“Between 1843 and 1943… hemp extracts, which obviously we know contain quite a bit of CBD… were what he called a ‘mainstay treatment' for migraine and half the world for a century.”
— Curt Robbins
Are you getting your minimum daily requirement of cannabis? There might come a time when your doctor asks that question. Right now it's a theory, but there are facts behind the idea of endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome:
- We have an endocannabinoid system, with millions of microscopic cannabinoid receptors receptors throughout our bodies.
- Some researchers believe that when we're deficient in endocannabinoids, and lack supplementation with phyto-cannanbinoids, specific disease states can result.
Curt Robbins explores what this means to you and me — and how our great, great grandparents might have been taking what we now call CBD as a folk remedy for various conditions.
Mentioned in this show:
Studies authored by Ethan Russo, M.D.:
(2004) Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD): Can This Concept Explain Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Other Treatment-Resistant Conditions?
Kannaboom (00:00): It's Tom, welcome back to Twenty 4:20, our ongoing series with Curt Robbins, who knows so much about cannabis, that it's more than I ever forgot. This week we're talking about the endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. We all have an endocannabinoid system, and it's not well known, but you can be deficient in cannabinoids, and you can supplement what your body creates with phyto-cannabinoids. So we're going to dive into that. We go a little longer than 20 minutes, but I don't like to stop Curt when he's on a roll. So enjoy the episode and we'll see you back here soon.
Kannaboom (00:30): Welcome to Twenty 4:20, the bite-sized educational podcast from Kannaboom and Curt Robbins, author of more than 500 articles about the science of hemp and cannabis. We're giving 20 cannabis topics, 20 minutes each to help you get smarter about terpenes, cannabinoids cultivars and much, much more. And our show starts now.
Kannaboom (00:52): Hey, it's Tom. We're back with Twenty 4:20 and this is episode nine already. Hey Curt, how are you?
Curt Robbins (00:57): Hey Tom, how are you? Really good. Thank you. We're going to dive into the endocannabinoid system today, which is super interesting. There's been some research around it that I know you are up on, and I know our listeners will be interested in.
Curt Robbins (01:09): All right. Well, I figured we'd take just a couple minutes first to talk about a recent consumer survey that was conducted by a company called Oasis Intelligence in Los Angeles. And, uh, really it's one, it's very fresh information. The survey was conducted in the, uh, between September and December of 2019, and even more important than the freshness of the data is the fact that it was very thorough. They, uh, surveyed respondents in all 50 U.S. states, including the district of Columbia. And they got some very interesting information back. Now here on Twenty 4:20, we're trying to educate listeners about the science, you know, and the biochemistry and the overall medicinal efficacy of molecules like flavonoids and cannabinoids and terpenes. And if we somehow consume a plant like hemp, how that might help our health and wellbeing. Well, uh, the Oasis intelligence survey found that 75% of their respondents had no clue what terms like 'terpenes, endocannabinoid system and entourage effect' mean.
Kannaboom (02:19): That's a large gulf of misunderstanding,
Curt Robbins (02:24): Right? And I, this really, I mean, I'm not overjoyed to hear that. I'd rather hear that, you know, 90% of consumers understand what those things mean, but I, I don't really put the burden on the consumer. I put it on us as industry professionals and we call ourselves educators and, you know, we propagate valuable information. Um, this tells me that we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but, uh, you know, given what we do for a living that, uh, we've got a lot of jobs security, let's put it that way.
Kannaboom (02:52): And what you're so good at is kind of breaking that down into the bite-sized chunks. That, and that's why we're doing, like you said, so I know you've thought about this and you've got the important takeaways for our listeners, so I'll let you run again.
Curt Robbins (03:05): Sure. Um, so I, you know, I would encourage listeners to check out the show notes for this episode and to, uh, I've written a summary article about the survey, but the survey itself is very consumer friendly. It's brief. Uh, they laid out very nicely, uh, Oasis Intelligence does on their website. So, uh, instead of taking more time here, cause we want to get into talking about clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. Uh, I would, uh, recommend listeners definitely check out that summary article. Uh, and it's very revealing, you know, about what people are, uh, learning about how cannabis and hemp products help their health and where they're getting their information. It's not from bud tenders. They don't, they don't get their information from bud tenders says this survey.
