Keeping It Together: Cannabinoid Receptors Found In Connective Tissue Regions

Cannabinoid receptors are known to be located all throughout the body. Although most abundant in the central and peripheral nervous system and in immune system cells, cannabinoid receptors are also thought to reside in other types of tissues. However, due to the number of possible locations and the number of experiments necessary to establish localization of those receptors, new areas are still being discovered more than two decades after the discovery of the receptors themselves. Why do we care? If we are interested in the medicinal effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, research focusing on the actual effects of cannabinoids and inhibitors may seem more to the point. Regardless of the localization of the receptors, the bottom line is whether the endocannabinoid system can or cannot be a pharmaceutical target for a given medical condition. This assumes that we already know the conditions we are seeking to cure or treat. Building a functional map of the distribution of receptors throughout the body, while time and labor-intensive, will also likely reveal new conditions that may be associated or even be a direct result of endocannabinoid system operation. This year, a research group from the University of Padua in Italy decided to use samples of myofascial tissue to test for the presence of endocannabinoid receptors. Myofascial tissue is essentially an organic mesh of collagen that has a great strength while at the same time is highly flexible. This type of tissue is employed all throughout the body to keep organs compartmentalized as well…

Is Inhaling Cannabis Bad for You?

As it stands, cannabis has proven beneficial to one's health in too many ways to list. The cannabinoids contained in cannabis exert their myriad of health effects in particularly gentle ways, and unlike most other pharmaceuticals, cannabis appears to have no toxic limit in healthy adults. Even so, frequent consumers of cannabis may wonder: is inhaling the smoke of anything, even cannabis, good for my lungs? Am I causing long-term damage similar to smoking cigarettes? The short answer: yes, you should avoid inhaling smoke or any burning material as much as possible. The lungs were not made to filter smoke continuously or really at all. For this reason, previous articles on the blog have discussed vaporizers and the importance of using non-combustive methods of consumption (edibles anyone?). Vaporizers not only improve taste of cannabis, but also virtually eliminate damage caused by smoking. Furthermore, vaporizers are generally able to glean a greater medicinal effect from a smaller amount of cannabis. Frequent users should find the financial investment a no-brainer. However, clever readers may also wonder: aside from the physical reality of inhaling burning material, what effects do cannabinoids actually have on the lungs? As it happens, cannabinoid research points to an overwhelmingly positive relationship between cannabinoids and lung health. In fact, while we are generally cautious of making strong statements, this is one area where we can be reasonably certain that the long-term effect of cannabis consumption is positive, at least from the properties inherent in cannabinoids themselves. A September article…

The Endocannabinoid System and Reproductive Health

Evolutionarily speaking, if the endocannabinoid system of receptors and ligands were not critical to human life, it would have disappeared early in the course of human development. If the system is not necessary, humans and mammals that genetically mutated to lack endocannabinoid receptors would have existed, and in fact, would have had better luck as a result of not wasting energy. Although we tend to forget, the body consumes energy by building receptors, producing enzymes, and creating natural endocannabinoids. This energy might otherwise be used for important functions such as repairing muscle or fortifying the immune system. Of course, a clever reader may ask, “What about the appendix? If what you’re saying is true, why hasn’t that disappeared?” Although the appendix no longer serves a function, it did at one point during human development. The appendix is like an old bridge that was once critical and is now unused. It is entirely possible that the endocannabinoid system once played a greater function, however, we’ve already confirmed multiple current functions and our understanding of its importance continues to grow. This month, we’re taking a look at the various ways in which the endocannabinoid system affects the human reproductive system. In the past, we’ve covered the interaction with estrogen and the female reproductive cycle. However, lately we’ve learned that sperm motility and production is associated with the endocannabinoid system as well. In the first area of interaction, cannabinoids affect hypothalamic-pituitary control of reproduction in the brain. In normal sex hormone production, gonadotropin-releasing-hormone…

