Combating the Side Effects of Diabetes with Cannabis

Close to 8% of men and women worldwide are affected with diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to simply as “diabetes”. The disease ranges in severity and symptoms but is often crippling, making it the 8th leading cause of death worldwide whilst rendering the comparatively more fortunate portion of patients with a multitude of harmful symptoms that impair daily life. While the underlying cause of diabetes centers around insulin production, cannabis has shown promise in improving the general climate of the disease, as well as attenuating various side effects. The following article will focus on a general review of evidence surrounding these new discoveries. For readers not familiar with the causes of diabetes, the most important concept to understand is how the body regulates blood sugar. Blood sugar is the free amount of glucose (sugar) available to cells from the blood. It is one of the main sources of cellular respiration; however, at high doses can be toxic to the cells that rely upon it as an energy source. As the body gleans nutrients and energy from the food and pumps those into the bloodstream, blood sugar levels rocket. However, the human body cannot perform reliably with rapidly shifting levels of energy, so the body flattens the blood sugar spike back down to normal levels by releasing insulin, a chemical that encourages glucose to be stored in muscle and fat tissues for later use. (See graph of uptake below). Two common types of problems can occur with this system, which both result…

How Cannabinoids Can Beneficially Interact with Neurodegenerative Disorder Treatment

Neuroinflammation is known to play a significant role in essentially all neurodegenerative processes. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Huntington’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease all involve hyperactive microglia, which are the live-in macrophages of the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system. Macrophages are immune cells that capture and dissolve foreign substances, germs, and cancer cells within the body. The microglia in the brain and spinal cord form the first line of immune defense in the central nervous system. Unfortunately, in the case of aforementioned diseases, these cells have become overactive causing them to secrete excess substances, such as cytokines (cell signals that regulate cell group growth and response), glutamate, and harmful free radicals. This excessive production of chemicals causes inflammation, which leads to further cell death. Cannabis and the family of chemicals it produces are known to act on two major cell receptor types named CB1 and CB2 respectively. The CB1 receptor is most commonly found in neurons throughout the brain. The psychedelic effects of cannabis come from this receptor’s function, which re-wires the way neurons signal each other. The CB2 receptor on the other hand, is found throughout the body, especially within the immune system cells. The effects of activating the CB2 receptor are more myriad, but within the immune system specifically four groups of effects have been identified: 1. induction of apoptosis or forced cell death 2. suppression of cell proliferation 3. induction of regulatory T cells 4. inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine/chemokine production and increase in…

THC, Nature’s Antidepressant?

Out of all the effects that cannabis provides, the euphoric, up-lifting change in perspective is surely what the plant is most known for. Countless artists from Jimi Hendrix to Tom Petty have created odes to this particular quality and many people swear by cannabis use as a method of enhancing the mind’s perspective, relying on it for a productive shift in mood and outlook. The same qualities of cannabis make it ripe for use as a recreational substance, which is a double-edged sword for those that use cannabis to medicate. Although recreational proliferation helps establish that cannabis use is safe (much safer in fact than alcohol or caffeine), it also obscures health benefits being derived from the plant. The uplifting effect of cannabis use blurs the line between what is recreational and what is healing, which in turn asks the question, “is it possible to be both?” Unfortunately, few studies have rigorously tested cannabinoids, the family of chemicals found uniquely in cannabis, in regards to potential for use as formal anti-depressants. One particular study, lead by a team at the University of Mississippi, set out to specifically evaluate those potentials of the most common cannabinoids. In the study, the following cannabinoids were selected: delta-9-THC (the principal psychoactive compound of cannabis), delta-8-THC, cannabidiol, cannabigerol, cannabichromene, and cannabinol. Since breeding efforts specifically target delta-9-THC, it exists abundantly in many cannabis strains and is easy to extract. Others like cannabigerol are rare and take larger quantities and more complex methods to extract. In…

Terpenes and Inflammation

In many cases, inflammation is the body’s natural defense against further damage. However, over-active inflammation is the cause of many diseases, ranging from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions can be severely debilitating and tend to gradually worsen. Many degenerative inflammatory diseases are associated with older age, meaning that as humans continue to extend the average life span through medical advancements, inflammatory diseases will affect a larger and ever-growing population. In this article, we’ll take a look at the anti-inflammatory effects of terpenes and terpenoids, non-psychoactive chemical components of cannabis. Inflammation and the biochemical processes that surround it are controlled by complex signaling and gene expression. Nuclear factor-kB (NF-kb) is considered the major regulator in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases. It is a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA, specifically parts of DNA that relate to the body’s manner of dealing with septic shock, cancer, inflammation, and immune response. In most diseases where unwanted inflammation is occurring, this protein group is over-active itself, continually producing inflammation response where none is needed. The ideal anti-inflammatory medicine therefore would reduce NF-kb levels, telling the body to shut off inflammation. Although many inflammation agents exist now (such as common aspirin), the challenge is finding a medicine that does not affect other responses of the body or have any unwanted side-effects. In the area of inflammation, terpenoids found in cannabis show promise. Although many cannabis users are familiar with the primary psychoactive ingredient, THC, few are aware of the multitude of other…

Cannabis and Opioids Part II

In the first post concerning opioid use and cannabis use, we investigated cannabis use within opioid addiction recovery programs. We found that current evidence is indicating that cannabis use does not interfere with addiction treatment or increase likelihood of opioid abuse despite a higher percentage of opioid abusers also being cannabis users. In the second article on this topic, we’ll deal with patients that are not abusing opioids but being prescribed them as treatment for chronic pain or other illness and ask how cannabis use may be used to decrease or eliminate the prescription. As was the case with those in opioid addiction recovery programs, many of the patients currently being prescribed opioids for chronic or acute pain are already cannabis users. One meta-study considered over 45 studies with data on both prescribed opioid use and urine tests that confirmed cannabis use and found almost across the board that the rate of cannabis users in this population was around 20%. As expected, this percentage is higher in states with medical cannabis exceptions than in states where cannabis is completely illegal. However, even in data from conservative states such as Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, etc., usage was measured at around 10%. Average rates hover between these two figures and illustrate that there is a significant link between cannabis use and opioid prescription. While correlation does not imply causation, it is possible that many of these users are self-medicating for pain, whether intentionally or unintentionally. In fact, in one informal review, doctors…