Tag: Health

Using Cannabis to Treat Depression

We hear a lot about how cannabis has helped people suffering from a wide variety of physical ailments, from cancer to glaucoma to AIDS. Stories about using cannabis to treat psychological disorders such as depression, however, are less common. Fortunately, as cannabis sheds the stigma that has long been associated with its use, more people are speaking out about how cannabis has helped them deal with mental illness. Doctors and researchers are also beginning to come out in favor of cannabis and its potential to treat psychological disorders.


What is Depression?

Depression is a complex mood disorder that often leaves sufferers unable to work, eat, sleep or have fun due to their inability to feel joy or pleasure. Several forms of depression exist:

  • Major depression — constant inability to enjoy life for six months or more
  • Dysthymia — at least two years of mild depression with stable periods
  • Bipolar disorder or manic depression — depression with rapid mood changes, often accompanied by hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, rapid speech, and insomnia
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — depression triggered by seasonal changes

The World Health Organization estimates 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. That makes it the leading cause of disability worldwide.

What Are the Causes of Depression?

  • Abuse — physical, sexual or emotional
  • Conflict — with family, friends or loved ones
  • Genetics
  • Isolation
  • Loss — such as the death of a loved one
  • Major transitions or life events
  • Serious illness  
  • Stress — chronic stress is one of the leading causes of depression
  • Substance abuse  

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

No two people are the same, but hopelessness and lethargy are common symptoms, along with low self-worth, guilt, or shame. It can leave a person tired and unable to concentrate or suppress negative thoughts, leading to short tempers and irritability. It can be difficult to make decisions or remember things. Depression can also spur reckless behavior along with significant weight fluctuation and sleep issues. Insignificant tasks may become excruciatingly exhausting and time-consuming.

Depression can ultimately lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recorded more than 42,000 reported suicides in 2014. That’s a life every 15 minutes. Although depression affects more women than men, more than 75 percent of suicides in 2014 were men.

The Best Cannabis Strains for Treating Depression

Current Treatments for Depression

Since a combination of biological, psychological and social factors can cause depression, there is no straightforward treatment or cure. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. Eliminate stressors, add meditation to your routine, exercise regularly to boost endorphins, eat nutritious and balanced meals, and sleep 7 to 9 hours each day.

Psychotherapy can be utilized to help recognize and express emotions while building the skills needed to cope with adversity, trauma, and loss. Forms of therapy may include cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy, or interpersonal therapy.

Antidepressants alone don’t treat depression, and many can take several weeks to take effect. Side effects include dizziness, disorientation, and weight gain. Be sure to talk to your doctor.

How Does Cannabis Help Depression?

Cannabis has been used to treat depression throughout history. In 1621, English clergyman Robert Burton recommended its use in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy, while doctors in India during the same period were actively using it to treat their patients’ depression.

Cannabis is a faster-working alternative to antidepressants that stimulates the endocannabinoid system and speeds up the growth and development of nervous tissue with little to no troublesome side effects. This natural remedy offers patients peace of mind and battles stress by enhancing mood, providing energy and focus, relieving anxiety, inducing hunger, and combating insomnia.

Occasional or daily cannabis consumers have lower levels of depressive symptoms than non-users, a 2006 study found. Researchers at McGill University, in Montreal, discovered that THC in low doses can serve as an antidepressant and produces serotonin — but they also found that high doses of THC can worsen depression symptoms. The cannabinoids THC and CBD are known to exert sedative, antidepressant, and antipsychotic effects on consumers.

The University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands, touted marijuana as a cure for depression and other mental illnesses after conducting a study that found THC can alter the response to negative images or emotions by activating the endocannabinoid system in the brain. Another study linked cannabis use to improved cognitive function in people suffering from bipolar disorder.

Further research needs to be done, but as long as the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug, research will continue to be limited. Moreover, depression is not a qualifying condition in most states to obtain a cannabis recommendation. Nonetheless, we do know stress is one of the leading causes of depression, and moderate use of cannabis appears to alleviate stress and stabilize moods.

Samir Haj-Dahmane, a senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions who studies chronic stress and depression, concurs: “Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression,” Haj-Dahmane says. “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”

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Cannabinoids and the Gut: How the Endocannabinoid System Impacts Metabolism, Obesity and Inflammation

This article is sponsored by CannaVest, one of the leading suppliers of agricultural hemp-derived CBD from seed to finished products.