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment: Finding New Roads

Opioids/opiates have provided significant and sometimes life-saving relief to countless patients. They remain some of the strongest painkillers available and can be especially helpful in rendering comfort in otherwise extremely painful terminal illnesses. Opioids work by activating opioid receptors located in the brain, which are densely located in emotion-controlling areas that process pain. Unfortunately, prolonged or extreme use of opioids can lead to dependence, or the body adjusting by limiting natural opioid production and therefore resulting in the body physiologically needing increasing amounts of external opioids to function properly. However, aside from practical issues, high doses of opioids can lead to respiratory failure, death, and other serious health consequences, which means that for all but terminally ill users, opioid withdrawal will eventually occur. Withdrawal is not only unpleasant physically and psychologically (depression, lack of appetite, diarrhea), but potentially life-threatening. In fact, withdrawal is so severe that it can sometimes prevent patients from ending opiate use, causing a downward spiral. As a result, modern doctors are cautious to prescribe opioids and usually seek to wean patients off opioids through slowly decreasing prescriptions. Perhaps more concerning though, aside from medical patients, roughly 4.3 million people in the US alone are currently non-medical users of narcotic pain relievers. Drugs like heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc. are all opiate-based drugs that are frequently abused for the recreational high. Meanwhile, even drugs intended to wean opiate use, such as buprenorphine, are commonly sold and traded. To date, only compounds that directly activate opioid receptors have been…

Debunking Reefer Madness “Science”

Most of the Cornerstone blog articles we post are about the future and pending medical advances. However, today, we will instead take a quick look at the present, specifically at the national conversation around medical cannabis. As more states continue to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, the bulk of conversation centers on how to navigate this collective policy change to produce the greatest good and smallest harm for society as a whole. However, while 2016 has certainly been an outstanding year for medical cannabis and cannabinoid research, reefer madness is still alive and well, and opposition remains strong. For exhibit A, the report that is setting the internet abuzz, the University of Western Australia published a press release linking cannabis use to gene mutation. To quote the article: “‘Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,’ Associate Professor Stuart Reece said.” As if this isn’t scary enough, the article then suggests that these mutations are passed to offspring. Yikes. Following this line of thought, by consuming cannabis, individuals may inadvertently be giving their children cancer! Fortunately, cannabis science luminary Ethan Russo stepped in to clarify and debunk the report. In an interview for the East Bay Express, Ethan noted, “This report is based on a foundation of falsehoods. Cannabis is not mutagenic (productive of mutations in DNA)…Countless animal studies and human epidemiological studies support its relative safety in this regard.” Despite…

Is Cannabis Addictive?

One of the early concerns that dominated the medical cannabis discussion was over both the addictive potential and long-term effects of cannabis. For decades, it has generally been understood by the medical community that cannabis is not physically addictive but can be psychologically addictive. To differentiate, individuals addicted to alcohol cannot suddenly end consumption without risk of death or serious health consequences, because their bodies have learned to literally need alcohol. In contrast, even a frequent cannabis consumer can end consumption immediately without serious health risk. However, this transition might be severely uncomfortable due to the psychological dependence of cannabis use. Some anti-cannabis advocates and researchers alike have pushed for the notion that this dependence is life-long. Researchers from Geneva, Switzerland recently pressed one step forward to directly answer this question by observing changes in brain chemistry during and after chronic cannabis use. To back up, what is addiction and what causes addiction? As researchers note, “the addictive effects of virtually all drugs…are thought to be mediated through activation of mesolimbic dopamine projections to the nucleus accumbens.” Essentially, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is activated to a greater degree than normal, causing an increased interaction with the part of the brain that deals with decision making, risk, and reward. Dopamine is responsible for a multitude of signaling tasks, but perhaps the most known and most important job is signaling reward. When a user consumes a drug, dopamine is released in the brain, essentially rewarding the user for consuming the drug and teaching…

Emerging Neuroprotective Agents from Cannabinoids

Every component of the body is inherently related. When one organ fails or declines in health, another organ will follow. Liver failure, for instance, poses a dire health risk on it’s own. However, beyond the immediate, life-threatening aspects of toxins not being filtered out of the blood, damage to the brain is another physiological consequence. Toxins cause free radicals to build up, which leads to cell stress and eventual neuron death. This cellular damage translates into loss of memory, general confusion, and cognitive damage, which poses a serious impairment to quality of life. Unfortunately, liver issues cannot always be immediately solved, if they can be solved at all. In the meantime, this condition, called Hepatic Encephalopathy, should at least be minimized or ideally entirely prevented, to ensure patients mental health. Scientists have been searching for neuroprotective agents, or drugs that might enable cells to avoid damage caused by buildup of free radicals. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a known neuroprotector, meaning that the application of CBD decreases the amount of cell damage and death brought on by toxins. Researchers do not currently understand exactly how these neuroprotective effects are achieved. However, we do know that the normal cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are not involved. When receptor antagonists are applied, and those receptors are shut off, neuroprotective effects are still observed. Case closed, right? Why not use CBD as a neuroprotective medicine for serious health situations such as Hepatic Encephalopathy? This may indeed be one of the best options in present day,…

