Moderated By: Justin Kander, R&D Coordinator, Aunt Zelda's
Panelists: David Bearman, Co-Founder, American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, Jeff Hergenrather, President, Society of Cannabis Clinicians, Jean Talleyrand, Founder & President, Medicann, Tracy Ryan, CEO, CannaKids
The endocannabinoid system, a physiologic system in the human body, was only discovered in the early 1990s. It is perhaps the largest neurotransmitter system in the human body and useful in treating an enormous array of conditions. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are present in fish, reptiles, earthworms, leeches, amphibians, birds and mammals — every animal except insects.
The plant in nature that has evolved along with us over millions of years that is most in tune with the endocannabinoid system is Cannabis.
Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes ensue. Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs; and CB2, predominantly found in the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action.
Cannabinoid receptors function as subtle sensing devices, tiny vibrating scanners perpetually primed to pick up biochemical cues that flow through fluids surrounding each cell.
CB-receptor signaling modulates pain and analgesia, inflammation, appetite, gastro-intestinal motility, and sleep cycles, along with the ebb and flow of immune cells, hormones, and other mood-altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.
Cannabinoid receptors trigger a cascade of biochemical changes on a cellular level that puts the brakes on excessive physiological activity. Endocannabinoids are the only neurotransmitters that engage in “retrograde signaling,” a form of intracellular communication that inhibits immune response, reduces inflammation, relaxes musculature, lowers blood pressure, dilates bronchial passages, and normalizes overstimulated nerves. Retrograde signaling serves as an inhibitory feedback mechanism that tells other neurotransmitters to cool it when they are firing too fast.
Surprisingly, only 13% of medical schools teach future doctors about the endocannabinoid system, let alone a plant that is pretty good at interacting with the ECB. Combine this with the western medical tradition of looking down on anything that isn’t a single molecule pharmaceutical, and you have a medical community that is operating in the dark.
Contrast this with the basic science evidence and anecdotal reports. Story after story of patients ditching an armada of pills, some that treat the disease or condition in question, others that treat the side effects of the pill taken before it in an ever growing chain of pharmaceutical drugs.
There are over 20,000 peer reviewed studies published in respected medical journals about cannabis research. Yet most doctors are unaware that the endocannabinoid system even exists or can’t see how a plant could possibly be a medicine.
Fortunately, more doctors are starting to speak out about their experience with patients who use cannabis for everything from cancer to neurological disorders and PTSD. The medical community needs to treat cannabis like a medicine. And as a medicine, it needs to be approached against the grain, as a whole plant medicine, rather than a single molecule medicine so common on the prescription called into the local CVS.
In New York state the medical cannabis laws don’t allow for flower because you smoke it and, well, you can’t take a medicine by smoking it, according to lawmakers.
On the research side, we need to do clinical studies to know what levels of the various actives found in the plant to advise for various diseases and conditions. And just like with any medicine, in terms of dose size, there is an individual adjustment doctors make for most patients.
Pain management is big business in America. Analgesic is the number one reason why doctors recommend cannabis today. Think the pharmaceutical companies aren’t taking notice?
Below is a list of research reports and trials mentioned during the panel, as well as a few others.