Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp

America's leading advocate for hemp

Author: Elliot Cornish

Fibromyalgia, Migraines & The Science Of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

First proposed by Dr. Ethan Russo, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency could contribute to numerous painful conditions from fibromyalgia to IBS to migraine. This would help explain why cannabis and hemp help so many people with these conditions.

A theoretical syndrome, clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, could provide new insight into painful conditions suffered by millions.

Scientific advancements have helped us to find working treatments for countless debilitating conditions. However, there are some illnesses that continue to prove notorious and mysterious, with no known causes or cures. Research into the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network in the body influenced by plant-derived cannabinoids, has provided medical experts with a fresh perspective on ailments such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and migraines.

Dr Ethan Russo, a professional neurologist and cannabis researcher, first published the concept of a spectrum disorder in 2004. He first began working on the idea of dysregulation in the ECS in 2001. Both doctors and patients have noticed that cannabis and CBD oil seem to benefit people with these conditions. Russo has proposed that the effectiveness of cannabinoid medicine in the trio of aforementioned conditions can be explained by Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).

A white paper cutout of a human head, missing a puzzle piece shaped hole, sits on a wooden surface. The puzzle piece, colored red, sits nearby. Though still theoretical, clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be a common contributor to numerous conditions, from fibromyalgia to migraines.

Though still theoretical, clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be a common contributor to numerous conditions, from fibromyalgia to migraines.

INTRODUCING CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY

For the ECS to function efficiently, the body must produce endocannabinoids (naturally occurring, cannabis-like chemicals) such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

However, studies have found that some people have lower endocannabinoid levels than others, which brings about health complications. There is an increasing body of clinical research which shows anxiety to be associated with reduced anandamide levels, and major depression to be linked with reduced 2-AG levels. When the body is unable to produce endocannabinoids in the concentrations required, chemical imbalances occur, which leads to illness.

Cannabinoid receptors interact with both endocannabinoids and cannabinoids, with the plant-derived compounds able to mimic endocannabinoids or otherwise influence them for ECS regulation. Therefore, it is logical that a cannabinoid treatment could effectively remedy CECD.

Russo’s latest significant update on his CECD research came in 2016, with a paper that continued to build on the concept, incorporating available clinical evidence. This followed an earlier 2008 release.

FIBROMYALGIA AND CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY

Medical researchers have been unable to come up with a definite cause for fibromyalgia. Patients suffer from an array of debilitating symptoms that have a significant effect on quality of life. These symptoms include chronic deep muscle and tender point pain, impaired cognitive function (or “fibro fog”), headaches, sleeping difficulties and restless leg syndrome. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of fibromyalgia patients experience one of or both of these mental health disorders. Typically, this is a result of the pain and fatigue caused by the condition. In 2011, a study found that CBD could reduce anxiety beyond placebo levels, with patients given a 600mg dose administered via CBD capsules.

Moreover, several symptoms of fibromyalgia are indicative of ECS dysregulation — for instance, inflammatory conditions occur due to problems with immune system response, which is modulated by the ECS and specifically the CB2 receptor. Studies have also found that serotonin levels are affected in fibromyalgia patients, which may be noteworthy considering CBD is an agonist of the 5-HT1A receptor.

MIGRAINES AND CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY

Around 39 million Americans are affected by migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Migraines can cause dizziness, nausea, numbness or tingling in the face and other unpleasant symptoms. Research has shown that migraine sufferers have “statistically significant” differences in anandamide levels in cerebrospinal fluid, which is found in the brain and spinal cord.

A woman clutches her head in pain, as if suffering from a migraine. Migraine sufferers have been shown to have lower levels of anandamide, a naturally occurring chemical found in all people that's similar to those found in cannabis and hemp.

Migraine sufferers have been shown to have lower levels of anandamide, a naturally occurring chemical found in all people that’s similar to those found in cannabis and hemp.

Russo found that endocannabinoid system changes could help to alleviate migraines in his 2004 research. The main finding was that anandamide, a key neurotransmitter in the ECS, heightens the effectiveness of the 5-HT1A receptor while inhibiting the 5-HT2A receptor. This could help with treating acute migraines and as a preventative treatment. Furthermore, the results showed that several cannabinoids exhibited anti-inflammatory properties and dopamine-blocking effects.

The light and sound sensitivity that results from migraines may be due to an overactive nervous system. The ECS is renowned for regulating such imbalances (Russo, 2016). Some have suggested that the root cause of migraines can be traced back to the trigeminovascular system, which brings blood to the brain. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can influence this system. Migraines and cluster headaches may be best managed with a treatment that is an agonist of the CB1 receptor.