Kannaboom (03:56): So there's probably some hearsay going on. There's some rumors and then sometimes there's good information being passed too.
Curt Robbins (04:02): That's very true. Well, uh, the survey found that the number-one source of information helping cannabis consumers, or would-be consumers make purchasing decisions and decide how they want to integrate it into their lifestyles. And, you know, their wellness regime was friends. So friends are sometimes an excellent source of information, but not necessarily. So that's really their, you know, the number-one source is not a you and me, it's not Leafly, uh, it's not scientific research studies, it's people, and this makes total sense, you know, getting together for coffee or going to temple or church and saying, Hey, you know, I saw this CBD ad in this magazine, I'm thinking about checking it out. And then something comes out of the other person's mouth, right. That is where the majority of cannabis consumers are getting their information that they use to make hard purchasing decisions.
Kannaboom (05:02): Right. Your peer group. I mean, you're always trying to level up who you're hanging out with.
Curt Robbins (05:07): So yeah, interesting stuff, but it's a quick read and I would encourage readers to, uh, to check it out real fresh information right now. Cool. Let's talk a little about this thing called endocannabinoid deficiency. Now we've talked a lot about the endocannabinoid system or the ECS, uh, on the show in the past. And, uh, just a little recap. It is a system of, uh, what we think is probably millions of microscopic cellular receptors. And, uh, they bind with, uh, particular molecules, uh, now, and they're called cannabinoids and there are endocannabinoids produced by the human body and there are phytocannabinoids and those come from plants like, uh, hemp and cannabis. Well, back in 2001, a neurologist and a doctor who specializes in research in California named Dr. Ethan Russo. Uh, he began theorizing that a deficiency and the, uh, cannabinoids that bind with these specialized receptors in the endocannabinoid system, almost like a vitamin deficiency, you know, you're going to get scurvy if you don't get enough vitamin C type of thing. Uh, and that such a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system was leading to a specific disease states. And in a study in 2004, he coined the term and just kind of brushed on it a little in 2001 study called Hemp for Headache, uh, in which, uh, he researched further in 2004 and another study. And he actually said that, you know, we have particular, uh, diseases that he believes are the result of a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system. In other words, we're not producing enough of our, uh, own endocannabinoids, or we're not getting enough supplementation through plants like hemp with their phyto-cannabinoids. And let's talk a little about the diseases that he thinks are, uh, the result of this deficiency now, to be clear, this is a theory and it goes by a few different names. So it gets a little confusing for listeners sometimes. Um, I, and most writers typically call it endocannabinoid deficiency or endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome or deficiency theory. And it is formally a theory. We have mounting evidence and proof of it, but it's still officially a theory. Well, Russo and others who, uh, believe in and are doing active research on this theory, believe that conditions like migraine headache, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, and other forms of that, like Crohn's disease and colitis that are very closely related that those are the results of a deficiency in the ECS. And that by both increasing our internal production of endocannabinoids and also supplementing our ECS with, uh, the phytocannabinoids from hemp and cannabis can, uh, literally effectively treat some of these diseases. And one thing all of these diseases have in common is that they are typically treatment resistant, uh, through conventional means like standard therapies like drugs and such.
Kannaboom (08:32): Right? I mean, some of those that you mentioned migraines and fibromyalgia, I mean, for a long time, doctors had no idea what to do with those. They didn't even know how to diagnose them in some cases.
