The Grow Up Conference and Expo has been serving the Canadian cannabis grower’s community since 2017 with one of the largest annual conferences focused on the education, collaboration and growth of the cannabis industry. This year, our Axea team had the opportunity to attend the convention to connect with leading experts in the field as well as visit and meet with a number of dispensary owners, managers, and budtenders in the Niagara Falls area.

The show was a huge success and our team had a great time seeing many of our industry colleagues and friends. Thank you to the Grow Up team for another fantastic event!

The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.

Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond. Here is one example: autophagy, a process in which a cell sequesters part of its contents to be self-digested and recycled, is mediated by the cannabinoid system. While this process keeps normal cells alive, allowing them to maintain a balance between the synthesis, degradation, and subsequent recycling of cellular products, it has a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide. The death of cancer cells, of course, promotes homeostasis and survival at the level of the entire organism.

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types. At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury.

The endocannabinoid system, with its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all the body’s organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that explains how states of consciousness can promote health or disease.

In addition to regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence a person’s relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity, and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person’s open-mindedness and ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations. Reformatting these old patterns is an essential part of health in our quickly changing environment.

What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?

Sea squirts, tiny nematodes, and all vertebrate species share the endocannabinoid system as an essential part of life and adaptation to environmental changes. By comparing the genetics of cannabinoid receptors in different species, scientists estimate that the endocannabinoid system evolved in primitive animals over 600 million years ago.

While it may seem we know a lot about cannabinoids. Large gaps likely exist in our current understanding, and the complexity of interactions between various cannabinoids, cell types, systems and individual organisms’ challenges scientists to think about physiology and health in new ways. The following brief overview summarizes what we do know.

Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes ensue. Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs; and CB2, predominantly found in the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action. Researchers speculate there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting to be discovered.

Endocannabinoids are the substances our bodies naturally make to stimulate these receptors. The two most well understood of these molecules are called anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They are synthesized on-demand from cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives, have a local effect and short half-life before being degraded by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).

Phyto cannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and certainly the most famous of these substances, but other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of healing properties. Most Phyto cannabinoids have been isolated from cannabis sativa, but other medical herbs, such as echinacea purpura, have been found to contain non-psychoactive cannabinoids as well.

Interestingly, the cannabis plant also uses THC and other cannabinoids to promote its own health and prevent disease. Cannabinoids have antioxidant properties that protect the leaves and flowering structures from ultraviolet radiation – cannabinoids neutralize the harmful free radicals generated by UV rays, protecting the cells. In humans, free radicals cause aging, cancer, and impaired healing. Antioxidants found in plants have long been promoted as natural supplements to prevent free radical harm.

Cannabis, The Endocannabinoid System, And Good Health

As we continue to sort through the emerging science of cannabis and cannabinoids, one thing remains clear: a functional cannabinoid system is essential for health. From embryonic implantation on the wall of our mother’s uterus, to nursing and growth, to responding to injuries, endocannabinoids help us survive in a quickly changing and increasingly hostile environment.  Can an individual enhance his/her cannabinoid system by taking supplemental cannabis? Beyond treating symptoms, beyond even curing disease, can cannabis help us prevent disease and promote health by stimulating an ancient system that is hard-wired into all of us? Research has shown that small doses of cannabinoids from cannabis can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. Therefore many first-time cannabis users don’t feel an effect, but by their second or third time using the herb they have built more cannabinoid receptors and are ready to respond. More receptors increase a person’s sensitivity to cannabinoids; smaller doses have larger effects, and the individual has an enhanced baseline of endocannabinoid activity. Regular doses of cannabis might act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing system.

Many physicians cringe at the thought of recommending a botanical substance and are outright mortified by the idea of smoking a medicine. Our medical system is more comfortable with single, isolated substances that can be swallowed or injected. Unfortunately, this model significantly limits the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids.

Unlike synthetic derivatives, herbal cannabis may contain over one hundred different cannabinoids.  Scientific inquiry and patient testimonials both indicate that herbal cannabis has superior medical qualities over synthetic cannabinoids.

In 1902 Thomas Edison said, “There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of disease as now, and all their discoveries are tending toward the simple truth that you can’t improve on nature.” Cannabinoid research has proven this statement is still valid.

So, is it possible that medical cannabis could be the most useful remedy to treat the widest variety of human diseases and conditions, a component of preventative healthcare, and an adaptive support in our increasingly toxic, carcinogenic environment? We at AXEA believe yes. This was well known to the indigenous medical systems of ancient India, China, and Tibet, and as you will find in this report, is becoming increasingly well known by Western science. Of course, we need more human-based research studying the effectiveness of cannabis, but the evidence base is already large and growing constantly, despite efforts to discourage cannabis-related research.

