For the 46 million Americans using CBD, more research to prove it works may be a moot point. But for the 86% of people who make up the rest of the non-CBD using population, there are nine new studies. This newly announced research may be just what the doctor ordered to encourage them to try it out for themselves. Awards are being funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Recipients of these awards will study the potential pain-relieving effects of cannabinoids and terpenes. The goal is to strengthen the evidence regarding cannabis components and whether they have potential roles in pain management. The research awards total approximately $3 million.
CBD, Cannabinoids and Terpenes Potential Alternatives to Opioids
“The treatment of chronic pain has relied heavily on opioids, despite their potential for addiction and overdose and the fact that they often don’t work well when used on a long-term basis,” said Helene Langevin, M.D., director of NCCIH. “There’s an urgent need for more effective and safer options.”
What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies such as Perdue Pharma reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers. Perdu Pharma is the manufacturer of OxyContin. Reassured, healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids. Soon it was obvious that opioids could be highly addictive. In 2017, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-Point Strategy To Combat the Opioid Crisis. The last two points in this strategy are:
- Providing support for cutting edge research on pain and addiction; and
- Advancing better practices for pain management.
The nine new studies align with those strategic points. Natural products, including CBD oil, have shown promise as an alternative to opioids for pain relief. Meanwhile, Perdue Pharma is barraged with litigation against it for its major role in creating the opioid epidemic. No surprise considering that every day more than 130 people die after overdosing on opioids. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. Ironically, in the same week that the National Institute of Health issued a press release about the nine new cannabis studies, Perdu Pharma declared bankruptcy.
Studies Will Not Look at the Cannabinoid THC
The studies will not include the cannabinoid THC, the high-inducing component of marijuana. They will look at the other 110 cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant that may have pain-relieving properties. “THC may help relieve pain, but its value as an analgesic (pain reliever) is limited by its psychoactive effects and abuse potential,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH. “These new projects will investigate substances from cannabis that don’t have THC’s disadvantages, looking at their basic biological activity and their potential mechanisms of action as pain relievers.”The studies will look at how CBD and other non-THC cannabinoids and terpenes may assist in pain relief.
What is a Cannabinoid?
A cannabinoid is a chemical compound that acts on receptors found on the surface of cells. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (endo meaning body). They are found throughout the body.What is interesting is that the body actually produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids that are produced by the cannabis plant are called phytocannabinoids (Phyto means plant.)There are two different types of receptors—the CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found all over the body, but especially the brain. These receptors affect pain, coordination, and movement, thinking, emotions and mood, appetite, and memory, among other things. CB2 receptors are found more commonly in the immune system. You can find them in the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands, and reproductive organs. They affect inflammation and pain.
How Cannabinoids Interact with the Body
THC, which is not part of any of these studies, interacts with the CB1 receptors. When a person smokes marijuana, THC overwhelms the endocannabinoid system. It quickly attaches to the cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. This interferes with the ability of natural cannabinoids to do their job of fine-tuning communication between neurons. CBD, which will be studied, interacts with the CB2 receptors. However, CBD does not attach itself to CB2 receptors, thereby preventing the body’s own endocannabinoids from doing so. Instead, CBD interacts with the enzymes that break down the body’s own endocannabinoids. This allows these endocannabinoids to “live” (stay in the body) longer.
What Does This Mean in Terms of Endocannabinoid System
This means that the endocannabinoids have more time to do their job of creating homeostasis (balance) in the body.CBD is by far the most widely-known and used non-THC cannabinoid. However, it is not the only one of interest. Oregon Seeds, which supplies Fusion CBD Farms, is dedicated to producing hemp seed varieties containing high quantities of various cannabinoids— CBD, CBG, CBC, CBDV, CBGV, CBCV, and so on.CBG is a cannabinoid known as the mother of all cannabinoids. It is a precursor to CBD, THC, and others. During the growth of the cannabis plant, CBG is continuously converted into CBD, THC and other cannabinoids. Individuals ingesting hemp oil high in CBG have reported pain relief. This year, Fusion CBD will be harvesting fields of hemp specifically engineered to be high in CBG.
How Terpenes Interact with the Body
Terpenes will also be a subject of research in the nine newly funded studies. Terpenes are fragrant essential oils found in a wide variety of plants (like cannabis), flowers, and even some insects. They are widely used for a variety of medicinal purposes. Chemical analysis of terpenes has been going on for over 300 years. Terpene research is the foundation of more than 20 different Nobel prizes. Research has shown that terpenes help many of the same conditions that CBD is useful for. Conditions like insomnia, inflammation, convulsions, stress, anxiety, and depression. There are over 100 different types of terpenes, each with its own unique attributes. Some terpenes, such as a-Bisabolol, have been found to help with pain. This makes them a target of high interest to the researchers involved in the nine studies.
A Broad Range of Cannabinoid and Terpene Studies to be Done
The following are the details of the research that will be done by the nine hospitals, universities and research institutes receiving the awards.
Mechanism and Optimization of CBD-Mediated Analgesic Effects
Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston: This project will investigate how the pain-relieving effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and other minor cannabinoids may be modulated by the activity of potassium-chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2), a chloride extruder expressed in most neurons.
Neuroimmune Mechanisms of Minor Cannabinoids in Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain
University of California, San Francisco: This project will explore the effects of minor cannabinoids on inflammatory and neuropathic pain in vitro and in vivo, focusing on the interactions of the cannabinoids with the peripheral receptor called TRPV1 and a cannabinoid receptor, CB1R.
Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes: Preclinical Evaluation as Analgesics
Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: This project will evaluate purified biosynthesized minor cannabinoids and selected terpenes alone and in planned combinations to determine their potential efficacy as pain relievers against acute thermal, inflammatory, neuropathic, and visceral pain.
Identifying the Mechanisms of Action for CBD on Chronic Arthritis Pain
New York University School of Medicine, New York City: This project will use neuroimaging studies and behavioral assessments to investigate the mechanisms of action of CBD in the modulation of chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis in a mouse model.
Synthetic Biology for the Chemogenetic Manipulation of Pain Pathways
University of Texas, Austin: This project will use a novel method to evolve individual variants of cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) that interact with high affinity with minor cannabinoids and evaluate the new variants in a mouse model of pain.
Exploring the Mechanisms Underlying the Analgesic Effect of Cannabidiol Using Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
University of Utah, Salt Lake City: This project will use proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to evaluate changes in brain chemistry in critical pain-processing regions after the short-term administration of cannabis extract enriched in CBD.
Mechanistic Studies of Analgesic Effects of Terpene Enriched Extracts from Hops
Emory University, Atlanta: This project will take a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the analgesic effects of terpenes from Humulus lupulus (hops), a plant that is closely related to cannabis and has a very similar terpene profile.
Systematic Investigation of Rare Cannabinoids With Pain Receptors
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: This project involves synthesizing several classes of rare phytocannabinoids, systematically evaluating their anti-inflammatory potential, and examining the effects of the compounds with the strongest anti-inflammatory potential on the major receptors involved in pain sensation.
Analgesic Efficacy of single and combined minor cannabinoids and terpenes
Temple University, Philadelphia: This project will use rodent models of pain to evaluate the effects of four biologically active components of cannabis that may act synergistically to protect against pain development and to assess the interactions of these four substances with morphine.
Fusion CBD’s Full Spectrum Oil
Fusion CBD sells full-spectrum CBD oil. Our hemp oil doesn’t only contain CBD but quantities of many other cannabinoids and terpenes. To try it for yourself, visit our online shop.