High hopes for cannabis as a powerful medicine


Get ready to explore the exciting potential of cannabis as a powerful medicine. From treating illnesses like depression and addiction to arthritis and epilepsy, marijuana is showing promise as a therapeutic option. Meet Callie Seaman, who turned to cannabis at 16 to control her epilepsy when traditional medications were no longer effective. Now, with access to quality-controlled cannabis compounds, she hasn’t had a seizure in two years. However, there is still much to learn about how cannabis works and how it can be used safely and effectively. European scientists are leading the way in research, aiming to unlock the full potential of cannabis as a medicine. One such project, CANNABODIES, is examining how cannabis compounds, specifically CBD and THC, influence our perception of pain, sleep, and more. Meanwhile, the CBDHIGHBIO project is focused on improving the absorption and bioavailability of CBD, making it more effective and accessible for users. With these innovative research initiatives, the hope for cannabis as a potent medicine continues to grow.

High hopes for cannabis as a potent medicine
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Cannabis as a powerful Medicine

Marijuana shows promise in treating a wide range of illnesses, from depression and addiction to arthritis and epilepsy. For individuals like Callie Seaman, who has epilepsy, cannabis has been a life-changing medicine. She started using cannabis at the age of 16 to control her seizures, and it has significantly improved her quality of life. However, back in 1997, when she first started using cannabis, it was still illegal throughout Europe for both medical and recreational use.

Fortunately, there have been reassuring changes in recent years. Seaman now has access to quality-controlled cannabis medication, containing predictable amounts of active ingredients, through a prescription. This gives her peace of mind, knowing that the medicine she is taking is regulated and safe. Since starting her cannabis treatment, she hasn’t had a seizure for two years. This improvement has potentially saved her life, as epilepsy can be life-threatening.

Despite the positive impact of cannabis as medicine, there is still much that researchers don’t fully understand about how it works. It is crucial to gain a better understanding of cannabis to maximize its potential as a medical treatment and minimize potential harm from recreational use. According to Micah Allen, a professor at the Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Aarhus University in Denmark, there is a need to understand cannabis better and find ways to use it in medicine effectively.

Laws regarding cannabis are continuously changing, with some European countries legalizing one of its active ingredients, cannabidiol (CBD), for medical use. However, cannabis for personal use is generally still illegal in most countries, even though medical marijuana is becoming more accessible. European scientists are dedicated to harnessing the health-giving properties of cannabis compounds to develop effective treatments for various conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction, chronic pain, inflammatory diseases, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Key Compounds in Cannabis

Cannabinoids, a group of over 100 compounds produced by the cannabis plant, are at the forefront of medical interest. Two key cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both CBD and THC can influence the release of chemical messengers in the brain that affect pain, mood, sleep, and memory. The crucial difference, however, is that THC induces a euphoric high, while CBD does not. THC’s potential for misuse and abuse makes it important to understand the effects of cannabinoids on the human body.

Cannabinoids do not cure diseases but instead work by altering how symptoms register on a conscious level. By modulating the nervous system, these compounds can change a person’s perception of pain, emotional response to stress, and even motivation. However, the exact mechanisms of how cannabinoids affect the brain and body are still not fully understood due to limited studies conducted primarily on animals. This knowledge gap limits the ability to develop effective cannabinoid-based treatments.

CANNABODIES Research Project

To bridge the knowledge gap, researchers are undertaking the CANNABODIES project, which received funding from the European Union. Led by Micah Allen, the five-year research project aims to investigate how cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, impact interoception. Interoception refers to an individual’s perception of the internal state of their body and how it influences decision-making. Disruptions in interoception are common in various psychiatric disorders, making it a valuable area of investigation.

CANNABODIES will use brain imaging techniques, such as MRI scanning, to observe the neural pathways activated when individuals ingest CBD, THC, or a placebo. Participants will perform tasks while inside the MRI scanner, allowing researchers to understand how cannabinoids influence interoception. By uncovering the effects of cannabinoids on interoception, this research can contribute to the development of safe, effective, and personalized treatments based on CBD or THC.

