Cannabis: A “High” or Alternative Medicine?
By SUE PASCOE
A close friend injured her ankle in a freak accident in a parking lot in Las Vegas. Although it was exceptionally painful, she insisted she wanted to make the trip back to her home in Los Angeles to see doctors here.
Her sister-in-law gave her some cannabis. “I don’t know whether it was a placebo, but it really helped the pain,” my friend said. Once back, she learned that she had broken her ankle and her foot was put in a cast for three weeks.
The Palisades Alliance for Seniors Senior speaker on July 23 was Dr. Allen Frankel of GreenBridge Medical in Santa Monica. He is one of the few internal medical practitioners who has experience in treating patients with dosed medical cannabis.
Frankel said that one aspect of the cannabis plant, THCV, could be used effectively as topical ointment, which explained my friend’s relief from pain.
The typical marijuana plant is a complex plant that has more than 400 chemical entities—with more than 60 of them cannabinoid compounds.
The plant has been used for more than 6,000 years, but modern scientific studies of the plant didn’t start until the end of the 19th century.
Since 1988, research has shown that an endocannabinoid system exists in humans and the different compounds of the cannabis plant react differently to different receptor sites. Major cannaboids include THC, CBD, THCA, CBDA, CBG, CBC, THCV and CBDV.
Back in the 1960s, “most people bought cannabis to get stoned,” Frankel said, noting that the component that causes the high is THC. So, plants were grown specifically to eliminate the other molecules and focus specifically on that one. “Those plants were grown for ‘stoned’ purposes.
“CBG is a rare cannabinoid to find,” Frankel continued. “It could be good for seizures and used as an anti-cancer treatment.
Researchers may find that “THCV stops the progression of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” Frankel said. “All the major cannaboids work against seizures and cancer.”
But the doctor, who graduated second in his medical class from UCLA in 1976 and was a clinical professor at the UCLA Medical School for 18 years, said “I feel like a snake oil salesman.”
The list of diseases and symptoms that might be fought with medical cannabis is extensive and includes analgesic, anorectic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ischemic, antibacterial, antiemetic, antidiabetic, antiepileptic, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, antipsychotic and antispasmodic.
According to National Public Radio, although the term “snake oil” is now associated with fake cures, in the 1800s thousands of Chinese workers who arrived in the U.S. to work with the railroads brought various medicines with them including snake oil.
“Made from the oil of the Chinese water snake, which is rich in the omega-3 acids that help reduce inflammation, snake oil in its original form really was effective, especially when used to treat arthritis and bursitis. The workers would rub the oil, used for centuries in China, on their joints after a long hard day at work. The story goes that the Chinese workers began sharing the oil with some American counterparts, who marveled at the effects.”
After he finished his residency in 1969, Frankel practiced traditional Western medicine until 1999 when he was diagnosed with a viral infection in his heart. He was told the only solution was a heart transplant, which he didn’t want to do. Friends showed up at the hospital with cannabis, which he had never tried before. He used it as an alternative and, coincidentally or not, he avoided surgery, healed and “my life turned around.”
Frankel would like to see normalization of cannabis medicine. There are very few doctors in Los Angeles who work in this area.
Why can’t one just go to a medical marijuana dispensary and ask for a prescription?
“One needs to determine the condition and the appropriate medication,” Frankel said. “One needs to know the psychoactivity of the products and correct dosage.”
For example, TCH can raise blood pressure and CBD can lower blood pressure, so would you want the advice of a someone who was being paid minimum wage to hand out a cannabis prescription?
Frankel is also worried about the purity of a substance. “I send people to a collective that sends me all the lab tests of the products, so I know what I am prescribing,” he said.
An audience member asked, “Why don’t doctors recommend cannabis in a general practice?”
“In 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled it illegal for doctors to recommend it,” Frankel replied.
He said that more than 80 percent of the people who come to him for health issues had never used cannabis before and are looking for relief from their current conditions.
Frankel’s contact: (310) 393-0640 or visit: greenbridgemed.com