Hemp (lat. Cannabis) is one of the oldest medicinal and cultural plants known to humankind. It has been used for thousands of years, both as a source of food and fibre, as well as a medicine and narcotic. Despite its many uses, the plant fell increasingly into oblivion for some time.
However, for some years now hemp products have been experiencing an enormous upswing again and are becoming more and more popular. There are several reasons for this, including the increased research on their therapeutic effects, as well as the growing interest in natural alternatives to support health. Naturally, many pet owners also look into the topic hemp and want to learn more about it. Therefore, in the following section we would like to give you an overview about hemp, its compounds, its mechanism of action and its medical potential.
The plants of the genus hemp contain a large variety of so-called cannabinoids. These are substances that have so far been found in almost no other plant. One of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known for its intoxicating effect. It is important to know that most other cannabinoids are not psychoactive (don’t get you “high”) and at the same time have a great medical potential. One of the best researched is cannabidiol (CBD), which according to studies seems to have various positive effects and almost no side effects.
Besides cannabinoids, hemp plants also produce a large variety of other substances with pharmacological properties. These also include the terpenes and flavonoids. It is interesting that some of the compounds in hemp probably influence or supplement each other positively. Studies have shown that for example the terpenes can enhance some of the effects of the cannabinoids. It has also been demonstrated that e.g. CBD can reduce the intoxicating effect of THC. Furthermore, not only cannabidiol but also other cannabinoids seem to be able to have a positive effect on the body. In order to benefit from these valuable combinatory effects, we use whole hemp flowers or broad-spectrum hemp extracts in our Paw-Treats products.
Mechanism of action
The mechanisms of action of cannabinoids are very diverse and complex. In general, it can be summarised that the cannabinoids from the hemp plant (phytocannabinoids) partially exert their effect via the same pathways as certain messenger substances produced by the body itself (endocannabinoids). These endocannabinoids are part of the so-called endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is present in all mammals. The ECS is a regulatory system of the body, which is responsible for the maintenance of the inner balance. It is designed to balance the activity of various important body systems and thus to regulate basic functions such as sleep, appetite, mood, pain perception and immune response.
A few years ago the theory emerged that the cause of some diseases is a mal- or underfunction of this ECS. This could explain why hemp seems to have a positive effect on various diseases. It is suspected that by the intake of phytocannabinoids the ECS is supported to fulfil its function again properly and thus to restore the inner balance.
One of the best known phytocannabinoids, which is also increasingly used in animals, is cannabidiol (CBD). One of the reasons is that CBD is legal because it has no psychoactive effect and therefore does not produce a “high” feeling. In addition, CBD has a great medical potential and seems to have no strong side effects. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) assessed CBD as a substance with a very good safety profile and potentially broad medical benefit in their report published in 2017. Nevertheless, it should only be given to animals after consultation with a veterinarian. Interactions with drugs are possible and CBD should not be given to pregnant or lactating animals.
There are several studies which indicate that CBD could have various positive effects. In different experiments, researchers have been able to demonstrate anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing, anticonvulsant, antiemetic, neuroprotective, anxiety-relieving or antipsychotic effects, among other things.
Anxiety, depression and psychosis
In various studies CBD has been shown to have anxiety-relieving and calming properties. In addition, the results of one study suggest that CBD could also have an antidepressant effect. Reports from animal owners have suggested that a relaxing effect can be observed already at low doses and then no strong side effects occur, such as sedation or lethargy.
CBD might also have a positive impact on the psyche. One study suggests that it shows antipsychotic effects and at the same time has fewer side effects than so-called "typical" antipsychotics.
Pain and inflammation
Recently a study was published in dogs with osteoarthritis. In this study, the animals seemed to experience significantly less pain and be more active while receiving CBD. CBD is especially interesting for various inflammatory and painful diseases because it appears to have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects according to studies.
Furthermore, some research suggests that CBD may also be useful in neuropathic pain, i.e. pain caused by damage to or dysfunction of the nervous system.
Nausea and vomiting
It is believed that hemp had already been used centuries ago to suppress nausea and vomiting. Meanwhile, this effect has been demonstrated in several studies and seems to occur at low doses.
A number of experiments suggest that CBD may have antineoplastic properties. However, it must be very clearly noted that so far almost all studies addressing this topic have been conducted in animal models or in cancer cells that were cultivated in the laboratory. This means they have a very limited validity. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that in some of these studies CBD apparently had various effects on cancer cells. For example, in some of them it seemed to have the ability to inhibit cell proliferation, trigger cell death or prevent the formation of new blood vessels in the tumours.
However, extensive clinical studies are still needed to be able to make a statement as to whether CBD can be of benefit and if so, for which types of cancer. But even if CBD should not have any influence on tumor growth, it could possibly at least reduce pain and nausea in some cancer patients.
Various studies suggest that with CBD the frequency and intensity of certain seizures can be reduced without causing serious side effects. In a study in dogs with epilepsy, a significant reduction in the frequency of seizures was observed in animals that received CBD. Furthermore, a drug containing cannabidiol (Epidiolex®) was recently approved in the USA for the treatment of two rare and severe forms of childhood epilepsy.
Other neurological symptoms
CBD could possibly also have a neuroprotective effect, i.e. protect the nervous system. For example, there are studies in which the animals that received CBD before or after a stroke was induced suffered less damage. Furthermore, some studies suggest that CBD could alleviate the symptoms of certain neurodegenerative diseases, i.e. diseases in which the nerve cells are progressively being destroyed, such as Alzheimer's.
Difference cannabis, hemp and marijuana
Cannabis is actually nothing else than the Latin name for hemp. However, these days the term hemp is mainly used for the industrial plant without intoxicating effects. This plant contains higher concentrations of CBD and less than 0.3% THC. However, If someone talks about cannabis or marijuana, then they usually mean drug hemp with intoxicating effects, i.e. with a high THC and a low CBD content.
Of course, we use exclusively industrial hemp for our products. It contains less than 0.2% THC, has therefore no intoxicating effect and is completely legal in Europe, as well as in Switzerland. Furthermore, it contains natural CBD, as well as other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.