After writing about the benefits of cannabis in maintaining a healthy body and mind, there has been a lot of discussion around this issue. To further demystify the topic, it is important for patients to know how cannabis works in conjunction with other ingredients from nature and what conditions it can be effectively used for.
As stated in my previous column, the human body produces its own endogenous cannabinoids that are equivalent to the compounds found in the cannabis plant, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
It is important for us to understand the benefit we derive from boosting and balancing our own endocannabinoid system (ECS). An imbalanced ECS could explain the onset of many conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and migraines. ECS is a complex network of cannabinoid receptors found throughout the entire body: brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, immune cells.
Our ECS is made up of several integrated mechanisms. Enzymes create and destroy cannabinoids, receptor sites on cells receive cannabinoids, and the endocannabinoids themselves are small molecules that activate the cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are like the body’s own THC – the cannabis plant’s most well-known and psychoactive compound.
While raw cannabis, cannabis oils and tablets can be used effectively as treatment for a myriad of conditions, there are other foods and herbs rich in cannabinoids that also bind to our ECS receptors. These include:
- Black pepper. This common household spice has important anti-inflammatory properties and contains the terpenes that give some cannabis strains their familiar black pepper taste.
- Dark chocolate. Pure chocolate made with raw cacao affects anandamide levels in two ways. Anandamide is a cannabinoid compound produced naturally by the body and is named after the sanskrit word ananda, meaning bliss. Dark chocolate increases the number of available endocannabinoid receptors and it slows down the enzyme that breaks anandamide down.
- Black truffles. These plants have anandamide in them, and when eaten they directly increase the levels of this endocannabinoid in our bodies.
- Kaempferol. This is a compound found in many fruits and vegetables like apples, grapes, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli. Besides being a powerful antioxidant and reducing oxidative stress, kaempferol also inhibits the breakdown of anandamide, thus prolonging its effects.
- Rosemary, Maca, and flax seeds also enrich our ECS.
- Echinacea purpurea & angustifolia mimic the effects of cannabis by acting on the CB2 receptor specifically regulating the immune system and inflammation.
- Helichrysum umbraculigerum (daisy from SA used as mood lifter, for depression and as anti-inflammatory), Radula marginata (liverwort), and Acmella oleracea (electric daisy) also assist in regulating the ECS.
Taking our health into our own hands by learning about health-enhancing remedies from nature’s own pharmacy, is something I consider a personal responsibility to teach my patients, especially when the medicine in question is something completely natural and existed on this planet long before humans did.
Small and carefully calibrated dosages (called micro dosing) of medical cannabis encourage our bodies to produce more of its endogenous cannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG, and at the same time increase the concentration of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies.
This is very valuable to people whose endocannabinoid system is not functioning properly, but more importantly it demonstrates that cannabinoids from cannabis aren’t just a simple cure – they are a tool that helps our body increase the production of its own internal health regulators.
Besides THC and CBD, each strain of cannabis has a vast number of accompanying compounds that add to the synergistic effect of cannabis as a whole plant, called the entourage effect. In the meantime, support your own endocannabinoid production: eat or drink some dark chocolate!
Official scientific research indicates that a malfunctioning or imbalanced ECS is connected to many physiological issues, demonstrating why cannabis is a valid, successful treatment for so many conditions, disorders, and diseases, such as:
Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia
Pain and inflammation
Age related decline such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS)