The Friendly Biochemistry of Cannabinoids and Its Therapeutic Uses

The Fallacy Of Prohibition

“Evidence now suggests that AEA and 2-AG” (our own natural endocannabinoids) “possess specific pharmacological properties, are engaged in different forms of synaptic plasticity, and take part in different behavioral functions.

–Journal of Molecular Neurobiology

Many feel that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is a totally external, alien compound and because of that, it has risks to the human body. This notion likely originated from its illegality in the past, along with the anti-marijuana disinformation which—if “all is fair in love and war”—served to malign cannabis in the “war on drugs.”

The truth is less frightening—in fact, even reassuring—because the human body is no stranger to “cannabinoids.” In fact, we have evolved with our own supply of cannabinoids in our biochemistry—the “endocannabinoids”—from the very beginning of our species.

Cannabis? Evolution Beat Us To It

…progress in understanding both animal phylogeny and mechanisms/adaptations all promise to allow us at last to fulfill our understanding of the evolution of mechanisms and adaptations.

–C.P. Mangum, et al., Physiological Zoology

In the human body the main endocannabinoids are the molecules, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2AG). (In contrast, there have been at least 113 distinct cannabinoids isolated from the cannabis plant.)
The endocannabinoids that are part of our natural biochemistry are designed to fit into “receptor sites” in the brain to affect many processes, including appetite, sexual attraction, feelings of well-being, and many others—even in sperm production. We have evolved as much with these as we have with things like insulin, adrenaline, and the hundreds of thousands of other “chemicals” that make us function normally. In fact, we as a species have survived because of all of them—and many more yet to be discovered! We are literally bags of chemicals, from the very amino acids in our DNA to the proteins that make our bodies run.

We have also evolved in our media sophistication and the astuteness of our discretionary knowledge, thanks to the world’s interconnectivity via the “Internet of Things.” While many of us may not be “qualified” to sort out everything that’s out there in cyberspace, at least we can venture there and try; even better, those who are qualified as such—the researchers and scientists—are talking, debating, and collaborating among themselves like never before, accelerating our civilization faster and faster by the minute!

When Good Molecules Go Bad

Substantial evidence has accrued, including changes in neurotransmitter and neurotransmitter metabolite concentrations, reuptake sites, and receptors, to support the hypothesis that alteration…occurs in the central nervous system of patients with
major depression.

C.B. Nemeroff, Psychopharmacology Bulletin

The modern concept of therapy is nothing more than meddling with the natural biochemistry in our bodies that has gone wrong. (For example, depression is treated with serotonin neurotransmitter-elevating medications.) Thus, meddling with the processes by which navigating the endocannabinoid system can help correct specific foul-ups in our chemistry has become legitimate, now that the medical literature is beginning to tout the advantages of cannabinoids—either the endocannabinoids we make ourselves or cannabinoids taken into the body for therapeutic reasons.

Let’s start at Square 1: What Our Natural Endocannibinoids Do For Us

The Plot Thickens

It is estimated that the doubling time of medical knowledge in 1950 was 50 years; in 1980, 7 years; and in 2010, 3.5 years. In 2020 it is projected to be 0.2 years—just 73 days.

Peter Densen, MD, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

The two endocannabinoids, AEA and 2AG (see above), besides having separate functions, also are being recognized as being additive in some brain reactions to reinforce an effect, and competitive in other brain reactions to lessen effects when this is beneficial. This research helps us understand how we might create more therapeutic options with synthetic cannabinoids that are introduced in microdoses for their beneficial effects.

It’s a whole new science, but it comes at a great time, since the Internet has connected the world of research and reduced the time it takes for total medical knowledge to double (now, at just over two months).

As this article is being written, there is already a wealth of evidence to support the idea that cannabinoids may be used to positively impact the following:

Where Science Meets Innovation

Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.’ –You are what you eat: from the 1826 work Physiologie du Gout, ou Medetations de Gastronomie Transcendante, in which French author Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.

Iphigenia Tzameli, Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism

In a previous article I introduced the idea of incorporating “microdoses” of THC into common dietary items. The holistic and herbal companies have made a huge business from such supplementation, but now the entrepreneurial spirit rises to create another whole new industry: cuisine.

Everyone eats, and everyone is what they eat. If therapeutic cannabinoids can be used in microdoses—i.e., enough for the beneficial effects without the undesirable effects of toxicity or inebriation—introducing it into what is eaten will evolve as a novel and clever way to double the benefits of one’s daily diet—health and also “health-effects.”

Such innovations, finally, are being supported and validated by what’s coming out of the medical literature. Again, the Internet has made possible the application of ideas from one science realm (biology and biochemistry) to another (the culinary sciences).

A brave New—

Translational Research takes scientific discoveries made in the laboratory, in the clinic or out in the field and transforms them into new treatments and approaches to medical care that improve the health of the population.

–School of Medicine, North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute

Think of how the world—and science—has changed in the last five years. Now multiply it by a factor of 30 or more, and you can imagine what your world will be like in the next five years. Science has become truly translational, i.e., all branches of science are cross-referencing with all other branches to see where they can intersect, and you can be assured the sum will be greater than the mere addition of the parts! Biochemistry and diet are but one example that are already available for next-day delivery.

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