The mother of a severely epileptic child, whose life has been ‘saved’ by medical cannabis, has launched her own CBD brand to help families.
Since 2017 Tannine Montgomery, 31, has been fighting for fair access to medical cannabis treatment for her daughter, Indie-Rose, who lives with a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
Indie-Rose began having seizures at around four months old and doctors never managed to bring them under control.
After three years of weekly ambulance trips to hospital and eight different antiepileptic drugs – all which failed to be effective – Tannine was desperate to find another treatment to improve her daughter’s quality of life.
She set about learning everything there is to know about medical cannabis and CBD.
“I’d heard it could help but I wanted to make sure what I was giving her was safe, says Tannine.
“I was given some CBD oil to try but for three weeks it sat in the cupboard because I was too scared to use it.
“Then Indie had this awful episode, she’d been up all night having seizures and I saw the CBD in the cupboard and thought ‘right now I’ve got nothing to lose’.”
Although they didn’t notice much change in Indie at first, after 10 days of taking the oil her parents watched her run down the garden for the first time.
Tannine adds: “It was amazing, we just looked at each other and said – wow this stuff is actually helping her.”
After years of battling to get access to full extract cannabis oil – including a ‘traumatic’ three-month stay in Holland – after the law change, Indie-Rose eventually obtained a private prescription for Bedrolite.
Now six, she is still severely disabled but is able to attend school and hasn’t been hospitalised or had to receive rescue medication for three years.
But Tannine and her partner, Indie-Rose’s dad, Ant have to raise hundreds of pounds each month for her medicine, while they continue to campaign for access on the NHS.
Their struggle has inspired Tannine to step into the sector herself, with the launch of Sweet Pink CBD, a range of CBD products created in her home studio in Suffolk.
“We weren’t getting anywhere with the government and the fees just aren’t obtainable for anyone holding down a normal job, but I knew that what I had learned over the last few years was probably valuable,” she says.
She started working with Green Leaf Processing, a company producing hemp oil, similar to Bedrolite but with lower levels of THC, so it is legal in the UK – and more than half the price.
“Bedrolite is a prescription medicine but the bottles that I can sell for £60 rather than £160 still help,” she says.
“Through my learning I noticed that not all children respond to the same thing so it’s always worth trying something. Each person is so individual in what works for them when it comes to cannabis.”
After Indie-Rose responded well to the oil, Tannine realised she could help other families, who don’t have access to a private prescription.
“For me, starting the business was about helping people and also giving people the knowledge to help themselves so just talking to people and pointing them in the right direction of where they can find correct information about cannabis,” she continues.
“I hope people feel they can trust me because I was that one once that mum, who desperately needed something to help my child. I felt lost, and I just want to be that person that they can come to.”
After being approached by a friend with a bad back, Tannine saved up out of her benefits to make bath bombs which she distributed to people living with chronic pain and other ailments.
Sweet Pink evolved and now includes CBD oils, balms, massage oils and bath products, all of which are 100 percent vegan, organic and infused with active ingredients and essential oils, such as turmeric, eucalyptus, wild orange and bergamot, chamomile, lavender and pink pepper. She also offers one to one, confidential consultations to create bespoke products for her customer’s personal wellbeing needs.
The money from Sweet Pink will go towards helping fund Indie-Rose’s prescription, but Tannine also hopes to help other families who are struggling to afford the fees.
“I don’t want to just help Indie – there are so many other children in the same situation – and I want people to have fair access, without having to worry about the money,” she adds.
“The plan is to set up a charity so 10 percent of the profits from the company will go to funding children’s medication. That will be accessible to everyone in the End Our Pain group, and all the families I already know, but also other families out there to hopefully help their children.”
“If no one is pushing the industry will never move on” – KanaVape founder’s milestone victory
KanaVape founder Antonin Cohen has spoken of his relief that a six-year battle with the European courts has proved victorious for the CBD industry.
The founder of French company KanaVape is celebrating a landmark victory, following a six-year battle with the authorities.
The European Court of Justice (CJEU) yesterday (Thursday 20 November) ruled that CBD is not a narcotic drug and does not appear to have any ‘harmful effect on human health’.
The dispute between French authorities and the founders of the first CBD vaporizer, KanaVape saw has centred around the question of whether restricting the sale of CBD products legally produced in other countries in the EU breaches single market rules.
As in the UK, the extraction of flowers from the cannabis plant is illegal in France, due to the presence of THC.
In 2014 French authorities launched legal action against KanaVape co-founders Antonin Cohen and Sébastien Béguerie for importing hemp flowers from the Czech Republic.
