Cannabis: A Panacea?
If evolution can be reduced to one motivating concept, it’s that anything is possible. The only restriction on the limit of possibility is time.
That being said, I want to explore in this short article the question of whether cannabis may be a potential panacea: nature’s launchpad for creating medicines to cure any ailment. My speculation is that by isolating specific cannabinoids, we can create natural medicines to cure any disease, eliminating the need for big pharma, or at the very least, initiating a paradigm shift away from artificially constructed chemicals and towards carefully-selected naturally occurring cannabinoid compounds.
It is clear that in its present state, cannabis is not a panacea, though it is very close to it. A quick google search reveals that cannabis is renowned to cure over 700 diseases. In practice, however, it can cause a range of side effects in patients who do not respond particularly well to certain cannabinoids, particularly THC. This range includes but is not limited to:
Loss of Motivation
In addition, the cognitive “high” associated with THC may not be of interest to people who are looking for more stable methods of therapy. THC has been called the philosopher’s molecule, but not everyone is looking for a pondering, self-referencing level of awareness.
This is where the cookie crumbles. There are over 100 cannabinoids present in Cannabis, and each one can find higher or lower expression in the plant depending on how that plant is grown and harvested. Most minor cannabinoids are dwarfed by THC and would take tens of years of epigenetic sexual selection to reach similar levels naturally. There are, however, some methods which we can use in the meantime to procure higher levels of these cannabinoids.
Example: CBN (Cannabinol)
Take CBN for example. CBN does not get you high, but has these well-documented uses:
Researchers at Steep Hill Labs have shown that a 5mg dose of CBN is as effective at causing sedation as a 10mg dose of diazepam, a pharmaceutical sedative from the benzodiazepine family. Unfortunately, the natural level of CBN in most current strains of cannabis at the time of harvest is a low 1% (compared to THC, which usually ranges from 10-20%). The percentage of this cannabinoid may be increased tenfold, however, by harvesting the cannabis buds 7-10 days late, after full maturation, and allowing them to age in natural light and room temperature for a period of four years. During this time, the THC percentage is also halved, resulting in a greater THC:CBN ratio.
While this method is hardly practical or economical, it reveals the potential that the cannabis bud has as a medicine of all kinds: to produce molecules other than THC and cognitive effects other than the typical “high.”
The golden age of cannabis legalization is upon us, and many young scientists are taking up research into the potential of Cannabis as a potent, yet natural medicine. This high-grade academic research, coupled with improved technological advances and growing methods, may lead to a global paradigm shift in the way we use medicine.