It’s been more than centuries — it’s been millennia. Long before young people were congregating at festivals and concerts taking psychedelics, our ancestors were sitting around fires with psychedelics telling stories and playing music. The impulse to enrich the psychedelic experience with music is almost an intuitive one. The connection between music and psychedelics is something that all humans across all ages have recognised and embraced.

As science has it, the way that music is felt viscerally is actually a biological phenomenon. There’s such a thing as “music-evoked emotion”, and psychedelics might be able to amplify that phenomenon, making us more emotionally connected to the music.

Music and the use of psychedelics might actually be as old as each other, which means what we’re learning about how music affects the psychedelic experience isn’t news. It’s just news to us. 

From causing movement enough for a tear to fall to feeling the rhythm of music literally course through your veins as though it were coming from inside of you, music has a way of intensifying and giving meaning to the psychedelic experience.

In this article, we’re checking out the history of mixing music with psychedelics, a little bit about the science, and ways you can consider using music to guide your psychedelic experiences.

The history of music and psychedelic therapy.

A painting of a Shipibo woman surrounded by symbolic animals and patterns; a concept of the history of music and psychedelics.
@huna.samanik.ogretileri

It’s too hard to put a beginning to “music” in terms of human history. As far as we’re aware, it’s existed as long as humans have. The oldest musical instrument to be discovered was an old bone flute dating back around 35,000 years ago. Some scientists even believe that music evolved to support the emotional communication and development of human beings. Basically, our brains were hotwired with music long before we ever “came up with it”.

Psychedelic use is also a very old habit of human beings. Old cave paintings don’t just tell stories of Pharaohs and slaves and nomads — they also tell of the different psychedelic plants that humans were using. Cave art as old as 7000 to 9000 years old depicts mushrooms in Algeria and Spain. 

Almost every religion puts an enormous emphasis on music — in that it’s a way to connect with God. Humans treated music this way even before organised religion, where it was commonly used in spiritual practice and ceremony. Until now, many of these ancient tribes retain their ritual use of psychedelic plants such as the Shipibo in Peru and the Shuar in Ecuador who drink Ayahuasca as a means of healing and spiritual connection.

Before LSD was illegal, there was some research into its effectiveness to treat psychological issues. Music was identified early in the research as a contributing factor to better outcomes. It was clear that music could affect the subjective drug experience immensely, and it didn’t take long to realise that music was an important aspect of the set and setting to drive therapeutic responses.

Essentially, humans were performing “music therapy” long before we ever even had a term for it. Music was therapy in whichever form it came, and especially when it was experienced alongside psychedelics.

Modern neuroscience on how music and psychedelics come together.

A pen illustration of a brain with psychedelic colours and patterns.
@gwen.trip.placide

Music triggers complex neural activity in the brain, causing activity in parts of the brain that govern reward and emotional regulation. The regions of the brain recruited during a music listening experience partially overlap with the brain regions that are recruited during a psychedelic experience. This begins to show us why music might sound like it’s “on steroids” when we’re under the influence of psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms, LSD, mescaline, and Ayahuasca have a strong affinity for the serotonergic system of the brain. Sleeping and mood are amongst the things that serotonin affects. Brain stem serotonergic neurons are implicated in the neuronal responses elicited during auditory processing. This is an example of the kind of overlap in brain activity between psychedelics and music. 

In one study, subjects were given LSD and while listening to music, their brains were inspected using MRI. LSD didn’t just alter the perception of music, it also altered the acoustic qualities of the music that were registered in the brain. The researchers observed spectral complexity across multiple different brain networks, exemplifying the complexity with which music affects our brains under the influence of LSD. 

Other researchers have demonstrated that LSD increased the “meaningfulness” of music, primarily shown through increased brain activity in areas previously linked to music listening, autobiographical memory, and emotional processing. This is a fancy way of saying that it seems LSD gives us better resources to use music as a tool for recovering memories, processing emotions, and recalling other feelings linked to music. 

It seems that psychedelics don’t just have a great impact on how we experience music, but that music has a great impact on how we experience psychedelics. It seems that they are synergistic in that both of them seem to potentiate the other. The combination of music and psychedelics increases the communication between different brain parts, creating a subjective experience all together very different from how we would normally experience reality.

The implications of music for psychedelic therapy.

A collage art of a harp in the sea and two people in a paper boat, a concept of music and psychedelics.
@setanua

Thus far, psychedelics have shown promising potential for the treatment of a range of different psychological concerns. Though it’s a significant deviation from conventional therapy (requires few sessions, is effective nearly immediately, relies on the subjective experience), the direction is extremely promising.

The reason this is funny for science is because when it comes to medication, we typically research how much is safe, how long it takes to be effective, and how it affects other organs. We don’t usually bother to spend much time understanding in which environment its best suited to work. This is because in modern medicine, the environment is the body, and the subjective experience is the outcome, not the means of therapy. I.e., not feeling depressed is the outcome of using antidepressants. Mushrooms and LSD work in a different way, where the subjective experience may be totally different from the outcome, but is a means to the outcome nonetheless.

So when it comes to understanding how to use psychedelics in therapy, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand which factors affect the experience and how those factors can be used to drive the experience. For all intents and purposes, this is what shamans do when they use herbs, aromas, and music during ritualistic ceremonies with psychedelics.

In one study that used psilocybin, researchers found that participants emphasized the importance of the music during their experiences. It often correlates with the mystical experience, which in and of itself is thought to contribute to the long-lasting therapeutic effects of psychedelics. 

