Soothing Migraine Headaches with Cannabis

Nearly everyone who’s used medical cannabis can relate to its ability to soothe headaches. From easing stress and tight forehead muscles to reducing body pain, cannabis naturally lends itself to being a headache cure. Yet, surprisingly, no clinical tests are being performed at this time to treat migraine patients with medical cannabis. In other words, while some doctors are already prescribing cannabis for recurring headaches, no large clinical studies on actual humans are being conducted. As readers may guess, this may have something to do with the difficulty of getting approval for human studies involving cannabis. In any case, the situation is now remarkably unusual; medical cannabis dispensaries sometimes have more access to medical information than physicians. Specifically, as a general physician, you may have the opportunity to prescribe cannabis to a number of patients, with only a handful of those seeking treatment for headaches. On top of that, after the prescription for medical cannabis, you can’t track what cannabis was used, how potent it was, where it came from, etc. A large part of the treatment data is inherently unknown by the physician, and getting patients to carefully record and report that data is difficult, further reducing the number of people who could realistically be involved in a study. In fact, busy, time-strapped patients may not even return after successfully treating their problems. Contrast this situation with that of a dispensary. At a medical cannabis dispensary, providers can keep a file on each patient, using purchases to record average…

1:1, Conversations with Leading Cannabinoid Researchers

Today we’re introducing a new feature of the Cornerstone blog – "1:1" featuring interviews from top scientists and engineers on the leading edge of cannabinoid and endocannabinoid research. This feature is intended to allow readers to hear directly from the sources of information that we pull our blog posts from. We believe that doing so will not only help you have a better sense of how research is conducted, but even more importantly, will remove as much bias as possible from our end and leave you with the cold, hard facts. After visiting the 2015 International Cannabinoid Research Society Conference, we were impressed with the number of hard-working individuals exploring innovative uses of the endocannabinoid system. One of these individuals was Harriet de Wit, from the University of Chicago, who, along with research teammates Joseph Lutz and Emma Childs, prepared a review for the conference entitled “Does Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Dampen Responses to Social Stress?”. Harriet holds a doctoral degree in Experimental Psychology and has an extensive background in behavioral science. As a powerhouse of research, she has directed and contributed to studies ranging from the effects of illicit drugs to the connection between exercise and sweet consumption on human behavior and perception. De Wit’s THC research represents one interest out of many others surrounding the complexity of human drug use. Cornerstone (CRC): As a researcher coming from the psych end of the spectrum, you have an advantage in understanding the human condition better than researchers with purely biomolecular backgrounds.…

Seeing is Believing: ICRS

Greetings readers, we’ve just returned from the 2015 International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) conference. ICRS describes itself as “a non-political, non-religious organization dedicated to scientific research in all fields of the cannabinoids, ranging from biochemical, chemical, and physiological studies of the endogenous cannabinoid system to studies of the abuse potential of recreational Cannabis.” Many one-off or repeating conferences regarding cannabis and cannabinoid science have been held since the 70’s, after Raphael Mechoulam’s structural identification and synthesis of THC. However, ICRS represents one of the first and longest-running to focus on research stemming from Mechoulam’s later discovery of the endocannabinoid system, the system of receptors, enzymes, and neuromodulatory lipids that plays a role in a host of physiological and neurological activities. After attending almost every talk, we have a fresh stockpile of new information to report to you, straight from the frontlines of research. We will begin to unfold this information in the next few articles, but some of the most exciting new pieces involve new types of cannabinoid receptors and ways that cannabinoids can signal biological changes without receptors at all. Other new innovations in the field were highlighted by a terrific closing speech by Mechoulam, who spoke of endocannabinoid signaling that might occur through sources as unexpected as bacterial films, as well as the need for more testing to determine the actual harm cannabis might have on children. One perhaps unavoidable theme of the conference was the harmony and clash between research focusing on phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids. Although…

The Future of Treating PTSD with Cannabis

Culturally, the U.S. has informally associated cannabis use and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for decades. In fact, a shell-shocked war veteran relieving anxiety through cannabis use is somewhat of a cultural touchstone. This stereotype poses an interesting question: why? What is it about cannabis that lends itself as a natural medicine for PTSD? As has been the case with other areas of cannabis research, the cart has arrived before the horse: we are faced with a mountain of empirical evidence in the form of tens of thousands of individuals relying on cannabis for symptom relief, and yet only finally beginning to crack the science behind it. PTSD is characterized by 3 major groups of symptoms: persistent re-experience of the traumatic event persistent increased psychological arousal (being overly “awake” or sensitive to stimuli) persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic incident. To describe in layman’s terms, what has happened is that the memory and anxiety systems of the brain have been knocked out of normal functioning via a particularly traumatic event in the patient’s life. The memory of that event has been consolidated very deeply into the brain, and as an adaptive mechanism, the brain now accesses that memory over and over again, forcing the individual to relive the trauma on a frequent basis and preventing the memory from being dampened or extinguished healthily. While remembering trauma can keep us from injuring ourselves the same way twice, this is a case where the brain has become over-vigilant and is doing…

