If the idea of having a marijuana deficiency sounds laughable to you, a growing body of science points at exactly such a possibility. Scientists have known that the active psychoactive compound in marijuana is THC, which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol.
In August 1990, researchers reported in the journal Nature the discovery of receptors in the brain that specifically accommodate the cannabinoids in pot. Cannabinoids bind to particular neurological sites in the brain, as though the brain was specifically designed to utilize this plant. Did nature toss cannabinoid receptors into the brain by random chance? Are cannabinoid receptors part of an intelligent design for deriving maximum benefit from cannabis? Is cannabis a divine elixir of sacred communion for which we are ideally suited? Actually, a more sober answer seems likely. When there are receptors in the brain for a particular type of compound, that compound is made in the brain. This is true of many important agents that work to transmit brain messages of all types. So a hunt began to find such a compound.
In that vein, in 1992 researchers in Israel isolated the cannabinoid anandamide in the human brain. Unlike THC, anandamide is manufactured in the brain, and is therefore an endogenous cannabinoid. This agent, anandamide, is the compound that attaches to the built-in cannabinoid receptors in our brains. The name anandamide is based on the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss. Anandamide is a bliss molcule, enhancing greater well being and emotional satisfaction.
Ever since the pioneering work of Dr. William O’Shaughnessy on cannabis and pain compiled in the 1840’s a growing body of science has shown that cannabis offers relief for various types of pain. In the brain, the endogenous agent anandamide also plays a role in mitigating inflammation and pain. So both cannabinoids from inside and outside the body play a role in pain reduction. More recent studies show pain relief among sufferers of multiple sclerosis when cannabis is consumed.
Anandamide also plays a role in proper appetite, feelings of pleasure and well-being, and memory. Interestingly, cannabis also affects these same functions. Cannabis has been used successfully to treat migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma. So here is the seventy-four thousand dollar question. Does cannabis simply relieve these diseases to varying degrees, or is cannabis actually a medical replacement in cases of deficient anandamide?
At least one author, medical doctor Ethan Russo, believes in the possibility of endocanabinoid deficiency, and suggests that such a deficiency might actually be a significant cause of the types of health problems listed above. His paper “Clinical Cannabinoid Deficiency,” published in Neuroendocrinology Letters in 2004, delved deeply into the various ways that cannabinoids function in the body, and how a deficiency in cannabinoids can lead to a broad range of diseases. Since the publication of that paper, a number of studies have further confirmed the effectiveness of cannabis for many health disorders.
The idea of clinical cannabinoid deficiency opens the door to cannabis consumption as an effective medical approach to relief of various types of pain, restoration of appetite in cases in which appetite is compromised, improved visual health in cases of glaucoma, and improved sense of well being among patients suffering from a broad variety of mood disorders. As state and local laws mutate and change in favor of greater tolerance, perhaps cannabis will find it’s proper place in the home medicine chest.
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Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter, author and educator. The founder of Medicine Hunter Inc., Chris has conducted medicinal plant research in over 45 countries. Chris works with companies to develop and popularize traditional plant-based food and medicinal products into market successes. These include ashwagandha, kava, maca, rhodiola, schisandra, tamanu oil, cat’s claw, dragon’s blood, ayahuasca, and hundreds of other plants. Chris also works to bridge worlds, regularly sharing information about other cultures through presentations and media. CNN calls Chris “The Indiana Jones of natural medicine.”