Waking Up with CBD

In the last two articles, we’ve discussed the role in which THC and the CB1 cannabinoid receptors present in your body can extend sleep and solve certain sleep disorders. You may have noticed that so far the discussion of CBD has been absent. That is because CBD is thought to have virtually the opposite effect of THC, in that it is thought to increase wakefulness. Although some conditions only require medication at night, many conditions benefit from dosing throughout the day, such as chronic pain and neurological imbalances. As a result, Cornerstone members often pose the question of which strain to medicate with in situations where they need to feel alert and awake. For this reason, discovering the exact effect of CBD is important to the future of medical cannabis. Unfortunately, at this point in time, the evidence is not quite as resounding as that of THC and sleep, and while the basic hypothesis that CBD increases wakefulness has been supported numerous times, the issue has not been fully proved from a scientific standpoint. Today, we’ll dive in to a series of reports on CBD in regards to sleep and wakefulness. These come courtesy of the University of Campeche and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, which teamed with well-known Israeli cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam. In the first study, researchers began by implanting EEG monitors in the brains of rodents. These allowed them to use electrical signals to know what phases of sleep rodents were in, as well as make…

Getting to Sleep with Cannabis Part II: PTSD

Imagine having to re-live the worst moment of your life every time you sleep. Imagine that rather than being able to rest, you’re forced to experience that moment in slow motion over and over, feeling horribly trapped in a world you did not ask to be in. For some individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this is literally the situation they face. In the last article about cannabis and sleep, one of the major points we hoped to communicate is that sleep disorders are caused by a variety of reasons, each with its own special set of circumstances. Individuals with sleep disorders resulting from PTSD comprise one of those sub-groups and can be one of the hardest groups to treat. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, PTSD can be thought of as the brain’s attempt to help itself or to protect the individual from further harm. After experiencing something deeply disturbing and traumatic, the brain becomes overly focused on the event, constantly re-hashing, re-living, and re-dicing the situation as if it were to glean some special knowledge or produce some behavior that will prevent the event from ever happening again. Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works. Sometimes terrible things happen for no reason at all. While fully processing serious events is important and necessary in the short term, true long-term healing means the ability to leave it in the past and to avoid letting it define one’s identity. Individuals with PTSD have difficulty doing this due to brain changes…

Getting to Sleep with Cannabis, Part I

I’ll declare bias early: I use cannabis to help me sleep. There is nothing more relaxing to me than medicating with a strong indica before bed, winding down, and feeling content over a hard day’s work. Many readers will be able to identify with that experience. In fact, trouble getting to sleep may be what led many of you to cannabis in the first place. Insomnia is listed as a qualifying pre-condition for prescription in many medical cannabis states. Cornerstone patients often specifically request strains that will help with this condition. So how, why, and what is cannabis doing? Why is this a phenomenon? The short answer is… there is no short answer. Insomnia can be caused by a lot of different factors. In some cases it can be genetic, with patients that are simply pre-disposed to more waking hours. In other cases, it can be environmental. As numerous blogs and movies seem to be pointing out, we live in a fast-paced, high stress society where one can’t truly “clock out” from work anymore. You might be reading emails and thinking about work literally right up until bedtime. In this case, insomnia is being caused by the inability to disengage with the struggles or challenges you are currently facing. On the other hand, insomnia may also be caused by chronic pain, whether from disease or injury. Patients may be woken up by sharp pains and may be unable to fall back to sleep. Likewise, PTSD patients may not be able…