Cannabis Synergy: Beyond THC

Cannabis is a plant as ubiquitous as it is therapeutic. For centuries Cannabis has held an integral role in many societies as a medicine and as a relaxant. A century ago, Cannabis extracts were used in the United States as a normalizer for disruptions in appetite and for cases of nausea, amongst their plethora of other alleviative properties. Since the early twentieth century, reports of Cannabis use turned to an anecdotal form due to the social controversy over the psychoactivity of Cannabis and the scheduling of Cannabis on the controlled substance list. Since then, illicit use continued, with anecdotes of profound therapeutic potential. The diversity of therapeutic effects attributed to Cannabis is staggering. Reports encompass relief from gastrointestinal disruption and illness, decrease in ocular pressure, analgesia, and normalizing depression to list just a few. This wide range of purported medical benefit is unlikely to be attributed to merely one psychoactive compound, the notorious delta-9 THC. THC may be accredited to a large variety of therapeutic benefit, but the variance in psychoactivity seen between strains invites the theory that these variances are caused by different relative ratios of THC to the other cannabinoids, and perhaps even more importantly, the terpenoids. Contrary to the omnipresent terpenoids, phytocannabinoids are produced exclusively in Cannabis. Their involvement with the endocannabinoid receptor system in humans has been an intriguing mystery, with theories such as the surreptitious mimic and others that are beyond the scope of this review (for more information, refer to the National Insitute of…

Cannabinoid-Opioid Interaction in Chronic Pain, A Review

Everyone knows that cannabis delivers various medical benefits, perhaps the most important one being pain relief.  Other drugs relieve pain, and doctors normally prescribe opiates or opioids to relieve severe pain.  However, opioid side effects include sedation, nausea and vomiting, and addiction. Nevertheless, the medical and cannabis communities have good cause to learn more about the combined use of cannabis and opioids.  Research has shown that cannabis enhances the pain relief of opioids while reducing nausea (Narang, 2008).  Patients may benefit from the cannabis-opioid combination by being able to reduce their use of the opioids and the side effects they cause.  Many patients already augment their opioid pain relief regimen with cannabis, so the interaction deserves close examination. For some patients, psychoactivity poses the most serious side effect of cannabis.  Beyond that, patients can safely obtain pain relief from cannabis precisely because it has few other side effects.  The inherent safety of THC is due to the scarcity of cannabinoid receptors in the parts of the brain that control metabolism and breathing. In 2010, Dr. Donald Abrams conducted a study using 24 patients at the San Francisco General Hospital.  The patients normally consumed morphine or oxycodone for significant pain due to various conditions (cancer, multiple sclerosis, migraine, etc.).  The study examined the subjective effects on the patients following the addition of inhaled cannabis vapor to their opioid regimen.  The patients inhaled vaporized cannabis three times a day for five days.  The patients also continued their prescriptions of sustained release tablets…

Cannabis & Pregnancy

A review of cannabis use during pregnancy, published in the journal Future Neurology on July 1, 2011, clearly indicates that there are risks of long term cognitive effects when exposing unborn children to cannabis. [Developing Brain CME Chia-Shan Wu, PhD; Christopher P. Jew; Hui-Chen Lu, PhD CME] Abstract Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance among pregnant women. Human epidemiological and animal studies have found that prenatal cannabis exposure influences brain development and can have long-lasting impacts on cognitive functions. Exploration of the therapeutic potential of cannabis-based medicines and synthetic cannabinoid compounds has given us much insight into the physiological roles of endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) and their receptors. In this article, we examine human longitudinal cohort studies that document the long-term influence of prenatal exposure to cannabis, followed by an overview of the molecular composition of the endocannabinoid system and the temporal and spatial changes in their expression during brain development. How endocannabinoid signaling modulates fundamental developmental processes such as cell proliferation, neurogenesis, migration and axonal pathfinding are also summarized. Introduction Cannabis is the world’s third most popular recreational drug, after alcohol and tobacco.[201] The hallmarks of its effects are euphoria and relaxation, perceptual alterations, time distortion, appetite inducement and the intensification of ordinary sensory experiences.[1] Cannabis preparations are largely derived from the female plant of Cannabis sativa, and consist of approximately 60 plant-derived cannabinoid compounds (phytocannabinoids), with ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the predominant psychoactive constituent.[2] Efforts aimed at understanding how THC produces its psychoactive effects have led to the…

Terpenes: Effects in Medical Marijuana

The first thing people really notice upon inspecting a new supply of medical marijuana is - the aroma. What gives each plant its particular smell is the complex array of terpenes - the organic chemical makeup of the plant. How they relate with cannabinoids is the subject of much modern research. What is known is that terpenes are volatile, fragrant substances formed in the early steps of making proteins, amino acids, etc. They are not as immediately necessary as, say, water, but they do provide the structure for a plant to survive over time. Hundreds of components have been identified in cannabis varieties; some major terpenes present in all cannabis plants, and their generally recognized effects, are as follows: Alpha-pinene is a basic protective component; its function is improving respiration/circulation, disinfecting and repelling pests. (Think evergreen forest floor, early in the morning). Limonene is a calmative component, recognizeable as a lemony smell. It is a mood brightener and strong pestilent repellant. Alone these terpenes are somewhat aggressive/irritant but in mixtures they offer a strong foundation. Research does demonstrate an "entourage" effect for terpenes, where the final therapeutic impact of the whole plant is more than the sum of its parts. Cannabis also contains linolool, which induces calm, perhaps by modifying response of neurons to L-[H3] glutamate (Phytomedicine, 1999. 6(2), pp 107-113). Finally, myrcene is both sedative and anti-spasmodic (relaxing all muscles); it is also analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Beta caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene, as opposed to the above monoterpenes, and is…