Tag Archives: cannabinoid

Interview with Bluebird Director of Science Lex Pelger on CBD

Recently, I was able to call Lex Pelger, Director of Science for Bluebird Botanicals. We also hooked up digitally so I could send him some further questions via email. The company provides CBD (cannabidiol) products to consumers. The CBD extract allows for some of the benefits of marijuana but without the intoxicating high. Pelger is quite passionate about the use of CBD and the science behind it.

Lex Pelger on His Interest in CBD and the Science of It

Lex Pelger.

(Slight edits have been made to the following interview dialogue for clarity and accuracy.)

Me: As a Science Director at Bluebird Botanicals, what are a few of the most common tasks you’re faced with on a daily basis?

Lex: One of the main parts of my job is education. I teach our customer care team about what’s known about the cannabinoids and human health as well as talk to customers about what might work for them. I also go to conferences and working on research questions to make sure that we have the most accurate science available. I also do a good bit of writing articles, lecturing and answering questions from journalists about the cannabinoid world.

Me: In your experience, how have you seen CBD help people affected by the THC in ordinary cannabis?

Lex: For people who do not enjoy the psychoactivity of THC or who are very sensitive to even small amounts of it, full plant extract CBD can be a great way to harness the healing powers of the cannabis without getting any kind of high.

Me: What are the most notable benefits CBD can produce in people?

Lex: CBD supports health and wellness in people via the endocannabinoid system and its interactions with the neuronal, immune and hormonal systems of the body. In general, CBD can be seen as a balancing agent for the body.

Me: Bluebird offers CBD health products in a variety of forms, such as liquid extracts and capsules. To what varying ailments do these differently-applied products pertain? Is one compound better than the others in some circumstances?

Lex: The main difference in the ingestion method is the personal preference of the person and the amount of time until onset. For people with acute needs, there are vape pens to get the cannabinoids into your system within a few seconds. For effectiveness that lasts for most of the day, people like to take the oils orally. We’ll also soon have topicals and that’s a great way to get cannabinoids into the system through the skin.

Me: What was the educational process like to get into this field of science?

Lex: For me, I spent five years reading the peer-reviewed literature and traveling the continent interviewing experts and listening to cannabis users. That was the best education.

Me: Bluebird’s website displays a growing line of “pet products.” Could you explain a few of these how they can improve the lives of domesticated animals?

Lex: The cannabinoids tend to work on mammals in the same ways. Since anything with a spinal column has an endocannabinoid system, we like having pet products to help our animal friends feel better too.

Me: Have CBD products been tested a lot on animals?

Lex: A lot of CBD has been given to animals in this country and we certainly hear good stories about the results but the scientific literature is quite scant on the topic.

Me: How do the effects of low-THC hemp differ between humans and other mammals?

Lex: There does not seem to be much difference aside from the smaller weights that necessitate giving less to smaller animals.

Me: Could you go over the relationship between CBD and someone’s endocannabinoid system?

Lex: There’s two main known receptors in the endocannabinoid system: CB1 & CB2. It’s funny but CBD doesn’t activate either of those. But it does modulate how other molecules bind to those receptors and that’s why the presence of CBD can lessen the negative psychoactive effects from THC.

CBD is actually a very wide-ranging compound with at least 80 different targets at the biochemical level of the human body. That’s why it can do so many different things for different people. Molecularly, you might compare [it] to a Swiss Army knife.
Me: The endocannabinoid system has far-reaching effects in several areas of the human body, but which other system do you think relies most heavily on it?
Lex: It is especially tied up with the neuronal system, the immune system, and the hormonal system. However, since those are still some of the most mysterious areas of science, the complete picture of these interactions is not yet formed.

Pelger Talks on the Culture and Media Behind the CBD Business

Me: Obviously, our culture has produced many notions which throw a negative light on marijuana and items associated with it. How do you think this effect can be reversed?
Lex: Storytelling and education. People believe the stories of others and as more and more people share about what the cannabinoids have done for them, more people will have the courage to give them a try.
Me: You run the Greener Grass Podcast; so you’re already working to spread the facts about hemp and its medicinal uses. As the host, what have been some of the highlights of the podcast in your opinion?
Lex: I especially loved sitting down with Dr. Julie Holland. She’s a NYC psychiatrist who doesn’t hold back and she’s great about giving the nuts and the bolts about what works.

