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Astrid Advocates for Change at Parliament House

On the 10th of May, 2024, a significant event took place that could shape the future of cannabis legislation in Australia. 

Astrid Dispensary & Clinic was invited by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to provide crucial insights during the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023 inquiry. 

Our Founder and CEO, Lisa Nguyen, along with our COO, Kady Chemal, had the honour of presenting Astrid’s position at Parliament House in Canberra.

Astrid’s Vision for Cannabis Legislation

Astrid’s formal statement during the hearing highlighted several key points drawn from our experience in the natural medicine healthcare sector. 

We shared the insights into the shift we’ve observed since 2020, where a growing number of patients have moved from the illicit market to the medical sector. 

This transition, while positive, has placed significant pressure on healthcare professionals and the approval processes within the medical framework.

One of the primary concerns raised was the need for strict regulations and quality control measures. It’s imperative that products in the legal market meet high standards to ensure they are safe and reliable, contrasting sharply with those found in the illicit market. 

Astrid’s founder Lisa Nguyen at Parliament House in Canberra

This is essential not only for the safety of consumers but also for maintaining the integrity and trust in the legal cannabis industry.

Astrid advocated for the coexistence of medical and adult-use cannabis markets. We believe that such an approach would benefit both medical patients and adult-use consumers. 

Medical patients would continue to receive appropriate clinical care, while experienced cannabis consumers could access quality products from licensed retailers. This dual market structure would help relieve the pressure on the medical sector and promote overall well-being.

To support this vision, we proposed the establishment of a national cannabis regulator specifically for the adult-use market. 

This body would be responsible for standardising regulations, conducting routine product testing, and ensuring transparency and consistency in regulatory enforcement from cultivation to retail licensing. Such a framework would ensure that all aspects of the industry are held to the highest standards, providing a safe and trustworthy market for consumers.

Astrid’s COO Kady Chemal at Parliament House in Canberra

Astrid’s advocacy extends beyond mere regulation. We support responsible cannabis legislation as a means to enhance public health education, reduce opioid overdose rates, and lower crime levels. The legalisation and regulation of both medical and adult-use cannabis markets have the potential to change lives, break the stigma associated with cannabis use, and create a more informed and healthier society.

In conclusion, our participation in the Senate Inquiry on the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023 at Parliament House was a pivotal moment for Astrid. It was a privilege to share our insights and advocate for a future where medical and adult-use cannabis markets can coexist, regulated by a dedicated national body. We believe that this approach will not only support our patients but also promote harm reduction and societal well-being. Astrid remains committed to leading the conversation on responsible cannabis legalisation and ensuring that the future of cannabis in Australia is safe, regulated, and beneficial for all.

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Endometriosis Awareness Month: The Role of Natural Therapies

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, shedding light on a condition affecting almost 1 million women in Australia – that’s around 1 in 7 women. 

Endometriosis, often a silent yet profound disruptor in the lives of those it touches, warrants attention – not only for its prevalence – but also for the potential relief that unconventional treatments like natural therapies might offer.

Symptoms can occur as early as eight years old and it takes a long time for patients to acquire a diagnosis in Australia and around the world.

Learn more about endometriosis below and how natural therapies play a role in its management.  

Understanding Endometriosis: A Journey of Resilience

When someone has endometriosis, it means that some of their tissue resembling the womb lining ventures beyond its usual boundaries and often spreads to unexpected corners of the body. This is the reality of endometriosis—a disorder not confined to reproductive organs but capable of infiltrating areas as diverse as the bowel, bladder, and even the skin and brain. 

Endometriosis symptoms are diverse and often misunderstood and with an average timeline of diagnosis is 6.5 years in Australia. Six and a half years is also the world average diagnosis length – but there is a wide spectrum across the world with only a 0.5-year delay in Brazil and an incredible 27-year delay in the UK.

Endometriosis in Everyday Life: Pain Management & Symptoms  

For many, the persistent pelvic pain, especially around menstruation, becomes an unwelcome companion, disrupting daily activities and casting shadows over hopes for fertility.

For others, endometriosis symptoms include abdominal pain, pain during or after sex, pain going to the toilet, irregular bleeding, changes in toilet habits, and not being able to get pregnant (infertility). 

The journey to understand endometriosis, seek diagnosis and manage symptoms is a long one. Often it can be the related emotional and mental stress of managing symptoms and seeking the best individual healthcare support that can be the most overwhelming for patients. 

Embracing Natural Therapies: A Path to Empowerment

In the quest for relief, patients and healthcare providers alike are exploring unconventional treatments, and among them, medicinal cannabis stands out. While the research is ongoing and it might not be suitable for everyone, there is growing evidence suggesting its potential in alleviating symptoms associated with endometriosis. 

The cannabis plant, with its compounds like CBD and THC, has been noted for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which could offer respite from the debilitating pain and inflammation characteristic of the condition.

  • In one study which included several hundred people with endometriosis across Australia and New Zealand, participants self-reported to using cannabis to manage symptoms – whether using a prescription or not. 
  • A worldwide survey study with a 1634  participants managing endometriosis showed that 55% of respondents with endometriosis used cannabis specifically for symptom management onlyAnother study showed how cannabis appeared to  be effective for endometriosis associated pelvic pain, gastrointestinal issues and mood, with effectiveness differing based on method of ingestion. 
  • Another survey showed that approximately 1 in 10 women with endometriosis self-managed their symptoms with cannabis. Self-reported effectiveness in pain reduction was high (7.6 of 10), with 56% also able to reduce pharmaceutical medications by at least half. Women reported the greatest improvements in sleep and in nausea and vomiting. Adverse effects were infrequent (10%) and minor.. Management strategies should be personalised for the individual and with some reported to include “heat packs (70%), dietary changes (44%), exercise (42%), yoga or pilates (35%) and cannabis (13%).”
The Astrid Clinic team ready to guide you on your journey with natural medicine
Astrid Clinic are here to guide you on your journey with natural medicine

Looking Ahead: Collaborating for Change around Endometriosis 

As Endometriosis Awareness Month unfolds, it becomes imperative to foster collaboration among patients, healthcare providers, and advocates. 

Organisations such as Endometriosis Australia play a pivotal role in raising awareness, driving research, and advocating for improved understanding and care. 

Initiatives like the EndoCannED study underscore the importance of exploring novel interventions like medicinal cannabis, providing hope to those seeking relief from the burdens imposed by endometriosis.

Joining the Movement: A Call to Action for Endometriosis 

For individuals living with endometriosis, there’s a palpable sense of solidarity and support permeating the atmosphere this March. 

If you’re over 20 and living with endometriosis in Victoria, you have a unique opportunity to participate in the EndoCannED study

In Sydney, the Endo Australia has organised a high tea with inspirational speakers who are paving the way in women’s health and advocacy. 

There are many other local and national groups to join if someone wants to participate and advocate for people living with endometriosis. Management apps like Qendo allow Australians to track their symptoms and record how they’re managing their endometriosis.

Endometriosis Awareness Month serves as a reminder of natural therapies as an option in managing complex conditions like endometriosis. 

Through collaboration, advocacy, and research, we can transform the landscape of endometriosis care, offering hope and empowerment to those affected. 

If you are  interested in learning more about natural therapies and endometriosis, book a free call with one of our Astrid nurses here. The Astrid healthcare team are experts in supporting patients through each individual’s wide ranging health and wellness journey. 

References:
https://www.nicm.edu.au/research/clinical_trials/endocanned_study
https://endometriosisaustralia.org/sydney-endometriosis-australia-high-tea-2024/
https://pure.york.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/understanding-diagnostic-delay-for-endometriosis-a-scoping-review
https://www.qendo.org.au/qendo-app
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34978929/
https://pure.york.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/understanding-diagnostic-delay-for-endometriosis-a-scoping-review
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How CBD Can Play a Role in Cancer Treatment

Cancer affects millions worldwide, and understanding its impact and the importance of comprehensive care can empower us to better support those on this challenging journey.

Cancer is a significant health challenge worldwide and profoundly affects the Australian community.

Each type of cancer presents unique challenges, necessitating tailored treatment and care approaches. Living with cancer requires immense strength and resilience. The journey is often arduous, and the support of friends, family, workplaces, and the wider community becomes invaluable.

This blog explores the impact of cancer in Australia, listing the ten most common types of cancer and the importance of recognising symptoms early. We also delve into the essential role of comprehensive support services in managing the challenges of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

By understanding the diverse aspects of cancer care, we can better support those affected and promote awareness about the importance of informed, compassionate care.

At Astrid, we aim to support our patients with their wellness and medical needs everyday. We’re a team of pharmacists, doctors, nurses and technicians passionate about what cannabinoids and natural medicines can do for our health. 

Astrid Dispensary and Clinic in South Yarra

What is Cancer’s Impact in Australia?

Cancer significantly affects many lives around the world and within the Australian community. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. In Australia, there were an estimated 160,000 diagnoses of cancer in 2022 – an estimated 0.5% of the population.

Each type of cancer presents its unique challenges and requires a tailored approach to treatment and care. 

