The whole world has long debated whether cannabis or marijuana as it is more commonly known, should be legalized or not. This is a subject that always divides opinions. As much as marijuana has been used for a long time as a medicinal herb, mainly as an analgesic, its use is banned in some countries.
However, cannabis treatment can be successful in some cases. As an example, you cannot reduce the anticonvulsant properties of cannabis to just one compound, such as cannabidiol (CBD).
Recent studies on cannabis treatments in Australia have shown several other compounds in the cannabis plant that also have anticonvulsant effects. And some of them can be even more powerful than CBD.
An observational study on cannabis treatments in the UK confirmed these findings. The study was small, with only 10 children who had intractable forms of epilepsy. So, they started using medicines that had the entire cannabis plant, including cannabidiol, terpenes and flavonoids. As a result, their seizure frequency dropped by an average of 86 per cent.
Although this study on cannabis treatments was not randomized or placebo-controlled, the case studies showed far greater success than the results seen with the CBD extracts alone.
Currently, the oral extract of CBD, known as Epidyolex, is the only form of cannabis treatment approved by the US Federal Drug Agency (FDA) to treat severe seizures.
However, placebo-controlled studies found that Epidyolex did not seem to work for more than half of all children with Dravet syndrome. It is a rare form of drug-resistant epilepsy. As a result, the times it worked, a 32% decrease in seizure frequency was seen.
This percentage is much lower than that seen in children who received a medicine made with the entire cannabis plant. While these findings are still initial and need to be supported by studies with much larger sample sizes, they are very promising.
In the UK study, all 10 children had not previously responded to CBD products. "We are currently in the process of reviewing the respective components of each drug in this study that we plan to report," said the researchers.
This discovery that cannabis could help treat seizures was first documented by an Irish doctor working in India in 1843. Since that time, the plant has been at the centre of legal and political debate. As a result, cannabis research has been delayed for decades.
Now scientists are trying to make up for that lost time. In addition, it is finally starting to enter the drug and supplement market.
Still, the focus of research is still limited, as most people have only heard of CBD and THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. However, these are the psychoactive parts of cannabis.
Generally, only these two plant compounds are listed in the different strains. However, the most recent research suggests that they are not exclusively what give the plant its medicinal qualities and its different potentials.
Instead, a combination of different cannabis compounds, some that have not yet been studied, maybe far more important than any single substance.
An example of this is flavonoids. They are substances found in cannabis that appear to have some anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties when found in other medicinal plants. In addition, they produce molecules 30 times more effective in decreasing pain and inflammation than, for example, aspirin.
Another compound in cannabis that is often overlooked is a terpene. They have recently discovered that several of these compounds give cannabis its scent. Thus, it is believed to increase cardiovascular health and have anti-cancer properties.
In short, cannabis is a complex plant with over 400 chemical compounds. Precisely for this reason, focusing on just two gives researchers a very small sample of all the possibilities it can offer.