In the case of migraines, one study found that while a CBD and THC treatment was not necessarily more effective than existing anti-migraine treatments, the side effects were significantly reduced.

Fascinatingly, cannabis was a common treatment for migraines in Europe and North America from the mid-1800s until the 1940s, a time when the herb was being prohibited around the globe.

NEXT STEPS IN CANNABINOID RESEARCH

As governments all over the world look into the benefits of medical cannabis, the number of high-quality studies being carried out in clinical settings is sure to increase.

With time, we should get an in-depth look at the potential of cannabinoids as a treatment for fibromyalgia, migraines and other illnesses. As our understanding of the ECS deepens, we may learn more about the wide-scale implications of dysfunction in the system.

A gloved scientist with a vial of CBD and a hemp leaf. 'Full spectrum' extracts contain more cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial chemicals found in hemp & cannabis.

A gloved scientist with a vial of CBD and a hemp leaf. ‘Full spectrum’ extracts contain more cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial chemicals found in hemp & cannabis.

Furthermore, more research needs to be done on the possible interactions cannabinoids have with receptors outside of the ECS and the effects this may have on the body.

CLINICAL ENDOCANNABINOID DEFICIENCY SHOWS HOW MUCH WE HAVE LEFT TO LEARN

It’s essential to bear in mind that the work of Dr Russo and others on CECD is at the forefront of cannabis science, and we still have plenty to learn about the endocannabinoid system, the effects of its dysregulation, and the genuine potential of cannabinoid-based medicines for treating notoriously complicated conditions such as fibromyalgia.

However, the theory has certainly fleshed out since 2004. There are studies that suggest medical cannabis and CBD can have a therapeutic effect for certain conditions. But in his 2016 paper, Russo noted that contradictions in CECD research were common. He reported that excessive levels of endocannabinoids could also be damaging for health, potentially leading to obesity and hepatic fibrosis.

Regulation of the endocannabinoid system is probably not be as simple as taking a dose of CBD or THC. There are dozens of cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis. Research indicates that whole-plant tinctures can be preferable to isolates of just one chemical. Given that endocannabinoid imbalances differ from patient to patient, the ideal medication for these imbalances may vary too. Perhaps someday, these treatments may be more be tailored to fit a person’s exact illness.

It’s clear we still have a lot more to learn about the endocannabinoid system before we can fully understand how it contributes to our health and well-being.

 

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Cannabinoid Antibiotics: How Hemp & Cannabis Could Help Fight Antibiotic Resistance

In recent decades, society has started to lose its battle against harmful bacteria. However, a new class of antibiotics could be developed in the future that are derived from naturally-occurring compounds found in hemp and cannabis.

Cannabinoid antibiotics could prove to be part of the solution to the threat of antibiotic resistance.

In recent decades, society has started to lose its battle against harmful bacteria. Not only are some types of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, but researchers’ efforts to develop new classes of antibiotics have all but ground to a halt.

A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2011 noted that more than 20 classes of antibiotics were marketed between 1940 and 1962, however just two new classes have emerged since then. This wasn’t always a problem with the development of existing antibiotics proving enough to stave off the threat. Now, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are worryingly common, with gram-negative bacteria a particular concern.

A pharmacist in a lab coat examines bottles of medicine. Though research is only in its preliminary stages, doctors and pharmacists could someday prescribe cannabinoid antibiotics to their patients.

Though research is only in its preliminary stages, doctors and pharmacists could someday prescribe cannabinoid antibiotics to their patients.

However, it’s not all bad news. Preliminary research shows that one set of compounds could help manage the threat of bacteria, and even destroy superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Developed from hemp and cannabis, cannabinoid antibiotics could be in your future.

ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE IS BECOMING A ‘MAJOR GLOBAL THREAT’

It’s possible that we could have prevented our antibiotic crisis if we’d used them appropriately. Doctors and patients misuse antibiotics up to 50 percent of the time, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors aren’t always to blame for careless overprescribing. Patients sometimes pressure their GPs for antibiotics and some even self-medicate and buy antibiotics online.

However, there are no long-term benefits to taking antibiotics unnecessarily – even just as a precaution. Overprescribing and overuse just speeds up the rate that bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, which could lead to much more serious health issues, for the patient and the general public. The CDC estimates that every year there are more than 70,000 MRSA infections and 9,000 MRSA-related deaths in the US.

