An Introduction to Medicinal Cannabis
Cannabis is an incredible and powerful plant that has been used by people for lots of different medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. But what is it that makes cannabis stand out from other plants?
The short answer is: cannabinoids – the unique active ingredients. There are over 480 natural components found within the cannabis plant, of which over 100 have been classified as cannabinoids. The most well-known and researched of these cannabinoids is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the substance primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The cannabinoids are separated into subclasses, which are:
- Cannabigerols (CBG)
- Cannabichromenes (CBC)
- Cannabidiols (CBD)
- Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
- Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL)
- Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and other miscellaneous types)
At Organic Genetics, our focus is on medicinal cannabis – which are legal, high quality products that can be prescribed for people by their doctor in New Zealand. Medicinal cannabis can be used to treat the symptoms of certain medical conditions, and the side effects of some treatments in a natural way. There are several different medicinal cannabis products available to treat different conditions, and you can read more about the different products here. Let’s start by looking at some of its uses throughout history.
Cannabis through time
Cannabis appeared in history as early as 10,200 years ago, in Okinoshima, Japan. Some of the earliest written records on cannabis document most uses as, primarily, medicinal. The 1993 discovery of a 2500-year-old mummy known as the “Siberian Ice Maiden” by archaeologist Natalija Polosmak Di, who found a pouch of cannabis within her subterranean burial chamber. Later on, research conducted by a team of Russian scientists revealed through MRI scans that the Siberian woman had suffered from a tumour in her right breast. They think she used cannabis to manage her pain and symptoms and possibly even as a treatment for her malignant disease.
In the 17th century, cannabis made its way into Western culture, pioneered by Irish physician, William O’Shaughnessy and Italian doctor, Raffaele Valieri. Valieri would suggest that his patients smoked hemp for symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain, migraine and asthma, based on his studies of the findings of William O’Shaughnessy’s earlier work, in India.
But in beginning of the 20th century, when the opium crisis was going on around the world, the public’s relationship with cannabis began to shift. In 1925, the International Opium Convention decided to ban cannabis for anything other than medical and scientific uses. The United Kingdom soon outlawed cannabis (in 1928) and within a decade the U.S. followed suit. This demonisation of cannabis was further exacerbated when President Richard Nixon passed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970 and classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug (reserved for substances that are highly addictive with no medical use). Drugs became the “public’s number one enemy” and started the worldwide ‘War on Drugs’ era. Since then, cannabis has been viewed as an illegal drug, and its medicinal properties more or less ignored.
Rediscovery of its medicinal uses
Although demonized, the benefits of using cannabis for medical reasons was still difficult to dispute. For many patients suffering of chronic illnesses – cannabis was often their only effective relief from pain, and the fact that they had to source it illegally began to raise questions in the 90s. As a result, medicinal cannabis was legalised in California in 1996 through the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed patients with chronic illnesses to use medicinal cannabis.
With more and more research being done on cannabis, the public’s perception of cannabis slowly started to shift. The turning point was in 2013 when the chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, made a critical announcement: “We have been terribly and systematically misled for 70 years, and I apologize for my own role in that,” Gupta wrote on CNN’s website. A doctor once famous for his outspoken opposing views of cannabis was now saying that cannabis has “very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes [cannabis] is the only thing that works.”
Since then, more countries around the world have begun to legalize cannabis, including Canada, Australia and some American states. In 2019, New Zealand, too, legalized medical cannabis consumption.
Investing in research
While cannabis has been around for a long time, more research that proves the benefits of medicinal cannabis are needed. So far, we know that medicinal cannabis products can be useful in treating the following conditions:
- multiple sclerosis
- symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment (such as nausea, pain and loss of appetite)
- symptom relief in palliative care.
Organic Genetics came together to further the research into the benefits of medicinal cannabis and to work on unearthing more incredible scientific breakthroughs from within this powerful plant. Our vision is to bridge the gap between healthcare and wellness & provide a new way forward to heal and manage pain & symptoms through the use of medicinal cannabis. Our science and research team are committed to ongoing advanced research into creating the most effective strains and the most efficient and sustainable ways to grow and develop the highest quality, safest products available on the market here in New Zealand.