Gut Microbiome

Young woman clutching stomach in pain

New research published over the last five years is revealing more about the trillions of bacterial companions that reside in our guts, and the important symbiotic health functions they provide each of us as their hosts. Amazingly, the human gut microbiota is composed of about 100 trillion cells (10 times more than the number of cells that make up the entire human body). Each individual harbors about 160 species (out of 1000 to 1500 found in the intestine), with some of these species found in the core microbiome of the majority of humans. However, relative profile and composition of our gut microbiome is heavily influenced by geographical location, diet and lifestyle factors such as physical activity. Prebiotics (non-digestible food ingredients, such as fiber) and probiotics (live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when administered orally) are also commonly used to change the composition of the gut microbiota.

Previous research has demonstrated that the gut microbiome can influence many other bodily systems and functions beyond simply gut health and digestive function. These microorganisms play an important role in mediating our immune systems, inflammation, defense against unwanted pathogens, metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates, and even our central nervous system with links to mental performance, depression and anxiety. It is usually shifts in general populations of gut bacteria or changes in the gut “ecosystem” (rather than a single bacterium) that creates dysfunction or disease.

The Endocannabinoid System

Digital render of human head and brain with nerve synapses

To briefly review, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of specialized fatty-acid-based signaling chemicals (think “keys”), their receptors (think “locks”), and the metabolic enzymes that produce and break them down. These endocannabinoid chemical signals act on similar brain and immune cell receptors (CB1 and CB2), as do the active compounds found in cannabis: cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The term endocannabinoid refers to the fact that this system of bioactive lipid-based hormones (e.g., anandamide, 2-AG and many others) and receptors is endogenous – that is, it originates within the human body. Through direct and indirect actions, endocannabinoids are known to influence a wide range of physiological systems, including appetite, pain sensation, inflammation, temperature regulation, intra-ocular pressure, muscle control, energy balance, metabolism, sleep health, stress responses, motivation, mood, and memory. Together, this biological system of lipid mediators, proteins and receptors can be referred to as the ‘endocannabidiome.’

On the other hand, phytocannabinoids – of which well over 90, including CBD and THC, have been found to exist – are chemical plant derivatives that interact with this same endocannabinoid system of hormones, receptors and enzymes. Phytocannabinoids are most commonly found in cannabis plants.

Gut Microbiome-Endocannabinoid System Crosstalk

Microbiome in petri dish being held near window

Emerging evidence is suggesting that the gut microbiota and the endocannabinoid system are intertwined. It has been established that endocannabinoids are widely produced in the organs that contribute to energy balance, metabolism and bodyweight (such as the brain, liver, pancreas, fat tissue and muscle tissue). In addition, endocannabinoids have been shown to control gastric emptying, gastrointestinal motility, satiety, appetite, regulation of fat intake, and blood sugar response after a meal. Meanwhile, the gut microbiota contributes to energy balance by regulating fat storage in adipose tissue as well as insulin sensitivity. Herein are some major overlapping functions between the gut microbiome and the endocannabinoid system.

The first experimental study showing a direct link between change in the gut microbial population and the endocannabinoid system came from Rousseaux, C. et al. in 2007, where administration of a Lactobacillus probiotic increased the presence of intestinal cannabinoid receptors and reduced abdominal pain in rats. Obesity is also known to cause changes in the gut microbiota with gut-barrier dysfunction that results in “leaky gut,” or increased permeability to bacterial components that ramp up systemic inflammation. This gut permeability has been shown to increase endocannabinoid production by immune cells and fat tissue. The increased endocannabinoid system tone in fat tissue has also been demonstrated to increase adipogenesis (new fat formation). Moreover, experiments where animals were given CB1 receptor activators (which act like THC on CB1) have also caused fat cells to grow, expand and divide more rapidly.

Gut barrier function and intestinal permeability have recently been studied to improve with administration of probiotic bacteria by increasing levels of certain endocannabinoids, while decreasing others. Hence, it is clear that the interactions between the gut microorganisms and the endocannabinoid system can act as either “gate keepers” or “gate openers” for gut-barrier function. Improving this gut-barrier function via both the microbiome and the endocannabinoid system has been shown to improve fat tissue metabolism, blood sugar response, energy balance, inflammatory response and overall health.

