THC Avocado Brownies & An Exploration of Cannabinoid Therapies for Autoimmune Disease
Sooo, this weekend my family is celebrating Easter on the Saturday, which also happens to be 4/20.
For those of you who may be unaware, 4/20 is connected to the celebration of marijuana. Some use 4/20 to refer to marijuana itself, and 4:20 and 4/20 (April 20th) are now considered celebratory times for enjoying the medicinal plant.
My family has come to embrace cannabis’ qualities over the last couple of years. Of course, like many of us growing up in a Canada where marijuana was an illegal substance, it was taboo and something we knew we would be well punished for doing in high school. I, being quite the goody two shoes, never got into it.
However, with myself and my siblings experiencing bouts of sometimes severe anxiety and depression and my grandfather experiencing extreme pain from hip surgery, it became an option that the whole family decided was worth exploring. Interestingly, the first thing to get my Mom on board was the marketing of CBD oil for dogs with anxiety. She started using it for her pooch Penny (who would shake like a leaf if a loud car drove by) and saw the difference it made for her. My brother started using it to manage his anxiety and has seen incredible benefits as well.
My sister and her fiance have both suffered concussions in their lifetime and my sister deals with ongoing depression and anxiety. She has experienced benefits from using marijuana occasionally to help her sleep and to find some calm.
Personally, I have had an up and down experience with this medicinal plant. I have always had intense reactions to it. It wouldn’t take me much to either launch into paranoia or completely pass out. I also cough very easily and absolutely hate the feeling of burning in my chest. However, having both celiac disease and hashimoto’s thyroiditis has sparked my interest in cannabis as it pertains to its therapeutic benefits for autoimmune disease.
Since legalization in Canada, the benefits of marijuana have been getting a lot of attention. Especially CBD, which may be anti-inflammatory, helping to significantly reduce pain symptoms. CBD shows anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in vitro that seem to reduce reactive gliosis and the neuroinflammatory response as well as to promote neurogenesis, making it effective in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. These same mechanisms may be the reason for its positive effects on anxiety and depression as well.
I take particular interest in the research as it pertains to the effects of marijuana on autoimmune disease expression. Again, CBD has been getting a lot of attention here:
CBD treatment has proven promising for multiple sclerosis. Studies show attenuation of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a murine model of MS, due to a significant reduction in clinical scores or paralysis, decrease T-cell infiltration in the central nervous system, and reduced levels of IL-17 and IFNy. CBD treatment is also positively correlated to a profound increase in myeloid-derives suppressor cells (MDSCs) in EAE when compared to controls. These MDSCs caused significant inhibition of the proliferation of T cells, which drive autoimmunity.
CBD is showing anti-inflammatory benefits specific to the human colon, suggesting potent benefits for those suffering from IBD, such as crohn’s and colitis. Studies suggest that CBD interacts at extra-cannabinoid system receptor sites, such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma to significantly calm the immune system and reduce inflammation cause by autoimmunity.
CBD could also be a suitable treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), given that it shows anti-inflammatory effects by activating cannabinoid type 2 receptors (CB2) which decrease cytokine production and immune cell mobilization. CBD also demonstrates anti-arthritic effects independent of cannabinoid receptors, as it provides an inhibitory effect on tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).
When considering the overall effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on autoimmune T cells, we find an immunoregulatory effect by way of suppressing pro-inflammatory Th17-related transcription, promoting t-cell exhaustion and tolerance, enhancing IFN-dependent anti-proliferative program, hampering antigen presentation and inducing antioxidant milieu resolving inflammation. These are now the proven mechanisms by which CBD exerts its anti-inflammatory effects and the suppressive pathology of memory T cells in autoimmune diseases.
Additionally, CBD demonstrates greater antioxidant activity than vitamin C or vitamin E .
However, while doing my research, I found that CBDs psychoactive friend THC, also has many of it’s own benefits as is pertains to autoimmune disease:
Studies suggest that THC may be particularly valuable for naturally providing potent immunosuppressive effects by binding to the CB2 receptor, acting as an agonist for the production of anti-inflammatory compounds that may have exception beneficial effects in a variety of conditions, such as autoimmune diseases.
THC may be particularly helpful for reducing the effects of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis due to its ability to reduce the elevated and chronic activation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) characteristic of these diseases. pDC compose 0.2-0.5% of circulating leukocytes but play a significant role in mounting host immune responses.
Further support for THC as a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis has been put forward by a study that demonstrated similar effect to Methotrexate (MTX), the primary pharmaceutical drug used to manage the disease. In this study, daily oral administration of THC dissolved in sesame oil resulted in neutralizing the inflammatory process of RA, through attenuating erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) scores and proinflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin 1-beta (IL-1B), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels, to normal levels. As opposed to MTX, which induces concerning liver damage over time, this natural combination markedly protected the liver and downregulated the induced oxidative stress by increasing the antioxidant defence systems such as activities of catalase and superoxide dismutase and levels of glutathione.
THC may be an effective pain treatment for those with Fibromyalgia as it has demonstrated anti-nonciceptive and anti-hyperalgesic effects in both human and animal studies. In a recent study, patients with fibromyalgia reported significant benefits from THC therapy.
THC-rich strands of cannabis may be particularly therapeutic for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Subjects given cannabis cigarettes containing 115mg of THC twice daily experienced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits compared with placebo, without side effects. After 8 weeks, 5 of 11 subjects achieved clinical remission. 10 of 11 saw decreases in Crohn’s Disease Activity Index (CDAI) scores to less than 100, after starting at scores greater than 200. Subjects receiving cannabis also reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.
THC conducts powerful anti-inflammatory action, as much as CBD, though they act in different ways. THC inhibits PGE-2 synthesis, decreases platelet aggregation and stimulates lipooxygenase. It has 20 x the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone. When we consider autoimmune disease pathology, it is important to consider that THC seems to largely inhibit Th1/Th17 activity, making it particularly beneficial for managing Th1 dominant autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, Hashimoto’s and psoriasis. However, for those with Th2 dominant autoimmune disease like ulcerative colitis this may aggravate the disease process by moving T helper immunity away from Th1 and toward Th2.
By the end of my research however, I concluded that the safest and potentially most effective way to experience the benefits of these compounds may be to use them together:
In a review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology of In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease, it was concluded that combination therapies of CBD and THC, show that CBD can antagonize the pyschoactive effects associated with THC and possibly mediate greater therapeutic benefits than either phytocannabinoide alone.
Several studies looking at combination therapies of THC:CBD for multiple sclerosis demonstrate its efficacy on spasticity symptoms.
Combination therapies may be useful for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Cannabinol receptors have been identified in pancreatic cancer with several studies show in vitro anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects. THC and CBD seem to work synergistically with chemotherapy in xenograft and genetically modified spontaneous pancreatic cancer models.
Using the whole plant or a whole plant extract is the only way to get the synergistic benefits that come along with the other “minor phytocannabinoids” in cannabis, which may also contribute to relevant activity. Cannabichromene (CBC) is the third most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis, and is also anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. Cannabigerol (CBG) displays affinity for CB1 and CB1 receptors. It also exhibits GABA uptake inhibition to a greater extent than THC or CBD, suggesting possible utilization as a muscle relaxant in spasticity seen in MS. CBG also has more potent analgestic, anti-erythema and lipooxygenase blocking activity than THC.
Cannabis terpenoids also demonstrate numerous benefits for those with autoimmune or pain-related conditions. Myrcene is analgestic (pain-relieving) and blocks inflammation via PGE-2 (an inflammatory prostaglandin). The cannabis sequiterpenoid beta-caryophyllene shows increasing promise as an anti-inflammatory comparable to phenylbutazone, but simultaneously protects the cells of the digestive tract. Alpha-Pinene is another anti-inflammatory agent, while Linalool displayes local anesthetic effects.
Cannabis flavonoids in whole cannabis extracts may also contribute to useful activity. Apigenin inhibits TNF-a, a mechanism pertinent to multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cannflavin A, a flavone unique to cannabis, inhibits PGE-2 thirty times more potently than aspirin.
Finally, beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol found in cannabis, reduced topical inflammation 65% and chronic adema 41% in skin models. This may be relevant to autoimmune skin conditions such as psoriasis and scleroderma.
A systematic review published in Autoimmunity Reviews looked at the potential of cannabinoids therapies on autoimmune disease. The review suggests that cannabinoids, together, possess immunosuppressive properties by inhibiting the proliferation of leucocytes, inducing apoptosis (cell death) of t cells and macrophages and reduce secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In mice models, they are effective in reducing inflammation in arthritis, multiple sclerosis, have a positive effect on neuropathic pain and in type 1 diabetes mellitus. They are effective as treatment for fibromyalgia and have show anti-fibrotic effects in scleroderma. However, studies in human models are scarce and more research is required in this field.
It’s a lot to consider, I know.
I do feel like many more long-term studies are needed in order to draw safe conclusion on long-term therapeutic use. However, the studies that we have and their results are extremely promising as it pertains to the benefits for those of us with autoimmune disease and other inflammatory conditions.
Today, I simply wanted to get across that it isn’t all about the CBD and that, in fact, THC may be even more beneficial for certain autoimmune diseases. Rather, why not keep it as nature intended and get the benefits of both by using the whole plant or whole plant extracts and allowing those compounds to work synergistically?
So, with that, let’s make some weed brownies, shall we?
Now, since I am new to the world of baking with cannabis, I decided to purchase a coconut oil for this recipe that already contained extracted THC. Yes, I know I said consume the whole plant but when I learned about the Th1 suppressive effects of THC I wanted to give it a try this time around. Next time, I plan to make my own coconut oil from the whole plant. Take the information I gave you and decide for yourself whether THC, CBD or whole plant extracts would work best for you and infuse them into your baking!
I like the idea of edibles or oils for long term consumption to avoid respiratory damage.
By the way, these brownie are just a ridiculously delicious paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free option whether your coconut oil is infused with cannabis or not! So dive in, give them a try and play with it for YOU!
THC Avoacado Brownies
TIME: 30 minutes
SERVES: 15 brownies
2 avocado (ripe)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup THC-infused coconut oil (this is what I used)
1 cup almond flour
1 cup cacao powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup organic dark chocolate chips (or Cadbury mini eggs if you wanna go full Easter! Although, that definitely makes them less holistic, but hey, if we’re being realistic, I can’t stay 100% away from mini eggs over Easter!)
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Add the avocado, eggs, vanilla, coconut sugar, and coconut oil to a food processor or blender and mix well until combined.
3) Add the almond flour, cacao powder, baking soda and sea salt. Process again until combined.
4) Stir in the chocolate chips, reserving some to place on top.
5) Line a pan with parchment paper and pour brownie batter in. Smooth the top down and sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
6) Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing. Enjoy!
NOTE: If you follow this recipe exactly, each brownie will contain approximately 25mg of THC. This is enough to provide a mild buzz.
As I said, my experience with cannabis often feels exaggerated and overwhelming, but with this oil and these brownies, I simply experience a mild buzz and a nice feeling of relaxation throughout my entire body. I do not experience any paranoia with this at all. Just pure relaxation and OMG delicious brownies. I’ve even had two and just felt good. Zero negative side effects… except wanting to eat MORE. Not sure whether that’s because of the weed or just because the brownies are so damn good.
If you make this recipe, please feel free to take a pic and tag me on instagram @realistic.holistic and use #realisticholistic :) I’ll be sure to share your culinary adventure!
COMMENT below if you have any questions about the article or the recipe! I’m here for ya!
SHARE this with someone who may benefit from understanding cannabis better, or already loves it and just wants the tastiest dose of it they’ve ever had! ;)
As always, thanks for stopping by!
Kisses & kombucha,
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