The next time you need to relieve an ache or pain, perhaps you should smoke a joint, use a cannabis sublingual, or enjoy a marijuana-infused edible. A new study affirms that components in the cannabis plant are up to 30x more effective at relieving pain caused by inflammation than Aspirin.
The research was conducted by the University of Guelph. For the first time ever, they pinpointed the pain-relieving molecules in cannabis. By isolating the compounds, Professor Tariq Akhtar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Steven Rothstein, MCB professor, hope to replicate them and produce a natural medicine that is safe, non-addictive, and effective.
“There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids,” said Akhtar. “These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”
The team used a combination of biochemistry and genomics to determine how the cannabis plant makes two very important molecules: cannflavin A and cannflavin B. The “flavonoids” were first discovered in 1985 when researchers verified that they provide anti-inflammatory benefits nearly 30 times the effect gram-for-gram than acetylsalicylic acid (sold as Aspirin).
Because cannabis is highly-regulated around the world, however, additional research on the subject has been stalled. Once Canada legalized weed, Akhtar and Rothstein jumped on the opportunity and began analyzing cannabis to understand how the plant biosynthesizes cannflavins.
“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” said Akhtar. “There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the genome of Cannabis sativa, which can be mined for information. If you know what you’re looking for, one can bring genes to life, so to speak, and piece together how molecules like cannflavins A and B are assembled.”
The team’s findings were recently published in the journal Phytochemistry. With the newly-discovered information, they hope to develop natural health products that contain the important flavonoids. “Being able to offer a new pain relief option is exciting, and we are proud that our work has the potential to become a new tool in the pain relief arsenal,” said Rothstein.
The main objective behind studying the cannflavins was to develop a safer and more effective means of treating pain. Opioids block the brain’s pain receptors but are highly addictive. Furthermore, they may deliver significant side effects. Cannflavins, on the other hand, target pain by reducing inflammation.
“The problem with these molecules is they are present in cannabis at such low levels, it’s not feasible to try to engineer the cannabis plant to create more of these substances,” explained Rothstein. “We are now working to develop a biological system to create these molecules, which would give us the opportunity to engineer large quantities.”
To fulfill their vision, the research team partnered with Anahit International Corp. The Toronto-based company has licensed a patent from the University of Guelph to biosynthesize cannflavin A and B outside of the cannabis plant.
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“Anahit looks forward to working closely with University of Guelph researchers to develop effective and safe anti-inflammatory medicines from cannabis phytochemicals that would provide an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” said Anahit chief operating officer Darren Carrigan.
“Anahit will commercialize the application of cannflavin A and B to be accessible to consumers through a variety of medical and athletic products such as creams, pills, sports drinks, transdermal patches and other innovative options.”
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IMAGE CREDIT1: Sebastian Kaulitzki
IMAGE CREDIT2: epicstockmedia