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…

Vaporization Part II

This is the second article in a multi-part series about vaporizing cannabis. The first article focused on the way vaporizers work, the health benefits of vaporizing, and the viability of vaporizers in delivering medical cannabis. This article will look beyond just the health differences between vapor inhalation and smoke inhalation, and will focus more on the substantial qualitative health differences in the experience between vaporizing and smoking. As it happens, not only are fewer toxins released during vaporizing, there is also a different profile of terpenoids, cannabinoids, and flavonoids that are released as well. Although most of these molecules are not independently psychoactive, they are capable of moderating how THC is metabolized, as well as providing distinctively different sensations and qualities to the medication .This is what may account for the diverse views of medical cannabis patients on the subject of vaporizing, since the respiratory health benefits are well established. Before getting into the specifics of what chemicals are affected and what changes are brought about, we’ll start with a quick review of how chemicals are released into the air during a vaporization or smoking session. In a vaporization reaction, chemicals are essentially changing from one state to another, similar to the way water vaporizes when placed on a stove. Although the temperature increase may cause chemical changes to the atoms before they are vaporized (such as the de-carboxylation required for the body to metabolize THC) the molecules are essentially changing phase. There is no flame because the chemical bonds…

Managing Neuropathic Pain with Cannabis

Chronic neuropathic pain affects between 1% and 2% of all adults, which means that you’ve likely encountered someone suffering from neuropathic pain or experienced it directly. As would be expected from the sheer prevalence, there are many causes for such pain, ranging from illness, such as diabetes, to specific events of trauma, such as car accidents or work injuries. Traditionally, neuropathic pain has been considered “refractory” to treatment options, meaning that it is difficult to manage consistently and effectively. However, new research has pointed to cannabis as a viable option for treatment of neuropathic pain. As has been the basis of many of the therapeutic effects of cannabis, the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are likely responsible for the observation of cannabis use reducing neuropathic pain. Although the specific mechanisms of neuropathy are poorly understood, it is speculated that glial cells, which are the immune system enforcers of the brain and spinal cord, are not functioning properly or are overcompensating for injury by over-producing inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-1beta. It is also known that the endocannabinoid system is capable of regulating and signaling production of this very molecule, as well as other inflammatory molecules, which draws an obvious link between cannabis consumption and neuropathy. However, while the specific mechanism of action is not mapped, researchers are continuing with the testing of cannabinoids in models of neuropathy. One particularly comprehensive study from the University of Calgary focused on neuropathy stemming from diabetes, which is a common side effect of the illness (50%…

To Vape or Not To Vape

Although cannabis itself is not harmful to health, method of administration can be detrimental to lung function. Pulmonary (lung and breathing) troubles are well-documented side effects, with daily smokers having decreased lung capacity, coughing, and sinus problems exacerbated by frequent smoke inhalation. This would be true of any combusting plant matter inhaled directly due to carbon monoxide, but cannabis plant material can also contain tars and produce other noxious substances when burned. Increasingly doctors are recommending vaporizer use to daily or frequent cannabis users to decrease harmful side-effects of smoking while maintaining potency and ease of dosing. This will be the first article in a series of articles about vaporizing, and will focus on the benefits and disadvantages of vaporizing. What is a vaporizer? A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis to temperatures that release cannabinoids into air (vaporization). This vapor is then inhaled, without any smoke or combusted plant matter. The first vaporizers were very crude, home-built devices that used heating elements like soldering irons to directly heat the cannabis matter. However, over time, as companies began to emerge to serve demand from users wanting a better vaporizing experience, more complex designs emerged. Although many designs still use direct heat conduction, the more expensive but more consistent vapor design relies on using convection heating. In this method, air is heated first and then driven through the cannabis matter, assuring a more even temperature distribution as well as preventing the matter from getting too hot and partially combusting on…