Sourcing CBD

Have you ever wondered where concentrated CBD comes from? In the United States, industrial hemp is now permitted under special circumstances, thanks to a 2014 U.S. Farm Bill which approves special grow programs. States like California and Colorado offer a legal pathway to growing smaller batches of medical cannabis for CBD production. CBD can also be legally produced synthetically without the plant at all with appropriate DEA approval. All three of these pathways represent avenues for legal CBD production in the United States. Assuming that the goal is to produce 100% pure CBD, these methods are all equivalent; the source has no impact. However, when CBD is initially extracted from a whole plant, terpenes and cannabinoids are extracted alongside and remain in the product. The greater the quality of the source plant, the greater and richer these terpenes and cannabinoids are, whereas synthetic CBD contains no additional molecules. Due to current cannabinoid research indicating the likelihood of synergistic effects of cannabinoids, we at Cornerstone feel that whole plant, high quality cannabis preparations of CBD are likely more effective medical solutions than pure or synthetic CBD. If it were purely medicinal cannabis advocates arguing for the effectiveness of whole-plant derived CBD preparations, we might simply dismiss this notion as financial bias. Of course medical cannabis dispensaries have incentive to advocate for medical cannabis-based products! Of course we’d rather see the CBD market in the hands of local providers vs. industrial giants. That is our bias. However, ultimately the conversation about the…

Real Life Cannabinoid Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

As a blog concerned with new developments in cannabinoid science, we tend to do a lot of writing about future treatments, or new scientific developments that may eventually lead to treatments. Part of the issue is that large-scale, clinical testing of new cannabinoid based medicine is still years away in a lot of areas, particularly in cancer-related fields. That’s why reading a good, new large-scale study is always exhilarating. In this case, a recent study from the University of Bari in Italy took a look at a large scale, real-world application of a THC/CBD oral spray in treating adults with treatment-resistant Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In the past, we’ve written about treating MS models via lab mice with THC and CBD, and also the theory behind that treatment. So being able to finally see how things play out in real life with real patients is particularly rewarding for us and is yet another confirmation of the efficacy of cannabis based treatments. To review, MS is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system is confused into turning against the body and attacking cells. In particular, MS is caused by the immune system stripping neurons of their outer protective linings, which normally prevent “signals” from being crossed or lost in the brain, both for conscious and unconscious tasks. This stripping eventually results in loss of physical mobility and function and can prevent patients from fulfilling active, healthy lives. Spasticity, which affects about 2/3rds of patients, is particularly problematic. Unfortunately, at this…

Retinal Health and Cannabis- “Seeing” the Difference

Glaucoma was one of the first applications identified for medical cannabis treatment and remains one of the most common medical reasons for prescription. Why? In the 1970’s initial slew of cannabis-centric research, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a finding that individuals who smoked cannabis experienced lower intra-ocular (inner-eye) pressure. This was one of the first significant physiological findings regarding the effect of smoking cannabis. However, more importantly, it seemed to be an answer to glaucoma, a disease in which excess fluid builds up in the eye, causing higher pressure and cell damage. As a result, the study was duplicated often, and the results upheld the initial conclusion that cannabis could be an effective solution. Unfortunately, cannabis research waned in popularity. Once cannabis was culturally cast in the same category as other recreational drugs, the idea that it would ever be prescribed legally for glaucoma lost traction. Fortunately, years later, as we experience a renaissance in both cannabis prescription and cannabis research, a new interest has arisen in the way the endocannabinoid system might be manipulated to treat retinal disease. The endocannabinoid system, as some readers may be familiar with, is the system of cannabinoid receptors, natural cannabinoids that bind to them, and all the enzymes facilitating that process that are found in humans and most mammals. Recently we’ve learned that cannabinoid receptors are more complex than we imagined. Aside from cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, vanilloid receptors (an entirely different chemical system), and orphan GPR-55 receptors are…