The body of evidence that supports the use of music in psychedelics is very small, but it provides a body of evidence nonetheless that music is an important modulator of the psychedelic experience. The quality of the music is equally as important as its existence, suggesting that an individualized music program for the individual is the best way to optimize the psychedelic experience, especially when it comes to therapy. 

Tips for using music during your psychedelic experience.

A collage art of a guitarist and a vocalist, a depiction of music therapy.
@ckenny_art

You don’t have to worry about brain parts and all of that while you’re enjoying music on psychedelics — it’s all happening without your input. You get to just sit back and enjoy. So what’s the best way to do that?

Like we mentioned, a personalized, tailored music playlist is the best way to set yourself up with music for your psychedelic experience. Think of it as if you’re going to take yourself on a journey — music can be like the “path” that you walk. If you were creating a set-list for people to dance to, you would create a “movement” through different feelings and tempos, for example. You can and should do this with your playlist for psychedelics.

You might choose to start with music that is calming and relaxing so that when your journey is beginning, you feel calm and focused. The middle of your playlist might contain deeply contemplative music or classical music that moves into different keys quickly to facilitate abstract thought and emotional processing. You might choose to end your playlist with inspirational music so that when your journey is over, you leave feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready.

It’s important to choose music that makes you feel good and isn’t “abrasive” to the senses. After all, your senses will be extremely heightened after consuming psychedelics. You might listen to hardcore techno on your way to work or to screamo when you’re with your friends, but consider how that might sound when your hearing is amplified — and whether those feelings are conducive to psychedelics. 

Music is a personal choice — but a really important one when it comes to psychedelics. We all together recommend having good music going during your psychedelic journey to facilitate healing. And it will be all the better if you personally curated that music yourself.

What kind of music do you like to listen to while using psychedelics? Let us know your favourite tunes for tripping in the comments!

  • What’s the idea behind drinking coffee alternatives?

    Caffeine can deplete your nervous system, so by using nutritional superfoods you can give yourself an “honest” energy boost — not an artificial one. That way you don’t get the 3pm slump or that “wired and tired” feeling.

  • What are some coffee alternatives you can explore in the morning?

    Consider drinking superfood mushroom lattes or making a “coffee-like” beverage using cacao.

  • Can you put cannabis or magic mushrooms in your coffee alternative beverage?

    Yes – you absolutely can! Just be sure to choose cannabis or mushroom products that are appropriate for the morning. For example, sativa strains or CBD can be used in your breakfast beverage or a very small microdose of psilocybin. We’ve made some product recommendations in this article.

Most of us love coffee — really love coffee. You could say that for a lot of us, it’s an addiction. That energy boost in the morning is an important part of every day, but it doesn’t always have to come from coffee. If you’re looking for coffee alternatives as a means to reduce your coffee/caffeine intake, or if you simply just want to drop the coffee addiction, we have some coffee alternatives for you.

Caffeine isn’t everything. Superfoods that are loaded with antioxidants and nutrition can give our bodies and minds that rush of energy too — and without lots of the weird side effects like stinky breath. And in fact, this is a “truer” kind of energy than what caffeine gives you.

Coffee can give you a quick rush of energy, but it also depletes the body’s nervous system. That’s because it’s an artificial kind of energy like what amphetamine drugs would give you. But if you give your body the right start to the day with lots of nutrition, the energy you experience is cleaner, lasts longer, and doesn’t deplete your nervous system.

If you’re wanting to get rid of that “wired and tired” feeling then be sure to try our superfood coffee alternatives to boost your morning instead. Once you try them, coffee addiction will be a thing of the past!

1. Cannabis + Cacao + Goji + Maca

A collage art depicting cannabis, goji, maca, and cacao; a depiction of the coffee alternatives in this recipe.

This plant-based cocktail is a superfood powerhouse for those who want to give up coffee but still want that physical rush that comes with coffee. Cacao contains theobromine which has simulating effects a lot like caffeine. It stimulates the cardiac centre, a lot like coffee, but without a lot of the negative effects. 

The combination of cacao, goji, and maca makes for a dream beverage for pretty much every system of the body. Goji berries provide support to the immune system, digestive system, and circulatory system while maca provides antidepressant qualities and is loaded with antioxidants. 

On top of this, the cannabis product we’ve included in this recipe is a Sativa tincture, ideal for getting the energy boost you need in the mornings. Cannabis can help to focus the mind and give much-needed motivation to your day — especially when it’s combined with all of these other superfoods.

You’ll need:

  • 1-2ml 500mg 1:1 Halley’s Comet Tincture
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp raw cacao powder
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste or concentrated vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp honey or more to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp virgin coconut oil
  • A few goji berries to garnish

The method:

  1. Put the cannabis tincture, cacao, maca, vanilla bean paste, honey, and coconut oil in a mug.
  2. Warm the almond or coconut milk in a small saucepan but do not bring it to a complete boil. Warm it to nearly boiling point then turn off the heat.
  3. Add the milk to the mug and stir until all the honey, coconut oil, and cannabis tincture have been completely mixed in.
  4. Add the goji berries as a garnish.
  5. Enjoy lovingly.

2. Super-super-food Mushroom Latte

A collage art depicting magic mushrooms and reishi mushrooms as an example of coffee alternatives in this recipe.