Ominously, former World Health Organization director general Dr Margaret Chan labelled antimicrobial resistance a “major global threat” in 2016, with the organization estimating that deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections could reach 10 million a year by 2050.

CANNABINOID ANTIBIOTICS TO THE RESCUE?

The antibiotic potential of cannabis, and therefore cannabinoids, was being studied as early as the 1950s, and the herb has a history of medical use dating back thousands of years to the times of ancient Egypt and ancient China. During the 1950s, cannabis sativa showed promising signs as an antiseptic, but with no individual components of the plant isolated at this stage, there was no way of telling which compounds were helping. It wasn’t until researchers began isolating cannabinoids in the 1960s that cannabis sativa really started to be understood.

Ground-breaking cannabinoid antibiotic research published in 2008 by Giovanni Appendino from the University of Eastern Piedmont and Simon Gibbons the University of London has developed our knowledge of cannabinoids as antibiotics significantly, although there’s still much we don’t know. Researchers aren’t quite sure why cannabinoid antibiotics work. Nor do they know how reliably those antibiotic effects would work in the body.

Most antibiotics target DNA gyrase or fatty acid synthesis, but cannabinoids appear to go after neither. Since the endocannabinoid system remained an unknown until the 1990s, it’s not unusual for us to be in the dark about how cannabinoids interact with the body, although given how effective these compounds are as antibiotics, they likely function in a specific mechanism, according to Gibbons.

A gloved hand holds a beaker containing amber liquid and a dropper, labeled CBD. Some research suggests CBD could be used as an antibiotic in clinical settings. Cannabinoid antibiotics represent the cutting-edge of research.

Some research suggests CBD could be used as an antibiotic in clinical settings. Cannabinoid antibiotics represent the cutting-edge of research.

Several non-psychoactive cannabinoids have displayed antibiotic properties, including cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG). Psychoactive THC has been studied more extensively and appears to have some therapeutic effects that other cannabinoids haven’t yet shown.

CBD AS AN ANTIBIOTIC

Appendino and Gibbons found CBD to be effective against several types of MRSA. This included two strains that have been prevalent in British hospitals.

When CBD proved effective in treating these unusual strains, the researchers realized that cannabinoids might work differently from conventional antibiotics.

CBG, CBN and CBC AS ANTIBIOTICS

Appendino and Gibbons also noted CBG as a promising antibiotic in their 2008 paper. Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabichromene (CBC) also look to have potential. If scientists develop a cannabis-derived antibiotic, it’s likely to have greater success if it’s non-psychoactive.

With CBD, CBG, CBN and CBC all having antibiotic effects, development of an all-encompassing cannabinoid-based antibiotic may be possible. Scientists might derive these from whole-plant extracts of hemp.

THC AS AN ANTIBIOTIC

Despite being a psychoactive cannabinoid, you won’t get high if you apply THC to the skin. Therefore, it’s wide-ranging antibiotic prospects are likely to be of great interest to mainstream science.

Studies into the antibacterial effects of THC have been under way since at least the 1970s, with a paper in 1976 demonstrating that the cannabinoid was effective against both streptococcus and staphylococcus – the latter is responsible for the notorious staph infection. In this study, THC proved most effective in concentrations of 1 to 5 micrograms per millileter. However, scientists found THC (and also CBD) were not as helpful against these gram-negative bacteria in blood, leading many to dismiss the antibiotic uses of THC. Other tests also found THC to be ineffective against various types of gram-negative bacteria.

A hospital operating room. A hospital operating room. As antibiotic-resistant bacteria become danagerously commonplace, some researchers are turning to cannabinoid antibiotics made from cannabis and hemp.

As antibiotic-resistant bacteria become danagerously commonplace, some researchers are turning to cannabinoid antibiotics made from cannabis and hemp.

More recent studies are challenging this narrative. Whole-plant cannabis sativa oil has demonstrated antibiotic efficaciousness against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E.coli, two types of gram-negative bacteria.

ROOM TO GROW IN CANNABINOID ANTIBIOTIC RESEARCH

More than anything, this revolutionary science is showing us what could be done with cannabis in the future if its properties are harnessed correctly. The emergence of CBD oil in recent times is another example of how cutting-edge science is broadening the plant’s appeal.

The research into cannabinoids as antibiotics is new and far from complete or confirmed. We are certainly not recommending using cannabis to self-medicate against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

However, the early signs in this research are very intriguing. Cannabinoids seemingly bypass the mechanisms that other antibiotics use, and which bacteria have become wise to. If research continues in this vein, a doctor might someday prescribe cannabinoid antibiotics for you.

 

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