Hemp plants are gradually being considered among the species with the greatest therapeutic potential today, as well as the well-known and common anise, eucalyptus, ginseng, mate, licorice and valerian. In recent years, there has been a massive interest in hemp due to different and numerous studies that show its effectiveness for the treatment, management and "cure" of some of the most serious diseases and chronic conditions known to mankind. The terms CBD oil and CBD cream are becoming more and more common within research circles, as well as within patient conversations. With this, the popular medical hemp name has emerged.
Hemp plants are the only ones in this world with the capacity to produce cannabinoid compounds known as THC, CBD and CBN. Recently, researchers around the world are striving to elucidate the therapeutic usefulness of these compounds, finding among the preliminary results a promising antitumor, antiemetic and antispasmodic activities.
In the following article we will explore the general aspects of the characteristics of hemp plants, from their components, the effects they produce within our systems and the different parts of the brain that modulate the response to cannabinoids.
Nowadays, Hemp is considered as unique in the world, since it has the capacity to produce components very similar to those that our organisms produce naturally, these compounds or components are known as Cannabinoids, and of course, they are produced in different proportions and concentrations depending on the type of strain itself. Among these cannabinoids, the most abundant and studied are the paradigmatic Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its counterpart, Cannabidiol (CBD).
As can be seen in the image above, from a pharmacological point of view, THC is a highly lipophilic molecule, in other words, it does not dissolve well in water.
As an example, when entering our systems hydrophilic substances (soluble in water) such as nicotine or caffeine, dissolve relatively quickly and easily in our bloodstream, producing the corresponding effects. Likewise, they are also able to leave the body easily through our excretion system. This is known as a fast action profile.
In the case of THC, we talk about a completely different action profile. At the time of entering our body, this compound tends to encounter difficulties, it can even be transferred between badly shaped tissues, constantly seeking to dissolve in substances similar to it, that is, in parts of our body where high levels of fat are found (tissue adipose), to then be released slowly. Due to this peculiar action profile, the average life or average stay of THC is much higher than other substances.
Cannabinoids have the peculiarity of being able to remain in our organisms for much longer. Such behaviour can be seen as a double-edged sword. On one hand, thanks to this slower action profile and method of excretion, our organism is able to adapt more easily to the constant and sequential loss of the cannabinoid, in this way, avoiding the well-known abstinence syndrome.
This particularity makes THC a molecule with very little addictive capacity, almost null, comparing it with synthetic substances such as cocaine, heroin or even alcohol. Of course, outside the biomedical and pharmacological contexts, the consumption of THC is predominant in the form of smoke inhalation of the hemp plant. Although it has the capacity to provide certain therapeutic effects, it is not the most appropriate form of administration, due to the lack of an appropriate dosage method that is required to obtain the benefits of this plant.
After clinical trials, the potential of THC is now known in the treatment of certain chronic diseases, unfortunately, due to its psychotropic capacity, this molecule is still regulated by several authorities, who, in their ignorance, prevent and slow down therapeutic advances that can be generated.
Fortunately for us, the second most abundant cannabinoid is Cannabidiol (CBD), with very interesting properties, among which are its ability to attenuate and neutralize the undesirable effects produced by THC such as incoordination, tiredness, phobias, etc.
Thanks to clinical studies, no adverse effects, toxicity or psychotropic activity have been reported among patients. Antitumoral, antiepileptic, antiemetic and anti-inflammatory properties have been reported after this molecule research protocols. To date, it is possible to find this cannabinoid in the form of CBD oils, being one of the most widely used methods against epilepsy in minors, with truly encouraging results. Another use of CBD rich products, such as creams, allow the molecule to act as relief against inflammation and chronic muscle pain, especially in patients suffering from some type of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis.
However, 2 factors must always be taken into account: a) Relative power and b) Relative abundance of these compounds. A proper balance and dosage of cannabinoids, specially CBD, will allow biological processes to be achieved in a desired order of magnitude, either as an anti-inflammatory or to mitigate pain, among others.
In order to better understand how these compounds work, it is necessary to understand that our organisms have the capacity to selectively and exclusively link the active compounds of hemp. These are recognized by special proteins on the surface of our cells, known as receptors, since they are responsible for capturing or receiving these substances. Each and every one of these cannabinoids behave under the same mechanism: they join specialized cells, thus producing the pharmacological effect. Among the cannabinoid receptors that we know today, we can find CB1 and CB2. This is what composes the Endocannabinoid System.
As an example, drugs mimic the action of endogenous compounds (compounds that our body naturally produces) in order to exert an action with certain power, depending on the therapeutic objective sought.