How Cannabis Might Be Used to Target Melanoma

After years of negative propaganda from uninformed politicians, it is tempting to jump at evidence indicating cannabis could miraculously cure cancer. In fact, even well educated members of the cannabis community may tout this point as a reason for legalization. This mistake is understandable; the person may have read a report showing cannabinoids capable of killing tumor cells. The problem is that saying “CANNABIS CURES CANCER” without additional information is like saying, “MONEY CURES POVERTY”. Either statement could technically be argued to be true, but both statements are such reductive, simplistic views that they are entirely misleading on their own and actually very unhelpful to genuine progress. The truth is that smoking cannabis or using topical cannabis extract almost certainly has no impact on preventing or curing cancer. Where the real progress is happening involving cannabis and cancer actually rests in the consideration of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system as a chemotherapy target. Currently, many different types of drugs are used as chemotherapy agents. Unfortunately, a lot of these drugs also exhibit friendly fire and kill non-cancerous cells or deplete other body resources to the extent that the process of chemotherapy is arduous and difficult for the patient. As a result, doctors must carefully aim to give patients as much chemotherapy as they can safely accommodate and no more. The eCB system and cannabinoids show promise as new chemo drugs, because they exhibit anti-tumor properties while at the same time are very gentle and natural to the human body. Currently, many…

The Endocannabinoid System Part II

In the last article we guided you through the history of modern medicine’s understanding of the endocannabinoid system. We were met with a rather strange surprise ending for both the scientific and medical cannabis communities. Put simply, the focus of the entire medical cannabis movement had been cannabis itself; the plant and medicines produced via refining that plant. Yet, the underlying reason that cannabis is such an effective medicine is found in the body’s own endocannabinoid system. This system is activated not only through externally applied exocannabinoids, such as those in smoked or vaporized cannabis, but also the body’s own naturally-produced endocannabinoids, and finally by artificially produced cannabinoid receptor activators. The star of the show is not cannabis at all but the endocannabinoid system, which is activated through numerous pathways. Cannabis just happens to have been mankind’s first interaction with being able to affect, manipulate, and repair the body’s own endocannabinoid system. In that way, humans are very lucky for this unlikely intersection of evolution, where a chemical group a plant produces for its own benefit coincides with a chemical group that the human body uses to regulate itself. The cannabis plant still remains one of the cheapest and most energy efficient ways to produce cannabinoids that would require more complex and costly resources to produce in a laboratory setting. Because of this efficiency, the cannabis plant will likely continue to play a large role in the medical community even after more direct, more controllable means of directing the endocannabinoid…

Exploring Cannabis’ Relationship to Lung Cancer

The trajectory of every medical cannabis patient is unique. Some patients think of themselves as life-long recreational users until they realize that they’ve been subconsciously using the plant to help treat genuine health conditions. This may be the case for individuals that deal with chronic pain or psychological stress. Others, however, are surprised to find themselves using cannabis at all. For these individuals, finding solace and peace in a substance that is widely perceived as recreational might very well be the last resort. This patient may have gone through years of frustrating dead-end pharmaceutical treatments or thrust into an adverse situation through cancer treatment. Regardless, many of these patients are non-smokers and the consumption of cannabis poses a significant problem. The vaporizers we have reviewed offer an elegant solution to non-smokers, but the basic issue remains: patients are inhaling warm plant matter into lungs that were not designed for the process. This, of course, raises questions about lung cancer and is one of the reasons doctors are hesitant to show support for the medical cannabis movement. Here at Cornerstone, we are advocates for health and for whatever treatment works for the patient, whether that involves cannabis, a more traditional pathway, or a holistic median. From the relative wealth of studies currently available we have no reason to believe that vaporized cannabis plays a role in the development of lung cancer. Despite often having more tar than an equal volume of tobacco (which is almost completely removed in a vapor sample…

Endocannabinoids and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Have you ever had a bad situation made worse by your own reaction? Have you ever wished you had been slower to react or had reacted with less intensity and more deliberation? This also often occurs on a cellular level. What happens during brain trauma is a great example of the body’s reaction causing more problems than the injury itself. Brain trauma is the leading cause of death in young people. Whether from injuries during rigorous or extreme activities such as sports, or from less avoidable car or workplace accidents, brain trauma can leave individuals with physical disability or worse, comatose. Researchers have also observed that beyond the acute (short-term) effects of brain trauma, individuals with previous brain injuries are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions. Countless studies have shown that one of the most critical factors in determining the long-term health consequences of head injury is the type and quality of treatment immediately surrounding the injury. In other words, the potential to change the outcome of the accident is greatest immediately after it has occurred, where small differences in timing and medical reaction can mean the difference between a healthy recovery or prolonged damage. When such an injury occurs, the alarm bells of the brain start going off, launching the brain into an instinctually protective mode. The flow-chart found at the end of the article outlines the specific sequence of that process. During this protective behavior mode, the brain accomplishes several important physiological changes. These…

