The non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant known as cannabidiol (CBD) has recently been shown to have significant therapeutic value, and local medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives are now offering CBD-rich cannabis strains.
Sativex, the only whole-plant cannabis extract that is legal for medical purposes in Great Britain, is chemically standardized by G.W. Pharmaceuticals so that consistent ratios of two primary substances, known as “cannabinoids,” are standardized in the medication: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). This is unlike the U.S. pharmaceutical drug known as Marinol, which is composed purely of THC.
THC is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis that gets people “high,” and it has received a lot of attention since it was discovered in 1964. Industrious cannabis growers have selectively breed the potent strains that are available today with the goal of producing higher and higher levels of THC, and consequently, other cannabinoids have been largely ignored.
But other cannabinoids in marijuana also play an important role in the controversial plant’s medicinal effects, and CBD in particular helps to modulate the psychoactive effects of THC. Although not psychoactive by itself, CBD tends to mellow out the high levels of arousal that THC can sometimes cause. This leads to less instances of anxiety, an unwanted side-effect that can sometimes occur with cannabis use.
One cannabis user that I spoke with reported that in his experience, “CBD seemed to decrease some of the effects of THC,” and that CBD-rich cannabis “tended to be less euphoric.”
I’ve heard from cannabis users that CBD-rich marijuana flowers tend to produce more of a “body buzz” than low-CDB varieties, and that CBD often reduces the effects of THC on cognition. I’ve also heard that it can be especially helpful for people suffering from insomnia. Since not everyone enjoys a cannabis “high,” CBD-rich marijuana allows people to utilize many of the plant’s medical benefits without getting them too stoned.
CBD has also been shown in scientific and clinical studies to have substantial overall health benefits for the body, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-convulsant, and antispasmodic properties. It has also been shown to have important health benefits in the brain, including anti-psychotic properties, a neuroprotective effect, and antidepressant effects, due to its activation of the serotonin receptors (which are the same brain receptors that antidepressant drugs like Prozac act on).
Numerous studies with CBD are currently taking place at universities around the world. Research with CBD is also going on privately here in California, where medical cannabis has become virtually legal, and a large population of medical cannabis users has become easily accessible for independent researchers to study. Santa Cruz’s beloved medical marijuana collective, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), is currently participating in a study of this nature called “Project CBD.”
Project CBD is a nonprofit educational service that is surveying medical cannabis users about their experience with CBD-rich cannabis. The project was conceived by two journalists, Fred Gardner and Martin Lee, who have been covering the medical marijuana movement and industry for years.
After several decades in which only high-THC cannabis has been available, CBD-rich strains are now being cultivated for and by a growing number of medical marijuana users. A lot of medical cannabis dispensaries now offer CBD-rich cannabis strains to their members, and WAMM is also now growing some CBD-rich cannabis strains. A number of WAMM members that I’ve spoken with have voiced how important they think CBD research is because of how effective CBD-rich cannabis has been in treating their symptoms.
Studies have demonstrated that CBD can be an effective treatment for a number of difficult-to-treat disorders, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain, antibiotic-resistant infections, posttraumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, alcoholism, sleep disorders, and neurological ailments.
By David Jay Brown
April 17, 2011
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