Me: You’re the author of two novels rooted in science (The Elephant Folio and The Queer Chapter) which cover a bit of marijuana’s past as well as the endocannabinoid system. What do you think your favorite element of these novels is?
Lex: I liked watching them come together. Of course, I have outlines when I start writing but the end product grows and transforms so much that you’re utterly surprised by how it turns out. In fact, I can still sit down and read them with enjoyment because I forget exactly what happens next.
Me: How many hemp-related graphic novels do you think you’ll end up writing? Do you think you would ever stop?
Lex: If I keep following my captain Herman Melville and use the structure of Moby Dick, I just have 133 more books left to write. Luckily, I have them all sketched out and outlined on my wall so now it’s just a matter of taking the next decade or two to fill them in.
Me: Lastly, where do you see laws regulating marijuana and CBD products going in the future?
Lex: I hope that the laws around cannabis will continue to liberalize while still keeping consumer safety at the forefront. But I’ve studied too much about the history of the War on Drugs to not think that a horrible backslide will occur that continues to use the War on Marijuana as a tool of racist oppression against ‘those people’ just as Nixon originally designed it.

Pot twist: Cannabis component helps fight addiction in new study

A new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology has revealed that a non-psychoactive and non-addictive ingredient of the Cannabis sativa plant can help reduce the risk of relapse among cocaine and alcohol addicts. According to lead author Friedbert Weiss, non-psychoactive cannabinoids could have important medical benefits in the fight against substance addiction.

Image via Pixabay/futurefilmworks

Addiction is a powerful, vicious monster that lives inside yourself. The battle is an extremely hard one and it often carries stretches out over years and years — potentially for an entire life. Many abstinent addicts find it even harder to control themselves in drug-related settings or when they experience stress or higher levels of anxiousness. For them, it’s a true struggle to dismiss their impulses when offered an addictive drug like alcohol or cocaine.

Researchers wanted to study the effect of Cannabidiol (CBD) on drug relapse in a rat model. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of the plant Cannabis sativa (I suppose you already know that’s weed). CBD has been considered as a treatment for neurological and psychiatric disorders, and more recently also as a treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

“The efficacy of the cannabinoid [CBD] to reduce reinstatement in rats with both alcohol and cocaine – and, as previously reported, heroin – histories predicts therapeutic potential for addiction treatment across several classes of abused drugs,” says Weiss.

Scientists applied a gel containing CBD once per day for a week to the skin of lab rats. The rodents had a history of deliberate daily alcohol or cocaine self-administration, leading to addiction-like behavior.

Next, they performed a number of tests to observe the rats’ reaction to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations, as well as behavior tests that measured impulsivity — a psychological trait associated with drug addiction. The research team reported that CBD reduced relapse provoked by stress and drug cues. CBD also reduced anxiety and impulsivity in the rats.

The authors wrote: “CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior. Following treatment termination, reinstatement remained attenuated up to ≈5 months although plasma and brain CBD levels remained detectable only for 3 days. CBD also reduced experimental anxiety and prevented the development of high impulsivity in rats with an alcohol dependence history.”

Authors hope that insight into the mechanisms by which CBD exerts these effects will be investigated in future research. They believe that the findings are proof of CBD’s potential in relapse prevention, CBD’s major benefits being its actions across several vulnerability states, and long-lasting effects with only brief treatment.

“Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons. Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing relapse than treatments targeting only a single state,” Weiss concludes.

Photo: Angry Jogger

Runner’s high is literally like smoking cannabis

The feel-good, floating sensation people get after a good run is analogous to smoking pot. Researchers came to the conclusion after they found mice released chemicals in the brain that bind to the same brain receptors which are triggered when one smokes the herb. The practical implications of the research are limited, but they do seem to suggest that evolution fostered running otherwise it wouldn’t have been this pleasurable.

Photo: Angry Jogger

Photo: Angry Jogger

But, wait aren’t endorphins what cause runner’s high? That’s what the prevailing thinking was since the 1980s when it was proven that exercise causes higher blood levels, which in turn cause physical discomfort. At the same time, the body also releases endorphins which are opiates, hence act as analgesics with effects similar to getting a shot of morphine. So, scientists thought that endorphins are the main chemicals that lead to the  positive and energizing outlook on life one gets after an exhausting run.

Some weren’t convinced, though. The endorphin molecule is big, and while it certainly helps locally by relaxing muscles, it’s quite unlikely that it can pass the blood-brain barrier and bind to the key receptors in the brain, so you shouldn’t feel high from it. Previous studies that closely investigated runner’s high found high levels of endocannabinoids – naturally occurring cannabis molecules – in the blood of humans and animals, making them a more likely candidate.

