This blog post continues my 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.
In my final questions with Ethan, we speak about terpenoids, the future of cannabis laboratory testing and how the FDA is responding to the labeling of CBD products. It is my hope that these interviews help dispel the deception that has surrounded cannabis since its prohibition and help create a more informed future.
You can read the first part of the interview here Herbal Pioneers Interview with Ethan Russo
JB: The number of terpenes that are significant in lab testing is constantly changing. Which, if any, chemical constituents are responsible for the enhancement of CBD? THC?
ER: There have been over 200 terpenoids isolated from different cannabis chemovars, but certain ones predominate, especially myrcene in modern strains, which largely accounts for the “couchlock” that is all too common nowadays, even with cannabidiol strains that should actually be slightly stimulating, but for that. When limonene is included in sufficient amounts, it tends to “brighten” the effect and exert a pronounced mood elevation that can be quite helpful in many chronic conditions. A rare component these days is pinene. It has a remarkable ability to counteract the short-term memory impairment engendered by THC, an effect that makes cannabis treatment problematic for patients that still need to utilize it while they work or study.
CBD is still a difficult commodity to find in many states. When present in high amounts, it will delay and blunt the peak high of THC somewhat, prolong its effect, and reduce its tendency to increase heart rate and anxiety. Beyond that, it has remarkable benefits on pain and inflammation.
JB: Since pinene is a rare component in cannabis today and has the benefit of counteracting short-term memory loss, and other herbs like pine contain pinene, is research being done on the synergist effects of other herbs with cannabis?
ER: There may be a lot of experimentation going on out there along these lines. I have current plans for formal clinical trials to examine cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions. The protocol is all set to go—we merely need funding to initiate the experiments.
JB: I have seen the same sample of Cannabis test at different levels from different testing laboratories. Are you familiar with the laboratory standards of establishing THC and CBD percentages? Are these percentages even remotely accurate?
ER: We need to keep in mind that virtually all the analytical labs are actually contravening federal law by doing these assays. I’m afraid the quality control in the industry is quite hit or miss, with many examples of poor work and extreme variability. There are laboratory certifications available now, and these should be encouraged. Assays of cannabinoids are difficult, and hampered often times by lack of good analytical standards from industry. The best labs develop their own. Terpenoid analysis is even more technically challenging, and few labs offer that at the present time.
JB: The FDA has sent cease and desist letters to some CBD product manufacturers stating that there is some evidence of medicinal use and so cannot be sold as a dietary supplement. Do you believe research has proven that Cannabis has several medicinal properties?
ER: It is certain that cannabis has many medicinal properties. Just as a simple example, Sativex® (USAN: nabiximols), a cannabis-based oromucosal spray is approved as a prescription pharmaceutical in 27 countries for spasticity (muscle tightness) in multiple sclerosis. In Canada, it is also approved for pain in MS and in cancer unresponsive to optimized opioid treatment. Another cannabis-based medicine, Epidiolex®, an almost pure cannabidiol extract should be soon approved by the FDA in the USA for treatment of intractable epilepsy in children. However, approval of such a pharmaceutical form of cannabis will not influence the scheduling of other cannabis products. The FDA first went after CBD producers that had no cannabidiol in their products. Now they are issuing cease and desist letters to other companies that are exaggerating the CBD content, or making unsubstantiated medical claims. Rather, structure-function statements should be the maximum claim, as is currently the situation with other herbal products in the USA.
While we’re at it, for better or worse, cannabidiol is still a Schedule I forbidden drug in this country. Claims to the contrary, such as “Our CBD is derived from hemp and is legal in all 50 states,” are a function of tortured legal logic and wishful thinking.
JB: Ethan, thank you for participating in this interview and for your diligence in spreading the truth about cannabis.
To see Ethan Russo speak in person, attend the Medicinal Cannabis Conference in Arcata, California April 23-24, 2016 http://www.medicalmarijuanaconference.net/?page_id=246
For more information on Ethan’s work and our endocannabinoid system, check out
Happy 420 everyone! We have witnessed the end of cannabis prohibition and an evolutionary leap of consciousness.
When energy flows, wellness grows