Curt Robbins (08:42): Exactly. And Russo, even in his papers talks about how people, patients suffering these conditions, uh, often are told it's all in your head that it's labeled psychosomatic, uh, because they can't see a direct chemical mechanism responsible for it. They use conventional drugs that work for other conditions where we sometimes see spectacular results, uh, and they don't see those results here. And so it's unfortunate that sometimes patients are, are labeled crazy, uh, you know, throughout the history of these diseases. So it's really nice that in the nineties, we, you know, early nineties, we discovered the endocannabinoid system and you see right after the turn of the century in 2001. And then, uh, again in the more robust research paper in 2004 Russo, so really made us all aware of this mechanism. And, uh, again, we, you know, we need more research. I don't want listeners to, uh, their takeaway to be that this is, you know, etched in stone, but we have enough evidence that it's very promising. In fact, um, Russo published another study in 2016 and, uh, the full text of that is available online. Uh, the two, 2004 study, only a synopsis. And you gotta go behind a paywall on such to get the, the full text, but, uh, he makes very clear in the two 2016 study that what differentiates it from the 2004 study is the research evidence that has been gathered, uh, in the years since 2004. Uh, and he gives some very compelling, uh, evidence for why this theory might be rooted. In reality,
Kannaboom (10:26): Our knowledge continues to build, we always talk about the context of a hundred years of prohibition, where there was a lot of misinformation put out, but we know that cannabis was sort of a folk medicine before all this right.
Curt Robbins (10:39): Exactly. In fact, Russo points out that, uh, the period between 1843 and 1943, which we know is right after 1937, when we got federal prohibition of hemp and cannabis, and it kind of took a while to get pulled out of all the medical indexes. And, you know, there was a bit of a lag, especially back then, but, uh, in both Europe and North America, hemp extracts, which obviously we know contain quite a bit of CBD, even though they weren't talking about it back then, they weren't aware of that part of it, that mechanization, uh, they were what he called a 'mainstay treatment' for migraine and half the world for a century. So, you know, we didn't have the modern science and research tools back then that we have now, but there had to be a reason for half the world's doctors for a century. I don't know the doctors. I know if something doesn't work, they don't use it for a year, let alone a century,
Kannaboom (11:38): Right. Something you said there, I don't think we are at a point where we can talk about cultivars or, or even specific cannabinoids. So, I mean, are we talking about CBD or the whole entourage effect, or do we know that yet?
Curt Robbins (11:52): Well, let's talk about a little of the products that were typically liquid tinctures, uh, that were employed, you know, in the century, uh, before prohibition hit what some writers have called the golden age of medical marijuana. Um, and so it was typically a whole plant extract from hemp. So in other words, it contained little or almost no. What we call trace amounts of THC, not enough to experience a psychotropic effect. So people were able to give this to their children and, uh, hemp tinctures or cannabis sativa tinctures, as they were sometimes called, were produced by all the major pharmaceutical companies, uh, in the late 19th and early 20th century. And the only reason they stopped was because the federal government, 1937 said, you can't do that anymore.
Kannaboom (12:43): Okay. That's super interesting. And you know, now we have electron microscopes and all, all the, the science that we can really look at it, it doesn't have to be a folk medicine, so we can validate it and really begin to understand that yeah, your body needs some of these compounds,
Curt Robbins (13:00): Right. And Russo, uh, he identified conditions beyond migraine, fibromyalgia and IBS irritable bowel syndrome. Uh, in his 2016 study, he also identified common conditions like glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, uh, Phantom limb pain, uh, suffered by some of our veterans, uh, PTSD and bipolar disorder. So when you think about all of these conditions combined, there are millions of sufferers of, of these diseases and conditions just in the United States, let alone globally. Uh, so if, either increasing the body's production of endocannabinoids, like anandamide and to AIG is one way of dealing in a lessening, the suffering of, uh, people who have these diseases and conditions, but we also now have legal, uh, cannabis, and we have legal hemp at the federal level since December, 2018 and more limited since 2014. So we've got a few years into the hemp infrastructure. Um, and the reason I mentioned that is, uh, we're always talking about, Hey, go out and get this great cannabis product. It's wonderful. Well, only 11 of 50 states here in the U.S. have adult use legalization. So, I hate sending messages like that. Sometimes I cringe because I know the majority of my listening audience or readers, uh, simply cannot act on the advice that I'm giving them, right. They might not live in Denver or LA or Portland or Vegas where they can just drive down to the local dispensary and, you know, experiment. Uh, so that's, that's one big problem, but, uh, if we can sufficiently supplement the endocannabinoid system with, uh, hemp products, now there's value in THC that comes with the cannabis products, but it's just one cannabinoid of hundreds. Right. And then you've got the terpenes and you've got the flavonoids and they have similar efficacy in terms of anti-inflammation antibacterial, anti viral. The list goes on and on. It's why some people don't believe, uh, what we're saying here, because they think it's too good to be true.