Ten of the most common types of cancer in Australia – with the top five cancers accounting for 60% of all cancers in Australia: 

  1. Prostate Cancer 
  2. Breast Cancer 
  3. Melanoma of the Skin 
  4. Colorectal Cancer 
  5. Lung Cancer 
  6. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 
  7. Kidney Cancer 
  8. Pancreatic Cancer 
  9. Thyroid Cancer 
  10. Uterine Cancer

Living with cancer requires immense strength and resilience. The journey is often arduous, and the support of friends, family, workplaces, and the wider community becomes invaluable. For anyone concerned about their health or that of someone close to them, seeking advice from healthcare professionals is strongly advised. Recognising symptoms early and receiving informed care are essential steps in effectively managing the challenges of this journey.

What is the Role of Natural Therapists in Cancer Treatment?

In the realm of cancer treatment and care, natural therapies and cannabidiol (CBD) have emerged as a beacon of hope. 

Ongoing research highlights the role of cannabis in symptom relief, making it an essential component in the broader conversation about cancer treatment and care. 

As we take a moment to reflect on cancer awareness, it’s important to educate the public, healthcare professionals, and policymakers about the nuanced aspects of medicines in the context of cancer support. Alongside discussions on natural therapies, it’s also essential to underscore the importance of comprehensive support services for cancer patients.

Bodies are equipped with several intricate systems that are essential for regulating health and everyday functions. Among these systems is the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vital system that plays a key role in maintaining homeostasis, or balance, within the body. The ECS is important as it has a wide ranging influence over various aspects of our well-being, including mood, memory, inflammation, hormone regulation, as well as appetite and metabolism. 

The ECS system functions through endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by the body. These endocannabinoids travel between cells, binding to cannabinoid receptors located in cell membranes. This interaction between endocannabinoids and receptors triggers various physiological responses, contributing to the body’s overall balance and health. 

In relation to the ECS, CBD (cannabidiol) emerges as a significant compound. It is one of the most prevalent cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, alongside Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known for its psychoactive properties. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive. Its interaction with the ECS, though not direct, influences the system in a way that may enhance the body’s use of its own endocannabinoids. This unique way that CBD interacts with the ECS has made people interested in its ability to help with symptoms of different health issues, including cancer. 

CBD may play a role in improving quality of life for patients, and especially for patients with cancer, as CBD can help with: 

  • Symptom relief: CBD may help manage common side effects of cancer treatment, such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain management: CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory properties may help to alleviate cancer-related symptoms or pain and reduce reliance on opioids.
  • Improved sleep: Disrupted sleep is common among cancer patients. CBD’s calming effects may promote better sleep quality.
  • Mental health support: The psychological stress of a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming so CBD’s potential to ease anxiety and depression in some people may offer valuable support.

Definitive research is still emerging but there is growing recognition of cannabis and CBD’s potential in cancer management and treatments.

Australia has been a leader in some of the recent CBD research. 

  • A study in Sydney found that oral THC:CBD could improve life quality for chemotherapy patients by reducing nausea and vomiting (in comparison to standard nausea medications), with manageable side effects like sedation and dizziness. And the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved cannabinoid drugs for chemotherapy patients who don’t respond to standard anti-nausea medications.
  • More recent research also indicates that modified forms of medicinal cannabis (with low THC content) can potentially target cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Can a Healthy Lifestyle Help Prevent Cancer?

When managing cancer, it’s important for patients to identify treatment options that align with their needs and accessibility to them. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for good wellbeing and illness prevention – and what a healthy lifestyle is can be different for different people. 

More than 40% of cancer-related deaths could be prevented through decreasing risks such as smoking, drinking alcohol, having a poor diet and lack of physical activity. 

At Astrid, we value considering each patient individually as each one of us is unique and we all have different endocannabinoid systems. We want to empower our patients to reach their full potential and we are looking forward to seeing more innovative treatments with cannabinoids offer new hope to those battling cancer. 

By promoting awareness about Astrid’s resources and support networks, we aim to contribute a more holistic understanding of the challenges associated with cancer, emphasising the need for both medical innovation and compassionate care.

If you have questions about natural therapies, contact the Astrid team.

References:
https://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured/tests-show-potential-for-medicinal-cannabis-to-kill-cancer-cells

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/12/4/1033

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/

https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/resource/guidance/guidance-use-medicinal-cannabis-treatment-palliative-care-patients-australia#references

https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/impacted-cancer/what-cancer/cancer-australia-statistics
https://ncci.canceraustralia.gov.au/diagnosis/cancer-incidence/cancer-incidence
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq
https://www.annalsofoncology.org/article/S0923-7534(20)39996-8/fulltext/
https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/09/18/medical-cannabis-found-to-reduce-chemo-induced-nausea-vomiting.html
https://www.worldcancerday.org/understanding-cancer
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Introduction to Plant-Based Therapies

2800 BC is the earliest evidence about the medical use of medicinal cannabis, originating in Central Asia or Western China.

In October 2016, the Australian Government passed legislation to allow for medicinal cannabis-based products to be prescribed to patients by registered healthcare professionals. The laws also allowed for the import of medicinal cannabis products and the growing and production of medicinal cannabis products in Australia.

What are plant-based therapies?

Medicinal cannabis products are legal, medicines that can be prescribed for patients by their doctor. Medicinal cannabis is derived from the cannabis plant and can be used to treat the symptoms of certain medical conditions, and the side effects of some treatments.

There are different plant-based products available to treat different conditions.

The active ingredients in medicinal cannabis are called ‘cannabinoids’. There are between 80 and 100 cannabinoids in medicinal cannabis, and researchers are still investigating how they all work.

At the moment, most plant-based  products contain the cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

How is plant-based therapy different to cannabis used recreationally?

It’s important to note there’s a difference between medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis. 

For the majority of patients prescribed plant-based therapies, the aim of treatment is to provide relief from these symptoms without causing the psychoactive side effects that can result from too much THC.  

Medicinal cannabis in Australia is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) who regulate the standards of quality of the production, manufacturing, testing, labelling and sale of medicinal cannabis products. 

Therefore, plant-based products sold outside of dispensaries may not deliver desired results, posing potential dangers due to inadequate manufacturing standards, contamination risks such as mould, bacteria, pesticides, and inconsistent cannabinoid levels. While counterfeit products, often bought online without a prescription, can contain undeclared hazardous ingredients. Using fake or illegal products can put you at serious risk of unpredictable or severe adverse reactions.

Who might benefit from using plant-based therapies?

There are many potential uses for plant-based therapies, with new applications being investigated in current clinical studies.

A review by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the USA concluded there was substantial evidence to support the use of cannabinoids in:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Nausea and Vomiting during Chemotherapy
  • Spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis.

It also concluded that there was moderate evidence for use of cannabinoids in improving sleep in patients suffering from specific diseases, for example, those with chronic pain.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approves requests for people to be started on plant-based therapies. Approvals have been given for people who:

  • feel like throwing up (nausea) or throw up (vomiting) after cancer treatment
  • are children who have seizures because of hard to manage epilepsy
  • are at end-of-life 
  • have hard to control cancer pain
  • have hard to treat nerve pain
  • have muscle tightness from conditions such as multiple sclerosis
  • have lost a lot of weight and are unable to eat because of a long-term illness such as cancer.

Find out more helpful information on the TGA website

Astrid is an exception to every rule, naturally.

How are plant-based therapies taken?

The plant-based therapies available vary, depending on the symptoms or condition they are designed to treat. The way that one takes them can vary too. The doctor will need to assess the patient’s needs, and make a decision about whether there is an appropriate plant-based therapy.

There are many ways of administering plant-based therapies, but most commonly prescribed methods are:

  • Swallowed/Ingested (e.g. oils, capsules, gummies, wafers)
    • Pros: easy to take and adjust doses, longer acting effects (6-12 hours)
    • Cons: takes longer to start working (30 mins-2 hours) & can be unpredictable, effects and duration of effect may vary with diet/digestive issues
  • Inhaled (dried flower/herb in vaporiser or oils in vape cartridges)
    • Pros: Quicker and more predictable effect within minutes
    • Cons: Shorter acting (2-4 hours), have to purchase a vaporiser which can add to the cost of treatment, if using flower/herb can take more effort grinding & filling, may not be appropriate for patients with respiratory issues. 

What are the side effects of plant-based therapies?

Like all prescription medicines, plant-based therapies can have side effects. These may include:

  • fatigue and sedation
  • vertigo
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • appetite increase or decrease
  • dry mouth
  • diarrhoea
  • convulsions
  • feelings of euphoria (intense happiness) or depression
  • confusion
  • hallucinations or paranoid delusions
  • psychosis or cognitive distortion (having untrue thoughts)

The extent of side effects can vary with the type of plant-based-therapy  and between individuals. When starting any new plant-based therapy  it is important to “start low and go slow” this means working closely with the doctor to slowly increase the dose until symptom relief without experiencing adverse effects.

Although plant-based therapy may help one condition or symptom, this does not mean it will have benefits for other conditions or individuals, even with the same product and the same dose. There is also limited evidence about how plant-based therapies  interact with other approved medications, therefore it is important to discuss the  medical history with the doctor and pharmacist.

