LOCAL scientist Hawthorne Watson says he has isolated a new chemical compound from ganja, but is yet to determine whether it has any medicinal value.
Watson named the chemical compound as Cannabitriol (CBT), and said that while clinical studies have not yet been initiated... "its structure gives reasons to be upbeat".
"CBT has essentially the same basic structure as Tetrahyrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive compound found in ganja and is primarily responsible for giving the 'high'," Watson wrote in an article submitted to the Jamaica Observer.
"CBT, however, has two additional alcoholic groups," Watson said. "In addition, the position of what in Chemistry is called a 'double bond' is different. Interestingly, there are two different forms of THC and two different forms of CBT; but the reasons for their existence are widely unrelated."
Watson's findings come amidst growing debate in Jamaica and other countries about the medicinal use of ganja, also known as marijuana.
On January 8, the health ministry in France approved commercial sales of Sativex, a medicine derived from cannabis, for the first time.
Sativex, produced by Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals, will be allowed for the treatment of muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
Locally, legislators have been encouraged to decriminalise ganja in order to have Jamaica capitalise on a billion-dollar medical ganja industry.
In his article, Watson explained that Cannabitriol is a new cannabinoid.
"In simple terms, cannabinoids are the typical or characteristic chemicals found in the family of plants called Cannabaceae of which Cannabis is a member or genus," Watson said.
"Within this genus there are actually three species of Cannabis, but only two are well-known. The two are Cannabis indica, which is popularly known as hemp, and Cannabis sativa, known locally as ganja, but is also known elsewhere as marihuana or marijuana. The third and much less known species is Cannabis ruderalis, found mainly in central Russia," said Watson, who heads the Scientific Research Council.
"Cannabis sativa is the only species cultivated in Jamaica to date and is sometimes called hemp, in error," he said, adding that there are more than 85 known cannabinoids in Cannabis, but these chemicals are also produced naturally in the immune and nervous systems of humans and animals.
Watson said that although the structural framework of THC and CBT is different from that of Cannabidiol (CBD), another well-known cannabinoid, a comparison can be made.
"The ending 'diol' in CBD indicates the presence of two alcoholic groups. In this case, one group is an alcohol and the other a phenol. CBT, on the other hand, has two alcoholic groups and a phenolic group," the scientist said.
"Cannabidiol is credited with curing a number of ailments including seizures, diabetes, cancers of various types, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and pain, among others, while having no known adverse side effect.
"Very importantly, it has been found to be an antidote to THC, meaning that CBD reduces the psychoactive effect of THC," he said.
According to Watson, a recent study has found THC to restrict and suppress the growth of cancer cells in the brain. "This is encouraging news, given that it was previously documented that THC actually kills lung cancer cells," he said.
Watson, however, cautioned that these results should not be interpreted to mean advocacy for widespread, uncontrolled or illegal use of the plant and its extracts.
"In this regard, it should be noted that tests are normally done with known quantities of pure chemicals under controlled conditions," he said, and reminded that "smoking of whatever substance can be a threat to good health and longevity".
Added Watson: "It is yet to be seen if Cannabitriol is psychoactive or has any curative powers. Clinical tests will have to be done; first with mice and then with humans, depending on the results obtained with the mice. This is usually a long and, most times, a very expensive process."
He said, too, that a potential difficulty with further work is that while THC and CBD are found in relative abundance in the two well-known species of Cannabis, Cannabitriol has been identified only in very small amounts.
"A chemical with some similarities was identified in Japanese ganja, but the scientists did not establish a structure to allow for meaningful comparison," Watson said.
Posted in Jamaica Ganja News Tagged with jamaica, ganja, science, thc, cbd, cbt, research, medicinal, marijuana, weed, cannabis, organic, natural