Kannaboom (15:14): One of the takeaways you're getting to is you can get relief without getting high, and you can get CBD anywhere in the country. I think.
Curt Robbins (15:22): Absolutely. And even though we didn't call it CBD in 1855, we were putting CBD into people's bodies. It was just called a cannabis tincture. Uh, and there was nothing recreational about it. Right. It was like taking aspirin. I was like, 'Oh, mom, do I have to?' Yeah. You take your medicine kid. And, uh, that's how we were distributing molecules like CBD and CBG and all these terpenes that we talk about.
Kannaboom (15:49): Wow. And then it became just the best-kept secret. And as you say, it's still not well known when you, when you look at recent surveys where, you know, a lot of people just aren't aware of this yet.
Curt Robbins (16:00): Exactly. And like you alluded to before we now have modern technology that helps us a great deal, you know, stuff they didn't have in the late 19th century. Uh, and in fact, in Russo's 2016 study, when he says, look, we can make a little more credible argument for this endocannabinoid deficiency theory now because of the research that we've gathered since 2004 and a, like one of those technologies was analyzing the cerebral spinal fluid for a anandamide levels. And so they found levels that corresponded to migraine, uh, episodes. And so that's given us a great deal of insight there. Um, they have also, uh, we have advanced imaging technology now for, for doing scanning, right. A brain tissue and other organs. And that's been extremely helpful in, uh, giving us hard research for showing the benefit of these, uh, molecules like cannabinoids for PTSD.
Kannaboom (16:58): When we talk about the endocannabinoid system, of course, endo means endogenous and we can create these substances in our own bodies, but then there's, phyto-remediation, right?
Curt Robbins (17:09): There's, there's a lot of, uh, you know, just because it's produced in our body, is there uptake and binding with the receptors and is there already a different molecule in the receptor? So the anandamide has no place to go. And, uh, and then we get into issues of receptors being active or at rest is something we haven't even talked about on this show. Right. Uh, I recently interviewed a real smart doctor in New Mexico. And so we'll talk about that in a future episode, but I think the, the point we're getting to here in Russo's site's this, and it's 2016 study also, uh, is that exercise is good for all of these conditions, as long as one is healthy enough to engage in exercise in the first place. Right. Um, you know, it's really easy to say, go exercise and produce some anandamide, but if you're in a wheelchair, that might be a bit of a challenge. So, uh, so, you know, there are some issues here, but if we just want to send a simple takeaway, if you exercise so produce more, anandamide is good for, uh, anxiety, depression, and all of these other conditions. We're talking about migraine sufferers, fibromyalgia, PTSD, bipolar disorder, et cetera. Again, under this theory from RSO,
Kannaboom (18:28): You know, we've said it before, diet, exercise and sleep are really kind of the foundations of good health and cannabis can help you sleep better. It can help you, now it seems, um, remediate or supplement some of the things you might be missing if you're not getting enough exercise, I mean, you should still get out there, but it's all tied together, right?
Curt Robbins (18:49): Exactly. If we can get the right molecules binding with those microscopic receptors in our bodies, ECS, um, you know, we just need to get them in there one way or another is one way of looking at it. So if you produce your own, anandamide because you're a marathon runner, Hey, that's great. Maybe, you know, you got bad joints and you can't go do that. Uh, might be so bad. You can't even ride a bike due to respiratory conditions or motor limitations in which case. Okay, well, we can, we can give you a, hemp or a cannabis product and get those same molecules, uh, uh, into your body. This is without going too deep on it. This is a good point to say that molecules like THC and CBD have been called by scientists memetic, and that they mimic endocannabinoids. So phyto-cannabinoids from plants like hemp are mimetic in nature. And what do they mimic? They mimic the endocannabinoids. In fact, scientists have shown a direct correlation. They're saying that, and it's rather theoretical in some respects, just because one scientist or a few scientists say it doesn't make it fact, right. Everything's gotta be thoroughly peer reviewed, replicated, replicated, replicated, but they're saying THC is mimetic to anandamide and CBD is mimetic to two AIG, the other endocannabinoid.
