!). A rant for another day. Both are several of 113 active cannibionoids found in cannibis.
The hemp plant has been grown for many years for its fibers. From its fibers, you can make clothing, paper and other goods. But you can also make CBD oil. CBD oil that is derived from the hemp plant is legal in all 50 states. It comes from the stocks and leaves of the plant and it takes many more hemp plants to get the same amount of CBD that you get from cannabis plants. There seems to be a debate about the efficacy of hemp CBD. Most sources say it is not as effective as CBD derived from cannibis, and after my research I tend to agree. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective at all. When choosing a hemp CBD product, sourcing and ingredients need to be taken into account. When laboratory testing was done, it was shown that many companies had fillers and little CBD in their products. As with many other things, do your research!
CBD oil from cannabis is a slightly different animal. CBD works best when combined with other cannabinoids, like THC, and CBD from hemp does not contain enough THC (only .3%) to have those therapeutic effects. When CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD and THC are present and can work together to alleviate symptoms. Obtaining CBD from the cannabis plant takes fewer plants, and therefore has a higher potency than hemp CBD.
Cannabis oil is virtually the same as CBD oil from the cannabis plant, but the THC content is much higher. In some cases ranging from 50-80% THC. It is made from very high potency THC marijuana strains and often has multiple cannabionoids present.
The main differences between CBD oil and general medical marijuana are how it is ingested and the ratio of the specific cannabinoids. The benefits of medical marijuana are still the same and include pain management, decreases in nausea, seizures, spasticity, anxiety, depression, PTSD and others. Depending on the strain, or specific type of plant, the ratio of CBD and THC can vary greatly. Medical marijuana can also be ingested in a variety of different ways. The flower can be smoked which is what people usually think of when they think of marijuana, it can be “vaped” where the oil is heated and inhaled, or the oil can be made into edibles (cookies, gummies, etc.), or it can be made into tinctures.
Currently there is limited research going on for medical marijuana and its uses. Due to the legality issues at the federal level, only certain universities have permission to study marijuana and its effects. Because marijuana is a plant, it is not able to be patented (the government holds a patent on CBD specifically, but that’s a rant for another day). This is a consideration for pharmaceutical companies as there is no direct monetary benefit for them to be studying marijuana. However, the research that has been done is very promising and has shown incredible results with many illnesses.
Marijuana has been known to be highly useful for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. It has shown to reduce neuropathic pain, reduce muscle spasms and spasticity and improve sleep quality. CBD is a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and also a strong neuroprotective agent as well. It is most useful when taken consistently. It isn’t necessarily an immediate fix, but rather something that helps overtime. Many individuals who start taking marijuana noticed improvements in their quality of life that are quite drastic.
In the past year, a new medication has been introduced to treat spasticity and pain. It is not yet approved in the US, but it is approved in several other countries. Sativex is a nasal spray that includes a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. The results of the studies have been promising so far.
35 states have made medical marijuana legal, including:
Currently there are 8 other states that are working toward legalization for medical marijuana: Indiana Iowa Kentucky Missouri Nebraska North Carolina Oklahoma and South Carolina. Each state has a different process for obtaining a medical marijuana license. If this is something you’re interested in, there is plenty of information online available about how to obtain your medical marijuana license.
When you google CBD, an obnoxious amount of products pop up. Yes, its moving in the right direction, but many are not worth it. A few tips on finding a great CBD oil.
Ok so. I’ve done a little bit of research on my own for CBD products. Both for myself and several loved ones who are going through some tough shit and need some relief. I’m going to share a few brands I’ve come across that I have found to be reputable, but please, do your own research. You will have your own set of symptoms and considerations. What might be good for me or my fam, might not jive with you. Kapeesh?
Charlotte’s Web– The story behind this company is amazing, if you’re not familiar with it, please read it here. I, among others, consider Charlotte’s Web to be the top in the CBD industry.
Plus CBD– This is the first brand I purchased for family members to help control cancer pain. It was tolerated well and helped!
Green Roads– I don’t have personal experience with this brand, but it was in the final few when I was deciding what to get a while back.
These are only a few of the many brands out there that are reputable, I’m sure. But there are MANY that are not. I urge you again, if you’re going to head down the CBD path, please check out the brand, read patient reviews, read about their sourcing and quality testing they complete. Medical Marijuana is a controversial topic, but can be a game changing treatment for many individuals, including those with Multiple Sclerosis. Current research is promising and new things are being discovered all the time. Are you someone who has benefitted from CBD oil or medical marijuana? I’m curious to hear your story! Let me know in the comments!