About Cannabinoid Medicine

Cannabinoid Medicine is the study and clinical use of cannabinoids to regulate the endocannabinoid system and related disorders.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabis Sativa is a plant with many medicinal and wellness uses, thanks to the hundreds of biologically active plant chemicals called ‘cannabinoids’ as well as other plant chemicals. 

These chemicals work in the human brain and body on our own ‘endo’ meaning ‘inside us’ cannabinoid system which is involved with homeostasis, regulation of the stress response, mood balance, sleep, immune regulation and much more. 

Of the over 700 plant chemicals found so far in the cannabis plant, the cannabinoids are the group of plant chemicals that have been the most studied so far for their effects on human health. 

There are over 120 phytocannabinoid chemicals that have been id’d so far. Each cannabinoid has distinct biological activity and clinical effects. The most well-known phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD.

Other plants besides cannabis make phytocannabinoids too. Liverwort of the variety that grows wild in New Zealand also produces cannabinoids and one that is very similar to a form of THC. 

The echinacea plant (also known as purple coneflower), used in antiviral and anti-cold botanical supplements also make compounds that act on the CB2 cannabinoid receptors, which interact with our immune system. 

However, the clinical use of cannabinoids in measurable doses involves ones extracted from the cannabis plant.

 

What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis are whole plant medicines regulated as unlicensed medicines and controlled drug medications in the UK.

It is now legal in the United Kingdom since November 2018 on private prescription. It is not yet available on the NHS.

Medical Cannabis is a whole group or class of medications. As a group it contains over 100 active cannabinoid compounds, which are thought to work together to deliver the medicinal effects although the main cannabinoids used for dosage and therapeutic effect currently are CBD and THC.

Medical cannabis oils are extracted from the cannabis plant (the unfertilised female flower) using various extraction techniques (such as alcohol or supercritical CO2 extraction).

The oils contain a mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes (and other components such as flavonoids) in proportions according to the strain or chemovar of the plant and the type of extraction technique used.

This means that the minor plant chemicals are retained in the final product unlike with drugs where there are only 1 or 2 active ingredients.

The different strains or chemovars, can produce different therapeutic effects making it a highly personalized medicine when used in expert hands, beyond just CBD and THC dosage.

How is Medical Cannabis different to ‘recreational’ cannabis use?

Medical cannabis is very different to recreational cannabis in a few important ways.

Medical cannabis is produced as a medicine to very strict EU GMP standards to the same level of strictness as other medications.

It is prescribed by a specialist physician only in the UK, like other controlled medicines.

Medical cannabis does not need to make you feel high in order to be effective. In fact, the goal is to get symptom relief without feeling impaired, unlike with recreational use of cannabis.

Medical cannabis is not smoked and therefore does not pose the risks to the lungs that smoking recreational cannabis can. It is dosed specifically as a medicine.

What is Medical Cannabis Used For?

Medical Cannabis is often used as a medicine for patients with difficult to control symptoms & those who have failed other approaches and can often rapidly improve symptom control, relieve suffering and improve quality of life.

In many cases, it helps patients free up mental bandwidth so they can do more things in their treatment plan that they couldn’t before.

For example, combining the cannabis medicines with a specific mindbody relaxation training technique or with an exercise or diet change becomes easier due to the brain and body being in less distress.

Medical cannabis is not a cure for any disease, but it can provide effective symptom relief in even very difficult to treat cases.

Most patients see a significant improvement within the first month of therapy across multiple symptom clusters including things like mood, fatigue, stress, pain, sleep and mental function.

Further tweaking the strain or chemovar and delivery mode of the medication can help make further gains, along with a symptom-guided personalized titration period.

Medical cannabis can be incredible helpful for cross-diagnostic symptom clusters as a single medicine treatment and also in difficult to treat chronic conditions such as: EDS, Fibromyalgia, chronic pain conditions, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue/ME, ASD, which often have multiple overlapping symptoms and may not respond well to conventional drugs alone.