The pair were prosecuted in 2018 and given a 16-month suspended sentence and a 10,000 Euro fine.
But the verdict was later overturned by the European Court of Appeal on the grounds that it may go against the rules of the single market, which allows for the freedom of movement of goods between the 27 member states of the EU.
Today’s ruling, by the highest European court, concludes that a member state, ‘may not prohibit the marketing of CBD lawfully produced in other Member States’ when extracted from the whole cannabis plant and ‘not solely from its fibre and seeds’.
The decision is expected to overturn a preliminary conclusion issued by the European Commission (EC) earlier this year that CBD and other extracts from hemp flowers should be classed as narcotics under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Mr Cohen said he was ‘grateful’ that his efforts of the last six year had proved fruitful – not only for him, but the industry as a whole.
“I am very happy and relieved that we have been successful in this case, after what has been a long batte,” he told Cannabis Health.
“I have been lucky to have the revenue to be able to defend myself, but the process has been extremely stressful and costly in terms of money, time and energy.”
Mr Cohen, an activist who has been involved in cannabis science since 2008, said his motivation was to see ‘society progress’ and move the cannabis sector forward.
“I had a choice six years ago to say that the products were coming from the whole plant, which is why we have had this victory today which will allow for similar companies to operate in a safer environment,” he continued.
“There were certainly times when I wondered why I was pursuing this, but if no-one is pushing for this clarification, the industry is never going to move on.”
Now CEO of one of Europe’s leading CBD brands, Harmony, Mr Cohen hopes the ruling that CBD is not a narcotic, will urge the EC to proceed with novel food applications and make way for clear regulations.
“The only way to ensure quality standards and good manufacturing processes is through regulations that work with the industry,” he said.
“It’s important now for the EC to harmonise regulation of CBD products on the European market, so we can make sure products are accessible and safe for consumers, but also that companies can benefit from the growth of this industry worldwide.”
He added: “There hasn’t been much good news for the CBD industry in recent years, with a lot of confusion and complexity around regulation, so I’m very excited about this milestone – but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Eveline Van Keymeulen, Head of Allen & Overy’s Life Sciences Regulatory and Cannabis practices, who is assisting Antonin Cohen in the proceedings, commented: “This long-awaited decision is a landmark decision for the CBD industry in Europe, the development of which has been hindered seriously by the fragmented and inadequate legal framework to date.
“The Court’s decision sets a binding precedent with European reach. Its interpretation of EU law is binding on the European institutions – including the EC – and will require other EU member states to assess their national rules applicable to the marketing of natural CBD in light of the clear criteria provided by this decision. Today’s judgment should therefore lead to more regulatory harmonisation and legal certainty which is indispensable for the further development of the CBD industry in Europe. Most importantly, a clear and proportionate regulation of CBD-based products will ultimate benefit EU consumers.”
Peering into the void – the intriguing world of the endocannabinoid system
That refreshing wake-up feeling. The rumble in your stomach. The stress-busting power of a deep breath. These momentary passages of everyday life are part of the body’s response to the myriad of molecular interactions going on internally, invisible to the human eye.
The complex cell-signalling endocannabinoid system encapsulates these very interactions, mediating multiple processes at work in your body right now – from the immune response to metabolism (the chemical reactions of life).
The endocannabinoid system is comprised of three major components; the endocannabinoids themselves, the enzymes which break down endocannabinoids and receptors – all interacting in a network of neural pathways and cells.
It is believed that the endocannabinoid system has a crucial role in “essentially all human disease.”
The compound cannabidiol or ‘CBD’ (derived from the cannabis plant) has an interesting part to play in the system, with therapeutic potential for a variety of neurological disorders.
Endocannabinoids are molecules synthesised in the body (endo meaning ‘in’). Their aim is to bind to specific cell-surface receptors and exert a range of physiological effects in the body. For example, stimulating that familiar growl of hunger.
The major endocannabinoids which have been characterised in-depth are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
THC is the psychoactive substance in cannabis plants. Cannabidiol (CBD), first synthesised in 1965, can be perceived as THC’s sensible older sibling. While you might not think it is quite as exciting as THC in its effects, I hope to change your mind.
In fact, the cannabis plant has over 60 cannabinoids which are similar to endocannabinoids such as 2-AG. Both CBD and 2-AG are neurotransmitters – chemical messengers which transmit a signal to a key target cell in order to elucidate an effect. Although the exact number is unknown, there are over 200 neurotransmitters in the human body.
The principle purpose of a neurotransmitter is to activate its target receptor. The resulting physiological effect depends on the chemistry of the receptor itself and the specific biochemical pathways involved.