Kannaboom (20:06): Okay. two AIG. I'm seeing more kinds of microdosing products on the market. And you talk about cannabis as almost a daily vitamin supplement. Do you see a trend that way as we look to the future is this, um, as people begin to understand that they may want to supplement their endocannabinoid system, do you see them taking a daily microdose or something?
Curt Robbins (20:29): I think that's a great approach to it. In fact, microdosing for a lot of different reasons we don't have time to talk about in this particular episode is of very intelligent approach to the issue, in my opinion, for both cannabis and hemp, also a psychedelic drugs, which have totally different mechanisms and not really what we're talking about here, but if we are to address dosing, I think it's going to be a very powerful therapeutic approach, uh, for all of, uh, the psychedelic drugs and also for hemp and cannabis.
Kannaboom (21:00): I think you may have identified one of our future episodes.
Curt Robbins (21:02): So there's, there's a lot to talk about there. Uh, the psychedelics market is firing up. Lots of money is being invested. In fact, more than $150 million has been invested in for-profits psychedelic companies and the countries of Germany, the UK, Canada, and the U.S. Since January 1st of 2020. So in basically six months, $150 million has gone into it. So yeah, we got plenty to talk about with psychedelics, if you want to,
Kannaboom (21:32): Well, I guess you'd say what a trip it could be. Is there anything else we should cover on the endocannabinoid deficiency that we haven't talked about?
Curt Robbins (21:42): I think it's really just a good opportunity for patients and consumers to do a little introspection and think about their lifestyle, right? Because as we've said here, and I'm glad you always point out, you take a holistic approach, Tom, and this is about diet. This is about exercise. This is about good sleep, all the smart, uh, trainers and, uh, and, and people who are into performance enhancement, you know, hacking biohacking, your endocannabinoid system and your body, uh, say that boy, if you start getting poor sleep, everything else goes to hell. Quite honestly, that that is the central pivot point. It is the Genesis of good health. So, uh, yeah, if you can take a molecule like CBD or THC or some sort of, uh, uh, extract, uh, from hemp or cannabis and it can help you sleep, that alone is a really, really big deal. But only part of the picture, obviously
Kannaboom (22:38): When we get down to it, it's always, we're kind of focused on wellness here, and cannabis can be a cornerstone of your wellness in the ways that you describe. So thank you, Kurt.
Curt Robbins (22:47): You bet. I just don't want anybody thinking that, you know, listen to a hip hop song, smoke two joints, and instantly, you know, your cancer goes away. This is, this is a holistic approach and it needs to involve sleep, uh, diet and exercise and merely consuming cannabis. And hemp is not the whole solution by far. You gotta, you gotta get out there and yeah,
Curt Robbins (23:08): You gotta hop on the bike or pike up the hill or jump in the pool or something.
Curt Robbins (23:12): Yeah. You got to challenge yourself. And, uh, and I'm sorry, you know, the people who don't like to do that, I'm sorry for the bad news, but that's really what we're finding. And that's what researchers like. Uh, Ethan Russo have, have been teaching us for a while now, though. So I will encourage listeners to, uh, to look at those two studies in the show notes, especially the 2016 study Russell was nice and that he really does want to help patients and, and educate people. It seems so he tends to, to, uh, write his research studies, uh, and L with a little more of a lay person tone. Um, they're not so buried in science that you can't comprehend them.
Curt Robbins (23:46): Oh, good. He makes it accessible. We will definitely link to that in the show notes and get that out there.
Kannaboom (23:51): Well, Hey, it's been great talking to you, Tom. Thanks so much, Kurt. See you next time. Thank you.
Kannaboom (23:56): You've been listening to Twenty 4:20 a special edition podcast series from cannabis and Curt Robbins. Want to learn more and help grow the cannabis movement? Spread the word and follow us on your favorite podcast platform or at Kannaboom dot com.
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