Posted on Sep 04, 2023, 4 p.m.
In collaboration, researchers from the Friedrich Schiller University with colleagues from America, Austria, and Italy report having identified the mode of action underlying the anti-inflammatory effects that are demonstrated in cannabinoids, in a study taking a different look at cannabis, the traditional medicinal plant, that is described in the journal Cell Chemical Biology.
The team investigated how certain compounds from the cannabis plant counteracts inflammation, building on previous research showing its anti-inflammatory effects, as well as analgesic and antispasmodic properties. They studied how different cannabinoids such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol)found freely in many products available today can act on human cells.
“We found that all eight cannabinoids we studied had anti-inflammatory effects,” adds Lukas Peltner, doctoral student and first author of the study. “All the compounds we studied were found to inhibit the formation of pro-inflammatory messenger substances in cells while enhancing the formation of inflammation-resolving substances.” “However, the reason for the anti-inflammatory effect was largely unclear until now,” says Dr. Paul Mike Jordan, who led the study together with Prof. Oliver Werz.
The team reports that, in particular, CBD was highly effective at counteracting inflammation by inducing a switch in immune cells: specifically, by activating the 15-lipoxygenase-1 enzyme which triggers the production of inflammation-fighting messenger compounds that subsequently causes inflammation to subside.
“CBD thus induces a switch in the affected cells, so to speak, which steers the inflammatory process from the promoting to the inhibiting side,” explains Dr. Jordan. The researchers were also able to confirm these results, which were obtained in cell cultures, in animal experiments on mice.
The team concluded that, in the long term, the insight provided by this research could lead to new strategies for treating inflammatory diseases. They also suggest that future research should focus on CBD which was shown to be the most effective cannabinoid in this study. Currently approved preparations with cannabinoids contain CBD, “but also the psychoactive THC, which can be associated with a variety of side effects”, notes Dr. Jordan, adding that therapeutics containing CBD only would solve that issue.
The German government is currently planning to relax legislation on the use of cannabis, and a few days ago the federal government made the decision to make the acquisition as well as possession of small amounts of cannabis (up to 25 grams) exempt from punishment. However, the German parliament still needs to approve the draft bill, but if so this long overdue move will have the “Cannabis Act” come into force next year (2024).
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