For instance, the neurotransmitter serotonin (also known as the ‘happy’ chemical) binds to 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors, thus regulating a number of processes including memory and learning and muscle contraction.
How exactly does a neurotransmitter such as serotonin reach its target receptor? How does neurotransmission of CBD work after ingestion? To understand this a little more, we will need to dive down to the level of the cell itself…
Cells in the human body come in an array of shapes and sizes and have various components, from the control-centre (the nucleus) to the protein-making machines (known as ribosomes) to the cell surface membrane, which is decorated with receptors. The gaps between cells are known as synapses. Those synapses which use chemical messengers are called chemical synapses.
A neuron is a vital cell of the nervous system, with the ability to transmit information to other cells in order to bring about an effect.
Imagine you are standing on the surface of a neuron cell body – the portion of the neuron which contains its nucleus. Stretching before you is a longer extension of the neuron, the axon.
If you gaze into the distance, you can see that this axon starts to divide into a multitude of branches. These are the axon terminals.
Curious, you walk down the axon until you stand right at the end of one of these vast branches.
Do you dare to peer down into the void, the synaptic cleft? The neuron on which you stand is ‘presynaptic’ (situated before the synapse). Towering before you is a portion of a gate-like protein (called a voltage-gated calcium channel) with the remainder embedded in the cell surface membrane below you.
You notice that there are more of these gate-like proteins along the other edges of your axon terminal (and all over the axon terminals adjacent to yours). If you look through this voltage-gated calcium channel and across the gap, you can just make out the postsynaptic neuron.
Suddenly, you feel a trembling in the cell beneath you and turn around to see the surface of the long axon behind you rippling, with the rippling coming closer by the second! You hold on to the side of the calcium channel to brace yourself as this rippling reaches the surface below your feet.
Remember the ‘information’ that neurons transmit? This information is an ‘action potential’ or ‘nerve impulse’ (imagined as the ‘rippling’ depicted here) – an electrical signal which will stimulate the calcium channel. In turn, this will enable positively charged atoms known as calcium ions to flow into the neuron.
Fascinated, you watch the channel’s shape shift and alter, clinging on to its side as the influx of calcium ions passes you. There is another trembling in the cell membrane below you and you lie flat, looking over the edge of the axon terminal.
Because of the influx of calcium, sphere-like portions of the membrane – called vesicles – can now release small molecules into the synaptic cleft directly beneath you. These small molecules are neurotransmitters – perhaps serotonin.
You watch as the molecules diffuse across the synapse and bind to receptors dotted along the surface of the postsynaptic neuron. In binding to these receptors, the neurotransmitters are able to stimulate another nerve pulse down the postsynaptic neuron.
Now you know how neurotransmitters normally travel between neurons, it will be easier to understand how our particular group of neurotransmitters – the endocannabinoids like 2-AG of the endocannabinoid system (or cannabinoids like CBD) – do so. The way in which endocannabinoids reach their target receptor occurs in a backwards manner, through retrograde signalling.
Indeed, the activation of a postsynaptic neuron by a nerve impulse stimulates endocannabinoids to diffuse across the synaptic cleft to bind to receptors of the presynaptic cells. The receptors bound by anandamide or 2-AG bind are the cannabinoid receptors.
Specifically, these are cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2), which were first discovered in the nineties. While CB1 is situated abundantly in the Central Nervous System (CNS), CB2 is expressed much more in both the Immune and Peripheral Nervous Systems.
The activation of these two receptors by endocannabinoids has numerous implications for cellular physiology (the activities in the cell which keep it functioning) or cell motility, to name only a couple.
In the last three decades, the endocannabinoid system has been the most studied retrograde system of neurotransmission, with plentiful facets of research seeking to unravel the sheer complexity of the overall system.
While we know the system has implications for multiple physiological processes – from mood regulation to neuroprotection – there is a vast number of unknowns in this area. For instance, although there is a whole collection of evidence presenting the components of the endocannabinoid system as anti-cancer targets, the complex interplay of this system with other biological pathways makes progress challenging, with rigorous testing required.
CBD has been shown to possess anxiolytic (ability to reduce anxiety) antipsychotic (for management of psychosis) and neuroprotective (aiding preservation of neuronal integrity) properties, with the potential to treat several health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression or Parkinson’s.
There is a need for further controlled clinical research on the use of CBD in these areas and its role as an adjunct therapy – given in addition to an existing therapy for a condition such as epilepsy in order to increase effectiveness.
Interestingly, CBD binds to neither CB1 nor CB2 receptors – it is thought that it may instead interact with a receptor not yet discovered! Additionally, it has been proposed that CBD could alter how endocannabinoids interact with CB1/2.
