The concept of medical marijuana is nothing new, but recent studies surrounding a certain class of cannabinoids, specifically regarding the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, have only recently been given full license. In 2019, there is a legitimate case for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for the treatment of severe epilepsy, chronic pain, and skin conditions. And, while there are already promising signs for psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, it’s clear that only time will tell how large the impact of this budding industry may be.
New ventures such as this lean on the support of governments and invested individuals to give medical researchers the breathing room needed for real progress. Nitin Khanna, CEO of MergerTech, is one such name at the forefront of medical cannabis, propelling the industry toward new horizons and ensuring that physicians across the U.S. are given access to the best possible toolkit. Nitin Khanna is one of many investors who is focused on helping grow the cannabis and CBD industry to an even bigger market. His contributions are helping change the negative stigma of the $100BB industry.
A Brief History of Cannabis in Medicine
From shaman rituals to the intricately refined medicine of East Asia, the cannabis plant has been a constant aid to the treatment of the psychological and physical pain of human beings through the ages. According to W.B. O’Shaughnessy in his 1840 paper on a “New Remedy for Tetanus and Other Convulsive Disorders,” as early as the mid-19th century, even Western practitioners had started using cannabis as a treatment for tetanus and other convulsive diseases
The Green Party would be abruptly dampened by The Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, but a new birth for recreational and medical uses was only a couple of decades away. And while concerns surrounding its psychoactive effects might have been enough to put a lid on marijuana in the public sphere – the cannabis plant being removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1942 – research on its fascinating chemistry couldn’t quite be quelled.
What We Know About Cannabis
Within the cannabis plant, there are 104 known cannabinoids, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Of these, most people are familiar with two: THC and CBD.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the component of the cannabis plant known for its psychotropic effects. This component leads to trippy colors, feelings of relaxation and ecstasy, and deep contemplations about our place in the universe. It is also known to negatively affect mental processing skills, such as decreasing short-term memory and impairing motor skills. In high concentrations, THC can increase the onset of paranoia and hallucinatory experiences.
For recreational users, THC puts the “H” in “high.” In fact, research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine has shown that the potency of THC in one strain of recreational marijuana, sinsemilla, has tripled from 1995 to 2014; from 4 percent to approximately 12 percent.
THC may have a prominent seat at the cannabis table, but medical researchers are becoming more interested in less trippy components of the cannabis plant. They are focusing on chemotypes that show the most promise for treatment of many diverse disorders, from epilepsy and depression to acne and anxiety.
Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil
Cannabidiol is another chemical component of the cannabis plant. It was first separated from hemp oil in 1940 and is considered non-psychoactive – lacking the intoxicating effects common to the cannabis plant.
CBD oil has only recently become legal in many states throughout the U.S., pushed largely by advocates who have witnessed its effects firsthand. In part due to the positive insistence of epileptic caretakers and others who have been given access to CBD in extreme circumstances, we are already seeing a shift that will allow CBD oil to become more readily available to the people who need it.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the largest system of receptors in the human body. It can be thought of like any other system in the body such as the circulatory or digestive system. Like any other system, its pieces function appropriately only with the help of receptors that signal the right course of action to be taken in the presence of a stimulus.
The ECS is made up of two main receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are tasked with receiving cannabinoids and knowing what to do with them. The human body naturally produces cannabinoids like anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, but there are also external sources of cannabinoids that we can source and use as needed. CBD oil is one of them.
CB1 receptors are found largely in the brain, which is where THC is primarily received. They are what trigger the release of the ‘bliss molecule’ anandamide – the very same molecule released during intense meditation or while experiencing a runner’s high.
CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are typically involved in the bodily or ‘peripheral’ systems. They assist with things like balancing the immune system, reducing inflammation, and relieving chronic pain.
The body’s ECS is pre-existing, ready to incorporate cannabinoids either self-made or introduced through new methods. As it happens, THC provides the perfectly shaped key to the CB1 lock while CBN (cannabinol) does the same for CB2 receptors.
Recent research has uncovered CBD’s potential to unlock both CB1 and CB2 receptors. This makes sense, as the component has far-reaching benefits, from treating neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression to the bodily realm of chronic pain, inflammation, and skin conditions.
The Mobile Analogy
For another useful depiction of how CBD oil interacts with the human body, I’ll lean on a charming analogy from Asher Milgrom, PhD, CEO, & Chief Scientist at AMA Regenerative Medicine. Unless you are a recent parent, the hanging mobile may not jump to immediate memory, so take a moment to remind yourself of what it looks like and just how delicately its pieces are interconnected.
This is a powerful metaphor for the human body and how each system hangs upon all of its parts. A change to one necessarily means a shift in every other. This could be the immune system reacting to a virus, the circulatory system sending blood to working muscles, or the digestive system reacting to a particularly spicy meal. Any change to a single piece of the mobile will result in a cacophony of noise, violent swinging shifts, reactions, and interactions which cascade abruptly in response to the new stimulus. CBD is, in essence, a master of bringing about homeostasis. Medicinenet.com calls homeostasis “a property of cells, tissues, and organisms that allows the maintenance and regulation of the stability and constancy needed to function properly.” Consider two approaches to something like a cold virus in the body. In the first, we notice a shift to the mobile. Symptoms fire as the immune system strives to find a new state of balance; we cough, sneeze, and empty our noses into tissues.
Then, the doctor prescribes a series of medications, each with a keen eye for clamping down that section of the mobile which is still swinging. A new state of equilibrium is reached, but it’s a little lopsided. If a new stimulus were to shake it, we might find that the original problems hadn’t really been put to rest at all.