Researchers at the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg medical school in Mannheim, Germany put the hypothesis to the test. They rounded up healthy mice for a set of experiments. First, the mice were placed in partially lit cages, with dark patches here and there to test for anxiety. An anxious mouse prefers to linger in the shadows. This assessment would prove to be very important.

The mice were then let to run freely on wheels, which they particularly enjoy to do since the researchers didn’t have to go to any effort to convince the rodents. Following the run, the animals were observed to be more tranquil, lingered more in the light – something which anxious mice wouldn’t have done normally – and were more tolerant to physical discomfort. When blood samples were collected, elevated levels of both endorphins and endocannabinoids were found. So, which of the two were making the mouse chill? Maybe both. To find out, the researchers used drugs that block the endorphin receptors in the brain, while leaving the endocannabinoid system intact. No change in behavior post running was registered. When the procedure was made in reverse, however – that is, when the endocannabinoid receptors were blocked – the mice proved anxious and were sensitive to pain. All this seems to suggest that cannabinoids and not, in fact, endorphins are responsible for the runner’s high as reported in PNAS.

Lead researcher David Raichlen of the University of Arizona said:

‘Maybe runner’s high is not some peculiar thing with humans. Maybe it’s an evolutionary payoff for doing something hard and painful that also helps them survive better, be healthier, hunt better or have more offspring.’

marijuana use chronic

Chronic marijuana use could be avoided by inherent brain ‘high’

People who chronically abuse marijuana may be able to quit by replenishing the supply of a molecule that normally activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain, thus reducing anxiety and relieving mood.

A truly natural high

marijuana use chronic

Photo: Drug & Alcohol Mag

In the 1980s and 90s, researchers identified cannabinoid receptors, long, ropy proteins that weave themselves into the surfaces of our cells and process THC – the active psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. The brain has groups of cannabinoid receptors concentrated in several different places. These can affect the following mental and physical activities:

  • Short-term memory
  • Coordination
  • Learning
  • Problem-solving

Cannabinoid receptors are activated by a neurotransmitter called anandamide. Like THC, anandamide is a cannabinoid, but one that your body makes. THC mimics the actions of anandamide, meaning that THC binds with cannabinoid receptors and activates neurons, which causes adverse effects on the mind and body. More specifically, anadamine, along with 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), is part of a class of compounds called endocannabinoids. These are natural signaling molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors in the brain, the same receptors turned on by the active ingredient in marijuana. When these molecules bind with cannabinoid receptors, they create a state of natural high, similar to the marijuana high, but without the downsides.

Treating chronic marijuana use anxiety

Some users might believe that there aren’t any downsides. Studies have shown, however, that chronic consumers suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, which is kind of ironic since people smoke marijuana to relieve tension and anxiety in the first place. Indeed, smokers feel a lot more relaxed after the first joint, but in the long run prolonged, heavy use down-regulates cannabinoid receptors. Those receptors that lie in the amygdala are most vulnerable. The amygdala is a key area of the brain involved in regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response. You’re not wrong calling this a vicious circle, which is why some chronic users have turned their habit into an addiction.

[RELATED] Heavy marijuana use causes poor memory and abnormal brain structure, study concludes

Image: Cell Reports

Image: Cell Reports

The role of the most-abundant endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is still poorly understood, but recent research is starting to reveal more on how these signaling molecules work their magic. A team led by Sachin Patel, a scientist at Vanderbilt University, bred genetically modified mice with impaired ability to produce 2-AG in the brain. These mice  exhibited anxiety-like behaviors, and female mice also displayed behaviors suggestive of depression. But after an enzyme that breaks 2-AG was blocked, the supply of the endocannabinoid was restored to normal levels and these behaviors were reversed.

Mouse and human brains aren’t alike, but if chronic marijuana users are indeed found to have low levels of 2-AG, then this method of “normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable … therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders,” the researchers conclude in their paper published in Cell Reports.

Previously, the same demonstrated how chemically modified inhibitors of the COX-2 enzyme they developed relieve anxiety behaviors in mice by activating natural “endocannabinoids” without gastrointestinal side effects. Clinical trials might begin within a few years.