Can I drive while using plant-based therapies?

Patients taking any plant-based therapy should seek their doctor’s advice before driving or operating machinery

While drowsiness is not a known side effect of CBD alone, it may occur if the CBD interacts with other medications. 

Some plant-based therapies  may also include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in which case there are variations in state to state laws regarding driving. In all states except Tasmania it is illegal for patients taking medicines which contain THC to drive. 

Astrid Dispensary Byron Bay, Australia's first female-led cannabis dispensary
Astrid Dispensary Byron Bay, Australia’s first female-led cannabis dispensary

How do I access plant-based therapies in Australia?

In Australia, there are currently only two medicinal cannabis products that have been listed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA):

  • A spray containing THC and CBD. Used to treat spasticity in patients with Multiple Sclerosis
  • A CBD-only oil preparation. Used with other epilepsy drugs to treat severe and rare forms of epilepsy in children aged two years and over.

However, the majority of medicinal cannabis products are not registered medicines in Australia or subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), so they can only be accessed through special pathways available for unapproved medicines.

Patients who don’t meet criteria for the registered products can access unapproved plant-based therapies with a prescription from a doctor, who must apply for approval to prescribe it under the applicable state or territory laws. Rules relating to plant-based therapies vary between states and territories.

Plant-based therapies are accessed through these pathways, via import from overseas or some are produced locally. These include raw (botanical) cannabis which may be vaporised for medicinal purposes, as well as oils, liquids and oral sprays. Some products have also been developed for direct application to the skin.

Individual patients cannot apply to the TGA for access to plant based therapies.

How much do plant-based therapies cost?

In Australia, many medicines prescribed by your doctor are subsidised by the Commonwealth Government under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 

Unfortunately, only medicines registered with the TGA are eligible to be listed on the PBS. As the vast majority of plant-based therapies  are currently unregistered, they cannot be subsidised by the PBS.

The cost of plant-based therapies  varies depending on the type of product and the dose recommended by your doctor. As these products are not subsidised by the PBS, you must fund the cost yourself.

To learn more about plant-based therapies  or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries

References: 

https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/medicinal-cannabis/history-of-cannabis
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/medicinal-cannabis
https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/24625/the-health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids-the-current-state
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health
https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/medicinal-cannabis
https://www.tga.gov.au/news/news/tga-warns-consumers-about-potential-harm-unlawfully-supplied-medicinal-cannabis
https://www.tga.gov.au/news/news/medicinal-cannabis-products-patient-information
https://www.medicinalcannabis.nsw.gov.au/health-professionals/driving
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Who Meets the Criteria for Plant-Based Therapies in Australia?

Plant medicine has gained increasing attention in Australia since its legalisation for medical use in 2016 as a potential treatment option for a wide range of conditions. However it may not be suited to everyone.

In this blog we explore some of the frequently asked questions, such as:
– who is able to prescribe plant-medicine in Australia,
– what is the current legal framework,
– who may be suitable, and
– what are the steps involved in getting started on your plant-based journey.

Who can prescribe plant-based medicines in Australia?

In Australia, any medical doctor can prescribe plant-based medicines upon receiving approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the respective Health Department of their State or Territory. 

It is important to note that the majority of plant-based medications fall into the category of “unapproved products” and are not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). That means, the information on the efficacy and safety of the products has not been assessed. As a result, obtaining these medications isn’t as straightforward as picking up a prescription from your doctor and having it filled at a pharmacy, as you would with conventional registered medicines. Instead, the TGA has established specific avenues for medical practitioners to access these treatments when they are deemed clinically suitable.

For Australian registered medical professionals looking to prescribe unapproved products for particular conditions, two primary routes are available: the Special Access Scheme (SAS) and the Authorised Prescriber Scheme

Alternatively, general practitioners (GPs) can opt to refer their patients to specialised clinicians with expertise in plant-based medications such as Astrid Clinic. This approach ensures that patients can receive the care and treatment that best suits their medical needs, even in cases where the medications are not officially listed on the  ARTG.

Who may be suitable for plant therapies in Australia?

Australians with various medical conditions can be prescribed medicinal cannabis by a medical doctor, if clinically appropriate. However, there are two main criteria that need to be met:

  1. A diagnosed chronic medical condition
    1. You need to have a diagnosed chronic medical condition, generally by a doctor (usually GP) that has been affecting you for longer than 3 months. 
  2. Trialled conventional therapies
    1. Plant-medicine is not a first line treatment in Australia, and conventional therapies must have been trialled prior to being eligible. Often it isn’t a question of having trialled just one treatment, but numerous treatments (usually a combination of pharmacological (medication) and nonpharmacological e.g. physiotherapy, chiropractor, psychologists/psychiatrists, acupuncture, yoga etc.). If after trialling these, you are still struggling to manage your chronic condition, you have been suffering from ill-effects from these treatments or they are poorly tolerated, plant-based medicine may then be appropriate to trial. 
    2. It also may be acceptable that after discussing the option of trialling a traditional pharmacological treatment with your GP, you may have genuine concerns of potential side effects from medications, and decline commencement for this reason.
Forest canopy representing plant based therapies
Plant-based therapies in Australia has been legal since 2016

Which medical conditions may be appropriate to be treated with plant-based therapies? 

Currently, there is no official list of conditions that the TGA has approved for the use of plant-therapies, however there are over 100 conditions to date that medical practitioners have applied for the use of plant-therapies, through the Special Access Scheme pathway

The TGA have stated that the following conditions have some evidence to show that plant-therapies may be effective:

According to the TGA, there is currently limited scientific evidence to support the use of plant-therapies in most conditions, and in many cases the evidence is for their use together with other medicines. Therefore, plant-based medicines should be considered only when approved treatments have been tried and have failed to manage conditions and symptoms. 

What are some of the steps involved in getting started with plant-based medicine? 

If you’re wondering whether plant-therapies might be right to help better manage your medical condition, the first step would be to have a conversation with your GP, or our team of clinicians at Astrid Clinic

Some patients may find this daunting at first but our team of friendly experts are here to support you each step in this journey.

When speaking with a doctor, we recommend the following steps: 

  1. Be honest and open about your interest in exploring this as an option, whether it being due to you having researched this, or having previous experience. Explain why you think it may be a suitable treatment for your condition(s) and be sure to mention any side effects you’ve experienced with previous treatments. 
  1. Ask questions! Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor ahead of time. Some questions you might consider are:
  • What are the potential benefits or risks associated with plant-based medications?
  • Are there any specific plant-therapies you suggest for my condition?
  • How may it interact with my current treatments or medications?
  • What are some potential side effects or contraindications?
  • How is this going to affect driving or what are the workplace regulations?
  1. Discuss your expectations for the treatment, whether it be improved quality of life, symptom relief, or a reduction in side effects from medications.

Always remember that GPs are healthcare professionals who have your best interests in mind. However, sometimes traditional medical doctors may not have much experience or knowledge in plant-therapies as there still is a lack of education in the conventional medical curriculum. 
If your GP is not able to assist you, there are clinics which specialise in plant-based medicine. The team at Astrid Clinic are committed to ensuring a seamless patient experience, and are proud to provide a comprehensive approach to accessing plant-based medicines. 

At Astrid, we understand the process may seem overwhelming, but plant-based therapies are legal and hold many benefits for some patients throughout Australia. 

The first step is to discuss plant-based therapies further with your GP or book in for a free screening consultation with one of our friendly Astrid Clinic nurses here: https://astrid.health/screening-consultation 

References: 

https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/how-to-get-medicinal-cannabis.html
https://dashboard-data.health.gov.au/single/?appid=1066afbe-2b37-427d-8c47-2caa5082cccc&sheet=088f611b-10de-4d72-be68-ccf8d12c54e9&select=clearall
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Navigating Mental Health with Natural Therapies

Mental health is an integral part of our overall well-being. In Australia, like many other parts of the world, a significant proportion of the population struggles with mental health issues. 

According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), anxiety is the second most applied chronic health condition for plant-based medicines.

In this blog, we discuss the prevalence of mental health issues, with a focus on anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We also explore the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in these conditions, and focus on the data surrounding the increasing number of patients who are accessing plant-therapies to help better manage their mental health.

Mental Health in Focus

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is viewed as an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in”. 

Mental health conditions are very common, and can significantly impact one’s quality of life.

The impact on us

Mental Health issues do not discriminate, and affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. In Australia, the prevalence of these conditions is quite staggering – over two in five (42.9%) people aged 16-85 have experienced a mental health disorder at some time in their life, and one in five (21.4%) have experienced a mental health disorder for longer than 12 months. This helps us understand the need for effective treatments and interventions to help better manage our overall well being.  

Understanding Anxiety, Depression and PTSD

Anxiety is a complex emotional state characterised by feelings of unease, apprehension, and worry. It is a normal response to stress or perceived threats, but when it becomes excessive, uncontrollable and persistent, it can develop into an anxiety disorder. It can manifest with physical symptoms, like increased heart rate, muscle tension, nausea, diarrhoea, or restlessness, and cognitive symptoms like racing thoughts and excessive rumination. 

Depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. It often goes beyond normal fluctuations in mood and can affect a person’s daily life, including their ability to work, socialise and maintain relationships. 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Common symptoms of PTSD include intrusive and distressing memories of the trauma, flashbacks, night terrors, and severe emotional distress when exposed to reminders of the event. 

Astrid Dispensary and Clinic pioneers in cannabinoid medicines, plant therapies and nutraceuticals

Dysregulation of the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids (yes, we naturally produce our own cannabinoids!) in the brain and throughout the body. It plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis, or “balance” within the body. It is believed that patients who have chronic health conditions may in fact have a somewhat of a dysregulation or an “imbalance” of their ECS, and this too is applicable for mood disorders like anxiety, depression and PTSD. 

The two main cannabinoids (or endocannabinoids), produced by our bodies are called 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and Anandamide. Anandamide is often referred to as the “bliss molecule” because it plays a role in promoting feelings of well-being and happiness. Interestingly, the “runners high” you may experience after exercise is now believed to be from a surge in endocannabinoids, specifically anandamide, and not endorphins, as they are unable to cross the blood-brain-barrier.

These two endocannabinoids help to regulate various functions, including mood regulation, stress response, inflammation, and can modulate other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). 

When looking at how these two cannabinoids may affect anxiety and depression, one study showed lower levels of 2-AG in patients with major depression, whereas it showed patients with high anxiety scores had lower levels of anandamide. 

There is limited research on the role of the ECS in patients with PTSD specifically, however one study showed the effects of trauma on the ECS seem to differ, depending on whether the trauma was experienced in childhood vs adulthood. 

Plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) such as delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) interact with the endocannabinoid system’s primary receptors CB1 (found primarily in the central nervous system) and CB2 (found primarily in the peripheral immune system) by either mimicking endocannabinoids, or by influencing their production or breakdown. These interactions in turn can have various therapeutic effects. 

It is important to note that the relationship between endocannabinoids and mood disorders like anxiety, depression and PTSD is complex and not fully understood. While some studies suggest that enhancing endocannabinoid activity using phytocannabinoids can have positive therapeutic outcomes, there are also concerns about potential side effects and the risk of cannabis use disorder (in particular with THC). Research in this area is ongoing, and the development of safe and effective treatments based on the latest research is critical.

Increase in the number applications for plant-based therapies to treat mood disorders

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) tracks all of the applications made by doctors via the Special Access Scheme (SAS-B) for the patients prescribed plant-based therapies. Since 2020, anxiety has been the second most applied for chronic health condition for plant-based medicines. In addition, anxiety, depression and PTSD have all been in the top five most applied for conditions for the use of plant therapies, as well as chronic pain and sleep disorders. 

This data demonstrates the increased use of plant therapies as a potential treatment option for mood disorders, when other conventional therapies may have not been successful or effective.

CBD or THC for mental health? 

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and can be associated with its potential therapeutic benefits in helping to manage mental health disorders. Some studies suggest CBD may have anxiolytic and anti-inflammatory effects, and may help in better regulating mood. THC on the other hand, is the psychoactive component of the plant and is responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use. While THC can have therapeutic effects for some conditions like chronic pain and cancer-related symptoms, its psychoactive nature may contribute to increased anxiety and paranoia in some individuals. Finding a balance between these cannabinoids is crucial in optimising mental health benefits, while aiming to minimise potential unwanted side effects. 

It is also important to note that not all mental health issues or mood disorders may be appropriate for plant based medicines. Some studies have shown an exacerbation or worsening of symptoms in certain mood disorders (especially with THC-containing medicines), so it is important to be transparent when discussing your medical history with your healthcare professional. If you would like to explore the use of plant-therapies further, we recommend having a discussion with your GP, or booking in with the friendly team at Astrid Clinic, who can provide personalised guidance based on your specific condition(s), medical history and needs. 

Summary

In summary, the landscape of medicinal cannabis as a treatment for mental health is complex, and research behind the role of cannabinoids in mood disorders is ongoing.  It’s important to consult with an experienced healthcare professional if you are considering any form of plant based medicine, as the effects can vary greatly depending on the type of therapy, and various individual factors. 

If you’re suffering from emotional distress, you can contact a 24 hour crisis support or suicide prevention services in Australia.  

24 hours, 7 days
Lifeline: 13 11 14 

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
13YARN: 13 92 76
For further information see Mental health resources

References: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8525214/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3808114/  ***
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders
https://psychology.org.au/for-the-public/psychology-topics/anxiety
https://psychology.org.au/for-the-public/psychology-topics/depression
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9916354/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6816276/
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Travelling soon? Before you pack, know how to travel with medicinal cannabis 

Australians love to travel. In the 2022-23 year, there were 8,337,080 overseas trips taken by Australian residents, more than 5 times the previous year.

With the top destination countries being New Zealand, Indonesia, the USA, the UK and India. Domestically, over 36 million trips have been recorded in the 2022-23 year.

When travelling, it’s prudent to stay organised with your medications. However, it’s crucial to note that the legal regulations regarding travelling with medicinal cannabis are more intricate compared to many other medications. Regulations vary not only between countries but also, in certain instances, among different Australian states. It is crucial to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about local laws and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience.

Travelling in Australia

Medicinal cannabis is legal in every Australian state however the requirements around prescribing and dispensing can differ slightly depending on the state.

When considering domestic travel, it is permissible to journey between states with medicinal cannabis as long as an approved doctor has prescribed it, and it is carried in its original container with the pharmacy-dispensed label. Possession of cannabis which has not been obtained legally is still an offence in most states and territories. 

Some clinics offer medicinal cannabis cards. It is important to know that these are not recognised as a legal document and do not replace the requirement to travel with the original, labelled containers as dispensed by the pharmacy. Whilst it is not required when travelling within Australia, it may be useful to have a letter from your doctor describing the cannabis medicine you are taking and how much you are bringing with you.

Overseas Travel

Heading overseas introduces additional complexities. It is the patient’s responsibility and not that of the doctor, pharmacist or travel agent to verify the legality of medicinal cannabis at their destination and understand any relevant rules or restrictions. While some countries permit travel with medicinal cannabis, others may require you to obtain a permit. Conversely, certain destinations may consider it illegal or a controlled substance, with severe penalties associated with its possession, even if prescribed legally in Australia.

Beyond destination regulations, it is essential to account for the requirements set by your airline or cruise line, as well as any layover destinations in your journey.

Some of the most popular destinations for travel for Australians are New Zealand, Indonesia, the UK and the US.  Let’s take a look at some of the considerations for those choosing to travel to these destinations.

Travelling to New Zealand

Medicinal cannabis is legal in New Zealand and it is possible to travel there with prescribed medications that have been dispensed in Australia so long as:

  • the product has been prescribed to you by a doctor
  • you have a copy of the prescription or a letter from your doctor stating that you are being treated with the product
  • you declare the product on your passenger arrival card
  • you carry the product in its original labelled container, and
  • you are bringing no more than a 3-month supply of a CBD product or a 1-month supply of any other medicinal cannabis product.

Additionally, only vaporisers approved as a medical device by an overseas regulator can be imported into New Zealand. This ensures the vaporiser will be a safe method for administering medicinal cannabis. 

Other vaporiser devices, and utensils with prohibited features, continue to be prohibited from New Zealand and may be confiscated by Customs.

Travelling to Indonesia

Cannabis-based products such as cannabis oil and creams, hemp, CBD, THC, hash and edibles remain illegal in Indonesia, including for medicinal purposes. Having a medical prescription does not make it legal. If you take such products to Indonesia or purchase or use them in Indonesia, you can be arrested and face imprisonment, fines, deportation or the death penalty.

Astrid Dispensary and Clinic explores the travel requirements for medicinal cannabis

Travelling to the UK

Medicinal cannabis is available in the UK however it is highly regulated and most cannabis based products are classified as a schedule 1 drug.

The Home office advice currently states that “You cannot bring schedule 1 drugs into the UK without a licence. Licences for schedule 1 drugs are limited to research or other special purposes and therefore it is recommended you do not travel to the UK with your Australian prescribed medicinal cannabis. 

Further information regarding applying for permits to travel to the UK is available here

Travelling to the USA

Some U.S. states have legalised cannabis removing all penalties for possession and personal use. However, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level in the USA and therefore you can not travel to the USA with your prescribed medicinal cannabis from Australia. 

In short, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) website mentions that marijuana and certain cannabis products, including some CBD oils, are still prohibited by federal law. The exception is for products with less than 0.3% THC or those approved by the FDA. 

While TSA primarily focuses on security and doesn’t specifically search for drugs, if illegal substances are found during screening, they will involve law enforcement. It’s important to note that many US airlines don’t allow cannabis in any form on board.