Dr. Gordon has spent over a decade using medical cannabis as part of an integrative holistic medicine approach to helping patients dramatically improve their quality of life whilst dealing with a chronic illness.

Our Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids are powerful natural molecules for treating multiple symptoms which may seem unrelated.

This is because they work with our natural endocannabinoid system, or ECS whose function is crucial to overall brain and body balance, or homeostasis.

The ECS was only discovered in the last 20 years and many doctors are still unaware of it’s presence and how it can be targeted using cannabinoid medicines or medical cannabis.

However, there are now thousands of research studies on the ECS function and how plant cannabinoids can help work in our brains and bodies via this system.
The ECS controls many essential brain and body functions including:

  • Mood balance
  • Stress and anxiety responses
  • Sleep
  • Pain control at both brain and body levels
  • immune function
  • Gut health
  • Neuroprotection

 Endocannabinoids are molecules our brain and body make ‘on demand’ to work within our central nervous systems and body organs via cannabinoid receptors. 

These receptors are in virtually every body system from our brains and gut to our bone marrow and reproductive organs.  

Like any other system, sometimes the balance of endocannabinoids and of the ECS can become disrupted, similar to other hormone and neurotransmitter systems.  

Many chronic illness states and chronic symptoms involve something going wrong in the ECS.  ECS imbalance has been linked to issues ranging from chronic pain, anxiety and depression to IBS, immune dysfunction and seizures.

The diverse conditions impacted by altered ECS function explains why plant cannabinoids help with so many diverse and seemingly unrelated issues, symptoms and conditions 

Cannabinoid Types

THC

THC is the plant chemical people first think about with cannabis, because it is the one that can make you feel intoxicated at high doses in recreational cannabis. However, in smaller and even micro doses in medical cannabis, it has many medicinal properties specific just to THC.

The science nitty gritty: THC locks onto special receptors (like a key fitting into a lock) in our brain and body, called the CB1 and CB2 receptors and is considered a partial agonist of them–meaning it partly activates these receptors and it actually works similarly to your body’s natural cannabinoid molecules in small controlled doses.

THC  Medicinal properties

  • Pain relief (analgesic) in chronic pain
  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • Neuroprotectant (in small doses in adults)
  • Muscle relaxant (antispasmodic)
  • Anti-nausea
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Helps with PTSD (dampens the fear response)
  • Sleep promotion
    calming/relaxing (in small doses alongside CBD)
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-tumour effects (for some cancers, more research is needed for dosing in humans and which cancers may have this effect)

CBD

The second most common cannabinoid in the plant is Cannabidiol or CBD.

While it likely binds to the endocannabinoid system, its mode of action is mainly through activating other neurotransmitter (meaning chemical messenger) systems in both the brain and body and immune system.

This includes working on something called the adenosine-serotonin-ovaloid receptors.

CBD medicinal properties 

  • Neuroprotective qualities
  • Anti-anxiety/stress
  • Antipsychotic effects
  • Anti-convulsant (anti-seizures)
  • Anti-oxidant

CBG

This is the non acid form of the ‘mother’ cannabinoid, CBGA.

CBG is usually not found in high amounts in many strains, but some new high CBG strains have been bred for extracting the CBG for it’s medicinal value.

CBG properties in animal models

  • Anti-tumour effects (some types of brain cancers, incl. Glioblastoma in humans and also breast cancers)
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Antibacterial qualities
  • Anti-fungal
  • Pain relieving
  • Anti-anxiety
  • For psoriasis skin topically

CBDA

CBDA’s medical properties include:

  • Anti-nausea
  • Anti-inflammation
  • Some anti-cancer effects (in vitro studies & animal models)

CBN

This is very low in fresh cannabis, and is a breakdown product of THC so the older the cannabis medicine is, the more THC may convert into CBN.

  • Sedative
  • Sleep promoting
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Topically for psoriasis and burns