Marie-Josee DenisOsteopathy Naturopathy
Cannabis is a hot topic in the news, especially since the new legalization of its recreational use. However, its use for therapeutic purposes remains little known by the general public. However, scientific breakthroughs are currently being made that are proving promising.
Intrigued by the many medicinal virtues of this plant, I spoke with Véronique Lettre, a graduate of THC University in Colorado and co-owner of Nature Medic, based in Magog and one of the first therapeutic cannabis clinics in Quebec. A best-selling author, Véronique Lettre has just published, in October 2018, Le cannabis médical. Le connaître et l'utiliser: "We hear more often about THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and its euphoric effect; we know very little about CBD (cannabidiol) with its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties used to relieve a large number of pathologies. While therapeutically, THC is known to stimulate appetite and promote sleep."
It should be noted that since 2016, there are thousands of users supported by the Canadian government. In fact, the latter funds prescribed therapeutic cannabis for veterans who request it, and this to treat their chronic pain and post-traumatic stress syndromes. Today, 6300 veterans in Canada benefit from this program.
The recent adoption of the Regulations for Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes is accompanied by a review of the scientific literature by the Canadian government. This review highlights the benefits of cannabis in treating the various symptoms of several diseases and conditions: cancer, arthritis, osteoarthritis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, crohn's disease, depression, glaucoma, migraines, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, ADHD, as well as anorexia and bulimia.
Also, scientific research has been gaining in quality in recent years. Some studies show that medical cannabis has high standards of quality, consistency and safety, just like other pharmacological products.
In addition, since 2016, cannabis available in oil form has been authorized in Canada, a method of ingestion considered healthier than inhalation, which can be harmful to the lungs.
Finally, new research tells us that there are over 100 cannabinoids besides THC and CBD. For example, CBG, which, like CBD, is non-psychoactive. Given its analgesic and antibiotic properties, CBG could relieve psoriasis, as well as pain and inflammation. The same goes for CBC, which is said to have similar effects, as well as being anti-depressant and anti-fungal.
Once upon a time, there was cannabis
Already in Asia, around four thousand years before Christ, hemp was cultivated. It is said to have been introduced into Western medicine around 1840 by a doctor of Irish origin, William O'Shaughnessy, who had discovered its virtues in India, where he had practiced as a physician and scientist. Cannabis was a popular medicine at the time, and even Queen Victoria used it to relieve her menstrual pain. The popularity of hemp would have declined with the production of new medicines such as aspirin. In 1937, the United States declared cannabis an illegal drug.
And it is Israel that is today the world leader in medical research. In the 1970s, Professor Raphael Mechoulam discovered the THC molecule there. Hospitals, universities and pharmaceutical companies now support the research, with doctors and pharmacists soon to prescribe and sell medical cannabis.
Success stories: real-life cases
Surprisingly, the first therapeutically recognized cases involve young children. Like 5-year-old Charlotte Figi, who since the age of 3 months had been suffering from Dravet syndrome and could have up to 300 seizures a week. These seizures began to diminish and finally disappeared after administration of the therapeutic cannabis oil.
Another case was that of a 2-year-old child, Landon Riddle, who had an aggressive form of leukemia. The replacement of opiates and morphine by cannabis oil had almost miraculous effects on the child's health. Progressively the red and white blood cells of Landon increase. Six months later, encouraged by these results, the mother stops chemotherapy. Today, Landon is 7 years old and is in good health and has not had a recurrence of the cancer.
In California, with an 8-month-old child, Dr. William Courtney treated an inoperable brain tumor. With nothing left to lose, the child's father decided to apply cannabis oil to the child's pacifier twice a day, gradually increasing the frequency. After two months, the tumor had shrunk significantly. After eight months, the tumor had shrunk dramatically.
CBD, diet and vitamins: a winning formula
Reported on a blog in November 2018, this is the story of Anat Avisar Koren, a 37-year-old pregnant woman with multiple sclerosis. She was wheelchair-bound and began studying the field of nutrition and supplements. In a few months, she developed a food combination made of vitamins and CBD oils that she then ingested. The results were dramatic, to the point that she was able to regain her mobility and walk again. Then, Anat Avisar Koren tried the experiment with 1349 patients with autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn's disease, asthma and vasculitis), as well as a control group for fibromyalgia. The results were a substantial improvement in the patients' health in terms of sleep, pain, mobility, appetite and fatigue. She will soon be presenting her experience and results at the Multiple Sclerosis Congress in Amsterdam.
New scientific data
Recent studies reveal that our metabolism includes an endocannabinoid system that plays an important role in the pain mechanism and that would create a better balance between body and mind.
Endocannabinoids have been available in our diet since childhood. They are found in large quantities in breast milk, among other things, as well as in Omega 3, being present mainly in the fatty acids of foods.
Thus, the endocannabinoid system would be at the origin of homeostasis, the regulatory process ensuring the normal functioning of the body. This mechanism would have an influence on the essential functions of the human body, such as hunger, digestion, pain, energy, sleep, appetite, motor functions, reproductive functions, pleasure, regulation of body temperature...
Variety or strain of cannabis
According to Veronique Lettre, "cannabis is a bit like a grape variety, there are as many strains for cannabis as there are for wine". These varieties are classified by families: Sativa, Indica and hybrid. The sativas are known for their stimulating effect to be taken in the morning and are recommended to treat depression and chronic fatigue; whereas the indicas offer a relaxing effect to be taken in the evening, in particular to fight the stress and to support the sleep.
Suppliers and sales network of cannabis in Canada and Quebec
In Canada, medical clinics are not authorized to sell cannabis. Only producers authorized by Health Canada are allowed to sell cannabis products for medical purposes. There are more than a hundred of them in Canada. Their products are sold online with proof of a medical prescription or a proven medical history. Physical outlets are not permitted; however, with the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, some products are made available for physical sale at the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC). But you have to wait in line...
First legal medical clinics in Quebec
In January 2018, in Magog, Nature Médic, a therapeutic cannabis clinic, opened its doors. Then, for a few months only, another is born in Granby. Santé Cannabis , offers four points of service, two in the Montreal area, another in Sherbrooke and another in Quebec City. A research component is attached to it. Another feature is that doctors work on site in these clinics. Other clinics exist, however, they operate through SKYPE with physicians outside of Quebec who are not in good standing with the College of Physicians.
We are still in the early stages of research on cannabis and its therapeutic effects. But already, following its use, recent clinical observations allow to notice a relief of pain symptoms, tremors, spasms, inflammation, which are common to several pathologies (multiple sclerosis, spinal cord diseases, fibromyalgia, depression). Cannabis can also stimulate appetite and even cause weight gain in AIDS patients. Finally, the literature and clinical observations seem to be unanimous as to the relief of symptoms without incurring, to an excessive extent, side effects, certainly a major asset. In this light, we understand the interest of other European countries in Canadian advances.
One caveat, however. Since cannabis is associated with euphoric effects, this reputation seems to create resistance among the public to its use for purely therapeutic purposes. There are also concerns about negative risks, particularly those associated with mental health. Think of the concerns raised by the scientific community about the potentially negative effects of cannabis on young developing brains under the age of 25. Another concern is the fact that there is a single purchasing network for two distinct markets: recreational and medicinal.
Some interesting sources:
Understanding the new medical cannabis access regulations
Medical cannabis use