The second approach describes how CBD interacts with the immune system. Milgrom speaks of it as a cascading effect, which is helpful for completing the mobile analogy. Instead of just locking onto a single symptom by introducing new cannabinoids to the endocannabinoid system, research is showing that CBD oil can help the body regain homeostasis more rapidly. Whether that’s by reducing inflammation or kickstarting your adrenaline, CBD has the effect of bringing your bodily systems closer to equilibrium.
How Cannabidiol Oil Can Help
One of the most promising (and heavily studied) areas for CBD oil is in the treatment of epilepsy. Almost one-third of epilepsy patients live with a form that is not responsive to standard treatments. Seizures can be a severe, daily battle, with exhaustive fits that can not only damage the patient’s body but also cause significant damage to neurons and structures of the brain.
CBD’s ability to act as a neuroprotective agent is promising. One study administered 0.9-2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound of bodyweight to 214 severe epilepsy patients. In just 12 weeks, the median monthly seizure rates were reduced by 36 percent.
Other studies have shown similar results for related neurological disorders like Dravet syndrome in children and multiple sclerosis, with further animal testing showing promise for more widespread diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Depression and Anxiety
The World Health Organization has identified depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. And, given that 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from anxiety, the influence of cannabidiol on mental health is no minor mention.
The standard pharmaceutical approach to depression of antidepressants and other synthetic medications has received negative attention for the reliance and resistance patients build over time. It becomes a cycle of recovery, resistance, and then increasing the dosage to meet the same level of “normalcy.”
Many suffering individuals and doctors are looking to research on CBD oil for a new solution. In one study, public speaking was used as a marker for levels of anxiety. 24 individuals were asked to give a speech, with half of the group randomly given either 600mg of CBD or a placebo prior to a performance.
The placebo group displayed higher levels of anxiety, impaired cognitive functioning, and discomfort during the performance compared to those who received CBD. Studies like this suggest that the calming effect of medical cannabis can be achieved without the psychotropic agency of THC.
As they say, “no pain, no gain.” Unfortunately, this maxim doesn’t hold up in the face of that exhaustive chronic pain that many Americans live with every day. It’s a battle that quiets down to a dull hum in one’s best moments while raging up to a screeching pitch in their worst.
One of the leading problems for individuals suffering from chronic pain is this dangerous trade-off: dependency on synthetic drugs with adverse side effects as a means of making it through the day with some level of normalcy. Ideally, if there were an alternative to remove at least one or the other (the dependency or the adverse side effects), that would be classed as a win. The remarkable thing about CBD oil is that it is now being widely accepted as a legitimate way to relieve both.
Human studies have mostly focused on a combination of THC and CBD, Sativex, and its success in relieving chronic pain for arthritis and multiple sclerosis patients. One study found a significant improvement to chronic pain at rest and during movement and an increase in sleep quality for a group of 58 rheumatoid arthritis patients. While researchers have noted that CBD oil is not effective for all patients, it can have a very focused and powerful influence on those who respond positively.
The skin has its own endocannabinoid system, which helps us regulate the hormones and proteins that allow for healthy skin. From more radiant, youthful skin to reduced acne and a reduction of inflammation in skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis, cannabinoids have been shown to have a remarkable impact on the health of an individual’s skin.
Anti-Aging: A 2010 study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology shows that manipulation of the endocannabinoid system is a way to regulate cells for more youthful and radiant skin. Two years later, research found that mice bred without CB1 receptors – also associated with the skin – showed increased signs of skin aging.
Acne: The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal has said that cannabinoids are known to produce lipids that regulate acne vulgaris, dry skin, and seborrhea. A 2014 study showed that CBD oil was able to prevent the activation of known pro-acne agents, such as inflammatory cytokines.
Eczema and Dermatitis: Cannabinoids are understood to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is thought to be the driving factor behind their success in treating skin conditions. Further research still needs to be done, but they are a leading candidate for relieving the symptoms of conditions such as eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Who’s Leading the Change?
One name at the helm of the medical cannabis charge is Nitin Khanna, CEO of MergerTech, a merger & acquisitions firm helping tech-based entrepreneurs and businesses out of Portland, Oregon. Nitin Khanna is and has been for some time, been a keen believer in the future of the cannabis industry and CBD’s place within it. He is also the former CEO of Cura Cannabis, and when Khanna stepped down from the position in 2018. He helped grow the company to be leading provider of cannabis vape cartridges and oil in the Northwest.
In a recent interview, Nitin Khanna revealed his belief that “the only real critical differentiator between one company and another is its people.” He looks to invest in individuals and movements that are capable of inspiring change with thorough execution. While many leaders may see themselves as spearheads of new innovations, Nitin Khanna humbly admits that this isn’t his strength. He specializes in execution, and in the “traditional, old-school business” of cannabis, he sees a real opportunity for execution to rise above and beyond the competition. He invests in the medical and recreational cannabis fields. His company, MergerTech is a mergers and acquisitions firm targeting a small niche of the technology start-up market, specifical businesses beneath the $100M threshold. One of MergerTech’s key visions has been to allow individuals and businesses to acquire the value that they are worth.
The team utilizes global relationships and techniques to help technology firms grow revenue and customer base. Through investing in a variety of industries, Nitin Khanna got involved with investing in the cannabis industry in 2014.
This was specifically inspired by the insight that non-U.S. and non-tech companies are willing to pay more for what they don’t have (i.e. U.S. tech-based companies). Nitin Khanna has a talent for finding and seeing value where it lies. With visionaries like Nitin Khanna and others backing deep exploration into this new and exciting realm of medical potential, researchers and physicians can take confident steps toward a future in which patients can receive the best available treatments, without government or stigma standing in their way.