Mushroom lattes have become a very “in” thing to consume, and not without good reason. The more we learn about medicinal mushrooms, the more everybody wants to consume them. From their benefits to the immune system to their benefits for cognitive function, medicinal mushrooms have become an important part of the wellness trend.

What we’re proposing with this recipe is a little bit different. This mushroom latte is for microdosing days as it also includes a small dose of psilocybin. Combining a psilocybin microdose with the mushroom Lion’s Mane is a microdosing technique created by Paul Stamets. The idea is that combining psilocybin with other cognitive brain mushrooms potentiates the neurocognitive benefits of psilocybin.

Whether you’re using the Paul Stamets or James Fadiman methods of microdosing, you shouldn’t be using this latte everyday. For microdosing to be the most effective, you have to nominate a few days a week where you don’t take a dose. This latte is the perfect way to get a psilocybin microdose on dosing days.

You will need:

  • 1 square Golden Teachers Magic Mushroom Chocolate
  • 1 heaped tsp mushroom superfood (Lions Mane, Chaga, Reishi, or blend)
  • 1 cup nut milk of your choice (almond, cashew, coconut etc)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp honey or sweetener of your choice
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil

The method:

  1. Heat all the ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat it very slowly so that the chocolate has a chance to melt and doesn’t burn.
  2. When you reach a gentle simmer, turn the heat off and allow it to cool for 1 minute or until it’s safe to put in a blender.
  3. Put the mixture in a blender and blend for 30 sec to 1 minute or until the mixture is foamy and looks delicious.
  4. Transfer to a mug and sprinkle some cinnamon on top if you fancy.
  5. Drink and watch your cerebrals light up.

3. CBD Dandy Chai

A collage art depicting dandelion flowers, cardamom pods and 600mg nano-emulsified CBD tincture as an example of coffee alternatives in this recipe.

If you don’t really want to get away from the bitter, roasted taste of coffee, but don’t need the stimulant effects, then CBD Dandy Chai is a perfect morning recipe. The addition of roasted dandelion root instead of black tea makes this chai uncaffeinated, so there’s no real stimulant effect. However, the spicy chai herbs stimulate the digestive system and get the blood flowing throughout the body. This stimulates the cardiac centre into gear and gets blood to the brain to get it into gear. Dandelion gets your kidneys working, supports healthy skin, and supports detoxification through the liver. 

This beverage also doubles up as a lovely digestive tea and evening remedy for those who also like a hot drink at night.

What makes CBD Dandy Chai a good morning beverage is CBD! At lower doses, CBD is actually a stimulant, while at higher doses, CBD is a sedative. So add lower doses of CBD to this beverage to make it a morning drink and higher doses to make it an evening drink.

You’ll need:

  • 1-4ml 600mg Nano-emulsified CBD tincture, depending on when you’re drinking it
  • 2tsp roasted dandelion root
  • A couple of slices of fresh ginger or ¼ tsp dry ground ginger
  • A few cardamom pods, crushed
  • A few cloves, ground
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup milk of your choice
  • Sweetener of your choice

The method:

  1. Add all the ingredients except for the nano-emulsified CBD tincture to a small saucepan and turn on low heat.
  2. Continue to heat the mixture until it gets to a light simmer, stirring constantly.
  3. When it arrives at the boil, turn off the heat and strain the brew into a mug.
  4. Add your desired dose of Nano-emulsified CBD Tincture. Stir.
  5. Drink morning or night and feel all the feels.

Good morning in a different way.

There’s nothing wrong with change, right? Humans are habitual creatures and that’s why most of us walk over to the coffee pot before we even know what day it is. It’s just a habit — and we can always afford to have some healthier habits. Starting your day with superfoods that nourish every aspect of your body is certainly one of those healthy habits!

You don’t have to add cannabis or magic mushrooms to your morning coffee alternative if you don’t want to or aren’t comfortable with that either. Nonetheless, these coffee alternatives are a delicious way to start the day that your body will thank you for.

Have you tried any of these superfood coffee alternatives? Do you have another recipe you love as a morning boost? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Key takeaways.

  • Does microdosing have benefits for physical and mental health?

    There’s very little research, but it shows that microdosing psychedelics might improve attention, depression, mindfulness and well-being.

  • How do the benefits of microdosing stack up to the benefits of yoga?

    It seems that the same kind of people gravitate towards microdosing and yoga and for similar kinds of reasons. Preliminary research suggests that those with anxiety gravitate towards yoga while those with depression gravitate towards microdosing psychedelics. People seem to experience similar results from both microdosing and psychedelics.

  • Can you microdose and do yoga?

    In one study, subjects who did both microdosing and yoga showed better scores on anxiety, depression, and wellbeing. So preliminary studies suggest that combining the two may be beneficial.

Microdosing is taking off all over the world — and especially here in Canada. Remember before yoga was ever a thing how if someone did yoga, everyone wondered if they had travelled all the way to India to learn. It used to be that way with mushrooms too, but microdosing psychedelics is now comparable to yoga as a wellness concept.

People often gravitate towards activities like yoga to address mental health and stress more than physical health — and for the most part, that’s also true of psychedelics. The fact that people seem to use both yoga and psychedelics for similar reasons gives us a chance to compare their efficacy.

There are only a few existing studies that explore microdosing and their effects so we’ll have a look at those in detail in this article. The purpose of this article is to compare the benefits of microdosing psychedelics with those of yoga. As it turns out, psychedelics might be just as good for you!

