This article is a tribute to the findings of leading CBD research doctors.

Brazil, a Hotbed of CBD Research

Elisaldo Carlini, 87, is a retired Brazilian professor who spent his life researching cannabinoids, including CBD. Carlini worked at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), a prestigious Brazilian university founded in 1933 as a medical research facility. He spearheaded the cannabinoid research during the 1960s, producing numerous groundbreaking studies on how attributes of cannabinoids might possibly be used to treat spasms and convulsions.


In his 1973 letter to the editor of the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology titled “Cannabidiol and Cannabis sativa extract protect mice and rats against convulsive agents”, Elisaldo stated that “cannabinoid compounds might have an anti-epileptic value” but that their use is hampered by the hallucinogenic properties of THC. However, there is a "possibility that a compound might be found without the hallucinogenic effects but active as an anticonvulsant", noting that "cannabidiol (CBD) is a likely candidate".


In the letter, Elisaldo retells a novel experiment conducted by Brazilian and Argentinian researchers on 3-month-old mice. Over the course of 38 days, 20 mice were given water with barbitone sodium (sleeping pills) to make them relaxed and cozy. Then, half were injected with leptazol (Pentetrazol), a drug that causes seizures, and half with CBD.


All mice were then exposed to a bell sound at 95-105 dB for one minute, at which point they were expected to have stress seizures and die. Of the ten mice that got CBD, only one showed wild running and convulsions, compared to six of the ten that didn’t receive CBD. Elisaldo concludes that “other drugs failed to afford protection towards convulsions in such rats” and thanks Raphael Mechoulam, a cannabinoid researcher from the hemp-friendly Israel for providing CBD for that experiment.

Hemp-friendly Israel

Raphael Mechoulam, currently employed by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was the first to isolate THC.  He published a paper about it titled “Isolation, Structure, and Partial Synthesis of an Active Constituent of Hashish” in 1964. Since then, Israel has made massive strides towards understanding cannabinoids, especially when it comes to providing elderly cancer patients with medical cannabis to help relieve vomiting and nausea. In the meantime, Raphael and his fellow scientists are diligently working to make a better cannabis drug.


In his 2013 publication titled “Towards a better cannabis drug”, Raphael comments on a study that showed CBD can prevent memory disruption in tested monkeys. He commented that “medicinal cannabis containing reasonably high levels of CBD is a better drug than cannabis with low levels of CBD or pure THC alone”, stating that “CBD opposes some, but not all, forms of behavioral and memory disruption by THC”.

Brazil and Israel Uncovering Hemp Secrets

Of course, Elisaldo and Raphael know one another. When interviewed about their joint work, Raphael noted that they’ve been able to isolate the anti-convulsant cannabinoid (CBD) over 40 years ago by successfully testing it on epileptic patients, and it’s only now being officially approved. (Epidiolex was approved June 2018). Their joint study, published in 1978 and titled “Toward drugs derived from cannabis”, collates all of the then-known research on cannabinoids, including how they could potentially be used to treat a variety of chronic health problems, such as glaucoma and asthma. Back then, THC was in the limelight but there were hints CBD might hold some therapeutic value too.


A 1977 study gave eight healthy volunteers 200 mg of CBD a day for 30 days, noting no toxicity or adverse effects. After that, the study chose nine epileptic patients and gave four of them 200 mg of CBD a day for 3 months in addition to their usual synthetic drugs. Two of the four showed a “remarkable improvement”, registering zero convulsions during those three months, with the study adding that “no toxic effects were observed”. Why some of them were helped but others weren’t still hasn’t been explained.

New Wave of Research

As older researchers retire, the next generation is continuing to produce a new wave of research. Brazilian researchers are assessing whether cannabinoids could help psychiatric cases. Riding this new wave of research is a Brazilian neuroscientist named Antonio Waldo Zouari, a professor of psychiatry at the University of São Paulo (USP).


Antonio’s 2008 study titled “Cannabidiol: from an inactive cannabinoid to a drug with wide spectrum of action” collates evidence on CBD as a potential remedy for anxiety, noting that “results from studies in healthy volunteers strongly suggest an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) action of CBD”. How about schizophrenia?


Antonio mentions a 1995 study where a patient with schizophrenia who had serious side effects from synthetic drugs was given 1500 mg of CBD a day for four weeks. As long as the CBD treatment lasted, “a significant improvement was observed”, disappearing when the CBD treatment stopped. To make CBD research look even more promising, Antonio notes that “it has been suggested that CBD may protect neurons”, citing studies that injected toxins and diseases into animal brains before giving them CBD to study the damage, prompting him to state that the studies were “indicating that this drug is a potent antioxidant.”

Antonio also notes that “anti-oxidative action of CBD can be responsible for the neuroprotection reported in animal models of Parkinson's disease”. The body already has a defense against degeneration of nerve cells, and CBD seems to affect that defense, with Antonio stating that “antioxidant properties of CBD can provide neuroprotection against the progressive degeneration”. Next, CBD was tested against another degenerative disease, Alzheimer’s.


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is also linked to oxidative stress, and studies showed that “CBD inhibits hyperphosphorylation of tau protein in beta-A-stimulated PC12 neuronal cells, which is one of the most representative hallmarks of AD”, suggesting “a possible anti-inflammatory action”. Speaking of which, CBD was also tested against inflammation, so let’s see how it fared.


When tested on arthritic mice, “CBD, administered i.p. (intraperitoneally, by injection into the abdomen) or orally, has blocked the progression of arthritis”, prompting Antonio to state that “the suppressive effects of CBD on cellular immune responses and on the production of pro-inflammatory mediators may indicate its usefulness in several inflammatory diseases.”


CBD was also tested on ischemia (loss of blood supply) that’s at the core of strokes. When gerbils had their neck artery closed off for 10 minutes and were then given up to 20 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight, one study found that their brains didn’t suffer any damage, noting a “complete survival of CA1 neurons in CBD-treated gerbils”, with a similar effect reported on mice.

Conclusion: More Research is Coming

Despite making significant strides towards understanding the potential beneficial effects of cannabinoids, researchers such as Elisaldo, Raphael and Antonio still face a lot of resistance when they try to present hemp as a possible fount of natural remedies. Brazil’s equivalent of the FDA, Anvisa, has even started cracking down on hemp research projects and symposiums, claiming that they constitute incitement to grow and use drugs. Even for the leptazol experiment, Elisaldo had trouble obtaining CBD and had to rely on Raphael, which means the Brazil government’s attitude towards hemp has barely improved across decades, if at all.


Elisaldo notes that he has fought for decades to have hemp recognized as a “serious plant”, and with so many countries allowing for medical marijuana, there’s no reason to lag behind the times.


Although many government agencies around the world equate CBD to THC and forbid them both, the potentially life-improving medical research will still keep inching forward.


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