As you read this, research scientists are peering into the synaptic cleft – the void of the unknown – to elucidate the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system and compounds like cannabidiol.
Perhaps next time you feel that niggling rumble of hunger, your thoughts will wonder down to the unseen world of the cell – to the tiny neurotransmitters whizzing across those synaptic clefts in a series of complex biological interactions which might just tell you that it’s time for lunch.
Six lifestyle changes which could make you more resilient to stress
Medical cannabis expert Dr Julie Moltke, discusses how by making changes to our lifestyle, we could modulate the endocannabinoid system to make us more resilient to stress.
Danish medical cannabis prescriber, Dr Julie Moltke is a specialist in pain, anxiety and stress, as well as a yoga teacher and mindfulness instructor.
Through her recent investigations into stress and the endocannabinoid system, she found that making several relatively small lifestyle changes could help people cope better with stress and anxiety.
How the endocannabinoid system works
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in 1992 when researchers were trying to uncover the receptor mediating the effects of THC, the psychotropic cannabinoid from cannabis, responsible for many of the behavioural, emotional and physiological actions of recreational cannabis in humans.
Since then, the ECS has emerged as one of the most important regulators of general human homeostasis (a stable internal environment). It regulates reward, appetite, mood, memory, immune function, fertility, pain, and neuroprotection, among others. The endocannabinoid receptors (primarily CB1R or CB2R) have been found almost in every organ system in the body.
The density of these receptors is particularly high in parts of the brain involved with fear, memory, and emotional processing – namely the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and hypothalamus. These brain areas are not only interconnected in the brain, but they are also involved in regulating the physiological stress response and the release of cortisol and adrenaline.
The body of evidence suggesting that the ECS is involved in the regulation of the behavioural aspects of the stress response, such as anxiety, learned fear and stress-coping, is growing and the field of cannabinoid-based medicine is attempting to use this understanding to use medicinal cannabis to treat many mental health issues.
It is well documented that people with higher levels of anandamide (the endogenous molecule of the endocannabinoid receptor CB1R) are more resilient to stress whereas lower levels are associated with several psychopathologies including depression, PTSD and suicide.
How does lifestyle affect the endocannabinoid system?
It has been shown that running can increase circulating levels of anandamide, as well as endorphins. This seems to be partly responsible for the so-called runners high, a feeling of wellbeing and elevated mood, often following moderate-intensity running.
Activation of the endocannabinoid system is also hypothesized to be involved with the reduction of pain perception which tends to accompany running. Further studies into this interesting field have shown that the above applies only for moderate intensity exercise, whereas low and high-intensity workouts do not seem to have the same effects.
Moderate intensity cycling seemed to raise anandamide levels in a study conducted on healthy male athletes. Researchers found the same association and concluded that the endocannabinoid system might be responsible for the anti-depressant effects that exercise seems to have.
A similar study was conducted by O’Sullivan and colleagues with nine female volunteers from a local choir. This study did not show elevated levels of anandamide after cycling which indicates there might be some gender differences.
This generally seems to increase anandamide levels, but it is worth noting that research suggests that you will get the best effect in improving mood and decreasing anxiety when undertaking a type of exercise that you enjoy]. This might also explain why O’Sullivan and colleagues did not find an increase in anandamide and improved mood (the women were choir singers and not athletes).
The study mentioned above involving nine females also showed that singing increased circulating levels of anandamide and increased positive mood and emotions. The authors also found that the participants felt less hungry with higher levels of anandamide. This indicates that increasing levels of anandamide by either of the above methods will not only be able to improve mood but might also help decrease hunger and thereby maintain a stable body weight.
The study by O’Sullivan and colleagues also investigated the effects of dancing, though they did not find an increase in levels of anandamide. They suggest that singing when perceived as enjoyable, can help decrease anxiety and improve mood.
Some certain foods and ingredients are shown to be able to interact with the ECS and thereby potentially improve our resilience to stress, as well as improving inflammation and help balance our mental health. These have been named cannabimimetic molecules and can be found in certain vegetables like carrots and fava beans, turmeric, and coffee. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are precursors of endocannabinoids and a sufficient intake is important to help balance the ECS. They can be obtained either from food-sources or as supplements.
In an animal study, Wei and colleagues found that oxytocin (the social bonding hormone) increases levels of anandamide, which is involved in the regulation of social reward. The researchers suggest this oxytocin-driven anandamide signalling might be defective in autism spectrum disorders.
Read the full report and bibliography here
Find out more about Dr Julie Moltke and her work at www.drjuliemoltke.com/
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