Microdosing; the current evidence.

A sketch of a young woman surrounded by flowers and psychedelic mushrooms, looking mystical.
@rtnsc

In a 2019 study, Vince Polito from Macquarie University, NSW Australia, recruited 98 participants in a study exploring the effects of microdosing. The study tracked the participants over a period of 6 weeks, measuring them first at baseline and then again after a period of microdosing. The researchers used a battery of tests including depression and anxiety (DASS), mind wandering (MWQ), wellbeing (QOLI),  mindfulness (MAAS), personality, creativity, etc. 

For the most part, the study results were consistent with anecdotal reports — users reported a decrease in anxiety and depression from baseline after the microdosing period. They also scored higher on contemplation, connectedness, creativity and focus. 

Interestingly, the researchers also observed a slight increase in neuroticism which they said they weren’t expecting. It’s also worth noting that the researchers did not include those with any mental health afflictions. All volunteers were healthy volunteers.

In another study conducted just last year (2020), researchers investigated the different cognitive effects at different doses of LSD. To put things into context, a “dose” of LSD is somewhere around 100ug. Researchers explored the effects of 5ug, 10ug and 20ug. They found that low doses of LSD enhanced sustained attention and mood. However, they also observed a reduction in information processing speed and an increase in anxiety and confusion.

It’s already clear from the little evidence we have that the effects of microdosing seem to vary between different psychedelic options. But it’s also obvious that in the absence of clinical trials, and being at the very beginning of this kind of research, that we can expect a lot of inconsistencies in the research. 

In March this year (2021), Vincent Polito from the research mentioned above conducted another study on the effects of microdosing on mood, personality change and emotional awareness. In contrast to their first study, the participants experienced an increase in conscientiousness and a decrease in neuroticism. He also observed that those with more experience in microdosing were more likely to report a decrease in neuroticism.

Psychedelics and yoga; psychedelics or yoga?

A painting of two amanita muscaria mushrooms doing yoga, a concept of yoga and microdosing psychedelics.
@lefthandedandcolourblind

Out west of Australia, in Perth, Stephen Brights undertook research at Cowan University exploring the relationship between regular yoga practise and microdosing psychedelics. More specifically, he wanted to investigate how each of these wellness trends affects well being and personality variables. 

All up, the study included 339 participants all of whom were engaged in yoga, microdosing, or both of them. This study also included a control group, taking it a step up from the other observational studies that we’ve mentioned in this article thus far.

The primary measures were well-being and absorption. Absorption is a person’s capacity to have intense imaginatory experiences. In the context of psychology, this is important because it can actually alter health outcomes. For example, different mind-body treatment interventions can be used on those who have increased absorption capacity. In this study, both the yoga and microdosing groups scored higher on well-being and absorption.

Interestingly, those in the yoga group reported higher stress and anxiety than the microdosing or control groups, but the microdosing group reported higher depression scores than the yoga and control group. It’s not entirely clear why this is, but it suggests a possible gravitation towards yoga for the anxious kind and towards psychedelics for the depressed kind.

Those who used both microdosing and yoga had lower anxiety scores than the yoga only group and showed lower depression scores than the microdosing group. The researchers didn’t draw any conclusions about the effects of yoga and microdosing on depression or anxiety but commented that the subjective benefits between the two are comparable. They also concluded that combining the two might also be beneficial.

Same book, different page.

A painting of people walking on a path into the mind which is full of space and planets. A concept of psychedelic, microdosing, and yoga.
@rapid_space

So what are we learning exactly in these initial days of research? To be honest, we’re mostly learning why people gravitate towards microdosing and psychedelics and what their subjective feelings are about doing it. That’s to say — we don’t have much objective data about the effects of microdosing as all of our studies have been observational. 

What’s emerging is that mental health and well-being are among the primary reasons to seek out therapies such as microdosing with psychedelics or yoga. There seems to be a thread in the demographics that use these practices that even underlying physical health conditions are mental health afflictions that can be well managed.

Whatever the effects of yoga and microdosing psychedelics are, they seem to be comparable. The same kind of benefits seem to come from microdosing psychedelics as the practice of yoga. Interestingly, Vincent Polito believes that psychedelics seem to help with psychological well-being by reducing neuroticism. He also believes that microdosing improves mental performance by increasing conscientiousness. 

Think about that for a minute; a reduction in neuroticism (i.e. tranquility), and an increase in conscientiousness (diligence). This sounds a lot like the mental health outcomes that everybody is looking for, irrespective of the psychological affliction. It’s what all of us are trying to achieve on the yoga mat or by microdosing and taking psychedelics.

Given that similar kinds of people gravitate towards these two therapies, it’s not far fetched that their outcomes are similar — otherwise why would so many people gravitate towards them! We look forward to the day that there is more objective scientific data for us to work off and better understand the benefits of microdosing. Until then, the research suggests that microdosing might be just as good for you as regular yoga practice!

Have you ever mixed microdosing with yoga? We’d love to hear your experiences — drop them in the comments.

Key takeaways.

  • Which diseases support the use of cannabis in paediatrics?

    The FDA has approved a CBD drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Dravets Syndrome and tuberous sclerosis. CBD can help reduce seizure frequency and severity associated with these conditions.

  • What are some of the dangers of cannabis in paediatrics?

    There is some evidence that adolescent cannabis use can interfere with normal neurocognitive brain function, but little is known about whether cannabinoids affect children or infants the same way. Another danger is that there is no robust evidence for cannabis treatment in diseases other than those mentioned in the takeaway above.

  • What’s on the agenda for the future?

    Cannabis is being investigated as a potential treatment for paediatric pain, sleep, and behavioural disorders, for paediatric palliative care, and for autism.

It sometimes feels that everyday, our knowledge about cannabis becomes more robust and we become more and more confident at using it. But the stark reality is that when it comes to medical science, we still know less about cannabis than any approved pharmaceutical drug. And that’s what makes cannabis in paediatrics still a contentious topic.

There is robust evidence for the use of cannabis in children with certain diseases, but certainly not all diseases. On top of this, there are important considerations about cannabinoids and brain development in children and adolescents. 

The demand for cannabis in paediatrics is growing enormously in Canada but medical bodies have yet to develop guidance documents or standard protocols, leaving many paediatricians in the dark. The knowledge and understanding of paediatricians and paediatric medicine have essentially fallen behind the demand from parents.

But that still doesn’t answer the question — can children benefit from cannabis? What we’re doing to discover is that some children may benefit from cannabis while for others, it may hinder their development and recovery. Let’s have a look and see which is which.

The challenges of cannabis in paediatrics.

A vintage image of a child sitting on a hospital bed with machinery around him, depicting paediatrics.

The main challenge that paediatricians face when deciding whether or not to administer cannabis to children is the caveat that cannabis may have detrimental effects on brain development in children and adolescents. It is thought to cause disadvantages in neurocognitive performance as a result of alterations to brain functioning. However, it’s not clear whether pre-existing differences (to the normal population) might lead adolescents to use cannabis, or whether cannabis is the cause of those differences.

The majority of the research surrounds cannabis use in adolescents, not cannabis in children. This creates another hurdle into the understanding of how cannabis affects pre-teens and children and their brain development.

All of this not knowing — but with potent potential risks (brain development) — is the reason that paediatricians hesitate when it comes to prescribing cannabis. Depending on the severity of the disease, it might just be better to choose something that doesn’t pose the risk of affecting brain development.

It’s important to recognise that all drugs come with side effects, and a doctor’s job is often to weigh up the pros and cons and then offer those to a patient — even if that patient is a child. For example, Dravets Syndrome can cause seizures so frequent and so severe, that a child can be left with developmental problems and even a crouched walk. In this kind of scenario, a paediatrician may choose cannabis as a treatment option as the alternative itself is much worse.

Another obvious challenge that paediatricians face is the lack of robust evidence of cannabis use in children for specific diseases. There is some evidence to support the use of cannabis for certain seizure disorders, for example, and for tuberous sclerosis (we’ll share some of this research with you later in the article). But there isn’t an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the use of cannabis in children with pain disorders, ADHD, anxiety, or depression — all of which are common reasons for parents to request cannabis treatment from paediatricians.

What treatments does the research support?

When it comes to cannabis in paediatrics, there are few diseases for which cannabis is fully supported by research as a treatment. These are Dravets Syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Let’s have a look at these conditions and the research that supports cannabis as a treatment.

Dravets Syndrome and treatment with cannabis.

As we mentioned earlier, Dravets Syndrome is a very rare disease affecting otherwise healthy infants. It’s thought to be caused by a gene mutation. Symptoms typically begin in the first year of life and are characterised by clonic seizures (jerking movements) and fever. The jerking often happens on one side of the body, and are long seizures.

Eventually, this can escalate into status epilepticus, which is when seizures occur very frequently with very little time in between. Intellectual impairment and brain abnormalities are complications of Dravets Syndrome because of how severe seizures are, their frequency and their duration. Up to 20% of children diagnosed with Dravets Syndrome will die before reaching adulthood. 

In a clinical trial testing the efficacy of CBD on children with Dravets Syndrome in 2017, researchers found that the frequency and severity of all kinds of seizures were reduced in the subjects who took CBD. The percentage of those who experienced greater than 50% reduction in seizures was an astonishing 43%. In total, 5% of subjects using CBD became seizure free after treatment, while 0% of the placebo group became seizure free.

This research lead to the approval of Epidiolex, a drug created by GW Pharmaceuticals made of purified CBD. The FDA approved Epidiolex in 2018, and is approved in paediatrics for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome.

Given the complications of Dravets Syndrome and the high morbidity associated with it, treatment is absolutely vital. However, Dravets Syndrome is highly resistant to seizure medication, and CBD is an appropriate intervention to control seizures and minimise complications. 

Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and cannabis treatment.

Like Dravets Syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is a rare kind of epilepsy that causes severe and frequent seizures. However, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is characterised, not only by multiple seizure types, but also by abnormal EEG readings and cognitive impairment. This triad of symptoms is the main framework by which Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is diagnosed. 

Mortality with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is less than Dravets Syndrome, with early fatalities only occurring in 4-7% of diagnoses. These usually occur because of accidents associated with seizures. In this way, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is considered less severe than Dravets, and it’s also less rare. 

At the same time, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is morbid and symptoms are stressful for both children and parents. It happens to be another condition for which cannabis in paediatrics is generally accepted. The same drug, Epidiolex, has shown great promise for Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and the FDA has approved Epidiolex for this condition too. 

Tuberous sclerosis and how cannabis helps.

Tuberous sclerosis (TS) is completely unlike Lennox-Gastaut and Dravets Syndromes in that it’s not a seizure disorder. TS is another rare disease (total prevalence of 1 in 20,000) that causes benign tumours (noncancerous) to grow on the body, skin, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body. Though the tumours are noncancerous, they can cause a host of symptoms depending on where they are in the body.

For example, a person with TS might experience seizures if their tumour is located in the brain. Others might experience lung or eye-related issues, again because the lesions occur in those areas. TS is usually diagnosed at birth, but in some cases doesn’t get diagnosed until adulthood.

TS is not associated with high morbidity or mortality statistics like Dravets or Lennox-Gastaut, but because seizures are a factor in TS, treatment is very important. Up to 90% of patients with TS experience seizures. And as you might have guessed, treating intractable seizures caused by TS is where cannabis comes into the picture.

As the writers of this study conclude, CBD is a highly effective treatment for seizure reduction in those with intractable seizures caused by TS — but it’s not a miracle. And it’s not a miracle because with TS, tumours recur, and it doesn’t seem like CBD intervention can stop that. However, CBD helps to reduce seizures — and that’s a very important aspect for sufferers of TS.

Those born with TS go on to live fruitful, productive lives, and so a paediatrician may not choose cannabis as a first line of treatment for a child with TS. They may first choose to explore other therapies that have been better researched.

Other paediatric conditions considered for cannabis treatment.

A photograph of two children sitting on a wooden bench, hugging each other.

Though the evidence is only robust for these specific types of epilepsy and TS, there is ongoing research and investigation into cannabis treatment for spasticity, motor disorders, and Tourette syndrome. 

In one open-label study including 25 children, a CBD-rich preparation was given to children with complex motor disorder. The children that received CBD showed improvements in sleep, muscle spasticity, dystonia, and quality of life. 

In this feasibility study, researchers demonstrated a possible connection between the endocannabinoid system and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The rationale is that many ASD sufferers experience seizures (up to 33%), and that this suggests a connection between ASD and the endocannabinoid system. Researchers declared improvements of a range of different kinds in 61% of patients.

There are a lot of other paediatric diseases on the agenda when it comes to cannabis research including neuropathic pain, neurological diseases, sleep disorders and behavioural problems. Paediatric palliative care is also another context in which it’s important to consider cannabinoid treatments. We don’t often think of palliative care or hospice as being relevant to children, but children also experience very painful and sometimes fatal diseases that simply require palliation. In palliative care, the only objective is comfort, and therefore it may not matter that cannabinoids may hinder a child’s brain development.

Cannabis in paediatrics; controversial, but let’s talk about it.

There’s absolutely no doubt that stigma plays a role in how we feel about giving cannabis to children. Some parents choose it as a final resort but still feel like they are drugging their child. It’s interesting that some parents might feel this way about giving cannabis to their children but not Ritalin. 

At the same time, children are delicate and they can’t make health decisions for themselves. And so it’s very important not to give medications that can have risks for the future of their health. It has to be completely safe before we can openly encourage the use of cannabinoids in children. 

It’s important to be having the conversation openly because despite stigma, some children can benefit from cannabis treatment. Parents who want to explore the options of cannabis treatment with their children should find a cannabis-friendly medical practitioner for honest, up-to-date medical advice. 

What’s your experience with paediatrics? Do you or anyone you know have a child eligible for treatment with cannabis? We’d love to hear your stories. Drop them in the comments!

Key takeaways.

  • Can a penicillin allergy also cause a mushroom allergy?

    There’s not much evidence that penicillin allergies cause cross-reactivities with other moulds or fungi, so it’s still considered unlikely that a penicillin allergy would be related to a mushroom allergy.

  • Is it safe to have magic mushrooms if you have a penicillin allergy?

    If your allergy to penicillin is mild (it doesn’t cause hospitalization), then it is still safe to try magic mushrooms. But if you have strong allergies to penicillin or to other mushroom varieties, it may not be safe.

  • Tips for trying magic mushroom safely if you have a penicillin allergy?

    Have a tripsitter (who isn’t taking mushrooms), start with only a small dose, keep antihistamines around, and don’t freak out at small reactions such as skin hives. Call emergency services if the allergy becomes an emergency.

We’ve received a number of questions regarding the use of magic mushrooms and penicillin allergies. It’s a valid question given that penicillin is a form of mould and magic mushrooms are a form of fungus — the two kinds of organisms are very similar. And there are many wondering whether or not it’s safe to use magic mushrooms if you also happen to have an allergy to penicillin.

We’ve got a very interesting topic on our hands because there are a few different kinds of sensitivities that can manifest between humans and fungi. There’s mushroom allergies which are vague and nonspecific, penicillin allergies which are specific to penicillin but not all kinds of fungi, and then there’s other specific mushroom allergies. But where do these allergies overlap?

It’s important to remember that magic mushrooms do not contain penicillin. Which means that a person with a penicillin allergy will not necessarily have an allergy to magic mushrooms. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else in the mushroom that the person could have an allergic reaction to. This is an especially important factor to consider in those with overall mushroom allergies.

In this article, we’re investigating the difference between different mold allergies and sensitivities, and how someone with a penicillin allergy might safely go about using magic mushrooms.

Penicillin allergies, mushroom allergies, and mold sensitivities.

A painting of psychedelic magic mushrooms in outerspace surrounded by asteroids with faces on them.
@the.iron.swan

Penicillin is a kind of fungus or mould that happens to be beneficial to the human body — just like magic mushrooms! When you think about it, there are a number of different fungi that humans have come to love. Even the good ol’ button mushroom is a healthy fungus for humans.

However, just like with many other foods, there are a small group of people for whom fungi trigger different kinds of allergies. Penicillin allergy is considered the most common worldwide allergy, with around 8-12% of the population having a sensitivity reaction of varying degrees to penicillin. 

That being said, it’s uncommon for there to be penicillin cross-reactivity with other molds, even if they are respiratory ones. That’s to say — just because a person is allergic to penicillin doesn’t mean they’ll have an allergic reaction to mushrooms, moulds in cheeses such as blue cheese, or Psilocybin magic mushrooms.

In the modern context “mushroom allergy” is widely accepted as an allergy to mushroom spores, with certain species being primary culprits. However, it’s primarily a respiratory reaction and isn’t thought to occur by eating magic mushrooms. Once upon a time, though, there was some scientific mention of non-specific mushroom allergies.

There have been reported reactions of gastrointestinal symptoms after oral ingestion of shiitake mushrooms and even reports of contact dermatitis after eating raw shiitake mushrooms. It seems from the research and anecdotal reports on forums such as Reddit that allergies to wild mushrooms or edible mushrooms manifest as itching, redness, hives, rash, and in the worst cases, anaphylaxis. 

Mushrooms are all composed of different things, all of which could theoretically cause an allergic reaction if the person has an allergy to any of those compounds. It’s worth noting that what makes psilocybin mushrooms “poisonous” is psilocybin itself! And if you’ve ever used magic mushrooms, you know what “magic mushroom poisoning” feels like!

So is it possible to be allergic to magic mushrooms if you have a penicillin allergy?

The short answer is yes. It is possible. But not much more likely than anybody else having an allergy to magic mushrooms. As we just mentioned, it’s possible that some cross reactivity takes place, but this has never been established for magic mushrooms.

There is still no science to back this up, but if a person has allergies to multiple kinds of fungi such as penicillin, shiitake, and porcini, then it’s more likely that they will have an allergy to something in magic mushrooms. But if the allergy is confined to penicillin, then the chances of being allergic to magic mushrooms exist, but they’re slim.

How can you safely use magic mushrooms if you have a penicillin allergy?

An illustration of a hand with different kinds of mushrooms growing out of the fingers and through the finger tips.
@charleysatelier

Now for the million dollar question: how can you safely use magic mushrooms if you’re allergic to penicillin? If you’ve never tried magic mushrooms, then quite bluntly, you don’t know if you’re allergic to them. So before deciding if it’s safe to move along and try, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I ever get anaphylaxis to other foods such as nuts?
  • Do I ever have allergies to normal culinary mushrooms?
  • Is my penicillin allergy severe enough to send me to hospital?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it might not be safe for you to eat magic mushrooms. The risk might simply be too high. 

Otherwise, if you have a penicillin allergy that’s less severe but still want to create a safer environment for trying magic mushrooms, we have the following advice:

  1. Don’t trip alone. Have a trip-sitter or someone around who isn’t taking magic mushrooms that can act in the event that you start having an allergic reaction. Make sure you give them all the information they need to be able to act if you require assistance.
  2. Start with a small dose. Think about it — don’t take a whopping dose of a potential allergen. Start with 1/2g to see your initial reactions.
  3. If you’re the kind of person that uses antihistamines when you get allergies, keep antihistamines around.
  4. If you keep an epipen around, make sure you know where it is. But remember, we don’t recommend trying magic mushrooms if you get anaphylaxis to any kind of mould or penicillin.
  5. Accept the small possibility of dermatitis, rash, or itching and don’t panic. However, notify someone immediately if there are any signs of tongue, lip or throat swelling.

The difference between a sensitivity and an allergy: when is it an emergency?

A painting of a sloth hanging off vines attached to unusual looking magic mushrooms.
@kitmizeresart

There are varying degrees of penicillin allergy. For example, some people experience swelling on the face or hands and feet while others might experience shortness of breath or swelling of the tongue. When a person is experiencing “sensitivity” symptoms, antihistamines are usually enough to reduce them. However, if a person is having “allergic” symptoms, they might begin to experience anaphylaxis.

Any sign of swelling of the tongue, lips, or throat is the sign of an emergency and requires emergency medical care. However, in the event that hives or skin rashes appear as a reaction to magic mushrooms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the reaction will escalate into anaphylaxis or require emergency medical care. This is why it’s important to have a tripsitter who will be able to identify these things. 

Overall, a simple penicillin allergy does not necessarily mean that a magic mushroom allergy exists — and in fact, it’s not all that likely. But given the small possibility of the two allergies overlapping, it’s just important to be prepared. And after reading this article, you should be equipped with all the preparation arsenal you need to make it a safe first experience.

Do you have a penicillin allergy and have you tried magic mushrooms? If yes, let us know in the comments what happened when you tried magic mushrooms. Your story will help lots of people in the local mushroom-using community to understand how to use mushrooms safely!

  • What are the most common ways to include cannabis in your skincare routine?

    You can use cannabis in the form of bath bombs, body creams and lotions, and hemp face masks. All of these forms of topical cannabis can be incorporated into your skincare routine.

  • Do cannabis skincare products contain CBD or THC?

    You’ll find both available in the cannabis skincare market but it is much more common to find CBD as it has great skin benefits and is easily extracted from industrial hemp.

