The pharmacological effects of the cannabis plant have been exploited for millennia for medicinal purposes, including mainstream usage in Europe and North America between 1840 to 1940. However, it is less than 100 years since the chemicals in cannabis responsible for some of its effects and the pharmacological actions of some of these chemicals were identified.
The cannabis flower contains over 500 natural compounds, including 104 identified cannabinoids, the most studied being Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
These plant derived cannabinoids, ‘phytocannabinoids’, interact with cannabinoid receptors in the human body’s Endocannabinoid System. These cannabinoid receptors are located predominantly in the central nervous system and the immune system, among others. Naturally occurring cannabinoids produced in the bodies of humans & animals, the ‘endocannabinoids’, interact with these receptors to modulate brain, endocrine and immune functions.
Plant derived cannabinoids are able to mimic these endocannabinoids by interacting with and/or affect the interaction of other compounds in the body with these receptors. Different cannabinoids have different physiological effects depending on which receptors they interact with. For example, THC interacts with receptors in the central nervous system whereas CBD interacts with other receptors located throughout the body. Because of this, different types of medical effects can be achieved through using differing quantities of cannabinoids in the cannabinoid medicines.
There is significant clinical evidence demonstrating the medical benefits of cannabinoid medicines in respect to the treatment of chronic pain, neuropathic pain, as anti-emetics in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and for improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity.
Cannabinoid medicines can be delivered orally, topically via skin creams and transdermal patches, ingested or vaporised for respiratory delivery.
Cannabinoid medicines can only be prescribed by a medical practitioner.