The world of medicinal cannabis can be hard to understand. Here, Tetra Health offers a beginners guide to CBD.
Cannabidiol or CBD, for short, is one of over 80 active compounds called phytocannabinoids, or plant-based cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant. CBD is present in medicinal and recreational cannabis, as well as in medicinal and industrial cultivars of hemp. CBD was first discovered and chemically made in the lab in 1940 by Dr Roger Adams who was working in the USA, and Dr Alexander Todd in the UK. Though Adams and Todd made CBD in the lab, they weren’t aware of the full potential of its medicinal properties.
Dr Raphael Mechoulam was studying cannabis in the early ’60s in Israel. In 1964, along with his team of researchers, Mechoulam was the first to describe the chemical composition of CBD and its different chemical structures, and that of THC and other cannabinoids. From here, researchers began to explore the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD. Currently, numerous scientific studies, along with growing anecdotal evidence, point to the potential therapeutic benefit of CBD as a medicine for a number of conditions.
CBD is available in several different formulations. There are CBD dried flower options rich in CBD and THC, while others are rich in CBD and low in THC. CBD products available in Australia also include oromucosal sprays, capsules, tablets, oils, and wafers.
CBD products are not all created equal. CBD products manufactured from CBD only are termed CBD isolates. Full-spectrum products are manufactured from the whole cannabis plant and contain CBD as well as THC and other cannabinoids and terpenes. Broad spectrum products are also manufactured from the whole plant but do not contain THC.
CBD and the ECS
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of the body’s homeostatic regulatory systems in charge of maintaining balance in the brain and the rest of the central nervous system (CNS). The ECS regulates a variety of physiological, immune and cognitive processes. Deficiencies in normal ECS function may contribute to neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental, autoimmune, reproductive, metabolic, inflammatory, gastrointestinal and motor function. For this reason, the ECS has become an attractive therapeutic target and the intense focus of rapidly expanding research.
Endocannabinoids (cannabinoids made naturally in the body) bind to ECS receptors and activate a series of downstream events. Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors are abundant in the CNS, but can also be found in various organs, including liver, adipose tissue, and skin. CB1 receptors are particularly enriched on nerve terminals and play a major role in controlling functions such as sleep, appetite, perception of time, short-term memory, and coordination. On the other hand, cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors are abundant in cells of the immune system and also in peripheral nerve endings where they regulate pain, inflammation, and tissue damage.
CBD and other cannabinoids have a similar structure to endocannabinoids, and therefore can also bind to and signal through CB1, CB2 and other ECS receptors. Unlike THC, CBD has no intoxicating effects.
Clinical trials evaluating CBD Australia
Although many claim CBD to be a panacea for a host of conditions and symptoms, it’s important to remember that research is still in its infancy and that CBD has side effects and can interact with a wide range of prescribed medications. It is important that you consult a healthcare practitioner to ensure that CBD is suitable to treat your condition and safe for you to use.
You can find current clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of CBD for a number of conditions by visiting ANZCTR. Many studies have shown promising results regarding the therapeutic safety and efficacy of CBD, but more research is needed.
How to obtain medical CBD in Australia?
Cannabinoid-based medicines are substances included in Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 of the Poisons Standard. When a medicine falls under Schedule 4, the medicine is classified as a prescription-only medicine, while Schedule 8 medicines are classified as controlled drugs. Both can only be supplied on prescription.
To be prescribed any cannabis medicine in Australia, you will need to be assessed by a registered medical practitioner or be eligible to join a clinical trial. Cannabis medicines can then be prescribed through either the Special Access Scheme or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme. Your medical practitioner can order your product to be legally dispensed from a pharmacy. To learn more about the process, book an appointment with one of our nurses for a consultation.