Published on September 7, 2022

The Importance of Cannabis in Pharmacology

Weed is synonymous with a drug or “getting high” for many people. But that’s mostly a rookie approach to cannabis as a herb with over 60 cannabinoids in its composition. These compounds produce different effects on the human body and mind. 

Some of them alleviate pain and relax muscles (just like the Papaya Cake strain review shows.) Others cause an uplifted mood and make users happy. So, the sphere of weed use is much broader than a youngster party. Here is a brief intro to the use of cannabis in pharmacology and its therapeutic properties. 

Pharmacology of Cannabis Effects 

It may be challenging for many people to understand why marijuana, a drug surrounded by so much prejudice and stigma, needs to be used in traditional medicine. Isn’t there a safer, more legal way to treat depression, anxiety, or pain? The reason for weed’s wide use is its ability to affect the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the human body, to which cannabinoids bind. 

CB1 receptors are present in humans’ central and peripheral nervous system, with their highest concentration identified in the hippocampus, cortex, olfactory areas, spinal cord, and basal ganglia. These CNS/PNS parts are responsible for the normal functioning of human memory, emotion, cognition, and movement. CB2 receptors are mostly located in the PNS and link with immune cells.  

These receptors naturally bind with endogenous ligands – anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, and palmitoylethanolamide. No need to remember these long and scary names; the only thing you need to keep in mind is that cannabis substitutes these ligands and binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors instead of them, causing more acute changes in cognition, memory, movement regulation, and short-term memory. With proper dosage and administration route, these changes can be used to patients’ advantage. 

History of Cannabis Use in the Pharmaceutical Industry 

Medical use of weed dates back to 4000BC when it was first used as a medication in ancient China. Marijuana found many therapeutic uses in the 19th-20th century across the world. However, the early 20th-century legislation changed the status of weed from a medicinal herb to an illegal drug. 

The first page of weed’s legal presence in the modern pharmaceutical business was written by Raphael Mecholaum, who isolated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, or Δ9-THC) from the cannabis plant. This discovery happened in the 1960s, paving the way for isolated THC use in pharmaceuticals. 

Later, the scientific community found an intricate relationship between terpenoids and cannabinoids. Terpenoids are known to boost the therapeutic value of weed in treating chronic pain, cancer, and various psychiatric issues. 

The pharma industry also utilizes triterpenoid friedelin extracted from weed roots and canniprene extracts from fan leaves of the weed. Other uses include cannabisin extraction from seed coats and cannflavin A extraction from weed’s seed sprouts. 

Legal Medications with Cannabis 

Weed is mostly illegal worldwide, but its progression to the legal domain continues. For instance, medical marijuana is now legal in 33 U.S. states, while 14 more states allow CBD use while restricting THC application. Many other countries have certain forms of marijuana-infused medications on sale. 

  • Herbal cannabis with 18% THC content is widely available in the Netherlands’ dispensaries and pharmacies. It is prescribed for treating multiple sclerosis, pain, and neurological disorders. 
  • Sativex is a drug with cannabis extract as its main component, licensed and legally sold in Canada. 
  • Patients with PTSD, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, neurogenic pain, Crohn’s disease, Tourette syndrome, and other health conditions can use medical cannabis across the EU. 
  • There is no official FDA approval of cannabis as a standalone medication thus far. However, users can buy FDA-approved cannabis-derived medications, such as Epidiolex (cannabidiol), Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (dronabinol), and Cesamet (nabilone). All medications except for Epidiolex are synthetic cannabis-related products. 
  • Sativex is a medication containing THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio. It’s a widely used prescription drug in Canada and Europe, though it’s not FDA-approved in the USA yet. 

The market size of cannabis pharmaceuticals exceeded $900 million in 2021, quickly reaching $1 billion. The market’s CAGR is also impressive, expected to stay at 104.2% from 2022 to 2028. These figures suggest that cannabis is widely applied in the medical industry, with many more upcoming medications. 

Why Is the Pace of Weed’s Use in Medicine So Slow? 

On the one hand, weed is steadily regaining ground as a medical herb with many therapeutic properties. On the other hand, it’s still an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance in the U.S. federal legislation, which prevents financing and holding large-scale medical research with cannabis. Therefore, more studies are needed to explore the variety of weed’s therapeutic benefits and speed up its introduction in the pharmaceutical industry as a more affordable and safer medication. 

Another challenge to cannabis’s progression in traditional medicine is the abundance of unreliable products and misleading, aggressive commercials. As a result, users may fall prey to the commercial ambitions of cannabis manufacturers, ending up with uncomfortable side effects instead of the promised therapeutic value of weed. Thus, there is a need for more stringent regulation of weed-infused product manufacturing and careful dosage reporting. 

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