This is changing, in part because the public is demanding it. People want safe, natural and inexpensive treatments that stimulate our bodies’ ability to self-heal and help our population improve its quality of life. Medical cannabis is one such solution. This summary is an excellent tool for spreading the knowledge and helping to educate patients and healthcare providers on the scientific evidence behind the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids.

Research relating to the medicinal benefits of marijuana is still ongoing, but studies are impressive. In fact, an estimated two million Americans are currently using medical cannabis, to alleviate some of the most common mental and physical ailments, and the numbers are rising. Many cannabis consumers refer to the cannabis plant as a medicinal elixir and swear that it treats mild to serious illnesses such as relieving pain and fighting cancer.

In Canada, many consumers have turned to medical cannabis to help with dozens of health concerns such as migraines, sleep disorders, and mental health afflictions. Right now in Canada, medical cannabis is authorized by a prescriber who provides a medical document allowing individuals to access dried marijuana for medical purposes. Meanwhile, cannabis remains federally illegal in the USA and the FDA still classifies it as a schedule 1 drug. Yet, in 2018 the FDA approved epidiolex, a CBD-based medicine for treating seizures associated with rare and severe forms of epilepsy. In addition, it also approved nabilone and dronabinol, which are synthetic forms of THC, to alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. So what other illnesses are people using medical cannabis to treat? Read to discover how this medicinal green plant is helping to heal people suffering from everything from minor headaches to migraines, to chronic pain.

What is Medical Cannabis?

The cannabis plant contains approximately 400 naturally occurring compounds. More than 60 of these compounds are cannabinoids, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most prevalent.

THC is the psychoactive and intoxicating cannabinoid that is popular for getting users “high” and delivering euphoric effects. On the other hand, CBD is non-psychoactive, and in rare cases, it can deliver mild intoxicating effects. Studies have shown that both CBD and THC can provide an array of medicinal benefits.

Medical cannabis, also widely known as medical marijuana, is the use of these cannabinoids by medical experts to help patients relieve and treat various symptoms. Experts suggest that when CBD, THC, and terpenes are consumed together, they work in synergy to produce an entourage effect. The entourage effect is said to provide more potent and effective medicinal benefits. So what are some of the other medical health benefits of marijuana that have been backed by research? Check them all out below.

15 Medical Cannabis Health Benefits

  1. Alleviating Chronic Pain
  2. Fighting Cancer
  3. Treating Stress And Depression
  4. Reducing Seizures
  5. Helping With Anxiety
  6. Helping With Weight Loss
  7. Treating and Preventing Diabetes
  8. Helping With PTSD
  9. May Help in Autism Treatment
  10. Helping With Alcohol and Drug Addiction
  11. Helping With Multiple Sclerosis
  12. May Improve Lung Capacity

The Bottom Line

Marijuana is not a new drug. Studies show that it has been used as a medicine since the 19th century. Recent research and anecdotal reports prove the effective use of medical cannabis in treating and alleviating numerous symptoms. And while stigma still remains surrounding the effectiveness and use of medical cannabis for mental and physical afflictions, studies are promising that cannabis will spread its therapeutic properties to consumers looking to alleviate suffering from common illnesses.

Cannabinoids overall are likely to be helpful for headache sufferers due to their ability to penetrate the part of the brain involved in migraine pathophysiology.

Did you know that 23 million Americans suffer from severe migraine headaches, and 25% have four or more episodes per month?

In fact, this epidemic costs businesses between 1.2 billion to 17.2 billion dollars annually, through lost productivity and sick time.

But can cannabis provide relief?

Though the United States classifies medical cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug (meaning it has the high potential for abuse and has no accepted medical use and lack of safety for use under medical supervision), there have been numerous case studies surrounding the use of medical cannabis for headaches. And it would be a natural derivation of those studies to at least consider CBD oil, another closely related cannabinoid.

This woman experienced resolution of her headache within five minutes of smoking cannabis. Though anecdotal, case studies such as this suggest further evaluation be considered for headache sufferers.

Cannabinoids overall are likely to be helpful for headache sufferers due to their ability to penetrate the part of the brain involved in migraine pathophysiology, offering migraine sufferers with endocannabinoid (naturally appearing pain modulators) deficiency or receptor activation dysfunction possible relief. (If you’re suffering with headaches or migraines, you may want to read that sentence a few more times, because it offers HOPE.)

While also being entwined with the central nervous system’s serotonin, the endocannabinoid system mechanism of action can be similar to drugs already in use for migraine sufferers such as triptans, like Sumatriptan, Imitrex, Maxalt and Amerge which act through serotonin activation.

Cannabis has been found to be most effective in treating patients with:

  • Migraines
  • Anxiety (prior to the onset of migraines)
  • Migraines concurrent with fibromyalgia
  • Endocannabinoid deficiency in pain disorders
  • Variation with the CNR1 gene
  • Female migraine sufferers due to the accelerated degradation fo endocannabinoids

Why do we care?

