The 2015 meeting of the International Association for Cannabinoids as Medicine (IACM) took place Sept. 17–19 in Sestri Lavante, Italy.
By Jahan Marcu, Ph.D.
This year’s IACM featured researchers and medical doctors from Mexico, Japan and South America and t, in addition to the usual North American and European participants.
IACM’s recent surge in popularity may be due to its focus on providing members with access to reliable and accurate clinical information about cannabis. The longest-running international research conference on the science of the cannabis plant, IACM features a range of presentations, from the analysis and chemistry of cannabis to the mechanisms of how this plant interacts with biochemical systems in mammals. One of the themes that emerged from the conference was a significant amount of research regarding the effect of diet on cannabis pharmacology, and the role of cannabis within the diet. In other words, our interaction with THC is dependent on our diets.
Tantalizing facts about cannabis nutrition and the latest clinical findings were presented, and researchers discussed cannabis species, genetics and potency at length. Scientists have been searching for the chemical clues to reliably identify and determine what makes a sativa or an indica different from each other. But the evidence is lacking to support significant differences between sativas and indicas, which are anecdotally associated with treating certain ailments. (For more on this subject, see my “Advanced Cannabis Science” article in the Sept. 2015 Freedom Leaf.)
“When you believe in chemistry, you must be able to measure something,” said Dr. Arno Hazekamp, Head of Research and Education at Bedrocan BV, in The Netherlands. “It can’t just be magic.” His research shows regional differences in the medical use of cannabis; in Germany, for example, more patients use it for insomnia than in other countries.
San Diego-based naturopathic specialist Dr. Michelle Sexton discussed her survey of patients’ conditions; the top seven helped by cannabis are pain, anxiety, depression, headache/migraine, arthritis, nausea and spasticity. She suggested using data mined from patients to guide policies on qualifying conditions to include in state programs.
“The endocannabinoid system can become bored,” said France’s Dr. Olivier Manzoni during his presentation on how eating bad food can lead to bad moods by altering the activity of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). For example, diets lacking in Omega 3 fatty acids—contained in cannabis seeds—impair mood and brain activity in mammals. Conversely, a better diet could mean better effects from cannabis. The subject of cannabinoids and other cannabis nutrients as part of the diet is gaining momentum as a dynamic subject of research around the world.
The raw juice of whole-plant cannabis provides a large array of nutraceuticals that could help in the management of neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis. Raw or un-decarboxylated cannabis juice contains lipid-soluble Vitamin E, essential fatty acids (i.e., PUFAs, Omega 3, Omega 6), essential amino acids, antioxidants and cannabinoid acids. When prepared properly (blending fresh flowers with stems and leaves), raw cannabis juice is devoid of the psychotropic effects normally associated with cured cannabis. The absence of stimulation is due to either the presence of THCA and/or CBD, and a lack of decarboxylated THC.
When it comes to harvesting cannabis for juicing or raw consumption, timing is everything. Italian researcher Viola Brugnatelli has began a clinical study of raw cannabis juice with the Asociación Cannábica Preocupada por el Estudio del Cannabis y Sus Efectos en los Consumidores (Study of Cannabis and Its Effects on Consumers) in Barcelona, Spain. In her trial, the juice consists of 2.5 grams of fresh flowers, 300 grams of fresh leaves and 7.5 grams of oil. The patient groups are randomized, and the juices (either raw cannabis or placebo spinach) are delivered five times daily.
Brugnatelli’s juicy project is supported through a unique crowdfunding initiative that’s combined with volunteer work, representing a novel approach for clinical research in this area. “Patients are interested in full-plant cannabis and not just extracts or single-compound cannabinoids,” noted Croatian cannabis clinician Dr. Veronika Rasic, amid the IACM’s many research presentations on cannabis and diet. (For more information on how to potentially participate, go to therawstudy.eu.)
New cannabis products are being developed at a rapid pace, challenging quality-control chemists to quickly develop analytical methods to comply with regulations and testing requirements. Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, lead scientist at NIDA’s cannabis cultivation center at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, has the only federal license to grow cannabis in the U.S., and has worked for decades analyzing forensic cannabis samples. Colleagues attending the conference, including myself, have suggest he employ a new technique that combines cryomilling and flash chromatography as a better way to isolate cannabinoids from such cannabis-infused products as chocolate, baked goods, candies and skin creams. This technique could also be applied to isolating individual cannabinoids from flower extracts (oils or concentrates) for use in formulations or in analysis work. (For more on Dr. ElSohly, see “Mississippi Growing” in the July/Aug. 2015 Freedom Leaf.)
IACM showcases the most relevant lab and clinical research on the cannabis plant performed by doctors and scientists. For years, it was an exclusive group due to concerns over the legal and political landscape. A lot has changed, but research is still inhibited by onerous government regulations. “More investigation is required on all the other phytocannabinoids,” stated British cannabis pharmacologist Roger Pertwee. “And more clinical data.” He wants to leave no cannabinoids understudied, and I couldn’t agree more.
For more information on IACM, go to cannabis-med.org, and follow @IACM_bulletin at Twitter.
Dr. Jahan Marcu is Freedom Leaf’s Science Editor and the Director of R&D for Green Standard Diagnostics.
Read the latest issue of Freedom Leaf Magazine here.