Study shows non-hallucinogenic cannabinoids can work as effective anti-cancer drugs

What tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active hallucinogen in marijuana can do in several diseases has been researched for decades, but now, a new study has shown that the non-hallucinogenic components of cannabis act as effective anti-cancer agents.

cannabinoid

The team from St George’s University of London was led by Dr Wai Liu; they used a number of cannabinoids to test their efficiency against leukaemia alone or in combination with each other. Out of the 6 cannabinoids tested, each demonstrated anti-cancer properties just as effective as those seen in THC, and even more important, they were much more effective against cancer cells when used in combination with each other.

“This study is a critical step in unpicking the mysteries of cannabis as a source of medicine. The cannabinoids examined have minimal, if any, hallucinogenic side effects, and their properties as anti-cancer agents are promising., said Dr. Liu.”

“These agents are able to interfere with the development of cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from growing. In some cases, by using specific dosage patterns, they can destroy cancer cells on their own. Used in combination with existing treatment, we could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer. Significantly, these compounds are inexpensive to produce and making better use of their unique properties could result in much more cost effective anti-cancer drugs in future.”

How it works

Many people will go out and say that this is just one of those studies which finds out way to kill cancer cells in a Petri dish but has no promise in real life – that’s not the case. This type of research has already shown it can shrink or even eliminate tumors in living mice, so we’re dealing with something which has a real potential to fight against cancer.

Here’s a simple explanation of how cannabinoids work on the human body: we have 2 cannabinoid (CB) receptors. CB1, the first receptors, are in the brain, and they make you high when activated. CB2 on the other hand are expressed in bodily tissues, and overly expressed in cancer cells and they are responsible for the secondary effects of cannabis. THC (the main constituent of marijuana) activates both; however, researchers have shown that that chemicals can be used to activate the CB2 receptor by itself. In general, when CB2 receptors are activated on cancerous cells, an anti-proliferative effect is observed. Also, cancer cell death is achieved, while leaving healthy cells untouched.

cb1 cb2

However, what has to be said is that in vitro alterations on growth/viability are not very unique – there are quite possibly thousands of compounds (most of which are natural, found in plants) which could have a similar effect. In vitro studies basically show that the compound has some promise and that it should be further researched. Furthermore, I’m all for using THC or other cannabinoids (for medical purposes or pleasure), but you shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that THC is a panacea of some sort.

Scientific Reference.

Of pain and marijuana

The sun begins to ooze off outside of Birmingham, England. It’s tea time. A woman stands alone in her house, making herself a nice warm cup. After the tea is done, she stirs a half spoon cannabis in her tea, in an attempt to seek relief from pain and spasms caused by her multiple sclerosis. This desperate attempt to get rid of the chronic pain for just a few hours is, in the eyes of British justice, a crime.

She realizes what she’s doing; doesn’t take the drug lightly, or for recreational purposes. She’s also aware that it could get her prosecuted, and yet she still refuses to take the daily 13 pills she’s been prescribed, and instead chooses to use cannabis, which gives her 3 hours of relief. In case you don’t know, multiple sclerosis is one of the worst diseases you can have. It’s basically a degenerative disease of the central nervous system, with symptoms including pain, paralysis, loss of balance, etc.

“When I wake up in the morning my knees, my ankles, I have all these muscles pull my leg to the left so I find it hard to walk straight,” she said. “With cannabis these symptoms recede to a point where I can walk OK-ish. I want politicians to be nice to me… I’m sick.”[..] “I just don’t want to take the route of taking 13 pills a day when I can just use one medicine – cannabis – and I feel fantastic using it,” she said.
“I’d rather take the risk of breaking the law than go through that.”

medical_marijuanapreview

So why doesn’t she just take the pills ? Well, first of all they have a sum of negative side effects that include high blood pressure, ulcers and even the risk of heart failure and psychosis. They also just don’t work sometimes, or require an increase of dosage at regular intervals. I don’t know, but I’m guessing they’re also very expensive. As for cannabis, well, the risk of negative side effects is almost neglectable. You can literally grow it yourself, and it’s accepted (even recommended) by more and more countries in medical situations. The medical uses of marijuana are numerous, including multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, and cancer. It greatly reduces pain and nausea, spasms, depression and sleeping disorders, and patients who used it reported a significant increase in the general quality of life.

To my knowledge, this is the only natural plant that’s illegal. The real irony here is that just by watching TV for a couple of hours you’re bombarded with commercials for powerful medications with numerous possible side effects, but they’re perfectly legal; even more than that – they’re recommended.

Via BBC, who I’d like to thank