Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Ganja for pain - New medical cannabis products aids with pain management

Published:Tuesday | November 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMHenry Lowe
Medical cannabis

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) remain as one of the most pressing crises in global health, disproportionately affecting people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three quarters of global NCD deaths occur.

More than 150,000 Jamaicans have diabetes and suffer from other chronic illnesses. NCDS share three main common features - it long duration, inflammation and pain.

NCDs, also known as chronic or lifestyle diseases, are usually the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors. The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

Approximately 25 per cent of Jamaicans between 15 and 74 years old have hypertension, and 70 per cent of the country's deaths are due to four major NCDS, 35 per cent of which occur below the age of 70 years old.

In treating persons living with one or more NCDs, pain management becomes a major topic of discussion. Cannabis has long been believed to be an effective treatment for numerous ailments such as glaucoma, hepatitis C, acute myeloid leukaemia and pain associated with various NCDs.




Extensive research conducted by Biotech R&D Institute based at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and Flavocure LLC based at the Medical School at the University of Maryland found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are compounds found in cannabis, are effective in treating pain, inflammation (swelling and redness), and muscle control problems.

While THC is the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant responsible for creating the 'high' feeling associated with marijuana use, CBD has the same chemical formula but its atoms are arranged differently, effectively removing its psychoactive component. With this discovery, researchers have found that CBD is an effective treatment for pain without psychoactivity.




Even though cannabis is non-toxic and offers medical benefits for a seemingly never-ending list of ailments, not everyone looking for relief wants to smoke a spliff or munch down a pot brownie. Also, using cannabis in its natural form to treat any ailment will undoubtedly result in patients being affected by the THC compound of the plant.

Research has found that topical application of cannabinoids, that is, the application of the compound to the skin through creams and sprays, allows them to be absorbed directly into the affected area for faster and more focused relief.

Topicals are non-psychoactive because the cannabinoids in these topicals bind to cannabinoid receptors 2 (CB2) near the skin, activating the endocannabinoid system in the body, and are never absorbed into the bloodstream. Topical applications of cannabinoids also benefit the skin, thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immune-modulating properties. Burns, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, and skin infections can all be relieved with the pain relief and antibacterial properties exhibited by cannabinoids when used in topicals.

Using this discovery, Medicanja Limited has developed six cannabis-derived products for the management of a variety of pains. The products have different delivery mechanisms from creams to sprays to meet persons individual problems as well as choices of formulations. They are CanjaCol, CanjaRub, Relevium Cream and Spray, Tivasat and Somnican also called 'One Drop'.

Medicanja Limited (MCJ) was established in 2013 and is the first Jamaican and regional ganja-centric company, established to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise a range of cannabis medicinal products isolated and modified to satisfy the pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, functional foods and cosmeceuticals needs to treat and manage various health care conditions.

- Professor Henry Lowe is a research scientist who specialises in medicinal chemistry. He is also the founder of Medicanja Limited.