Planes, boats and automobiles

When planning a road trip, it’s crucial to be aware of the regulations regarding the intake of medicinal cannabis products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while driving. It’s noteworthy that these laws differ across Australian states, and similar regulations exist overseas. In addition to potential penalties abroad, it’s essential to recognize that contravening local drug driving laws may result in adverse consequences, including the possibility of travel insurance not covering accidents. Therefore, understanding and adhering to these laws is paramount to a safe and trouble-free road trip experience.

If travelling on a cruise ship, even if departing and arriving at an Australian port, it is important to first check with the cruise line if they will allow you to bring medicinal cannabis onboard, many do not allow cannabis onboard even if legally prescribed.

Additionally, certain airlines will also not allow passengers onboard with prescribed medicinal cannabis products, even if the destination does allow. It’s important to check this with the individual airline before travelling.

If travelling with a vaporiser it is important to remember that many of these contain lithium batteries. Batteries that are installed in portable electronic devices may be kept in checked luggage under some conditions. You should discuss this with your airline when you check in. All spare or loose batteries must be in your carry-on baggage only. Also, the vaporiser should be clean with no cannabis flower inside. Bring any paperwork that mentions that your cannabis needs to be taken via vaporiser with you.

Remember, the laws and regulations around medicinal cannabis internationally and in Australia change with time so it’s important to ensure that you have the most up to date  information for your destination and carrier before you travel.

In summary, Australians need to navigate complex legal issues when carrying medicinal cannabis, with variations between countries and Australian states. Awareness of regulations for specific destinations, such as New Zealand allowing travel with prescribed cannabis and Indonesia strictly prohibiting it, is crucial. Additionally, understanding laws for driving with medicinal cannabis and checking airline policies on its carriage are essential to ensure a safe and compliant travel experience.

To learn more about plant-based therapies  or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries

References:

https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/tourism-and-transport/overseas-arrivals-and-departures-australia/latest-release
https://www.tra.gov.au/en/domestic/domestic-tourism-results
https://www.medicinalcannabis.nsw.gov.au/patients/travel
https://www.casa.gov.au/operations-safety-and-travel/travel-and-passengers/you-fly/batteries-and-portable-power-packs#Sparebatteries
https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/medicinal-cannabis-agency/medicinal-cannabis-agency-information-consumers#enteringnz
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/controlled-drugs-personal-licences
https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/indonesia
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/medical-cannabis/
https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medical-marijuana
https://rockinst.org/intheweeds/
https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medical-marijuana
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Unlocking the Potential of Medicinal Cannabis in Epilepsy 

Medicinal cannabis may have a place in the treatment of epilepsy where the use of traditional anti-seizure drugs have not been effective.

It has been studied for a number of years and there is evidence supporting its use in the treatment of certain childhood epilepsies.

What is Epilepsy? 

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterised by unprovoked seizures, which are sudden and unpredictable bursts of electrical activity in the brain. These seizures can happen at least 24 hours apart or may occur even with a single unprovoked seizure if there is a high chance of more seizures happening. It’s quite common, being the fourth most common brain disorder after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease. In Australia alone, around 142,740 people are estimated to have active epilepsy, costing billions due to its impact on lives.

About one in three people with epilepsy continue to have seizures despite taking regular medication. The frequency of seizures in these individuals may vary in frequency and severity, however any uncontrolled seizure can severely impact quality of life. Medicinal cannabis treatments may be of benefit in these patients. 

What is the role of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of Epilepsy?

Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating molecule from cannabis plants has been tried as an add-on treatment in young people up to the age of 25 who have epilepsy. 

Some studies showed it made life better for both kids and adults with epilepsy, but there aren’t many studies on how well it works for adults. Right now, doctors only suggest medicinal cannabis or cannabinoids along with regular anti-epileptic drugs, not on their own. 

If a doctor thinks about prescribing cannabis treatment, they usually use it together with other medicines, and then see if it helps. In Australia, there’s one approved liquid medicine with CBD(100mg/ml) that is prescribed for this purpose.

Is medicinal cannabis suitable for all patients with Epilepsy?

Medicinal cannabis or cannabinoids might help some people with epilepsy, especially children and young adults, by reducing how often they have seizures. However, this treatment doesn’t work the same for everyone, and it’s crucial to consult your doctor and neurologist before trying it. 

The main goal of epilepsy treatment is to decrease the number of seizures, ideally aiming for no seizures at all. If a patient experiences a 50 percent or more reduction in seizures with medicinal cannabis and doesn’t have significant negative side effects, it might be considered effective. 

Doctors usually suggest trying CBD for about twelve weeks to see if it helps, and ongoing research is being conducted to find out the best dosage and effectiveness of CBD in treating common types of epilepsy in adults.

What are some of the side effects of medicinal cannabis used in the treatment of Epilepsy?

All medications can have potential side effects. The majority of patients treated with CBD report it is well tolerated. Usually, adverse events (AEs) are mild and only observed in the first month. In patients being treated with CBD for the treatment of epilepsy, some of the reported side effects include:

  • Diarrhoea 
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in appetite (increased or decreased)
  • Worsening of seizures
  • Fever 
  • Convulsion
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems 
  • Irritability 
  • Changes in weight (gain or loss)
  • Nausea 
  • Behavioural difficulties 
  • Vomiting 
  • Elevations of liver enzymes (can improve with continued use or dose reduction)

The most frequent AEs are drowsiness, reduced appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting, fatigue, and fever. More serious side effects have also been reported rarely. These include ‘Status epilepticus’, experiencing a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes, or having more than 1 seizure within a 5 minutes period, without returning to a normal level of consciousness between episodes.

Medicinal cannabis or cannabinoids might help some people with epilepsy

Are all medicinal cannabis products suitable in the treatment of Epilepsy?

The cannabis sativa plant has been utilised since ancient times to treat seizures. The active ingredients of this plant include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). 

In more recent times, there have been studies that have demonstrated there is evidence  that supports the use of cannabidiol (CBD) in the treatment of some patients with epilepsy. Most of this evidence indicates that CBD alone is well tolerated and may be effective in reducing seizures in specific patient groups. 

There is less evidence to support the use of THC containing products. THC is generally not recommended in the treatment of epilepsy as the effect on seizure control is uncertain and they have psychotropic effects that CBD alone is not associated with.

In summary, Cannabidiol (CBD) is the substance in medicinal cannabis that has the most published evidence as an epilepsy treatment. Australian guidelines support using CBD as an add-on to treatment in certain patients when conventional treatments have not adequately controlled seizures. The strongest evidence for the use of CBD is in paediatric and young (under 25 years old) patients. In these populations CBD appears to be well tolerated and reduced seizures by 50% or more in over half the patients studied. Several studies have also demonstrated an improvement in quality of life for both paediatric and adult patients.  

Further research is needed to fully understand the role of other medicinal cannabis products and the role of CBD in the treatment of Epilepsy in adult patients. 

To learn more about the role of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of Epilepsy or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries

References:

Devinsky O, Cilio MR, Cross H, Fernandez-Ruiz J, French J, Hill C, Katz R, Di Marzo V, Jutras-Aswad D, Notcutt WG, Martinez-Orgado J, Robson PJ, Rohrback BG, Thiele E, Whalley B, Friedman D. Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia. 2014 Jun;55(6):791-802. doi: 10.1111/epi.12631. Epub 2014 May 22. PMID: 24854329; PMCID: PMC4707667.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24854329/
https://www.epilepsy.org.au/about-epilepsy/medicinal-cannabis/
https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/resource/guidance/guidance-use-medicinal-cannabis-treatment-epilepsy-paediatric-and-young-adult-patients-australia#role
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/status-epilepticus#:~:text=If%20you%20have%20epilepsy%2C%20you,episodes%20is%20called%20status%20epilepticus.
Zaheer S, Kumar D, Khan MT, Giyanwani PR, Kiran F. Epilepsy and Cannabis: A Literature Review. Cureus. 2018 Sep 10;10(9):e3278. doi: 10.7759/cureus.3278. PMID: 30443449; PMCID: PMC6235654.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6235654/
O’Brien TJ, Berkovic SF, French JA, et al. Adjunctive Transdermal Cannabidiol for Adults With Focal Epilepsy: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(7):e2220189. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.201
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2794028
https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/resource/guidance/guidance-use-medicinal-cannabis-australia-patient-information
https://epilepsyfoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Medicinal-Cannabis-Position-Statement-June-2022.pdf
https://epilepsyfoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Economic-burden-of-epilepsy-Final-Report-Feb-2020.pdf
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The Aromatic Alchemy: Unveiling the Wonders of Terpenes

Ever wondered why different plants have unique scents? It’s all thanks to compounds called terpenes.

While many associate them with Cannabis Sativa L., these aromatic molecules are found in various plants, giving them distinctive aromas and tastes. But here’s the mystery: terpenes aren’t just about smell; they’re vital for plant growth and protection. Now, picture this: what if these compounds held the key to powerful medicinal benefits, working in ways we’re only beginning to understand? Stay tuned to unravel the secrets of terpenes, exploring their diverse roles and potential therapeutic wonders.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are natural substances found in plants like Cannabis Sativa L., and they serve various essential functions for the plant, such as helping it grow, protecting it from pests, and more. 

