The Spice of Life
What do you love most about Cannabis? The way it makes you feel, the way it makes you feel good, then better – or is it the fragrance? Cutting up good bud begs a whiff of its delicious scent prior to smoking. Use a vaporizer and the fresh scent of the flower comes through, less the carbon – but there is nothing quite like the taste and smell of some dank weed.
The goodness of scent come from the terpenes of the plant – otherwise known as essential oils – and are the lure and bait that calls herbs, spices, and other beneficial plants to us for our own good.
Terpenes are crucial to a plant’s survival. Without them, pollinators wouldn’t be able to do their jobs, food isn’t grown, and medicine isn’t made.
In terpenes alone Cannabis sativa L. is the biggest draw to date, with approximately 200 of them producing more than 60 terpeno-phenols, undetected in any other plant on the planet. Aromatherapy is the tip of the ice burg, and merely smoking the plant is just the beginning of how good the medicine of the plant will make you feel – all over, not just via the high.
And therein lay the mystery in the medicine, for terpenes are medicine. That’s the trick of nature and we fall for it every time, nose first.
The botanical medicinal herb Cannabis has more than 500 complex compounds. Organic chemist and Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, refers to the cannabinoids of the plant in the British Journal of Pharmacology as “a neglected pharmacological treasure trove,” stating, “Most of the cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa L. have not been fully evaluated for their pharmacological activity.”
It’s known that Dr. Melchoulam isolated tetrahydrocanbinol, or THC, in 1964, but cannabinoids (specifically CBD & CBN) were first identified in the 1940s, with a bevy of cannabinoids, or CBD, agonists found since. There’s just one glitch, CBDs are such an integral part of the Cannabis plant they are lumped together under Schedule 1 right alongside Heroin.
Enter Dr. John W. Huffman of Clemson University in South Carolina, and his list of synthetic CBDs created for study only on U.S. soil in the mid-90s. “Spice,” a synthetic compound often referred to as “fake weed” was derived from Huffman’s work, with all of the mock compounds soon denied by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) due to unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects.
Education is prevailing, though, with strains rich in CBD more commonly being hybridized and grown, without the high – allowing children to get on board the healing weed wagon with the grown-ups.
Pass the Pepper
Cannabis also contains a little known compound called Beta-caryophyllene or BCP, said to nearly mimic CBD with no psychoactive properties, found in the most fragrant herbs and spices, such as oregano, black pepper, and cinnamon.
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences July of 2008, a team of pharmacology and neurology experts from Switzerland, Italy, and Germany reported that BCP is in fact a dietary cannabinoid, responsive to both CB1 and CB2 receptors within the Endocannabinoid System.
The findings named BCP as a “potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of inflammation, pain, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis.”
The paper goes on to state, since the team knew Cannabis strains vary wildly – especially in oil delivery preparations – five “commercial” Cannabis essential oils lacking CBD were tested in young mice during this controlled study.
The conclusion stated that BCP, taken with a daily intake of 10 to 200 mg. “could be a dietary factor that potentially modulates inflammatory and other pathophysiological process via the Endocannabinoid System.”
In summation, the team informed, “the pharmacokinetics of BCP in humans and its potential impact on health should be addressed in future studies.”
Entrepreneur Peter Moon has been on a mission to end prohibition of the plant by finding a loophole in the system for more than two years.
A year ago he investigated synthetic CBDs developed by Huffman, thinking if the FDA approved the synthetic CBD “Spice” as a food additive, then CBD only – or at least the synthetic - should be made available to humans if it had any medicinal value at all. Or, he reasoned, by semantics alone he could find a way to say CBD was approved by default.
Then he stumbled upon the little known, potential dietary additive of BCP, and it all came together for him.
“I had investors who flew to Israel this past summer to meet with Dr. Mechoulam and talk about BCP,” Moon said. “He ended up inviting them to his home and made them dinner in his loft.”
The investors didn’t work out, but Moon said he has been given Dr. Mechoulam’s blessings to tout BCP as dietary additive and is actively looking for funding and a way to get the compound to the public for the greater good.
“Dr. Mechoulam told me this compound is a game changer for the world,” Moon added. “Every major discovery in human history has to begin somewhere - why not with us?”
CBD with a Cause
Author and activist Martin A. Lee is executive director of Project CBD, a non-profit on a mission to educate, promote and publicize research on cannabidiol (CBD) and other components of the plant; while updating doctors and patients in the ongoing science.
The project’s Web site host a long list of dozens of ailments CBD only medicine from Cannabis helps, including upper respiratory, neurological, pain, cardio, digestive, endocrine, auto-immune. The list is extensive and many of the ailments surprised this writer for the lack of THC.
After all, we as a species upped the THC levels over the past 40 years and this plant was used for centuries prior without the extremely high concentrations of THC. Remember those more than 500 compounds of the plant? They are not remotely connected to the THC component. And while I personally feel I need the THC for my own depression and sleep deprivation, I understand the need is great for good medicine without the high for those who’d rather not partake.
While Lee said he is aware of BCP, he wasn’t entirely convinced the CBD analog could perform as well as its counterpart, or help with as many ailments.
“It’s not the same as CBD and doesn’t do everything that CBD does,” Lee said. “It’s a terpene, and binds directly to the CB2 cannabinoid receptor in the peripheral nervous system and immune system, which CBD does not
Relax, it’s Oregano
In January, 2013 The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) added a “formal quality standards monograph for Cannabis” back onto its list of medicinal botanical herbs.
The American Botanical Council announced the news on its Web site via its newsletter, “HerbalEGram,” dated January, 2014, noting the plant was “vilified by President Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs,” citing “20th Century propaganda” contributing to the plants demise over the next 70 years.
Information on the power of herbs and spices is all over the net. Dandelion increases urine output; aloe vera soothes inflamed skin; thyme gives relief for a sore throat; cinnamon lowers diabetes numbers; and sage helps regulate body temperature. The list goes on and makes one wonder how we ever wandered so far away from the garden in the first place.
With the knowledge of cannabis’ healing properties at our finger tips, and the re-found information on healing herbs and spices, who knows, perhaps Peter Moon is on to something. One thing’s for sure, we need to find a way to get back to the garden, and if all it takes is one little black peppercorn to show us the way, so be it.
Links of interest on BCP:
FDA approval of dietary additive: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fcn/fcnDetailNavigation.cfm?rpt=eafuslisting&id=347
Full FDA list of compounds approved as dietary additives: