Four drugs based on cannabis compounds are already on the market in Europe. Among them are Nabilone, a synthetic compound that mimics THC, is prescribed for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and Sativex, an oil that contains equal parts THC and CBD, is used to treat muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis. Both contain too much THC to administer to children. “The only medicines that are approved in the UK would get children stoned,” said David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London.
Cannabis oils are extracts from cannabis plants. Unprocessed, they contain the same 100 or so active ingredients as the plants, but the balance of compounds depends on the specific plants the oil comes from. The two main active substances in cannabis plants are cannabidiol, or CBD, and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Oil extracted from hemp plants can contain a lot of CBD, while oil from skunk plants will contain far more THC. THC produces the high that recreational cannabis users seek, while oils for medical use contain mostly CBD.
Other forms of cannabis are solid and are usually sold either as resin or dried plant material. In commercially-produced medical cannabis oils, the concentrations of CBD and THC tend to be well-controlled, which makes it easy to calculate doses.
Don’t we already have cannabis-based drugs?
CBD is an anticonvulsant, and some other compounds in the plant, including THC and cannabidivarin, may be too. There is good evidence from clinical trials in the US and Europe that pharmaceutical preparations of CBD can treat two severe forms of childhood epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Both forms of epilepsy often fail to improve with existing epilepsy drugs. CBD is generally considered safe, but some trials have reported side effects including dry mouth, lightheadedness and altered liver enzyme activity.
Cannabis oil can only be sold legally in Britain if it contains less than 0.05% THC. But the nation’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, announced recently that even pure CBD could not be sold as a medicine without first going through the usual clinical testing and safety checks required for all new medicines. This month, the US Food and Drug Administration will consider the approval of Epidiolex, a CBD-based medicine from GW Pharmaceuticals, which has completed such clinical trials. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will rule on the drug early next year. If the EMA approves Epidiolex, it could be available to prescribe to named patients in Britain next year, Brexit notwithstanding.
Europe is a patchwork of cannabis legislation. In the Netherlands, doctors can prescribe cannabis and cannabis preparations for symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, long-term pain and the tics associated with Tourette’s syndrome. Other European nations are following suit. In the US, at least 29 states allow medical uses of cannabis, and earlier this year, California became the eighth state to permit recreational use of the drug, too.
In this series, we’ll explore the many cannabis concentrate options available to you (depending on your local cannabis laws). Here’s a brief list of broad extract types to familiarize you with what’s to come in this series:
C annabis oils, concentrates, and extracts—these all serve as umbrella terms under which sits a warehouse of different products: vape oil, hash, tinctures, dabs, CBD oil, and every other product dreamed up by cannabis chemists.
Cannabis concentrates, oils, and extracts offer many unique benefits that you won’t find smoking flower. From easy, precise dosing to clean and refined flavors, concentrates focus on the ingredients in cannabis that matter most. In this 4-part series, you’ll learn the fundamentals of concentrates, explore product options, discover how extracts are made, and more.
Types of cannabis oil
But why bother with concentrates when you have tried-and-true bud? Flower may be good enough for you, but there are many reasons to explore the many options—and medicines—offered in extract form:
(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)
An oil, concentrate, or extract is any product derived from cannabis flower that is processed into a concentrated form, but each type of cannabis oil is unique.
Every extract serves a different purpose and consumer type, so we’ve broken our recommendations down based on your experience with concentrates:
What is cannabis oil?
The first part of the review will look at the evidence for the therapeutic value of cannabis-based products. It can recommend any promising ones for the second part of the review. This will be carried out by the government’s Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, which can recommend a change to the legal medical status of cannabis and cannabinoids.
However, the tide may turn in favour of cannabidiol after a recent World Health Organisation review. This concluded that cannabidiol “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” but “has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy … and may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.”
This is one of the big unknowns. “It is important to remember that there is currently very little scientific evidence to support cannabis oil containing both THC and cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy,” said the charity Epilepsy Action, in a statement issued this month.
It depends on the THC content. Some types of Cannabis sativa plant, known as hemp, contain very little THC. The extracts from these plants contain mainly cannabidiol, so will not get anyone stoned.