These molecules are capable of imitating endogenous substances since they were designed to resemble them at chemical level. In the 90s, researches were capable to identify cannabinoids which were naturally produced in the brain, becoming the most relevant ones from the biological point of view, regardless of the consumption or not of hemp plants.
Cannabinoids found in medical hemp:
Hemp plants provide us with an arsenal of compounds with immense therapeutic potential. To date in therapeutic terms, there is no natural alternative that exceeds these cannabinoids.
On the other hand, within the animal kingdom we are not the only ones on Earth with this mechanism, homo sapiens are just one of the many species in the world. The endocannabinoid system is found in each and every one of the mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, vertebrates and birds, all of these possess the ability to produce Anandamide.
From the evolutionary and biological point of view, it is a very well conserved system throughout the development of different species, and is the reason why it is considered a strong evidence of its action to fulfill primary and vital functions related to the survival of species.
Hemp is the only plant in the world capable of producing cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. There are more than 100 cannabinoid compounds known today, however, their clinical and pharmacological usefulness has not yet been fully defined.
Fortunately, CBD has already been accepted as an option for the treatment of minor patients by the regulatory agency in the United States known as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
One of the most common routes of administration is the oral route, since these are mainly CBD oils, absorption is made more efficient and quicker when placed sublingually, decreasing the chances of degradation significantly by not going through the stomach and its acid fluids.
To date, no evidence of toxicity due to CBD use has been found, let alone cases of death. The same is seen in patients or people who usually consume THC in the form of inhalation, there is no overdose that can be lethal, as it happens with many other conventional medications. But, as said in previous lines, the inhalation of the plant is not recommended, due to little control in dosage and quality of THC/CBD.
It is said that for a substance or medication to be beneficial, it must provide higher level therapeutic effects than its side effects. In the case of cannabinoids, CBD has been found to do exceptional work at the level of buffering unwanted effects of conventional drugs or therapies such as chemotherapy. On the other hand, CBD has the ability to attenuate, even cancel, the effects produced by THC.
As is now well known, that inhalation of THC causes the diameter of blood vessels to increase, in other words, blood pressure decreases. Our organs are in need of sending signals to the heart and pump blood with greater force to try to compensate for this decrease. In case of patients with some type of cardiac complication, this could result in a tachycardia. However, the use of THC in clinical trials with controlled doses did not lead to these problems in the experimental models.
Possible therapeutic applications of medical hemp:
Effect Possible therapeutic application
Inhibit Nausea and Vomiting In Chemotherapy
Stimulate the appetite Cachexia of cancer and AIDS
Analgesia Neurotic and oncological pain
Anti Spasticity EM (Multiple sclerosis), Parkinson's disease
Anti-convulsions Epilepsy (Dravet´s syndrome)
THC has an effect on memory (Hippocampus), more specifically on the short-term memory. But seen from the biological point of view: Why would nature would provide us with such mechanism?
Storing, processing and recalling memories is a completely crucial process for the survival of human beings as a specie, but so it is the capacity to forget superfluous memories or traumatic events (wars, accidents, violations, etc). This is why we have a system that constantly strives to fulfill this function, this is of course, the endocannabinoid system. The fact of having this endogenous system in mind is considered an evolutionary advantage.
In conclusion, what intrigues researchers, doctors and patients alike is the dual nature of this plant; on the one hand, it has the capacity to intoxicate and cloud thoughts, and on the other, it has the ability to heal, treat and relieve. It is this dual nature that makes it so enigmatic and intriguing. Fortunately, the therapies and uses of hemp within modern pharmacology have already overcome some of the strongest prejudices, and little by little they aspire to become an official alternative within modern medicine.
The effectiveness of cannabinoids as palliative medicines in different diseases has already been demonstrated. Being useful as an alternative for those patients unable to tolerate current solutions, or who do not respond effectively to these. Another potential use is the integration of cannabinoids into conventional therapies, which is known as combination therapy or mixed therapy.
Last but not least, cannabinoids are presented as an alternative to increase the quality of life of patients, compounds based on these molecules have the ability to alleviate a large number of unwanted effects (nausea, vomiting, anxiety, pain) of current therapies, resulting in a low cost alternative, capable of being acquired by a greater number of people.
The cannabinoids from medical hemp offer us therapeutic possibilities of very considerable relevance and even accepted today by the official pharmacology. Hopefully sooner rather than later, official medicine will integrate them as part of their conventional practice.
Please, check our articles on the different conditions in which the CBD can be beneficial: