Pubdate: Mon, 11 Jun 2007
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2007 New Zealand Herald
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


A cannabis folk remedy has been resurrected by scientists who found 
that active ingredients in the drug reduce allergic reactions.

The research, conducted on mice, points the way towards new 
cannabis-based treatments for irritated skin.

Extracts from the hemp plant were traditionally used to treat 
inflammation and could be bought from chemists in the early part of 
the 20th century.

But fears about the intoxicating effects of tetrahydrocannabinol 
(THC), the chemical that causes the cannabis high, led to a ban on 
sales in the 1930s.

The new research suggests that the herbalists who used cannabis 
ointments to treat eczema knew what they were doing.

Scientists now believe that cannabis skin lotion, in a safe form too 
diluted to affect the brain, could make a comeback. The team from the 
University of Bonn in Germany stumbled on the anti-inflammatory 
effect of THC while conducting a brain study on mice. The animals 
were genetically engineered so they could not respond to 
cannabinoids, either THC or its natural equivalents generated in the brain.

Unexpectedly, the skin around ear clips placed on the mice to 
identify them became red and sore.

The scientists realised what this meant - that cannabinoids act like 
a brake, preventing the immune system from running out of control and 
triggering inflammation.

For 20 years scientists have known that the brain produces 
cannabinoids, but it has not been clear why.

They appear to have psychological effects, and influence bone growth. 
Another possible explanation now seems to be that they help regulate 
the immune system.

The German scientists confirmed their suspicions by dabbing THC 
ointment on the skin of mice exposed to allergens.

Professor Thomas Tuting, a member of the team, said: "If we dabbed 
THC solution on to the animals' skin shortly before and after 
applying the allergen, a lot less swelling occurred than normal.

"The THC attaches itself to the cannabinoid receptors and activates 
them. In this way, the active substance reduces the allergic reaction."

He said the amount of THC needed to treat skin allergies would be far 
too small to produce intoxicating effects.

Another option was to develop drugs which prevented the breakdown of 
natural cannabinoids in the brain.
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