Brain Activity and Cannabinoids

Understanding how cannabinoids affect brain activity is crucial for developing targeted treatments. Through the use of MRI scanning and task-based experiments, researchers aim to identify the specific neural pathways that are activated or influenced by cannabinoids. By analyzing brain activity, researchers can gain insights into the mechanisms behind the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids and potentially refine treatment approaches.

To conduct this research, participants will undergo MRI scanning while performing tasks involving simple challenges like squeezing a handheld device or responding to visual stimuli. By measuring factors such as response speed, accuracy, willingness to exert extra effort, and perception of discomfort, researchers can assess the impact of cannabinoids on these cognitive and sensory processes. The findings from this research will contribute to a deeper understanding of how cannabinoids interact with the brain and inform the development of novel treatments.

Improving CBD Bioavailability

High hopes for cannabis as a potent medicine
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While CBD is widely marketed as a potent treatment for various ailments, there is a significant challenge when it comes to bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a substance, in this case, CBD, that enters the circulation and becomes available to the body after ingestion. Currently, only a small amount of CBD, as low as 6%, enters the circulation after ingestion, limiting its effectiveness.

Researchers at the University of Minho in Portugal are working on a two-year project called CBDHIGHBIO to understand the metabolic processes that determine CBD’s bioavailability. There is variability in how individuals absorb CBD, but the reasons behind this are poorly understood. By studying factors such as the individual’s diet and other substances ingested alongside CBD, researchers hope to shed light on how to improve CBD’s absorption.

One approach being explored is pairing CBD with long-chain fatty acids during delivery, which diverts the absorption route and prevents CBD from being metabolized by the liver. Another avenue of investigation involves combining CBD with piperine, a compound derived from black pepper known for its bioenhancing properties. By finding ways to enhance CBD absorption, researchers aim to create more potent cannabinoid edibles that are more effective and pleasant to ingest.

Absorption of CBD

Several factors affect the absorption of CBD in the body. The method of administration, such as oral ingestion or inhalation, can impact the bioavailability of CBD. Additionally, the presence of other substances, such as fatty acids or piperine, can play a role in CBD absorption. Understanding these factors is crucial for optimizing CBD delivery and improving its effectiveness as a medical treatment.

Pairing CBD with fatty acids can enhance absorption because cannabinoids are lipophilic, meaning they dissolve in fats. By combining CBD with fatty acids, researchers hypothesize that the absorption efficiency of CBD will increase, leading to higher bioavailability in the body. This approach has the potential to revolutionize CBD delivery methods and improve patient outcomes.

High hopes for cannabis as a potent medicine
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Enhancing CBD Absorption

In the CBDHIGHBIO project, researchers are using piperine, a compound derived from black pepper, as a bioenhancer to boost the absorption of CBD. Piperine has been shown to increase the bioavailability of other substances when combined, making it a promising candidate for improving CBD absorption. By harnessing the bioenhancing properties of piperine, researchers aim to create more potent CBD-infused products, such as edibles, that require smaller doses to achieve the desired therapeutic effects.

The goal is to develop cannabinoid edibles that are not only more potent than current products but also more affordable and palatable for consumers. The CBDHIGHBIO project aims to optimize the absorption of CBD in the body, allowing patients to experience the full benefits of CBD with lower doses. Through innovative formulations and delivery methods, researchers hope to revolutionize the field of cannabis medicine.

Future of Cannabis Medicine

With ongoing research and advancements, there is significant potential for cannabis medicine to become even more effective in treating various conditions. The EU-funded projects, such as CANNABODIES and CBDHIGHBIO, are paving the way for a better understanding of cannabinoids and their therapeutic applications. By studying the effects of cannabinoids on interoception, brain activity, and absorption, researchers are uncovering new insights that can inform the development of personalized treatments.

The future of cannabis medicine holds promise for more effective and targeted treatments, addressing a wide range of health conditions. As laws regarding cannabis continue to evolve, it is essential for researchers, policymakers, and healthcare professionals to work together to ensure safe and regulated access to cannabis-based medicine. With ongoing research and innovation, the potential for harnessing the health-giving properties of cannabis compounds is within reach.



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