Look, current migraine medications fall far short, whether from side effects, failed response to triptans, or simple intolerance to the medications.

In these situations it is perfectly reasonable to consider an alternative treatment with the use of medical cannabis or even CBD.

When medications have failed, a patient’s medical team might want to consider cannabis or CBD.

These might very well present a logical alternative therapy to finding relief.

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada in 2018 has led to many patients being curious about the benefits of taking cannabis in conjunction with their cancer treatment. We investigated the perceptions among genitourinary cancer (GUC) patients regarding cannabis use as part of their care plans.

METHODS: A survey was created to explore current cannabis use behaviors, reasons for cannabis use, and the beliefs of cannabis usefulness towards cancer-related care, including cancer treatment, among GUC patients. The survey was distributed across Canada online via RedCAP through social media platforms, email, and patient advocacy groups. The survey was active from August to December 2020.

RESULTS: Of eighty-five responses, fifty-two met inclusion for analysis. Participants included 11 bladder, 26 kidney, and 15 prostate cancer patients. Many (48.1%) participants used cannabis daily and 75% had been using it for more than one year. Cannabis was consumed through oil-based products, edibles, and smoking. The most common reasons for using cannabis were cancer-related anxiety, to prevent cancer progression, cancer-related pain, recreational use, and other non-cancer-related illness or symptoms. Participants believed cannabis improved their sleep (70.2%), anxiety (65.9%), and overall mood (72.3%). Most participants were either unsure (38.3%) or neutral (31.9%) in the belief that cannabis might decrease their cancer progression.

CONCLUSIONS: GUC patients use cannabis for a variety of cancer- and non-cancer-related symptoms. Many patients believe cannabis has benefited their cancer-related symptoms. These findings highlight the importance of healthcare providers remaining familiar with current evidence on cannabis to support patient conversations about cannabis use.

Sleeplessness. Night sweats. Anxiety. Irritability. Aches and pains.

Would smoking a little pot help women deal with these common symptoms of menopause?

A good number of middle-aged women apparently think so, because they’ve been turning to marijuana to help handle the change of life, a new study reports.

“Midlife women within the menopause transition period of their life are using cannabis, and they’re using it for symptoms that tend to overlap with menopause,” said lead researcher Katherine Babyn, a graduate student at the University of Alberta in Canada.

There’s just one drawback — little to no research has proven that pot can effectively treat menopause-related symptoms, said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

“This hasn’t been studied formally in women going through menopause, and so we don’t know what the potential benefits or risks are,” Faubion said. “That’s the danger here, is we’re using a drug that has not been studied.”

For this study, Babyn and her colleagues surveyed nearly 1,500 middle-aged women in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Of the current users, 75% reported that they’d been using pot for medical purposes, even though only 23% had it medically prescribed to them.

They used pot in a number of forms, including edibles (52%), oils (47%), smoked (41%) and vaped (26%).

The products they used combined cannabidiol (CBD) and THC, which is the chemical in pot that causes intoxication. About 58% reported using CBD/THC blends, while 36% used products with high THC and 35% used products with high CBD.

The most common menopause-related issues they were trying to address with pot included:

  • Trouble sleeping (74%)
  • Anxiety (59%)
  • Difficulty concentrating (58%)
  • Irritability (55%)
  • Muscle and joint aches (53%).

Across the board, women who used cannabis reported more menopause symptoms than those who didn’t use, “but we can’t establish which way that relationship goes,” Babyn said.Faubion said the findings tell her that women who use cannabis have worse symptoms.

“Is it that they have worse symptoms that’s driving them to cannabis, or is the cannabis making their symptoms worse?” she said. “We can’t really make conclusions based on this article.”

Up to 74% of the women reported improvement in their symptoms after using cannabis, said senior researcher Nese Yuksel, a professor of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Alberta.

But because it was a general question relating to all symptoms, “we can’t make any real association with it,” Yuksel said. “What we feel is that women feel they’re getting some benefit, but we can’t say that conclusively.”

Faubion, Yuksel and Babyn agreed that until more medical evidence has accrued regarding pot’s benefits, women are better off relying on tried-and-true menopause treatments.

“There is a need for future research to really investigate whether cannabis would be effective and safe for managing menopause symptoms,” Babyn said.

Faubion agreed.

Doctors should reach out to patients to assess their symptoms and steer them toward effective treatments, Yuksel said.

“It’s a wake-up call to say we need to have these discussions with our patients,” she said. “A lot of women do kind of fall through the cracks as far as even getting their symptoms assessed and knowing what different approaches there are for treatment.”

The study was presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society, in Washington, D.C. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.