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Journal of Human Growth and Development

versão impressa ISSN 0104-1282versão On-line ISSN 2175-3598

J. Hum. Growth Dev. vol.30 no.1 São Paulo jan./abr. 2020 



Cannabis: from plant condemned by prejudice to one of the greatest therapeutic options of the century


Cannabis: de planta condenada pelo preconceito a uma das grandes opções terapêuticas do século



Adriana F. Grosso

Especialista em Pesquisa Clínica e Medical Afairs pela Santa Casa de SP Doutora em Cardiologia pelo Incor FMUSP





BACKGROUNG: Cannabis sativa has a fascinating history and has been used by mankind for millennia. Many societies such as Greek, Roman, Chinese, African, Indian and Arabic take advantage of the plant's qualities, which are consumed as food, medicine, fuel, fibers or tobacco. The first reference found related to the therapeutic use of the plant data from 2700 B.C. and is present in the pharmacopoeia of the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung, where this plant was recommended in the treatment of malaria, rheumatic pain, in irregular and painful menstrual cycles. The book "De Matéria Médica", written by the doctor Pedânio Dioscórides considered thefounder of pharmacology, exposes Cannabis as one of the natural substances that can relieve inflammatory pain. In Brazil, African slaves brought a cannabis during the colonial period, around 1549. Then, its use spread quickly among black slaves and Indians, who started to cultivate it. Once the plant was popularized among French intellectuals and English doctors in the Indian imperial army, it started to be considered in our country as an excellent medicine for men, until it was suppressed by the police authorities in the 1930s. Only 60 years later important findings were highlighted around Cannabis with the System Endocannabinoid and its receptors, neurotransmitters such as anandamide and 2-AG, revolutionizing the understanding of molecular signaling that modulates pain and analgesia, inflammation, appetite, gastrointestinal motility and sleep cycles, immune cell activity and hormones among others.We are in front of a huge revolution in the therapeutic area, in which phytocabinoids represent one of the great therapeutic options of the century. We need a widespread disclosure that CBD is not marijuana and that its use for recreational purpose has nothing to do with the use of medical cannabis. Scientific research is seriously committed to the use of the substance in various pathologies. The role of information is absolute, being the main tool to clarify a society

Keywords: Cannabis sativa, cannabinoids, Endocannabinoid System, CBD, therapeutic option.



Authors summary

Why was this study done?

To report a c

What did the researchers do and find?


What do these findings mean?




Cannabis sativa, the scientific name of the most discussed herbaceous plant in the media today has a fascinating history and has been used by humanity for millennia. The plant is present in the evolution of human civilization being used by men as a source of fibers for garments by the Chinese and Greeks and in cordage by the Romans. Other societies such as Africans, Indians and Arabs also took advantage of the plant's qualities, whether it was consumed as food, medicine, fuel, fibers or tobacco. Between 1000 BC and the mid-19th century, marijuana and hemp produced most paper, fuel and textile articles. Its great historical importance is due to the fact that hemp has a more resistant and stronger natural fiber than all the others, and can be grown in almost any type of soil1,2.

The first reference found regarding the therapeutic use of the plant dates back to 2700 BC and is present in the pharmacopoeia of the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung, where this plant was recommended in the treatment of malaria, rheumatic pain, irregular and painful menstrual cycles. The book "De Matéria Médica", written by the doctor Pedânio Dioscórides3 - considered the founder of pharmacology, brings Cannabis as one of the natural substances that can relieve pain. In the work, the plant is attributed to the improvement of joint pain and inflammation. From the 1st century to the 18th century, the book became a reference on the theme.

In Brazil, it is estimated that Cannabis was brought by African slaves in the colonial period, around 1549. Then, its use spread rapidly among black slaves and Indians, who started to cultivate it. Due to the popularization of the plant among French intellectuals and English doctors of the imperial army of India, it started to be considered in our country as an excellent medicine for many illsA. It was in the 1930s that the repression of marijuana use gained strength in Brazil, although it remained cited in medical textbooks and its recognized therapeutic properties4.

Until the late 1980s, quotes about Cannabis remained in the most esoteric field involving a small number of scientists in the United States and other countries. A few surveys were subsidized by the American National Institue on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which intended to prove the deleterious effects of Cannabis while blocking investigations into its potential benefits. It was then that a series of discoveries about the functioning of the human brain occurred. In the two decades following the identification and synthesis of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by Mechoulam and his colleague Y. Gaoni in Israel in 19645, scientists learned a lot about the pharmacology, biochemistry and clinical effects of Cannabis. This was followed by discoveries of receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) where opioid substances (such as morphine and heroin) bound, the abundant cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) were found throughout the body and their locations were mapped in brain tissue until its genetic cloning, facilitating the discovery of agonist and antagonist substances that could "turn on" and "turn off" activities in certain brain regions6-10.

In the 1990s, Mechoulam and his collaborators11 described the first neurotransmitter whose The molecule was very similar to THC and was associated with receptors where THC itself bound. This molecule was called anandamide (a word that, in Sanskrit, means "happiness"). Years later, the discovery of the second molecule, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or "2-AG", whose interaction occurs between the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB211.

In tracing the metabolic pathways of THC, the scientists identified a molecular signaling scheme involved in the regulation of a wide range of biological functions, which was called the Endocannabinoid System, in reference to the plant that led to its discovery. This system with specific receptors and neurotransmitters has been identified in countless species of earthworms, leeches, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, including man, supposedly a signal system so old in evolutionary history that it should serve important and basic functions in physiology. Today it is known that the signaling generated by the association between a receptor and a cannabinoid substance is capable of modulating pain and analgesia, inflammation, appetite, gastrointestinal motility and sleep cycles, together with the activity of immune cells, hormones and other neurotransmitters that alter mood, such as serotonin, dopamine and glutamate. CB1 and CB2 receptors are able to recognize and respond to three types of cannabinoid agonists: endogenous fatty acid cannabinoids; phytocannabinoids concentrated in the oily resin of the buds and leaves of the marijuana plant and synthetic cannabinoids marketed as medicines10,11.

Failure in the Endocannabinoid System activity leads to major diseases, so current attention is focused on Cannabis products rich in Cannabidiol (CBD) with or without THC12,13.

CBD is the main non-psychotropic component of Cannabis sativa and has attracted interest for its therapeutic potential in several disease states investigated in animal and human models14-16. It has anxiolytic, antidepressant, antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, anti-nausea, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic and antineoplastic properties. Within the CNS, CBD is protective in animal models of epilepsy, anxiety, psychosis and diseases of the basal ganglia, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases17-22. CBD does not cause the classic CB1 mediated "tetrad" of hypolocomotion, analgesia, catalepsy and hypothermia, according to its low affinity for CB1 receptors.

The release of cannabis-based products for medicinal purposes in Brazil and in other countries occurs at a time of accentuation of conservatism in the country. Even so, this can be considered the first step towards expanding the uses of Cannabis. We need widespread disclosure that CBD is not marijuana and that recreational use of marijuana has nothing to do with the use of medical cannabis, that scientific research is seriously committed to establishing the substance's effectiveness in various pathologies, including tumors. Medical cannabis can be used in several neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, as it works by increasing the production of neurotransmitters. This is the main focus of current studies.

The role of information is absolute and constitutes the main tool for clarifying society. Knowing the products derived from cannabis, differentiating CBD, which is not psychoactive from THC, which, as we have seen, also has therapeutic effects and high concentration in marijuana, unlike other varieties of the plant such as hemp. Only with the dissemination of the press, scientists and doctors, this information can reach the population as a whole.



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Manuscript received: September 2019
Manuscript accepted: February 2020
Version of record online: March 2020

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