“The Scientist” is a documentary that traces the story of Nobel prize nominee Dr. Mechoulam from his early days...as a child of the Holocaust in Bulgaria, through his immigration to Israel, and his career as the chief investigator into the chemistry and biology of the world’s most misunderstood plant. Dr. Mechoulam ascertained that THC interacts with the largest receptor system in the human body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
He then found that the human brain produces its very own Cannabis – a chemical that they named anandamide after the Sanskrit word ananda, “bliss”.
What, Exactly, Is in Marijuana?
Among these ingredients are at least 104 active cannabinoids. They mimic the actions of signaling chemicals in the brain called endocannabinoids, which dock with specific receptors on the surface of cells. Some cannabinoids also dock with other receptors, including those for serotonin and adrenaline.
The most famous of these chemicals is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is largely responsible for cannabis’ intoxicating effects.
Meet the Cannabinoids delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) cannabigerol (CBG) cannabidiol (CBD) cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
Each chemical acts on different receptors in different ways.
For example, THCV blocks the mind-altering effects of THC while simultaneously combatting inflammation in the body, which may help relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and protect against liver damage. It also changes how the serotonin receptor behaves during psychosis, potentially offering a treatment for schizophrenia.
Meanwhile, CBG’s unique profile of activity at adrenaline and serotonin receptors makes it a prime candidate for treating pain.
CBD and CBDA, on the other hand, are better candidates to treat nausea.
Other possible uses of cannabinoids include treating stroke, PTSD, epilepsy, and even drug addiction itself.
Other Compounds Found in Marijuana
Cannabis also contains at least 400 other compounds, such as terpenes, limonenes, and flavonoids. Also found in scented herbs like thyme and oregano, these aromatic compounds are what give the different strains of marijuana their distinctive colors, tastes, and scents.
Ware explained that these compounds may also have anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, and possibly even pain-killing effects.
Eventually, patients seeking relief may have access to a wide range of FDA-approved medications, each with the right combination of compounds to treat their specific symptom set.
These cocktails could be more effective than the currently FDA-approved, THC-mimicking, dronabinol (Marinol). Marinol has failed to displace medical cannabis despite being available to treat nausea and other conditions since 1985.
Another drug derivative is nabiximols (Sativex), a blend of THC and CBD for multiple sclerosis patients.
For chronic pain management nowadays, it’s rare that I have patients that leave my clinic on one single drug.
Mark Ware, McGill University Health Centre
Drug mixtures should come as no surprise to those experienced with major medical conditions.
“For chronic pain management nowadays, it’s rare that I have patients that leave my clinic on one single drug,” Ware explained. “They need several different agents that all act on slightly different receptors, and the right combination of those drugs helps alleviate the pain to allow them to improve their functioning and quality of life. I think cannabis is probably the same way — it’s not one ingredient; it’s multiple, each of which works on slightly different receptors. I think the challenge is trying to figure out what is that correct combination of receptor targets.”
Herbal Solutions Are an Option
Such drugs will take decades to develop and reach the market. Until then, patients have herbal cannabis as an option.
However, there are dozens of strains of cannabis on the market, each claiming to have different properties for treating different symptoms.