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HOW MEDICINAL
CANNABIS WORKS

Attitudes towards cannabis are shifting as credible medical research continues to reveal the plant’s profound therapeutic effects. Many people have experienced the benefits of medicinal cannabis on the human body, so let’s explore its method of action. 

 

The chemical compounds in cannabis affect the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a central component of the health and healing of every human and animal. Scientists estimate that the endocannabinoid system evolved in primitive animals over 600 million years ago.


The endocannabinoids and their receptors are found in the brain, organs, connective tissue, glands and immune cells, all through the body. The ECS is responsible for managing a vast range of physiological processes including mood, memory, pain-sensation, appetite, and regulating the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

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An integrated system

Endocannabinoids are naturally produced by the human body and are chemically very similar to the phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD, that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Knowledge that our bodies create their own cannabinoids has opened the door to understanding their purpose and for harnessing their therapeutic properties. Added to this, endocannabinoids do not affect regions of the brain controlling heart and lung function, meaning fatal overdoses of cannabinoids do not occur.

Cannabinoids balance homeostasis  

Homeostasis describes the body’s ability to keep itself in balance in response to what is going on outside the body. It’s important, as it is the body’s way of keeping ourselves functioning – and alive – in the face of the many things outside of our control. When the body's balance is disturbed, the endocannabinoid system activates and starts making neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids). These travel around the body to areas like the immune system, organs, and brain with signals to help the body restore its balance - or homeostasis - to help us counteract external changes. This can benefit us in the way of: •Modulation of stress and anxiety •Increased appetite •Decreased nausea •Balance of immune system •Inhibition of tumours Once homeostasis returns to balance, the endocannabinoids are no longer needed and the body breaks down and they are flushed from the system.

How the system affects our health

Since the discovery of the ECS and its mechanisms, researchers have worked to further understand how this system may be used therapeutically to treat a wide range of clinical conditions and symptoms, such as to: •Fight cancer •Decrease pain •Prevent neurodegenerative diseases •Promote general health Overall, research indicates that the endocannabinoid system helps ensure that the body’s immune and central nervous systems are running correctly. Finding ways to adjust the activity of the endocannabinoid system system can potentially help treat a wide range of chronic diseases and disorders.

Watch this space: Cannabinoids have the potential to treat many diseases and conditions

A popular theory about how the ECS affects our overall health, is the proposed endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, or CECD. This suggests that, for some people, the body does not generate enough endocannabinoids (Smith and Wagner, 2014). This concept suggests that the deficiency could be the root cause of many autoimmune disorders, including migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS (Russo, 2004). By modulating the ECS, several diseases, conditions and symptoms can potentially be treated, including: •Pain •Inflammation •Arthritis •Multiple sclerosis •Anorexia •Epilepsy •Glaucoma •Obesity •Parkinson’s disease •Huntington’s disease •Tourette’s syndrome Research is also showing interesting developments in the treatment or relief of Crohn's disease and IBS, Cancer, Schizophrenia, Cardiovascular disorders, Alzheimer’s disease. One of the main obstacles to the acceptance and use of cannabis and its active cannabinoids in medicine the concerns surrounding the potential abuse for its psychoactivity. However, this issue does not arise in a number of presentations of cannabis as a medication, such as pure CBD treatments, which do not contain any psychoactive compounds like THC. Extensive studies show great potential for the benefit of patient health. Helius, and scientists around the world, are engaged on ongoing research to better understand the impact of the endocannabinoid system on our overall health and how supplementing our natural endocannabinoid production with plant-based cannabinoids may play a significant therapeutic role in our wellbeing.

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THE POTENTIAL TO TREAT
MANY DISEASES AND CONDITIONS

A popular theory about how the ECS affects our overall health, is the proposed endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, or CECD. This suggests that, for some people, the body does not generate enough endocannabinoids (Smith and Wagner, 2014). This concept, originally proposed by researcher E.B. Russo in 2004, further suggests that the deficiency could be the root cause of many autoimmune disorders, including migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS (Russo, 2004). 

 

By modulating the ECS, several diseases and conditions can potentially be treated, including:

  • Pain 

  • Inflammation 

  • Arthritis 

  • Multiple sclerosis 

  • Anorexia 

  • Epilepsy

  • Glaucoma 

  • Obesity 

  • Parkinson’s disease 

  • Huntington’s disease 

  • Tourette’s syndrome 

Research is also showing interesting developments in the treatment or relief of Crohn's disease and IBS, Cancer, Schizophrenia, Cardiovascular disorders, Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the main obstacles to the acceptance and use of cannabis and its active cannabinoids in medicine is the problem of abuse for its psychoactivity. However, this issue does not arise in a number of possible approaches to the regulation of the endocannabinoid system: 

  • When an antagonist to the CB1 receptor is applied 

  • When the production or transportation of endocannabinoids is altered 

  • When a non-psychoactive agonist to the CB2 receptor, like CBD, is used for therapeutic results (Pacher and Kunos, 2013).

Phytocannabinoids, like the CBD and THC from cannabis, directly affect the endocannabinoid system. However, it has also been shown that non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids from other plants, and even other compounds like terpenes and flavonoids, are picked up by receptors in our endocannabinoid systems (Gertsch et al, 2010). 

Because small doses of phytocannabinoids can encourage the body to create more naturally occurring endocannabinoids and their receptors, it may be possible to bolster the sensitivity of our native systems with regular cannabinoid supplements (Pacher et al, 2006).

 

Extensive studies show great potential for using this vital system to the benefit of patient health. Helius and scientists around the world are engaged on ongoing research to better understand the impact of the endocannabinoid system on our overall health and how supplementing our natural endocannabinoid production with plant-based cannabinoids may play a significant therapeutic role in our wellbeing. 

A brief history of the ECS 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was defined in the early 1990’s when Lisa Matsuda announced that her team at the National Institute of Mental Health had first identified a THC-sensitive receptor in the brains or rats. The path to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, however, started more than a century earlier. In 1895, researchers T. Barlow Wood, W.T. Newton Spivey, and Thomas Hill Easterfield became the first to isolate and identify a cannabis-derived cannabinoid, cannabinol (CBN). Over the next 70 years, researchers identified more cannabinoids, including R. Adams and others who identified and isolated CBD in 1940, and in 1964, Ralph Mechoulam and colleagues isolated and identified tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Following those monumental breakthroughs, researchers spent decades exploring those cannabinoids and their properties. It was in the early and mid-1990s Mechoulam and colleagues officially discovered the endocannabinoid system. It happened after he and his team were able to locate and identify two of the body’s naturally produced major endocannabinoids - anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Since then, scientists around the world have worked to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, our naturally occurring cannabinoids, and the ways cannabis alters this balance. In just the last two decades, over 23,000 scientific studies have been published, referencing the therapeutic effects of cannabis.

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