Avoiding Alzheimer’s

As people age their brains perform common tasks more efficiently, but also lose the opportunity for new growth and expansion. This is a normal and healthy part of brain development and is thought of as the “maturation” of the brain. In older age, brains continue to lose mass, which may be the medical basis behind becoming more forgetful or showing personality change (think of the stereotype of an ornery, older gentleman). However, when brain shrinkage is too rapid, the result is dementia. Dementia is a term that refers to a broad category of diseases that can impair an individual’s ability to think and reason clearly, to the point that it interferes with daily life and basic functioning. Since everyone’s brains naturally have different abilities and cognitive patterns, the diagnosis of this type of disease is based upon previous healthy functioning. One particular form of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, is especially common, affecting roughly 26 million people worldwide. Unfortunately, as common as the disease is, there is no cure for it. Symptoms also gradually progress to be more and more debilitating, ultimately leading to early death despite otherwise normal health. Some of the earliest symptoms, such as memory loss and inability to recognize loved ones, can be especially heart-breaking, although the truly life-threatening symptoms develop in end stages as the brain loses ability to regulate the body. As patients become less and less able to take care of themselves, with even basic matters such as using the restroom, they require increasing levels…

Getting Familiar with THCA

It’s Sunday evening. You’re a first time patient hoping to experiment with making cannabis infused edible preparations. After reading information online, you’ve decided on a recipe and selected the right cannabis strain. You patiently mix and time the baking; the product emerges from the oven and has a distinct herbal taste. Time passes as you wait for the medicine to take effect. Yet, several hours later, no effect or attenuation of the symptoms you are seeking relief from has arrived. …What happened? Why was the preparation unsuccessful? Unfortunately, almost every patient who has experimented with making cannabis infused edible preparations can attest to the need for careful temperature observation during extraction and cooking. This is a result of the chemical process that is necessary for THC to be available for use by the body. As it turns out, much of the THC naturally available in cannabis is actually originally produced in the form THCA or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. This molecule is the standard THC molecule with the addition of a carboxyl group, which is a molecule composed of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Although this addition seems relatively minor to the structure, it has a very significant impact on the ability for the body to use THC, as it blocks the molecule from binding with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Cannabis prepared for ingestion must first undergo a decarboxylation process to convert the molecule to normal, usable THC. The method for this process requires giving the THCA molecule extra energy, in the…

Controlling Epilepsy with Cannabidiol

As a general rule, due to both cultural and legal obstacles, the medical cannabis community has always suffered from a lack of research compared to more socially accepted pharmaceuticals. For patients finding cannabis as a successful part of their treatment regimen, this is especially frustrating and a clear case where science is literally behind the times instead of ahead of it as it should be. However, the imbalance between the likelihood of medical benefit and the dearth of research has never been so clear as in the case of controlling hard to treat epileptic seizures with cannabidiol (CBD). Epilepsy affects roughly three million people in the United States, with around 1/3rd of those having frequent uncontrollable seizures. These seizures constitute a major loss in quality of life, with deleterious effects ranging from physical injuries, mortality from seizure, to social stigma and restrictive lifestyle. Yet worse than these effects are the cognitive and psychiatric disorders that can accompany epilepsy. Especially during early development (youth), epilepsy is often associated with cognitive and behavioral deficits and lower IQ that occur as a result of brain damage during critical, foundation-laying years. As a result, many adults continue to suffer from epilepsy even in cases where seizures are brought under control. Unfortunately, as noted by the director of Pediatric Epilepsy Research at the University of California, Dr. Maria Cilio, epilepsy frequently displays “pharmacoresistance”. In other words, patients often find themselves frequently switching between medicines, sifting through a large range of chemicals to find something that…