by Mary Lou Smart www.medicalcannabisart.com
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, topicals and extracts containing cannabis were all the rage.
The catalogs of pharmaceutical giants of the day, including Eli Lilly, E.R. Squibb & Sons, and Park-Davis, were filled with medications containing cannabis.
Extracts from the plant, which was grown all over the United States, were used in tonics, lotions, tinctures, and ointments to treat everything from inflammation and eczema to corns, cuts, and migraines.
Druggist-supply catalogs were filled with bottles and cans, and apothecaries made their own concoctions to keep costs down.
It was widely accepted that age-old remedies containing cannabis worked.
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was legislation that took a sensible medical benefit away from the general population.
In the only hearing prior to the late Friday afternoon, late August, pre-air conditioning House floor vote, the American Medical Association’s legal representative testified that the professional organization was dead-set against the tax act.
He insisted that there had been no data collected to justify the need for a tax and that the scare tactics piecing the legislation together were unfounded.
His testimony was ignored and legislators were duped.
They did not connect the relatively unknown slang term marihuana with the well-known scientific name cannabis.
After the act was approved, any druggist wanting to use cannabis was required to apply for a license and pay the tax. At a time when faster and more convenient delivery methods such as hypodermic needles were preferred anyway, the legislation effectively shut down the medical use of cannabis. In 1942, cannabis was taken out of the U.S. Pharmacopeia and the prohibition was in place. Medical cannabis — marihuana had never been associated with the medicine — drifted into the realm of folklore.
Seven decades later, with medical marijuana programs in 15 states, cannabis is once again finding its way into medicine cabinets via the topical preparations of yester-year. This time around, there is no shortage of scientific research to explain why the plant works so well.
In healthy bodies, endocannabinoids have a role in regu-lating inflammation. In 1992, scientists Raphael Mechoulam and William Devane identified anandamide, Sanskrit for “eternal bliss,” as a natural brain molecule that binds to the brain’s cannabinoid receptor.
Endocannabinoids, which are able to pass through the blood / brain barrier (endorphins are not), are likely to be creating the desirable natural high that kicks in after exercise.
United States Patent # 6,630,507 B1, owned by the United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C., entitled Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, is a federal rhapsody of the usefulness of cannabinoids in treating myriad oxidation-associated diseases, including inflammatory and autoimmune dis-eases, and as neuroprotectants, which could mean any-thing from stroke to head injury, Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or dementia.
From head to toe, the human body is chock full of endo-cannabinoid receptors. When cannabis is applied in the location of these receptors, beaucoup studies show that it is well received.
No surprise, then, that when it comes to surface issues, cannabis is a perfect, natural fit, bringing fast relief that can last for hours.
Onna, who requested anonymity, is a California resident with lupus, fibromyalgia, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease. A medical cannabis patient, she discovered the benefits of lotions and creams while visiting a dispensary near Palm Springs.
After trying a sample of Doc Green’s Therapeutic Healing Cream, she was surprised to find that the pain in her lower back, directly at the spot of application, disappeared immediately.
“I’m constantly in pain, so I’m having to find alternative ways to medicate myself where I’m not just constantly taking narcotic pain medication,” she said. “Lotions have really helped.”
Doc Green’s combines cannabis extracts with deep pene-trating shea butter lotion infused with essential oils contributing the scent of either lavender or vanilla. In business for two years, Doc Green’s uses a proprietary formula that it maintains cooks longer and at lower temperatures than other cannabis lotions, thus avoiding the strong cooked-marijuana scent of, say, a pot brownie. A 4-ounce bottle sells in dispensaries for approximately $25.
“The beauty of the lotion as designed is that it penetrates into the skin, down into the muscles and deeper tissue,” said Daniel Kosmal, president. “People are using it for muscle spasms, cramped muscles, tendonitis, and arthritis.”
Testing patients medicating solely with lotions, the company found that urinalysis did not turn up THC or other cannabis elements in the blood. The creams are reported to work well locally without a psychoactive effect.
“People like to smoke it and use marijuana recreationally, which is fine by us, but when they need to go to work and they want to get through the day, topicals seem to be the way to do that,” Kosmal said. “From what I can see, this really is the future. This is an amazing application of cannabis because it gives benefit right in the location where it’s most needed.”
Constantly in pain, Onna is unable to wean herself from narcotics. She’s also suffering from spinal calcification, which might require surgery. When her lupus is active, she needs cortesteroids for inflammation and pain. She said that cortesteroids eat a hole in her stomach and make her too hyper to sleep.
“Your body takes such a beating from being on the hard medicine,” she said. “There are times when I’ve had pain that it can’t even touch; when that happens, I take pre-scription drugs and have even had epidural pain blocks to get back around to the normal and out of the pain zone.”
When her pain is at manageable levels, she relies on Doc Green’s.
“The lotions have helped me a lot,” she said. “They’ve helped many people I know too.” Onna, who said that she does not like strong fragrances, prefers the milder scent of vanilla to lavender and would rather have a completely unscented product.
“I think you’ll find that people with complicated health issues usually have problems with odors and smells,” she said.
In Colorado, James Kennedy, founded Apothecanna, which features a full line of topical preparations, including Pain Crème, Lip Buzz, Body Budder, and Super Salve. Using lab-tested, C02-extracted oils infused into formulas containing fragrant herbs, he’s gaining market share. Seventy-five wellness centers currently carry Apothecanna’s products.
Apothecanna works to keep the scent of cannabis out of lotions and uses pure plant essences of peppermint, wintergreen, ravensara, juniper, clove, and lavender for their soothing and aromatic properties. Kennedy’s background is the beauty industry; he’s held creative design positions at Aveda and Johnson & Johnson.
“The big difference between our products and other topicals on the mar-ket is the fact that ours are made to feel like professional cosmetic prod-ucts,” he said. “Most of what I see out there are made of greasy wax and olive oil. I call them hippie balms.”
Because patients visiting dispensaries for the first time are either used to smoking or expect to be smoking or using a vaporizer, learning about the age-old topical applications is a process. To introduce patients into the medicinal ways of yesteryear, many offer sample sizes. Apothecanna’s 8-ounce bottle of pain cream sells for approximately $30; trial sizes are available for $5.
“At first, people are hesitant to spend money on topicals,” he said. “When they realize how well the infused products work, they return for more.”
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