In simpler terms, terpenes are what give plants, like Cannabis Sativa L., their distinctive smells. Different varieties of this plant have their unique mix of terpenes, which is sometimes called their “terpene profile.” You can also find terpenes in other things like tea, thyme, Spanish sage, and citrus fruits such as lemon, orange, and mandarin.

Terpenes are also noted to have various medicinal properties. So far only a small percentage of all 15000–20000 known terpenes have been researched. 

Some of the known terpenes with therapeutic benefits are among the more than 200 terpenes that are found in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, these include:

  • Myrcene (also known as 𝛽-myrcene)
  • Limonene
  • Pinene 
  • Caryophyllene
  • Linalool
  • Ocimene
  • Nerolidol

Myrcene

Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes. It is also found in basil, mangos, and its namesake, Myrcia sphaerocarpa, is a medicinal shrub from Brazil traditionally used to treat diabetes, diarrhoea, dysentery, and hypertension. Myrcene’s aroma is earthy, fruity, and clove-like. 

It is proposed that myrcene might increase the effects of other compounds in a variety of ways. One idea is that myrcene might affect how cell membranes work, especially the barrier that protects the brain. This could help substances like cannabinoids get into the brain more easily. But we don’t have enough good information yet to be sure. More research is needed to understand this. Myrcene has also been found to help substances pass through the skin more effectively.

Studies on animals have shown that myrcene has strong pain relief, calming, and anti-inflammatory effects. Scientists are currently studying myrcene in various ways to understand its potential benefits better

Limonene

Limonene is regarded as the second most commonly found terpene and is found in citrus, as well as a wide variety of other plant species. It’s an important part of oils found in citrus peels, dill, cumin, neroli, bergamot, and caraway seeds.

Limonene comes in two types: l-limonene and d-limonene. Even though they have the same chemical makeup, they look like mirror images of each other. L-limonene smells like pine and turpentine, while d-limonene has a nice orange scent.

Research has shown that limonene might have different health benefits. It can help fight harmful substances in the body, reduce inflammation, and protect against certain diseases. Scientists are studying how Limonene can be used to treat long-term health problems because it helps the body deal with stress and inflammation, and it also helps control cell death.

Also,scientists have done many studies on limonene to see if it can protect our brains from diseases like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, seizures, anxiety, and stroke.

Pinene

Pinene, commonly found in pine trees, comes in two forms—α-pinene and 𝛽-pinene. It is associated with the earthy, woody, fresh aromas of pine, and resin found in many non-edible parts of plants.

Many plants rich in pinene have been used in traditional remedies to address a range of ailments, such as gastrointestinal issues, seizures, inflammation, pain, snake bites, colds, fevers, hypertension, rheumatism, cancer, fungal infections, anxiety, and depression, among other conditions.

Many studies have shown that pinene might have a role in helping fight off infections, stopping blood clots, and even reducing pain and inflammation.

Astrid Dispensary in South Yarra, Melbourne

β-Caryophyllene (BCP)

The terpene BCP, found in black pepper, cloves, hops, rosemary, copaiba, and cannabis, is quite special. It’s different from the well-known substances in cannabis like THC(tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD(cannabidiol). BCP is unique because it interacts with a system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system in a special way.

Imagine your body has tiny locks, and the endocannabinoid system has keys to these locks. BCP fits into a specific lock called the CB2 receptor. This is different from most other compounds in cannabis.

Scientists have been studying BCP to see how it can help us with various health issues. They’ve looked into its potential for treating problems like colitis (inflammation in the colon), osteoarthritis (a type of joint pain), diabetes, cerebral ischemia (a condition where the brain doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen), anxiety, depression, liver fibrosis (scarring of the liver tissue), and diseases similar to Alzheimer’s.

There’s also hope that BCP could aid in cancer treatment. It might make certain chemotherapy drugs work better and even slow down the growth of tumours. 

Linalool

Linalool is a substance found in many fragrant plants. There are two types of linalool, each giving off a different smell. (R)-linalool, found in plants like lavender, sweet basil, and eucalyptus, has a fresh and woody scent. On the other hand, (S)-linalool has a softer fragrance with sweet and floral tones.

Scientists believe linalool could be really good for our brain. It might protect our brain cells, reduce inflammation (when parts of our body get red and swollen), and fight harmful substances called oxidants. Some studies with people have shown that oils with lots of linalool might help with problems like feeling very worried, sad, or having trouble sleeping. 

β-Ocimene

The name ‘Ocimene’ comes from the Greek word for ‘basil,’ which makes sense because basil plants contain this substance. It has a sweet and woody smell and can be found in things like mint, parsley, tarragon, kumquats, and mangos. It might have a role in stopping seizures, fighting fungal infections, and hindering the growth of tumours.

Nerolidol

Nerolidol is one of the common components found in the essential oil of various medicinal plants. The aroma is woody and reminiscent of fresh bark.

A majority of the studies reveal that nerolidol is the major constituent in many plants that have shown to exhibit antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, anti-biofilm, anti-oxidant, anti-nociceptive, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, skin penetration enhancer, insect repellent and anti-cancer properties. The presence of nerolidol in these plants may be a contributing factor to these properties.  

Why are Boiling points important?

Boiling points are important because they help us understand how different natural compounds, like terpenes, behave when they are heated.

Now, imagine if you had a pot of soup on the stove. You know that the soup needs to be heated to a certain temperature for it to taste just right. Similarly, each terpene has its own specific temperature at which it starts to turn into vapour and disappear. We call this temperature the boiling point of the terpene.

So, knowing the boiling points of terpenes is like knowing the perfect temperature for your soup. It helps scientists and researchers understand how these compounds work and how they can be used in things like perfumes, medicines, or even tasty food recipes.

Different terpenes have different boiling points. Some might start evaporating at a lower temperature, while others need more heat to disappear. By understanding these boiling points, scientists can use terpenes effectively in various products, making sure they are not lost before they elicit their effects.

Terpenes are volatile, natural and complex bioactive compounds. Each terpene will have a different point at which they start to evaporate and the boiling point of a terpene is the temperature at which it completely dissipates. 

Terpenes aren’t just about smell; they’re vital for plant growth and protection

Boiling Points of Different Terpenes:

Different terpenes have different boiling points, below are some of the common terpenes and temperatures: 

TerpeneBoiling Point (°C)
α-Pinene155
Camphene159
Sabinene163
β-Pinene166
Myrcene168
Carene171
Ocimene175
Limonene176
Terpinolene185
Linalool198
Terpineol217
Geraniol230
β-Caryophyllene263
Humulene276
Nerolidol276
Guaiol290
Bisabolol314

The ‘Entourage Effect’

The ‘entourage effect’ is the notion that the pharmacological effects of cannabis, as a whole extract, is greater than the sum of its individual chemical components. 

The terpenoids in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant may directly or indirectly interact with the plant cannabinoids, potentially contributing to the therapeutic value of plant-based therapies. This synergistic effect is sometimes referred to as the ‘entourage effect’ and is the subject of ongoing research. 

In summary, Terpenes are responsible for the smell of many plants. They play an important role in nature to protect the plant from pests and disease. However many terpenes also may have therapeutic benefits when taken as a component of plant-based medicine.

To learn more about plant-based medicines and terpenes or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries

References:

Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Aug;163(7):1344-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x. PMID: 21749363; PMCID: PMC3165946.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/
https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/medicinal-cannabis/the-cannabis-plant.html
Cox-Georgian D, Ramadoss N, Dona C, Basu C. Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes. Medicinal Plants. 2019 Nov 12:333–59. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-31269-5_15. PMCID: PMC7120914. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/myrcene
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/limonene
Eddin, L.B.; Jha, N.K.; Meeran, M.F.N.; Kesari, K.K.; Beiram, R.; Ojha, S. Neuroprotective Potential of Limonene and Limonene Containing Natural Products. Molecules 2021, 26, 4535. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26154535
https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/26/15/4535
Salehi B, Upadhyay S, Erdogan Orhan I, Kumar Jugran A, L D Jayaweera S, A Dias D, Sharopov F, Taheri Y, Martins N, Baghalpour N, Cho WC, Sharifi-Rad J. Therapeutic Potential of α- and β-Pinene: A Miracle Gift of Nature. Biomolecules. 2019 Nov 14;9(11):738. doi: 10.3390/biom9110738. PMID: 31739596; PMCID: PMC6920849.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6920849/
AUTHOR=Weston-Green Katrina, Clunas Helen, Jimenez Naranjo Carlos  
TITLE=A Review of the Potential Use of Pinene and Linalool as Terpene-Based Medicines for Brain Health: Discovering Novel Therapeutics in the Flavours and Fragrances of Cannabis 
JOURNAL=Frontiers in Psychiatry    
VOLUME=12     
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https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/caryophyllene
Chan WK, Tan LT, Chan KG, Lee LH, Goh BH. Nerolidol: A Sesquiterpene Alcohol with Multi-Faceted Pharmacological and Biological Activities. Molecules. 2016 Apr 28;21(5):529. doi: 10.3390/molecules21050529. PMID: 27136520; PMCID: PMC6272852.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6272852/
Raz N, Eyal AM, Davidson EM. Optimal Treatment with Cannabis Extracts Formulations Is Gained via Knowledge of Their Terpene Content and via Enrichment with Specifically Selected Monoterpenes and Monoterpenoids. Molecules. 2022 Oct 15;27(20):6920. doi: 10.3390/molecules27206920. PMID: 36296511; PMCID: PMC9608144.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/ocimene
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Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

In the intricate orchestra of our body’s internal systems, like the well-known sympathetic nervous system responsible for our fight-or-flight reactions, there’s a relatively new player on the stage: the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

This complex network of chemical signals and receptors, scattered throughout our brain and body, serves as the maestro of essential functions, from memory and emotions to pain management, sleep, and more. As global research and drug development efforts converge on the ECS, its role in our well-being is gaining remarkable attention.

