I am honored to begin my Herbal Pioneers Interview Series with an interview with neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, Ethan Russo. Ethan has worked with cannabis extensively since the 1990’s and continues to pioneer the research on the human endocannabinoid system. He is the former Medical Advisor to GW Pharmaceuticals and Past-President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. What I like most about Ethan’s work is his ability to scrutinize down to an individual constituent all the while understanding the importance of the synergy of whole plant medicine.
This became a two-part series as I like to keep my blog posts short and I encourage readers to take the time to follow the links Dr. Russo provides for more in depth answers to the questions. In the first interview Ethan describes how he began researching cannabinoids, debunks the terms “sativa” and “indica” and explains how those descriptions have nothing to do with the effects attributed to them. (Thank You-this has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time!) In next week’s blog we discuss terpenoids, the future of cannabis laboratory testing and how the FDA is responding to the labeling of CBD products.
JB: Ethan, thank you for participating in this interview and for your diligence in spreading the truth about cannabis.
Aa young scientist, what inspired you to research the constituents present in the Cannabis plant?
ER: After several years in practice, I came to believe that I was giving increasingly toxic pharmaceuticals to my patients with less and less progress. Some of my patients were employing adjunctive cannabis to treat their illnesses even back in the 1980s, especially multiple sclerosis. This caused me to look back to my teenage interest in medicinal herbs. I then embarked on a mission to find herbal agents to treat migraine more effectively. The greatest abundance of herbal agents is found in the Amazon, so I took Spanish classes once a week for a year and a half before two trips to Peru. The second took place in 1995, when I spend the bulk of a three-month sabbatical working with the Machiguenga tribe in Parque Nacional del Manù. They had a great abundance of psychoactive agents and migraine treatments. Shortly after my return, I became embroiled in the clinical cannabis controversy. Over the next several years, I experienced continual federal roadblocks to that research and began writing, editing and lecturing on the subject, and eventually, in 2003, it became the primary focus of my work.
JB: Have you published (or will publish) anything on your work with the Machiguenga tribe?
ER: Yes. I wrote an article on the Machiguenga tribe’s diet and its pertinence to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It is accessible here: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/machiguenga-peruvian-hunter-gatherers/
JB: What is your opinion on the debate on whether there are two different species Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica (more if you include ruderalis or afghanica) or if all cannabis plants are Cannabis sativa?
ER: I have personally been on every side of this issue. The botanical taxonomists will never agree. To be sure, the way that the terms “sativa” and “indica” are applied in common parlance is absolute nonsense. What consumers need to know is the actual chemical composition of the cannabis, both cannabinoids and terpenoids, in an accurate fashion by a reliable laboratory to have a better idea of its likely effects. I recently was interviewed on this subject at greater length, which is available here: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/can.2015.29003.ebr
Read next weeks 420 blog post with the second part of the interview and celebratory post!
To see Ethan Russo speak in person, attend the Medicinal Cannabis Conference in Arcata, California April 23-24, 2016 Medicinal Cannabis Conference Website
For more information on Ethan’s work and our endocannabinoid system, check out researchgate.net/profile/ethan_russo/contributions and phytecs.com
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