It has become clear that hemp has much more to offer than just “drug” hemp and the many interesting ingredients such as cannabinoids and terpenes are now part of steadily growing research worldwide.
Hemp is an annual, dioecious and herbaceous plant that has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal and useful plant. The use of cannabis for medical purposes goes back a long time. The first records date back to ancient China, where it was used to treat fever and concentration disorders. After Europe, where Napoleon Bonaparte‘s troops imported it from Egypt, it was taken up by European physicians and was used as a medicine a lot during the 19th century.
Hemp is a high-quality and completely legal food and cosmetic ingredient from Cannabis Sativa L. Hemp plants which contain only very little amount of (< 0.2%) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are regarded as a regular commodity which is completely harmless even with larger consumption. Hemp contains over 80 different cannabinoids, isoflavones, antioxidants and terpenes. CBD is the best known cannabinoid but the terpenes and other substance classes contained in hemp also have very interesting and helpful properties.
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The best known ingredients of hemp are terpenoids and cannabinoids. Currently more than 80 different cannabinoids are known and their use is being intensively researched. Terpenoids represent important building blocks for hormones, vitamins, essential oils and odorous substances. Cannabis can produce about 120 different terpenes. Examples of terpenes found in cannabis are myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, borneol, pinene, menthol and camphor.
Interest in CBD is growing steadily and significantly
CBD - cannabidiol
The best known representative of cannabinoids is: Cannabidiol (CBD) with anticonvulsant, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. It is anxiolytic, analgesic, antiepileptic, antibiotic and can reduce intraocular pressure. CBD has an antispasmodic effect. This effect has been proven and used for the cannabis drug Sativex, which contains CBD and THC, for the indication spasticity in MS.
CBD may also help with other dystonia (movement disorders), a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. It is used in particular for epilepsy. In addition to the actual epileptic diseases, it can also help with epileptic seizures as a symptom of other diseases such as Angelman syndrome. The antipsychotic effect is currently being investigated in drug studies with schizophrenia patients. The anti-inflammatory effect of CBD can help with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia and other autoimmune diseases as well as multiple sclerosis. CBD has an anxiety relieving effect and has neuroprotective and antibacterial properties.
CBDA – Cannabidiolic acid
CBDA is an acid form of the CBD. It seems to be useful against nausea (antiemetic effect). According to research, this cannabionid also plays an important role in the treatment of breast cancer. However, research is still in beginning. In the heat it transforms into CBD by loosing CO2 (decarboxylisation).
CBG – Cannabigerol
Cannabigerol (CBG) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in various hemp species. It binds to the cannabinoid receptor CB2. It has a strong antibacterial effect. The research is very interested in gaining more knowledge about CBG. It looks like it is very promising for the future in cancer research.
New varieties with high CBG and low THC contents are in development.
Like CBD, it counteracts or reduces the psychoactive effect of THC. THCV is regarded as an appetite suppressant and can help against metabolic disorders. Research is in full swing.
Myrcene has a very aromatic smell and an intense taste, which is why it is often used in the production of perfumes and cosmetic products. Myrcene is found in many herbs and crops. For example, the substance can be found in caraway, sage, peppermint, olive herb or hops in higher concentrations. The myrcene content in hops determines, among other things, the aroma of beer. Myrcene can also play a role in the medical field. The ingredient has spasmolytic (muscle-spasmodic), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial (e.g. against staphylococci) and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown an effect of myrcene in the treatment of schistosomiasis.
Limonene has a fungicidal, antibacterial and anticancer effect (it inhibits the RAS gene which promotes tumour growth). Plants use limonene to defend themselves against predators and pests. In humans, limonene can improve thinking, attention and concentration.
Caryophyllene: A terpene found in numerous essential oils, especially clove oil. Black pepper has its sharp taste from Caryophyllen. A study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology was able to prove that terpene can bind to the CB2 cannabinoid receptors and is therefore strongly responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis.
As a component of essential oils, borneol is jointly responsible for the smell and taste of various spices. Borneol seems to be very interesting for medical applications. It can improve the bioavailability and absorption capacity of drugs nasally, orally and gastrointestinally. It has also been shown that the blood-brain barrier can be crossed more quickly by the substance, which also leads to faster absorption of drugs in brain tissue. Borneol can inhibit the function or activity of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. In traditional Chinese medicine Borneol is also used as a painkiller or anaesthetic.
α-Pinene gives the pines and the tree resin its unique scent. It is also found in rosemary, eucalyptus and sage. Pinene is also used as a cough medicine and antiseptic. What is quite astonishing is the fact that, according to research, it probably destroys a chemical compound, which in turn inhibits the coupling of neurons. This improves the function of memory. It has mucolytic properties. α-Pinene may have anti-inflammatory and at least in vitro antimicrobial properties. In low doses α-Pinene has a bronchospasmolytic effect.
The Endocannabinoid System
The name comes from the active substances of the cannabis plant, the cannabinoids, which led to the discovery of this system. The discovery of these specific receptors inevitably led to the recognition that there must also be endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) for these receptors.
In recent years, the discovery and localization of cannabinoid receptors and the identification of their endogenous ligands have opened the door to systematic biomedical research into cannabis and opend up new perspectives for medical use. It became clear that the endocannabinoid system probably represents a fundamental regulatory system in the nervous and immune systems, whose function is closely linked to physiological and pathological processes.
Studies have yielded promising results in chronic inflammatory diseases of the CNS and gastrointestinal tract as well as in antitumor therapy of gliomas. Therefore there is a justified hope that specific CB1 or CB2 receptor agonists or antagonists or targeted interventions in the body‘s endocannabinoid metabolism could open up entirely new therapeutic perspectives.
It was shown that the endocannabinoid system has an important regulatory function in very different processes. Whether in the storage of traumatising memories, energy metabolism or the development of the nervous system in the embryo: the cannabis receptors are always involved.
Cannabinoids and Terpenes seem to help the body to find a balance and to dampen reactions, especially in the case of stress, sensory overload and other overloads. Comprehensive research about the endocannabinoid system, its pathways and its significance for health are a big challenge for interdisciplinary collaboration between immunologists, neuroscientists and pharmacologists in the future.