While there is still much more to learn about the roles of modifying specific gut bacteria, their metabolites, and their effects on the bioactive lipid components of the ECS, there is irrefutable evidence of a ‘gut-endocannabinoid axis’ akin to the ‘gut-brain axis,’ and it remains clear that any health benefits obtained by using probiotics and prebiotics involve the endocannabidiome. This is yet another example of the complex interplay involving systems biology and the ECS.

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Cani PD, Plovier H, Van Hul M, Geurts L, Delzenne NM, Druart C, Everard A. Endocannabinoids – at the crossroads between the gut microbiota and host metabolism. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2015 Dec 18.

Geurts L, Everard A, Van Hul M, et al. Adipose tissue NAPE-PLD controls fat mass development by altering the browning process and gut microbiota. Nat Commun. 2015 Mar 11;6:6495.

Bajzer M, Olivieri M, Haas MK, Pfluger PT, et al. Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1)antagonism enhances glucose utilisation and activates brown adipose tissue in diet-induced obese mice. Diabetologia. 2011 Dec;54(12):3121-31.

Rousseaux C, Thuru X, Gelot A, et al. Lactobacillus acidophilus modulates intestinal pain and induces opioid and cannabinoid receptors. Nat Med. 2007 Jan;13(1):35-7.

Muccioli GG, Naslain D, Bäckhed F, et al. The endocannabinoid system links gut microbiota to adipogenesis. Mol Syst Biol. 2010 Jul;6:392.

CTE in Professional Football Players, and the Potential of CBD to Address the Crisis

This article is sponsored by CW Botanicals. CW Botanicals is the exclusive supplier of Charlotte’s WebTM products, the World’s Most-Trusted Hemp Extract. CW Botanicals’ mission is to provide products of the highest possible quality and purity, while contributing to the sustainability of the communities they have the privilege of serving.

The Charlotte’s Web line of high-cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis extract products first began to make headlines three years ago with its ability to effectively reduce seizures in pediatric epilepsy patients. Now, CW Botanicals extracts are being studied as a means of addressing a condition affecting a completely different demographic: retired professional football players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.

The Science and Politics Behind CTE

Football players at sunset

As described by Boston University’s CTE Center, “[CTE] is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head…[This] brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.”

With an ever-present stream of head injuries on the field, and an ongoing off-field discourse over the safety of the sport, the topic of brain damage in football has been spending more and more time in the spotlight. This has only been accentuated by the release of the movie Concussion, which tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered the link between CTE and football in 2002. The same topic, as well as the extent to which professional football’s governing body sought to obfuscate it, was brought to light by a Frontline investigative documentary in 2013.

As the surge of CTE research and media attention has brought the public’s eye to the seriousness of the issue, studies demonstrating the neuroprotective and neurogenerative properties of CBD have suggested that this cannabinoid may have the potential to treat those suffering from CTE. At the same time, professional football players both retired and active have been expressing their discontent with the fact that cannabis – medical or otherwise – remains on the league’s list of banned substances.

CBD as a Potential Treatment for CTE

Cannabis plants growing in a lab

“What we do know are that the symptoms of CTE include memory loss, depression, and aggression and that CBD is proven to benefit the endocannabinoid system, which regulates a variety of physiological process in the human body, including mood and memory,” says Ryan Kingsbury, Chief of Strategy for CW Botanicals. “Based on this it’s reasonable to presume that the use of CBD could prevent or at the very least delay the progression of CTE.”

To investigate this hypothesis, CW Botanicals has partnered with Realm of Caring (ROC), a Colorado-based non-profit that focuses on advancing CBD research. “When you look at the research with regards to CBD as a neuroprotectant, I think that’s what should be very exciting for current players, former players and [the league] in general,” says Heather Jackson, CEO of ROC. “There’s not a lot of research specific to CTE yet, but we’re hoping to change that and lead that effort.”

