By Melanie Bone, M.D.
Contemporary thought and certain governmental regulations have led many to believe that cannabis and THC are synonymous. Not true. The plant, Cannabis Sativa, contains over 100 different phytocannabinoids. THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive component of cannabis, responsible for the “high” or “stoned” sensation experienced by those who partake. The other cannabinoids have a wide range of effects and comprise most of what is referred to as “medical marijuana.” Terpenoids are the other major organic components of cannabis. They exert their own pharmacological effect as well as enhancing the effects of the cannabinoids. Hemp and marijuana are both types of Cannabis. Each contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids as well as THC and terpenes. The primary difference between the two is that hemp has 0.3% THC and marijuana has 0.9% THC.
Clinicians often value the medicinal properties of cannabis by looking at research done only on THC. THC has been available for over 20 years in the form of a pill called Marinol. The pill consists of synthetic THC and is used to control nausea and vomiting, and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients and those with cancer cachexia. Unfortunately, synthetic THC is absorbed differently by each patient and anecdotally it is less effective than medical marijuana. This form of THC is probably less effective because it lacks the other cannabinoids and terpenes found in medical cannabis.
There is a name for the complex interaction of THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenoids: the “Entourage Effect.” The synergies endogenous to the plant have evolved over thousands of years to provide a benefit that is far greater than any single compound alone. Research has shown that using the Entourage Effect we have the potential to treat a variety of conditions which might not benefit from pure THC. Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable bowel syndrome, Epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and Chronic Pain are just a few. Worldwide collaborative research will help us identify strains of cannabis and delivery systems to maximize the Entourage Effect. This would help clinicians to improve patient access to a safe, affordable and effective treatment options.
Dr. Melanie Bone is a certified medical marijuana provider in the state of Florida. For more information, visit www.DrMelanieBone.com.