CBD in the news
Philip McGuire is a professor of psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience at King’s College London; he has a special interest in psychosis and started looking into cannabidiol about 15 years ago. One of the first experiments he worked on looked at how cannabidiol works in the brains of healthy people in comparison with the impact that THC has. The results were categoric. “We basically showed that the two compounds have opposite effects on brain function,” says McGuire. “So when THC is making you psychotic, it stimulates certain bits of the brain. And in these areas of the brain, CBD has the opposite effect, essentially, in the same people.” To boil it down: “CBD and THC seem to be pushing in opposite directions.”
He went on to refer to his clinical trial against placebo;
“We’ve done two phase-two trials and, in both of these, found that cannabidiol reduced psychotic symptoms more than the placebo did,” he says. “So it wasn’t a placebo effect, it really did reduce psychotic symptoms.”
McGuire’s work is ongoing, but he doesn’t hide his excitement about CBD. “It’s the hottest new medicine in mental health by some margin,” he says. “There’s huge interest in it as a potential new treatment.”
In response to the complications of lung deterioration due to the secondary effects of Covid 19, initial studies showed positive responses on the inflammation to lungs and the consequent damage when treated with CBD.
Carried out by researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia, the study shows that CBD could help patients with COVID-19 who show signs of respiratory distress to avoid extreme interventions like mechanical ventilation as well as death from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
The researchers say that clinical trials to determine optimal dosage and timing is needed before CBD becomes part of the treatment for COVID-19.
ARDS in COVID-19
The researchers’ studies have indicated that pure CBD can help the lungs recover from the overwhelming inflammation, or ‘cytokine storm’, caused by the COVID-19 virus, and help to restore healthier oxygen levels in the body.
Dr Babak Baban, immunologist and interim associate dean for research at DCG and corresponding author of the study in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, said: “ARDS is a major killer in severe cases of some respiratory viral infections, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and we have an urgent need for better intervention and treatment strategies.”
The researchers’ findings have been possible due to the finding of a safe model to duplicate the lung damage caused by ARDS.
The model produced classic symptoms of ARDS, then, CBD significantly downregulated classic indicators of the excess, such as inflammation-promoting cytokines, as it improved oxygen levels in the blood and enabled the lungs to recover from the structural damage.
Both clinical symptoms and physical lung changes resulting from ARDS were reversed with CBD treatment, the researchers say. CBD quickly improved the clinical symptoms in the mouse models, then later detailed studies of the lungs showed damage to their structure, like tissue overgrowth, scarring and swelling also had totally or partially resolved.
The researchers next steps include conducting similar studies on other organs impacted by COVID-19 including the gut, heart, and brain.
A single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) helped increase blood flow to the hippocampus, an important area of the brain associated with memory and emotion, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.
Researchers say the findings could be an important discovery for conditions which affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and could help better target therapies.
In the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers set out to investigate how CBD influences cerebral blood flow in different regions on the brain involved in memory processing.
Lead author, Dr Michael Bloomfield (UCL Psychiatry) said: “Cannabidiol is one of the main constituents of cannabis and is gaining interest for its therapeutic potential.
“There is evidence that CBD may help reduce symptoms of psychosis and anxiety. There is some evidence to suggest that CBD may improve memory function.
“Additionally, CBD changes how the brain processes emotional memories, which could help to explain its reputed therapeutic effects in PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. However, the precise mechanisms underlying the effects of CBD on memory are unclear.”
CBD significantly increased blood flow in the hippocampus, however CBD did not cause significant differences in blood flow in other regions of the medial temporal lobe (MTL), of which the hippocampus is a significant component.
In the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain used for planning and decision making, CBD caused a significant increase in blood flow in the orbitofrontal cortex.
“This supports the view that CBD has region-specific blood flow effects in the human brain, which has previously been disputed.
“If replicated, these results could lead to further research across a range of conditions characterised by changes in how the brain processes memories, including Alzheimer’s disease, where there are defects in the control of blood control flow, along with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Elephant at Warsaw Zoo to test cannabis-extract oil
This year has been a difficult time for Fredzia, a young female African elephant at Warsaw Zoo in the Polish capital.
The zoo's four elephants became three in March, following the death of Erna, the largest female and elder of the herd.
Erna's death left Fredzia in mourning, putting her under stress.
Zoo keepers noticed an immediate change in Frezia's behaviour, as she attempted to make sense of life without Erna.
"Fredzia reacted strangely when she saw Erna's body. She was really excited," Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska, head of the zoo's Animal Rehabilitation Department, told the BBC. "But you could see that she was also grieving actually, she was also depressed."
Since then, zoo keepers say Fredzia has displayed signs of stress, as she struggles to establish a new relationship with her female companion, Buba. It can take months or even years for elephants to cope with the loss of an elder and restore a sense of harmony within the herd.
"This is a huge game-changer in every elephant group. Elephants might have behavioural problems when the structure of a group changes," Dr Czujkowska said.
While distressing for Fredzia, this emotional turmoil has presented Warsaw Zoo with an opportunity to test an experimental new treatment.
Dr Czujkowska and her colleagues have launched a project to check whether cannabis-extract oil will reduce anxiety in the zoo's animals.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, is derived from a cannabis plant compound.
The oil is thought to stimulate the production of serotonin and dopamine, messenger chemicals in the brain, which can help combat depression.
The zoo's elephants will be the first animals to be given the CBD oil, as they are prone to stress and at the same time relatively easy to monitor.
Given her recent behaviour, Fredzia is thought to be the ideal candidate for the study.
"When Erna passed away, everything changed. I don't think Fredzia was ready for such a big change," Dr Czujkowska said.
"Fredzia is always thinking about what Buba is doing now, before that she was more calm."
The first stage of the trial has already been completed. It involved collecting faeces, saliva and blood samples from the elephants to monitor their cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the bodies of humans and animals in stressful situations.
"We are planning to give them the CBD and measure the cortisol again. This is the experiment. Then we know for sure [the oil] is working or not," Dr Czujkowska said.
The CBD oil will be administered directly to the elephants' mouths or mixed in with their food. Their health will be regularly checked through blood tests.
Although derived from cannabis, the oil does not cause any feeling of intoxication. That's because the oil does not contain THC, a psychoactive component of cannabis.
Dr Czujkowska does not expect the elephants to experience any serious side effects.
"It's not very potent. The only side effect will be some behavioural changes," Dr Czujkowska said. "We will have to manage these to achieve the results we want."
Dr Czujkowska said that, to her knowledge, the project was the first of its kind to monitor the cortisol levels of elephants before and after they have taken CBD oil.
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