After the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2018, cannabis oil became available in legal stores across the country. However, the recreational supply of cannabis oil seemed unable to keep up with demand, and shortages were reported in all provinces.
An Alternative to Smoking
Cannabis oil offers an alternative to traditional cannabis consumption methods and does not produce harmful by products such as smoking cannabis does. Cannabis oil is generally taken orally, or used as a topical, and the effects have been shown to last longer than smoking or vaping flowers. When properly made, cannabis oil is free from solvents, heavy metals, and chemicals and offers a clean method for ingesting cannabinoids.
Cannabis oils are a great alternative for individuals with a compromised respiratory system, or conditions such as asthma, as it does not irritate sensitive airways.
How Is Cannabis Oil Produced?
Cannabis oil is produced by “washing” cannabis plant matter with isopropyl alcohol to remove the trichomes and resin from the plant. Once the solvent has been infused with cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids it is cooked down, which removes all the remaining alcohol from the mixture and decarboxylates the cannabinoids. This process produces highly flammable fumes and should not be performed at home.
How Does Cannabis Oil Work?
Cannabis oil works much in the same way as cannabis flowers, just with a different ingestion method. Cannabinoids enter the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors to affect different systems in the body. Many conditions are associated with an endocannabinoid deficiency which causes unwanted symptoms, however introducing exogenous cannabinoids into the body can re-balance the endocannabinoid system and help manage those unwanted symptoms.
15 Applications for Cannabis Oil
When engaging in cannabis education, there are two main types of knowledge we rely on: empirical knowledge and clinical knowledge. Clinical knowledge is defined as a cognitive understanding of a set of known clinical rules and principles which are based on medical literature. This includes scientific research papers, research studies, peer-reviewed journal articles, and other documents that outline a specific scientific process. Empirical knowledge involves studying a subject over time and observing behaviours, patterns and outcomes. This type of knowledge can be disproved by clinical research and is completely subjective in nature. Empirical knowledge is generally used in cannabis education due to the lack of scientific studies regarding cannabis and its medical applications. Until prohibition ended, the study of cannabis was off-limits and prohibited by the government. Now that cannabis is federally legal the research is forthcoming and will likely support the empirical knowledge we already posses.
A recent study in the journal Science showed that the activation of CB1 in glutamatergic nocioreceptors, and the subsequent inhibition of the receptors, was the primary mechanism for reduction of pain. The activation of CB1 occurs when exogenous cannabinoids are introduced into the body and act on receptors in the Endocannabinoid System. Cannabis oil can be beneficial to individuals suffering from chronic pain and has been shown to be especially effective in cancer patients.
The most famous case for cannabis oil involves Charlotte Figi, a young girl with treatment resistant Dravet’s syndrome. Charlotte’s parents were out of options and decided to try cannabis oil as a last resort. The effects were incredible, and Charlotte went from having 300 grand mal seizures a week to zero. The effects of cannabinoids, especially CBD, have been proven effective in managing childhood epilepsy and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently released a pharmaceutical CBD medication called Epidiolex, which is the first in its class to treat the seizures associated with childhood epilpesy.
One of the characterising markers of Alzheimer’s Disease is a buildup of Amyloid plaque in the neural tissue. A recent study found that cannabinoids, specifically THC, slowed the buildup of plaque and were more effective at treating Amyloid plaque than traditional Alzheimer therapies.
Maintaining good blood pressure is the key to good heart health, and cannabis oil may help. Several studies, performed on animals, demonstrated the effects of cannabis on lowering blood pressure, with the results being transferrable to a human population.
A recent study found that cannabinoids may help reduce the effects of MS by lowering inflammation and acting as a neuroprotectant in the brain. In the study, mice were bred to be deficient in CB1 receptors and demonstrated increased inflammation and susceptibility to neurodegeneration, which suggested that targeted activation of CB1 receptors will lower the immune response and subsequent inflammation as well as offer neuroprotectant qualities in the brain.
Cannabinoids, specifically THC, are tied to increased appetite and stimulation of the hunger center in the brain.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Cannabinoids have been shown to act on CB2 receptors in the stomach and bowels and act to decrease inflammation in these organs. “A 2011 study found that 51% of ulcerative colitis patients and 48% of Crohn’s disease patients are lifetime cannabis users.”
Approximately 4 out of 10 Canadians have difficulty with sleep and are turning to cannabis oils to help their condition. An older study, from 1973, found that THC aided patients in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
The Arthritis Society of Canada has become a leading proponent for ongoing studies involving the use of cannabis oil as a management strategy for arthritis. Cannabinoids have been well established as a way to reduce inflammation in the body and there are many subjective reports of individual’s who have attained arthritis relief when using cannabinoid therapy.
Glaucoma is characterized as fluid build-up in the front of the eye which causes increased pressure within the eye. Cannabinoids, especially THC, have been found to reduce eye pressure and alleviate some of the symptoms of glaucoma.
For individuals who suffer from asthma, cannabinoid oil therapy could be of great benefit. Traditionally, smoking or vaping cannabis causes irritation to the lungs and airway, however oil taken sublingually negates these irritating effects and allows asthma sufferers to take their medication without irritating the airway and lungs.
Stress and Anxiety
A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders demonstrated that patients who used cannabinoid therapy experienced a significant reduction in stress and anxiety. The study found that CBD was especially beneficial at reducing depression, while THC therapy was better at reducing overall stress levels.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies reported that “Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD and innate to all mammals, anandamide (our inner cannabis, so to speak) triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant.”
A 2002 study found that “endogenous levels of anandamide and 2-AG also increase following TBI in mice and rats; when both compounds were administered after TBI, the extent of brain damage was reduced. Reductions in the extent of brain oedema (accumulation of fluid leading to swelling), infarct volume (extent of tissue necrosis), and hippocampal cell death were all noted, along with a generally-improved clinical recovery”.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that THC and other cannabinoids inhibit tumour cell growth and may slow or reverse the effects of certain types of cancer.
The Future of Cannabis Oil
Although the health benefits of cannabis oil are numerous, all current studies reached the same conclusion that further cannabis oil research is necessary to determine exactly how it acts in the body and the potential clinical applications for use.
Now that cannabis has been legalized the research will be forthcoming, and a number of large studies are already taking place. Five years from now our knowledge on cannabis will likely be clinical rather than empirical, and the science will back the empirical knowledge we already possess.