Episode A - The True Farma-cist Minute

Michael Moore, BSPharm

Some Americans have never given cannabis a second thought. Decades of societal and political pressure have given pause to many people affected by maladies that often respond favorably to cannabis. If you have wondered whether cannabis is something that might be beneficial to you, a family member, or your pet, allow us to clear up some of your questions!

My name is Michael Moore, and I’d like to help explain how cannabis is supported by thousands of  studies that suggest it is a safe, potent and useful medicine

To begin, let me tell you a little about my own journey of discovery. I am a practicing clinical pharmacist who recently joined the True Farma team. I was brought up to believe most of the fearful warnings about cannabis and its “gateway” to dark-alley transactions and seedy drug-dealers. 

I became a pharmacist because I wanted to help patients better understand their medications, get the best results from their use, and improve their lives. Many of my patients use cannabis and my former ignorance of the topic meant I couldn’t discuss the effects, drug interactions, and dosing. They were very passionate about how helpful cannabis was but I naively assumed they were just taking it to get high. 

To improve my knowledge and allow me to better interact with my patients, I began my self-education. Most sources were terrible and suggested that my initial thoughts about “pot” were accurate. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Ethan Russo, a physician and researcher. He is responsible for my conversion to believer and advocate. 

(H2) The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Dr. Russo explained that the body has something called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Endo means internal and cannabinoid means having to do with cannabis. He also explained that this system was not discovered until the 1990s. It was not even taught in my pharmacy curriculum. It is rarely, if barely, taught in most medical, pharmacy, or nursing schools today. I had zero knowledge of its existence.

I thought, “If our own bodies have our own, internal receptors for cannabis, then there MUST be a reason for that!” After countless hours of reading research articles and talking with medical cannabis patients, I have come to the conclusion that my prior apprehension was definitely wrong.

There is a place for cannabis in the management of many medical conditions.  

Our bodies not only have these important receptors, but it also makes its own cannabinoids (AEA and 2AG). A colleague described the relationship like this: “I have three little children, and they run around screaming and getting into trouble. They drive me crazy, make it hard to concentrate and increase my blood pressure. The cannabinoids are like when I gather them together and give a loud, sustained ‘SHHHHHHHHhhhhhh!!!!!’. It doesn’t last forever, but it calms everything down and lets me function again. That’s kind of how cannabinoids calm down things in our bodies.”

There are many phytocannabinoids, phyto means plant, present in cannabis, but THC and CBD are the most well known and studied. They are capable of acting on the same receptors and affecting various influences on our bodies. The research is ongoing, but already cannabis is being used for sleep, pain, inflammation, narcotic reduction, nausea, anxiety, seizures, and many more indications. 

Perhaps a short visit with your old biology teacher is required?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex biological process where chemicals in your body act on receptors to create a response to your environment. Various receptor systems exist throughout your body, and they work through either being stimulated or blocked. 

(H2) Endocannabinoid Receptors

The ECS is quite complicated, and this might be a bit challenging, but bear with me.

An example will help form a basic understanding.: 

Imagine standing in a pitch-black room. You blindly reach out with your arms, occasionally running into the walls, then eventually landing your hand on a switch. You flip the switch, a light comes on, and now your eyes can see.

In this example: the room acts like the space between your cells, your body acts as a “molecule” seeking a receptor, the switch acts as a “receptor”, your fingers act as a “stimulus” on the receptor, and the light is the “effect” produced. 

There are various ways in which this receptor system can be manipulated. Some chemicals can act to block receptors, while other chemicals can increase their stimulation.  

Almost all animals have an ECS. Anandamide (ANA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2AG) are two naturally produced cannabinoids that can stimulate the cannabinoid receptors scattered throughout your body.

“What do these ECS receptors do?” you ask. These receptors are the most abundant nerve-affecting receptors in the body. They have tremendous influence on many important health aspects such as mood, appetite, sleep, memory, immunity and healing. 

What does any of this have to do with cannabis? Well, cannabis is full of molecules that act on the ECS. 

We know that cannabinoid receptors exist throughout the body and influence  many important functions. We also know that we make our own cannabinoids: ANA and 2AG. Scientists have labeled the most common cannabinoid receptors as CB1 and CB2

Simply, ANA and 2AG stimulate the receptors CB1 and CB2. We also know that cannabis-

derived phytocannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, have the ability to similarly affect these receptors.

When THC binds to the CB1 receptors present in your brain, you will likely feel the euphoric/psychoactive/impairing effects that some enjoy, but others would prefer to avoid. However, CB1 is also helpful in reducing the severity of pain we experience. CB2 receptors are located on immune cells as well as tissues like lung, bone and uterus. When inflammation is present, THC binds to CB2 with an anti-inflammatory effect significantly higher than aspirin or steroids, but without many of the side effects from those medications

THC is not the only helpful chemical found in cannabis. CBD, other cannabinoids and terpenes have many interesting and wonderful effects. Countless studies are being performed to better understanding the usefulness of these molecules. Experienced healthcare practitioners embrace the value of these “plant partners” and use them to improve patient outcomes. 

With a simple explanation of the ECS under our belt, let’s turn our attention to the most famous (or infamous - depending on your attitude) cannabinoid: THC. In our next episode we will talk about this vital contributor to cannabis’ effectiveness in so many conditions. We’ll also put our new knowledge of the ECS to work looking at some specific examples.

Michael Moore, BSPharm, is the Director of Manufacturing for True Farma. He has been a California pharmacist for over 20 years. His experience includes regulatory compliance, management, and clinical practice with an emphasis in compounding sterile products. 

True Farma is dedicated to providing best-in-quality ingredient, lab-tested, dose-specific medical cannabis products for management of health concerns. If you have an interest in our products or services please visit TrueFarma.com or call 805.603.1422 to speak with one of our highly-trained support representatives.