Debunking Previous CBD -> THC Conversion Research

Earlier in the year, we published an article about CBD converting to small amounts of THC in the stomach, based on a 2016 study lead by John Merrick, “Identification of Psychoactive Degradants of Cannabidiol in Simulated Gastric and Physiological Fluid”. This study found that cannabidiol, when immersed in a bath of acid similar to stomach acid, produces a significant amount of THC in the same acid bath. Researchers hypothesized that this was because THC and CBD, despite having wildly different effects, actually start as the same pre-cursor chemical (cannabigerolic acid). Different enzymes then convert this chemical to destination chemicals THC or CBD, depending on plant genetics and environmental factors. However, strangely enough, in the year following the study, we have not seen the results confirmed. Were this a less significant finding, we might expect such delay. However, the finding is especially relevant to cannabis/cannabinoid research because it undermines CBD as a therapeutic drug. If part of the drug is converting to THC in stomach acid, this effect might preclude its use in situations where THC must be avoided. However, despite the lack of confirmation, outstanding questions loom, such as, if edible CBD converts to THC, why are CBD users not noticing psychedelic effects? How did such a large, obvious conclusion fly below the radar? Apparently because it’s false. As far as we can determine at this point in time, there is no reason to believe CBD converts to THC in the human stomach. Spearheading the commentary refuting this article, Franjo…

How Chronic Stress Impairs the Endocannabioid System

In general, research into the body’s endocannabinoid system proceeds via administering a substance like a cannabinoid or another drug, and recording the impact of that administration on a specific behavior or physiological process. However, few experiments consider the reverse question: how do our behaviors and environments affect the endocannabinoid system? This system, like most other neurological systems, is not made up of a rigidly fixed number of receptors or ligands. Instead, it constantly changes and adapts to best serve the body, ramping up and down receptor density and receptor affinity as the body deems appropriate. Stress is now understood to be one of the factors that can impact the endocannabinoid system. In general, exposure to stressful events can easily cause a diverse and lasting set of consequences in both humans and animals. In what is most likely the body’s attempt to overcome and live with chronic stress or the possibility of another stressful event, synapses, which are the paths of communication between individual neurons, re-wire themselves. One extreme example is the maladaptive change that can occur in soldiers put in life or death situations. Soldiers may, for instance, learn to associate sounds heard during such a stressful event with the occurrence of the event itself. Later, in non-hostile environments, these same sounds can then trigger the body and brain to re-live the event, with intense physiological changes, such as the release of adrenaline and increased aggression. This is a classic example of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, stress can…

THC May Help Break Down Harmful Memories

Lately cannabidiol (CBD) has been hogging the therapeutic limelight; it’s an anti-inflammatory, an anti-tumor, and it helps inhibit psychotic behavior. THC, the psychoactive chemical most prized in the recreational community, has been deemed to have less potential for therapeutic use, in part due to the side effects that accompany dosage. For this reason, much clinical research has shifted toward CBD and away from THC. However, THC’s psychedelic, mindset-altering activity is exactly what lends it therapeutic benefits in situations involving memory and fear consolidation. Fear memory consolidation occurs after a painful memory is acquired, and is the process through which that memory is stabilized in the brain. Although not all aspects are understood, we know that the consolidation process involves strengthening synapses the brain deems useful and paring down synapses the brain deems less useful. Aside from this process, memories are also converted from being dependent on the short-term memory region of the brain to being independent of this region and placed in a longer-term storage area. However, memories are also capable of being re-consolidated and forming new associations. To put all of this into practical terms, someone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from military service may initially suffer injury while hearing an unrelated stimulus, such as a warning siren. The brain may then associate the pain and injury with that sound. Unfortunately, as the individual returns to normal society and hears similar sounds, such as ambulance sirens, those memories and fears may resurface, causing additional pain, aggression, and…

Treating Sleep Apnea with THC

Sleep Apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that is identified by pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses range from seconds to minutes long and are usually accompanied by shallow, inefficient breathing, resulting in a night’s worth of poor respiration. As the body fights to get air, less and less oxygen reaches the blood stream. When that level becomes too low, the brain’s protective mechanism finally jolts the body awake long enough to restore breathing. A person with Sleep Apnea is actually waking up over and over throughout the night, interrupting their own rest. Think that’s scary? Here’s the worst part: you might already have Sleep Apnea. Many individuals go for years without recognizing this condition, in part because the interruptions in sleep are too brief to remember. The resulting lack of quality sleep leads to general sleepiness and irritability that many become accustomed to after forgetting what a good night’s rest can feel like. Unfortunately, Sleep Apnea is common in adults. Close to 15% of the general population has Sleep Apnea or apnea-like breathing patterns. Even professional athletes, such as Boston Red Sox player, Mike Napoli, have had problems so serious that corrective surgery is required. In some cases, Sleep Apnea is caused by a lack of strength in breathing. Oftentimes, however, it is caused by an obstructed airway, where any part of the upper respiratory system has become kinked and closed-off. In that case the most common treatment has been the use of positive pressure devices that artificially…

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…

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…

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%…

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…

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…

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