Cannabis, because of its psychoactive effects, already played an important role in the religious services and rituals of ancient cultures while also being used for its medicinal properties.
Cannabis, because of its psychoactive effects, already played an important role in the religious services and rituals of ancient cultures while also being used for its medicinal properties. At some point however, cannabis, just as many other things, began to be stigmatised, even to the extent that it was seen as unhealthy and dangerous. Today’s legislation originates from the Marijuana Tax Act, which was introduced in the US in 1937 and resulted in the curbing of cannabis use, after thousands of years of peaceful coexistence with mankind. The law marked the beginning of an aggressive propaganda war against cannabis, resulting in the worldwide deterioration of its image and leading towards the laws as we know them today.
Ironically, it was the United States’ government by means of its Health Department, which took out a Patent on Cannabinoids many years later, in 2003. Considering the dubious reputation of cannabis at the time, this seemed an odd move to make. It can be explained simply, though.
In the 1960s, ?9-tetrahidrocannabinol (?9-THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of Cannabis sativa (C. sativa), was isolated from the plant. From then on, enormous progress was made in cannabinoid research, culminating in the discovery of the working mechanism of these agents in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was the moment when the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) were discovered and that endocannabinoids were found that have a physiological effect on the activation of these receptors: anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2AG).
And so, the American patent no. 6630507 was granted at exactly the moment when — based on cannabinoid research — pharmaceutical companies could start acquiring knowledge about what was to be qualified later as one of the most potent antioxidants and neuroprotectants in nature.
Indeed, it was found that cannabinoids have antioxidant properties, a discovery which established the usability of these agents for the treatment of a large number of oxidation-related diseases, ischemic ageing conditions, as well as inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.
Moreover, cannabinoids limit neurological damage in case of a stroke and can be used as neuroprotectors as well as for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and HIV. Researchers also stressed that non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, have very favourable properties, in that they lack the toxicity of psychoactive cannabinoids when taken in large doses.
Because of this, and thanks to science, cannabis now functions as starting point for an interesting surge. The internal process is simpler than it seems: cannabinoids (CB) produce effects that activate a number of receptors in the membranes of nervous cells, especially in neurones, the so-called CB receptors, which are activated by messenger agents of a lipophile nature, the so-called endocannabinoids (eCB). Both elements, together with the enzymes that are responsible for synthesis and breakdown of these eCBs, are part of a newly-discovered communication system in the brain, the so-called endogenous cannabinoid system (sCBe). This endogenous cannabinoid system plays a role in various brain processes and can be applied to several neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.
This means — as was already stated above — that cannabinoids can be useful for the treatment of, for instance, Alzheimer’s disease because of their impact on the degenerative process of the disease.
According to Tim Karl, senior researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia, “cannabis is not a single element, but a mixture of more than sixty different elements; we should be focusing on the diversity of these components, since we could benefit from a number of them.”
Dr Tim Karl himself has performed research in which mice that showed symptoms similar to someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, were injected with cannabidiol. Dr Karl wanted to establish what would happen to brain cells when treated with cannabis. He concluded that the mice showed great improvements in the parts of the test related to recognising and remembering objects. According to Karl, “it is basically possible to restore the mice’s health by using cannabis. One could say that the substance is beneficial, but more research is needed into the brains of mice to be 100% sure”.
The researcher says that “most elements of marijuana are harmful because they can damage the cognitive system and can have negative psychoactive effects. But research so far seems to suggest that cannabidiol does not have any of these detrimental effects.”
In the meantime, it has been shown that cannabis actively stimulates appetite in AIDS patients, reduces nausea caused by chemotherapy, reduces muscle spasms in patients with neurological disorders, reduces intra-ocular pressure in patients suffering from glaucoma, and can even actively reduce the symptoms of asthma.
The speed of scientific progress is so breathtakingly high that we will not have to wait as long as we think in order to see how the global scientific community will agree on the use of medicinal cannabis; there is simply too much data present to think that a few isolated cases are represented here, and that cannabis as a therapy is only a myth.