This understanding of the ECS builds on a history that dates back to 2800 BC when plant-based remedies, including those derived from the cannabis plant, were already being employed to address a wide range of health issues. Our contemporary comprehension of how medicinal cannabis operates within the body has only emerged relatively recently, thanks to our deepening understanding of the endocannabinoid system.

What is the ECS?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) system is a biological system that was identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring the effects of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol  (THC), a well-known cannabinoid from cannabis plant.

The ECS is made up of internally produced cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), receptors (cannabinoid receptors)  and enzymes. It is a system that helps regulate and maintain homeostasis (more commonly known as balance) within your body.

Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know it plays role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including:

  • sleep
  • mood
  • appetite
  • memory
  • reproduction and fertility

The ECS exists and is always active in your body even if you aren’t a patient using plant-based medicines. 

Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules produced in the body. Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:

  • anandamide (AEA)
  • 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

These help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each. Enzymes are responsible for making and breaking down the endocannabinoids in the body.

Endocannabinoid receptors

Endocannabinoids work by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found throughout your body. When endocannabinoids interact with them it signals that the ECS needs to take action.

There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:

  • CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system and brain
  • CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells

Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effects that result depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to.

Astrid has dispensaries in Melbourne and Byron Bay
Astrid has two dispensaries in Australia, one in Byron Bay and one in Melbourne.

Enzymes

Enzymes are chemicals that are responsible for making and also breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function.

How do plant-based medicines interact with the ECS?

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids derived from plants. The phytocannabinoids are most concentrated in the glandular trichomes (hairy outgrowths) of the flowering heads of the female plant. There are over 100 phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant as well as hundreds of non cannabinoid compounds.

Phytocannabinoids have a similar chemical structure to our endocannabinoids and can interact with the endocannabinoid receptors to elicit a response and result in the therapeutic effects of plant-based medicines. 

The most abundant phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant are ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)

THC is responsible for the psychoactive, intoxicating effects of cannabis, whereas CBD is non-psychoactive.

THC and the ECS

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the most prevalent phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors and can have psychoactive properties which are associated with some of the side effects of plant-based medicines such as increased anxiety, slower reaction times and impaired memory when taken too frequently or at too high a dose. It is also associated with beneficial effects, such as pain relief. It may improve cancer-related symptoms like increasing appetite and reducing nausea and vomiting, and improving sleep.  

Astrid dispensary is an exception to every rule, naturally.
Astrid is an exception to every rule, naturally.

CBD and the ECS

The other major cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD isn’t psychoactive/intoxicating and is generally well tolerated.

Experts aren’t completely sure how CBD interacts with the ECS. But they do know that it doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the way THC does.

While the details of how it works are still under debate, research suggests that CBD can help with pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with multiple conditions.

The ECS consists of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes, which work together to help maintain stability in processes such as temperature, sleep, and mood.

In summary, the ECS is a biological network discovered in the 1990s through THC research. It regulates functions like sleep and mood and consists of endocannabinoids, CB1 and CB2 receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyerol interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, signalling the ECS. Cannabis-derived phytocannabinoids can also bind to these receptors. THC, a common phytocannabinoid, is psychoactive and relieves pain but can cause anxiety and memory issues. CBD, another major cannabinoid, isn’t psychoactive and may help with pain and nausea. The ECS stabilises processes like temperature and mood.

To learn more about plant-based medicines or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295/
https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/medicinal-cannabis/history-of-cannabis
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-endocannabinoid-system-essential-and-mysterious
https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi

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Plant-Based Therapy Dosage Forms

Medicinal cannabis refers to the use of cannabis or its derivatives for therapeutic purposes, primarily to alleviate symptoms or treat various medical conditions.

It contains active compounds like THC and CBD that can impact the body’s endocannabinoid system, with various effects.

There are more than 100 different plant-based products available in Australia which come in many different forms, including oral formulations, topical formulations, inhalations.

Medicinal cannabis products can also be categorised as:

  • Isolate: contains only isolated cannabinoids, only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Full-spectrum: products containing the full range of the constituents of the cannabis plant in different concentrations. Typically, these are high in THC or CBD and have lower levels of the other minor phytocannabinoids. These products will tend to contain THC as they contain all of the naturally occurring cannabinoids.
  • Broad-spectrum: products containing a range of cannabinoids and other cannabis constituents, but with no THC

Plant derived or Synthetic?

Plant-derived products are raw medicinal cannabis plant materials that have been produced in a controlled environment and allow for predictable cannabinoid content. These plants can be dried and cured and supplied as a dried flower. The medicinal compounds in the plant are vaporised by the patient. 

Medicinal cannabis products in the form of dried flower are only prescribed to be vaporised by an ARTG approved vaporiser. These are medical devices that have met with the regulatory requirements of the TGA, they are subject to strict approval assessments but are also monitored closely after they have been approved for supply and included in the  ARTG.

Plant-derived products can also come in the form of liquids (oils or tinctures), which are made by extracting cannabinoids from plant material by exposing it to solvents such ethanol or supercritical carbon dioxide. The liquid is typically taken orally with food.

Other sublingual methods of ingestion such as wafers or gummies also exist and more formulations are under development.

Other extracts are made into gels, lotions, creams or ointments for topical application onto the skin.

Finally, concentrated plant extracts are sometimes put into capsules that are swallowed much like any other medicine. 

Plant-derived products vary in their level of phytocannabinoids. The most important two of these to consider are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Products tend to be formulated which contain mostly THC, mostly CBD or a combination of both. These products typically also contain lesser amounts of the other trace cannabinoids such as Cannabigerols (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA),Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) as well as other plant compounds.

Whole or ‘full-spectrum’ plant extracts are produced in a way that preserves the balance of all the different cannabinoids and terpenoids (other naturally occurring chemical compounds found in all classes of living things) in the plant. Other extracts are filtered and manufactured in a way that maximises the presence of one particular cannabinoid such as CBD.

There is ongoing research to determine if the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids such as CBD, are improved when maintained in a full-spectrum extract. The ‘entourage effect’ is the notion that the pharmacological effects of cannabis are greater than the sum of individual cannabis chemical components.

Synthetically produced cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are produced in a laboratory using organic chemistry techniques. The THC, CBD and other cannabinoid molecules produced in this way are identical to those found in the plant. They have been registered as medicines with the Food and Drug Administration in the USA since the 1980s.

Astrid Dispensary Nature, Science, Medicine
Nature, Science, Medicine

Oral plant-based products:

The majority of plant-based medicines currently supplied in Australia is in oil form which is taken orally. Other ingested forms include capsules and wafers.

Plant-based oils generally take 1-3 hours to start working and the effects can last 6-8 hours and up to 12 hours or longer in some cases. Individual variances in metabolism and food intake can affect the time of onset and duration of effect. 

Oral preparations generally have a slower onset of action and longer duration of effect as compared to inhaled products so may be preferred in circumstances where longer symptom relief is required. 

Capsules containing plant-based oil, wafers and oro-mucosal sprays that are sprayed into the mouth, under the tongue are also available.  

Inhaled plant-based products:

Dried flowers can be dried and cured to produce a product that can be vaporised using a medical vaporiser to produce a therapeutic effect. Extracts containing purified plant-based extracts are also available for vaporisation. 

Vaporisation is the process of heating plant-based medicines without burning and the active compounds are released into a vapour which is inhaled.  After inhalation, THC enters the bloodstream quickly through the lung, with the effects achieved within 6 to 10 minutes after inhalation. In general, inhalation has a faster onset and produces a stronger psychoactive effect than ingestion. Effects of inhaled plant-based medicines generally last up to 6 hours with some residual effects up to 24 hours later.

Smoking dried medicinal cannabis is not recommended. 

Astrid Dispensary A cannabinoid medicines clinic
Astrid is a boutique pharmacy and clinic that is pioneering in cannabinoid medicines

Topical plant-based products: 

Plant-based medicines in the form of a tincture, lotions, ointment or cream can be used topically. These products are applied directly to the skin and may be used to treat areas of pain and inflammation or a range of skin conditions.

In summary, medicinal cannabis in Australia is available in various forms, including oral formulations, topical applications, and inhalations, with different product categories such as isolates, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum. Plant-derived products offer predictable cannabinoid content and can be vaporised, taken orally, or applied topically, while synthetic cannabinoids like THC and CBD are produced in a lab and registered as medicines. The choice of administration method depends on factors like onset time, duration of effect, and individual preferences.

