Reprinted from Townsend Letter (Aug./Sept. 2015) with the kind permission of Shelley M. White and Townsend Letter.
After struggling to heal from Lyme disease using long term antibiotics for a year, I turned to natural medicine and began executing Stephen Buhner’s Lyme Borreliosis protocol. After approximately a year on Buhner’s protocol, I had greatly improved, but felt I had reached a stalemate in my healing process and still had one last “hump” to overcome. Desperate for a solution to propel me to a symptom free lifestyle, I decided to experiment with cannabis. Although I knew little about its medicinal properties in relation to Lyme disease at the time, I knew it had over 700 healing components and was desperate enough to heal that I did not hesitate to use myself as a human guinea pig and try it.
The first time I used cannabis, I smoked it immediately prior to going to bed. As a result, I experienced significant cognitive improvements the next morning. Eventually, I began using cannabis oil instead, a decision which I will discuss herein under the Forms and Methods section of this article. Within a few months of using cannabis oil, alongside Stephen Buhner’s core protocol for Lyme disease, I became symptom free. It is important to note that I experienced extreme Herxheimer reactions during the process, a subject I will also cover in further detail in this article, and which I explore within my book, titled Cannabis for Lyme Disease and Related Conditions (published by BioMed Publishing Group,http://www.CannabisForLyme.com).
Chemical Constituents of Cannabis
A large variety of chemical compounds have been identified in cannabis, totaling over 700 to date. While many of these compounds are found in other plant species as well, some are unique to cannabis alone, such as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the most well-known chemical constituents in cannabis, and they are more frequently and extensively researched than any other compound in cannabis.
The medicinal properties of cannabis stem from their ability to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is located throughout the body and is composed of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.
Cannabinoids bind to these receptors to modulate important bodily functions such as how an individual moves, reacts, and feels; as well as to regulate physiological processes including, but not limited to, appetite, pain interpretation, memory, and mood. Over 66 cannabinoids in cannabis have been identified. Of these, delta-tetrayhydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) possess the most well known medicinal benefits.
Delta-9-tetraydrocannabinol (THC) is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. A large majority of the medicinal benefits of cannabis are attributed THC, including its functions as an anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, appetite stimulant, pain reliever, antiemetic, and analgesic. It is useful for treating high blood pressure, glaucoma, cancer, and can improve cognitive functions by sharpening the mind and enhancing all sensory functions including sight, hearing, and sensitivity to colors.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has a broader spectrum of known medicinal activity than any other cannabinoid. It is used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders, epilepsy, cancer, psychosis, inflammatory conditions, depression, muscle conditions, and more. It is a potent antioxidant with the ability to prevent glutamate toxicity, prevent cellular damage, and protect the brain from ischemic damage. Due to this, CBD may prove beneficial in the treatment of Lyme disease and other neurodegenerative disorders that cause oxidative stress.
Some of the other cannabinoids with known medicinal benefits include delta-9-tetryahydrocannabinol (THCV), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabichromene (CBC).
Also of importance are the terpenoids and flavonoids found in cannabis. Terpenoids, which are also found in mammals where they serve as vehicles to expel parasites, tend to have a synergistic effect with cannabinoids and increase their efficiency as bactericidal agents. Terpenoids in cannabis help counteract THC-induced anxiety and lend to its effectiveness at relieving symptoms of depression, pain, brain inflammation, joint inflammation, addiction, and epilepsy. The flavonoids in cannabis are called cannaflavins. Pharmacological activities of cannaflavins are shown to be up to thirty times more effective at reducing inflammation than aspirin, making them of benefit for many Lyme patients with inflammation related pain such as arthritis. On a biochemical level, cannaflavins act as powerful antioxidants and promote glutathione levels.
Other identified chemical constituents in cannabis include terpenes, proteins, flavonoids, amino acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, non-cannabinoid phenols, ketones, essential elements, esters, aldehydes, minerals and more. My offers more in depth information on the properties of many of these chemical constituents.
Species and Strains
The plant genus Cannabis has three species, each with different chemical constituents and medicinal properties. Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica are the two most commonly used. The third species of cannabis, C. Ruderalis, is rarely used. Accounting for the vast majority of cannabis strains are “hybrids” consisting of a combination of Indica and Sativa. The percentages of Indica and Sativa in any given hybrid strain vary greatly.
Indica dominant strains produce more physical, non-psychoactive effects than sativa due to the fact that they have a higher ration ratio of CBD to THC, thus making them ideal for purposes such as sleep or pain, to name a few. Sativa dominant strains, which are dominant in THC and have relatively low amounts of CBD, are more mentally stimulating and are useful for mental activities such as concentration, focus, and creativity.
Personally, I prefer to use a strain with a relatively balanced 50/50 ratio of Sativa and Indica for treating Lyme disease – such as the strain “trainwreck,” which has proven to be the most useful strain for me in regards to healing from Lyme disease and Lyme disease co-infections.
Cannabis as a Bactericidal Agent
Due to the steady emergence and continued increase of drug resistant bacteria, new classes of antibacterial agents are urgently needed. As history shows, synthetic, man-made antibacterial agents lack the ability to effectively eradicate the ever evolving bacteria in our ecosystem once they successfully deem human bodies as their hosts. Initially effective antibiotics are rendered relatively useless over time. For example, resistance to the class of antibacterials most commonly used to treat E. coli induced urinary tract infections, fluoroquinolones, exists worldwide. When first introduced in the 1980s, there was virtually no bacterial resistance to fluoroquinolones.
The diversity in the characteristics of present day bacteria, such as spirochetes, is unparalleled in nature compared to the characteristics they displayed as little as five years ago. On the contrary, the pharmaceuticals used to treat them have remained very much the same.
From 1983-1987, approximately 16 new antibacterials were approved by the FDA, while under five have been approved since 2008. Many pharmaceutical companies have ceased research and development of antibacterial drugs, lending to the sharp decline of new antibacterials released in the past 30 years.
Coincidentally, the past 30 years fall grotesquely in alignment with the time period in which spirochetes have rapidly evolved into a dangerously aggressive species of bacteria. Although plants such as cannabis are equipped with secondary metabolites that display antibacterial qualities potent enough to effectively target, reach, and treat drug resistant bacteria, plants in general still remain markedly unexploited antimicrobial agents.
Research indicates that cannabis is an excellent and effective bactericide, meaning it is able to destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria, due to its impeccably composed chemical profile. Its compounds are able to bypass the healing powers, or lack thereof, of man-made bactericides like antibiotics in order to effectively kill drug resistant bacteria or “superbugs.” Compounds in cannabis known as cannabinoids, for example, appear to go unscathed by mechanisms typically used by bacteria to evade antibiotics.
In the case of Lyme disease, bacterial die-off from cannabis is evident as well, often sparking the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, also informally referred to as a “Herxheimer reaction,” “Herx,” or “Herxing.” A Herxheimer reaction is instigated when dying bacteria release their endotoxins into the bloodstream and tissues faster than the body can successfully expel them from its system, prompting an excessive inflammatory response. Simply put, toxins flood the body at a rate not proportional to the body’s ability to comfortably detox them, causing an overload of toxins in the body, thus increasing inflammation and worsening symptoms.
When treating myself with cannabis oil, I initially experienced painful herxheimer reactions due to the fact that I failed to simultaneously employ proper detoxification methods. Eventually it became clear that I needed implement various detoxification methods into my treatment. The most helpful methods I have found include hydrogen peroxide and baking soda baths, chlorella, zeolite, infrared saunas, and activated charcoal.
However, everyone is different, so experimenting with various different methods under the care of a medical professional to find the best ones for each individual case is often necessary.
In regards to dosing, the ideal amount to take varies among individuals due to the fact that each case varies significantly when it comes to Lyme disease. Factors such as the presence of different co-infections or gene mutations make it difficult to establish a broad spectrum standard for dosing. Therefore, starting at the lowest possible dose and slowly increasing the dosage to a rate tolerable per individual is advised.
To summarize, when taken with the intent of killing off bacteria from infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, one should slowly increase the amount of cannabis they take in order to prevent a build-up of toxins from rapid bacterial die-off. Furthermore, just as with any other Lyme disease treatment, detoxification should not be ignored during treatment. Working closely with a physician or herbalist who is open to discussing the use of cannabis is strongly recommended.
I do not feel comfortable calling cannabis oil a “cure” for Lyme disease, as the subject of whether or not it is possible to fully cure advanced cases of Lyme disease is still a heated debate in the medical and Lyme community alike due to the elusive nature of bacteria. I do, however, feel comfortable saying that cannabis oil greatly reduced the severity of my symptom picture and improved my quality of life while going through Lyme treatment. I also personally feel that cannabis oil significantly speeds up the process of healing. As the personal testimonies in the back of my book show, many others with Lyme disease are in strong agreement.
· Russo, E. (2006). Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts? In handbook of cannabis therapeutics: From bench to benchside (pp. 103-132) New York: Haworth Press.
· Brenneisen, R. (2007). Chemistry and Analysis of Phytocannabinoids and Other Cannabis Constituents. In M. ElSohly (ed), Marijuana and the cannabinoids (pp. 17-49). Totowa, N.J.: Humana Press.
· Yablan, J.S. (2007, February 27). What Are the Differences Between Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa, and How Do They Vary in Their Potential Medical Utility? Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionsID=000638
· Patients Marijuana Caregiver Services. (2011). Cannabis Sativa vs. Cannabis Indica and Hybrid Strains. Retrieved fromhttp://www.patientsmarijuana.org/index.html
· Ericson, J. (2013, July 30). Marijuana Kills MRSA and Inhibits Prions That Cause Neurodegenerative Disease; Still Recognized by Feds As a Dangerous Drug. http://www.medicaldaily.com/marijuana-kills-mrsa-and-inhibits-prions-cause-neurodegenerative-disease-still-recognized-feds
· World Health Organization (2014, April 30). WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals serious, worldwide threat to public health. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/amr-report/en/
Shelley M. White is trained in herbalism and nutrition, and is the author of 'Cannabis for Lyme Disease and Related Conditions: Scientific Basis and Anecdotal Evidence for Medicinal Use' (visit: www.cannabisforlyme.com to learn more). She has written for various websites, including Collective Evolution, Mind Body Green, Natural News, The Mind Unleashed, and the Examiner. Her work has also appeared in print publications, such as 'The Townsend Letter', 'SKUNK Magazine', and 'Public Health Alert'. Her blog is: www.shelleymwhite.wordpress.com.