Guzmán leads me around his cramped lab—centrifuges, microscopes, beakers, petri dishes, a postdoc researcher in a white smock extracting tissue from a mouse corpse pinned under bright lights. It’s your typical bioresearch lab, except that everything is devoted to the effects of cannabis on the body and brain. The lab focuses not just on cancer but also on neurodegenerative diseases and on how cannabinoids affect early brain development. On this last topic the Guzmán group’s research is unequivocal: Mice born of mothers regularly given high doses of THC during pregnancy show pronounced problems. They’re uncoordinated, have difficulty with social interactions, and have a low anxiety threshold—they’re often paralyzed with fear at stimuli, such as a cat puppet placed near their cage, that don’t upset other juvenile mice.
Cannabidiol’s anti-anxiety (Zuardi et al., 1993, 2017; Crippa et al., 2009; Bergamaschi et al., 2011b) and antidepressant (Saito et al., 2010; Zanelati et al., 2010) potential seems to differ from other drugs with effects on the central nervous system, since we found no alterations in sleep architecture. Additionally, studies on the anxiolytic, antipsychotic and antiparkinson effects of CBD described no sedation or drowsiness side effects in their volunteers (Zuardi et al., 1993; Crippa et al., 2004; Fusar-Poli et al., 2009; Chagas et al., 2014a). These findings complement the literature on the few significant side effects resulting from the administration of CBD to humans in a wide range of doses, administered chronically or acutely (Bergamaschi et al., 2011b; Kerstin and Grotenhermen, 2017). It seems, therefore, that CBD has an adequate safety profile with good tolerability and does not affect psychomotricity or cognition (Hayakawa et al., 2007; Crippa et al., 2010; Bergamaschi et al., 2011b; Kerstin and Grotenhermen, 2017). This is particularly important in Parkinson’s disease, where motor and cognitive symptoms play a central role.
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A research conducted by Ethan B Russo, GW Pharmaceuticals, WA, USA, suggests that CBD oil interacts with the protein cells in the body and sends chemical signals to your brain and immune system through a number of stimuli. This helps the cells positively respond to chronic pain. This oil is regularly suggested for people with inflammation and back pain because of its painkilling quality.
But it’s Guzmán’s brain tumor research that has captured headlines—and the interest of pharmaceutical companies. Through his years of research he has ascertained that a combination of THC, CBD, and temozolomide (a moderately successful conventional drug) works best in treating brain tumors in mice. A cocktail composed of these three compounds appears to attack brain cancer cells in multiple ways, preventing their spread but also triggering them, in effect, to commit suicide.
In the past few years, just such a cure has seemingly presented itself. Amid the less common remedies that can be found on the internet—special diets, meditation, biofeedback, surgical implants—a new product has recently gained prominence: CBD oil (sometimes known simply as “hemp oil”), so named for its chief chemical compound, cannabidiol, which occurs naturally in cannabis plants. In online forums and news articles, CBD has been hailed as a new frontier in epilepsy treatment, with parents testifying that it managed to stop their children’s seizures when nothing else could.
CBD is shorthand for cannabidiol, one of the more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis. CBD products are said to deliver their many claimed benefits by boosting the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is a system that “is a unique signaling pathway that controls the function of a variety of systems throughout the body, including the cardiovascular system,” says Nicholas DiPatrizio, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine. (More on the endocannabinoid system later.)
Several complexities of the eCB system may impact upon the potential of CBD and other CB1R-activating agents to serve as anxiolytic drugs. First, CB1R agonists, including THC and AEA, have a biphasic effect: low doses are anxiolytic, but higher doses are ineffective or anxiogenic, in both preclinical models in and humans (reviewed in [33, 45]). This biphasic profile may stem from the capacity of CB1R agonists to also activate TRPV1 receptors when administered at a high, but not low dose, as demonstrated for AEA . Activation of TRPV1 receptors is predominantly anxiogenic, and thus a critical balance of eCB levels, determining CB1 versus TRPV1 activation, is proposed to govern emotional behavior [27, 47]. CBD acts as a TRPV1 agonist at high concentrations, potentially by interfering with AEA inactivation . In addition to dose-dependent activation of TRPV1 channels, the anxiogenic versus anxiolytic balance of CB1R agonists also depends on dynamic factors, including environmental stressors [33, 49].
CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the cannabis plant (aka the natural plant where hemp and marijuana come from). This plant produces over 400 different chemicals, one of which is CBD. CBD products on their own contain little to no THC, the psychoactive component found in the plant that makes users feel high or stoned. This, however, doesn’t make the product totally free to use without legal repercussions anywhere you want: CBD may still be classified as an illegal substance in some states, although the law is often murky and up for interpretation.
“Among the many benefits that Charlotte’s Web customers experience are: a sense of calm and focus; relief from everyday stresses; help in recovery from exercise-induced inflammation; and support for healthy sleep cycles,” says co-founder Jesse Stanley. But he is obliged to point out that the product is a dietary supplement, and no clinical claims can be made for it.
It's a little more uniform when the product is absorbed by smoking or vaping the oil, Ward said. But, "there are obvious concerns about smoking something." A 2007 review published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that smoking marijuana resulted in similar declines in respiratory system health as smoking tobacco. A similar review published in 2014 in The American Journal of Cardiology found that marijuana smoke inhalation can increase the chances of heart attack or stroke. Neither review analyzed the effects of vaping cannabis oil alone, so it's unclear if it has the same health risks as smoking other marijuana products.
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