To learn more about plant-based medicines or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries

References:

https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/how-to-get-medicinal-cannabis/what-products-are-available.html
https://www.racgp.org.au/advocacy/position-statements/view-all-position-statements/clinical-and-practice-management/medical-cannabis
https://www.nps.org.au/consumers/medicinal-cannabis-explained
Baratta F, Simiele M, Pignata I, Ravetto Enri L, D’Avolio A, Torta R, De Luca A, Collino M, Brusa P. Cannabis-Based Oral Formulations for Medical Purposes: Preparation, Quality and Stability. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021 Feb 22;14(2):171. doi: 10.3390/ph14020171. PMID: 33671760; PMCID: PMC7926486.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7926486/
Vickery AW, Roth S, Ernenwein T, Kennedy J, Washer P. A large Australian longitudinal cohort registry demonstrates sustained safety and efficacy of oral medicinal cannabis for at least two years. PLoS One. 2022 Nov 18;17(11):e0272241. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272241. PMID: 36399463; PMCID: PMC9674134.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36399463/
Vandrey R, Herrmann ES, Mitchell JM, Bigelow GE, Flegel R, LoDico C, Cone EJ. Pharmacokinetic Profile of Oral Cannabis in Humans: Blood and Oral Fluid Disposition and Relation to Pharmacodynamic Outcomes. J Anal Toxicol. 2017 Mar 1;41(2):83-99. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkx012. PMID: 28158482; PMCID: PMC5890870.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5890870/
Chayasirisobhon S. Mechanisms of Action and Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis. Perm J. 2020 Dec;25:1-3. doi: 10.7812/TPP/19.200. PMID: 33635755; PMCID: PMC8803256.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/
https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-10/CCSA-Cannabis-Inhaling-Ingesting-Risks-Infographic-2019-en.pdf
Makhakhe L. Topical cannabidiol (CBD) in skin pathology – A comprehensive review and prospects for new therapeutic opportunities. S Afr Fam Pract (2004). 2022 May 30;64(1):e1-e4. doi: 10.4102/safp.v64i1.5493. PMID: 35695447; PMCID: PMC9210160.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7558665/
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The World of Cannabinoids: Nature’s Medicinal Compounds

The word “cannabinoid” may strike a chord with its association to cannabis, but this term encompasses a vast variety of chemical compounds that interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors.

Cannabinoids, found in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, the human body, and even synthesised in laboratories, hold the key to a myriad of potential health benefits. 

The realm of cannabinoids is a captivating landscape that extends far beyond the well-known THC and CBD, with over 120 minor cannabinoids under scrutiny for their potential therapeutic roles. 

Join us as we explore the world of cannabinoids and look at two primary categories: endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids.

What is a cannabinoid?  

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found both in nature and in the human body. 

In plants, they’re called phytocannabinoids, and when found naturally occurring in the human body, they’re called endocannabinoids. 

Both have the same effects in the body.

What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

The ECS is like a communication system in our body that helps control important things like memory, emotions, pain, and more. 

It has special parts called CB1 and CB2 receptors that are found all over our body’s cells. These receptors help regulate things like hunger, alertness, and body temperature by talking to other parts of our body. Learn more about the endocannabinoid system here.

What are endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are molecules produced in our bodies.

Anandamide, which gets its name from the Sanskrit word “ananda” meaning “joy, bliss, happiness” is one of the endocannabinoids we make.

Endocannabinoids are produced in and released from the body’s tissues and organs in times of stress to bind to cannabinoid receptors and return the body to equilibrium.

What are phytocannabinoids?

Phyto means plant, so think of phytocannabinoids as plant-derived cannabinoids.

Phytocannabinoids are found in high quantities in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, but other plants can make them as well. The highest quantity of phytocannabinoids is found on the female cannabis flowers; they are less abundant in the leaves and stems.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are two most important cannabinoid components in the cannabis plant (but hundred others have been identified). They can be found in variable quantities in different types of cannabis plants. “Strain” is the term used in the cannabis world to refer to a specific type of cannabis plant.

Some examples of other cannabinoids include:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabichromenolic acid (CBCA)
  • Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)
  • Cannabichromevarinolic acid (CBCVA)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Cannabidivarinolic acid (CBDVA), and
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

The way cannabinoids can help with controlling some symptoms is the subject of ongoing research.

Cannabinoids in cannabis start in an acidic form. When you heat or use special lights on cannabis, these cannabinoids change into a different form by losing a molecule. This change is called decarboxylation.

When people smoke or vaporise cannabis, the heat causes many of these cannabinoids to change into a different form, making them effective. But if you eat cannabis without heating it first, these cannabinoids stay in their original form.

So for example, CBD starts as CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) and THC as THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).

Interior of Astrid Dispensary a plant based therapies clinic in Byron Bay
Astrid Dispensary Byron Bay is located within Habitat Byron Bay

THC

THC, the primary psychoactive/euphoriant element in cannabis, holds the key to both recreation and medicine. This fascinating chemical has captivated scientists and researchers, leading to extensive studies in both animals and humans.

At its core, THC interacts with special receptors in our body known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. While CB1 receptors are primarily found in our central nervous system—essentially our brain and spinal cord—CB2 receptors are scattered in the peripheral nervous system, immune cells, and various organs. How these receptors function and their pathways within our body have become intriguing puzzles for researchers to unravel.

THC’s story goes beyond mere recreational use. In recent years, it has sparked significant interest among scientists exploring its potential as a medicine. 

CBD

CBD, a compound found in cannabis, offers a promising array of effects without the psychoactivity/euphoria associated with THC. Its ability to provide relief from pain, inflammation, nausea, and even seizures, coupled with its calming effects and brain-protective properties, make it a subject of intense research and interest. As scientists continue to uncover its mechanisms and applications, CBD holds significant potential as a natural remedy for various health challenges, paving the way for new possibilities in medical treatments.

Minor Cannabinoids

Apart from the well-known cannabinoids like THC and CBD, cannabis contains more than 120 other cannabinoids, known as minor or rare cannabinoids. These are found in smaller amounts.

We’re still learning about these minor cannabinoids, but studies show they interact with different parts of our body, including CB1 and CB2 receptors, and other pathways. 

Some of the minor cannabinoids being studied include:

Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) / Cannabigerol (CBG)

CBGA is a cannabinoid that comes before THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. As the cannabis plant matures, CBGA turns into CBG over time, so it’s not often found in large amounts in mature cannabis flowers. We don’t know as much about the medical uses of CBGA as we do about other cannabinoids, but it might help control diabetes and prevent heart problems linked to Type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed in this area.

CBG is made when CBGA undergoes a process called decarboxylation. Like other minor cannabinoids, CBG might help reduce the intensity of inflammatory diseases and peripheral pain. Its anti-inflammatory effects might happen because it connects with CB2 receptors and other targets in the body.

Cannabichromenolic acid (CBCA) / Cannabichromene (CBC)

Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) is a precursor for CBC (Cannabichromene). CBC was discovered in 1966 and is one of the most common minor cannabinoids found in cannabis. When researchers studied cannabis plants in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, they found that CBC levels varied between 0.05% and 0.3%. In the plant, CBC’s main job is to protect the growing plant from diseases and regulate its growth.

Scientists have found that CBC has potential health benefits in studies done with animals. However, we still don’t fully understand how it works in our bodies and the reasons behind its effects.

Cannabidivarinolic acid (CBDVA) / Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

CBDV is found in certain types of cannabis plants that have a lot of CBD and very little THC. Scientists are looking into whether CBDV could help with problems related to autism, like repetitive behaviours, cognitive challenges and issues with communication and social functioning.

Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN, discovered in 1896 from Indian hemp, was the first cannabis compound identified.

Unlike other cannabinoids, CBN isn’t made by the cannabis plant itself. It forms when THC, another compound in cannabis, breaks down due to light or heat exposure, even during proper storage.

Researchers think CBN might help with pain and inflammation. It could also work as an antibacterial and increase appetite. Studies suggest it could treat stubborn bacterial infections like MRSA, making it a potential treatment for serious infections.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

THCV comes from a substance called CBGVA (cannabigerovarin acid), which is one of the building blocks of minor cannabinoids. Studies in mice suggest THCV can lessen inflammation and pain. It’s also being explored as a potential treatment for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, but more research is needed.

In summary, cannabinoids, found in both cannabis plants and the human body, influence our memory, emotions, and pain through the endocannabinoid system. Beyond well-known THC and CBD, there are over 120 minor cannabinoids. Some, like CBG and CBC, might have anti-inflammatory properties. Others like CBN show promise as analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and even antibacterials. Research, especially on compounds like THCV for inflammation and epilepsy, is ongoing, exploring their potential therapeutic uses.

To learn more about cannabinoids or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or hello@astrid.health, or visit one of our dispensaries.

References:

https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/cannabinoids/
https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know
https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/medicinal-cannabis/phytocannabinoids.html
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