Over the coming months, ROC will be working with Johns Hopkins University to develop a large-scale study investigating CBD’s impact on individuals affected by CTE, and Jackson especially hopes to focus on football players in these efforts. “We know that CBD modulates neurons, says Jackson. “We know that it acts on the receptor 5-HT1A. It acts on the opioid receptors. It enhances adenosine. New research is suggesting it increases bloodflow. We know all of these things, and they all relate to the symptoms of CTE.” With regard to professional football, she continues, “We need to get more [professional football league] players using it…the system needs to change, and this needs to be on their approved substance list.”

“Changing the Face of Cannabis”

PR Shot of Nate Jackson, former NFL player for the Denver Broncos

Though players are informed during the season of upcoming drug tests – allowing them to discontinue use in preparation for these tests, and suggesting that the league is aware of the widespread consumption of cannabis products among its players – a positive test is still grounds for fines, suspension, and even dismissal from the league. The fact that cannabis use is punished more harshly than domestic violence charges has brought harsh criticism upon the league over the last two seasons.

“[Professional football’s governing body] has always been concerned about its public image, but when it comes to cannabis they’re really misinformed. The league is largely run by older, wealthy men who grew up hearing about the evils of cannabis so there’s a generational gap to contend with,” says former professional football tight end and New York Times bestselling author Nate Jackson. “Let’s see what happens when the league is presented with a study showing the effects of cannabis use on its players and comparing the results to what the opiates and other league-approved pharmaceuticals, which are passed out like candy, do to players.”

Activism has been fomenting via organizations like the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition (GCC), whose mission statement demands consideration of cannabis’s potential to fill the void of non-addictive treatments for ailments that plague American football. Meanwhile, a growing number of former professional football players have spoken openly about using CBD supplements like Charlotte’s Web.

“Since I started taking CBD regularly, there are no more slow-moving, dreadful days with headaches, joint stiffness and wandering thoughts” says Jake Plummer, former professional football quarterback. “I feel as if I’ve stopped aging since taking [Charlotte’s Web].”

Realm of Caring CEO Heather Jackson believes cannabis has great potential to help football players. “[Football’s governing body] has stated publicly that they will follow the research on this,” she says. “As we continue to show them the science, they are going to have to acknowledge it. The players are going to be instrumental in that…One of the things we are doing is changing the face of cannabis.”

Plummer adds, “What the Realm of Caring is doing cannot be overlooked by [the league] if they are serious about the long-term mental and physical health of their current and former players. CTE is a serious condition and CBD could be the answer.”

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Image Sources: NPR

New Study Confirms That Cannabis Can Help Migraine Sufferers

Cannabis has long been used for the treatment of migraines, but only in recent years have scientists closed in on the reasons why. A new study published this week from Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado looked at the effects of inhaled and ingested cannabis in migraine sufferers, and the results confirmed what previous studies had begun to unearth.

Researchers reviewed reports from 121 adult participants and collected the following data:

  • The average number of migraine headaches decreased from 10.4 per month to 4.6
  • Almost 40% of subjects reported positive effects
  • 19.8% of subjects claimed medical marijuana helped to prevent migraines
  • 11.6% of subjects reported that cannabis stopped migraine headaches
  • About 85% of subjects reported having fewer migraines per month with cannabis
  • About 12% saw no change in migraine frequency with cannabis
  • Only about 2% experienced an increase in migraine frequency

Inhalation methods appeared to provide the fastest effects and were more likely to stop migraine headaches in their tracks. As expected, edible cannabis took longer to provide relief and was more likely to induce negative side effects like sleepiness and overly intense euphoria (which was reported in 11.6% of participants).

Past studies attempted to understand why cannabis tends to help migraines, citing endocannabinoid deficiencies and activation of CB2 receptors as possible explanations. This particular study didn’t help to answer those questions, but it did add to the growing body of research supporting the use of cannabis as a migraine medication, given the fact that over 85% of participants saw a reduction in migraine frequency.

The next frontier in this field of research is figuring out which cannabinoids, strains, and delivery methods are most effective in treating headaches and migraines. In the meantime, we’ll have to continue relying primarily on anecdotal evidence. If you’re struggling with migraines, be sure to explore all the strains other Leafly users have used to manage their pain here.

Which strains, products, or delivery methods have you found most effective in treating migraines? Share your thoughts with the community below!

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