  • What should you look out for when shopping for cannabis skincare products?

    Look out for the concentration of CBD or THC — the higher the concentration, the better the product will be for problem areas. Lower concentrations are better for everyday use.

More than a therapeutic compound… more than a recreational substance… cannabis is also a beauty enhancer. Human skin shows its love for cannabinoids by having a strong distribution of CB1 and CB2 receptors. Essentially, the moment that cannabinoids make contact with your skin, they create a cascade of effects in skin cells through activation of cannabinoid receptors. And that’s one good reason to use cannabis in your skincare routine.

If you’d like to do some reading on the science behind cannabis and dermatology, you can check out our article on Cannabis & Dermatology. In this article, we talk about how cannabis is used to treat certain skin diseases. But in this article, we’re going through the different kinds of products that are available to incorporate into your skincare routine.

Some people will use cannabis skincare to manage certain skin conditions such as acne or eczema while others will use it simply as part of a beauty routine to smooth out and brighten the skin. From bath bombs to lotions to hemp face masks, there are myriad ways to invite cannabis into your skincare routine. 

Let’s check them out.

1. CBD bath bombs.

A collage art of a woman sitting on a chair surrounded by CBD bath products.

If CBD is your chosen cannabinoid, bath bombs are an indulgent and luxurious way to add it to your skincare routine. Plus, using cannabinoids bath bomb style allows the skin over your entire body to soak up all the benefits.

In terms of skin benefits, CBD bath bombs can soothe any itchy or red skin as well as moisturize dry or flakey skin. It’s best enjoyed for overall skin health rather than for problem areas — for obvious reasons! Eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, or minor skin complaints can benefit from a CBD bath bomb.

From the pantry.

100mg CBD Heart to Heart Bath Bomb by Calyx Wellness

The ylang ylang and bergamot scented Heart to Heart bath bomb is a colourful, CBD-rich way to relax in the bath while nourishing your skin with CBD. 100mg is a generous dose of CBD for a bath bomb, so you can also use the Heart to Heart bath bomb for minor skin complaints such as mild eczema or psoriasis. It smells deliciously romantic!

300mg Eucalyptus Relieve bath salt by Sunnyside Botanicals

Though the Eucalypts Relieve bath salt is not a bath bomb per se, it’s used in the exact same way. The bath salt allows you to choose how much you put in the bath, and with 300mg in each jar, it can also be used to treat skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Otherwise, use a smaller dose, give your skin some CBD loving, and having a relaxing bath experience with eucalyptus. 

2. Cannabis body lotion.

A collage art of a woman sitting behind cannabis body lotions wrapped in a bath towel.

Another way to enjoy cannabis in your skincare routine is to indulge in cannabis body lotions and body creams. There are more CBD-infused cannabis lotions than there are THC-infused cannabis lotions. This isn’t because THC isn’t great for skin — it’s because THC is typically used as an intoxicant and therapeutic substance internally rather than on the skin. 

CBD, on the other hand, can be extracted from hemp and is therefore a more economical skincare cannabinoid. It’s therefore a more common choice when it comes to the manufacture of cannabis-based skincare.

That means that most of the cannabis body lotions and creams you find in the retail market will contain CBD rather than THC. CBD has many benefits for skin, possibly even more so than THC, and many of the benefits of these two cannabinoids overlap. So don’t be disappointed if you can’t find a THC body lotion — CBD is a great skin cannabinoid!

Cannabis creams and body lotions are a little more versatile than bath bombs. They can be used all over for general skin health or they can be used on problem areas such as bruises, scars, or areas where the skin isn’t too healthy. 

For a really luxurious experience, use a cannabis body lotion straight after using a CBD bath bomb. Your skin and soul will love you for it.

From the pantry.

1200mg CBD Smooth+ Cream by Calyx Wellness

The CBD Smooth+ Cream is a potent way to use CBD on your skin. With 1200mg in the jar, a small amount goes a long way to help you manage problem areas of acne, rosacea, flakey dry skin, or uneven skin tone. Use it over the whole body for a deeply hydrating experience. And for next-level indulgence, start off with a CBD bath bomb  and finish with the CBD Smooth+ Cream. 

300mg CBD Orange Dreamsicle Body Butter by Delush

Sweet, candy-like aromas dominate the 300mg CBD Orange Dreamsicle Body Butter, making it an extremely sensual way to enjoy topical CBD skincare. This product is more for the ones who like to use CBD in their every-day skincare routine to nourish and hydrate the skin on a regular basis. It’s an indulgent kind of body butter for the kind of person who absolutely loves self care — especially if CBD is involved.

3. Hemp & CBD face masks.

Hemp and CBD face masks are growing in popularity around Canada as another way to incorporate cannabis into skincare. They are often available as cream masks or as hemp clay masks. And they are used in very much the same way as any other face mask.

Hemp face masks are often made with hemp seed oil which doesn’t contain cannabinoids. Rather, it’s full of amino acids that are hugely beneficial to skin, restoring its balance of oils and fats, and keeping skin cells performing at their best. 

Hemp face masks can be used by anybody who wants to keep their facial skin healthy and vibrant. As we just mentioned, the amino acids in hemp seed oil can be used to restore skin vitality and beauty. A face mask is a potent way to deliver the benefits of hemp and cannabis to the skin but shouldn’t be used everyday.

Add a hemp face mask as a weekly addition to your skincare routine for more vibrant, better balanced skin.

A world of cannabis and skin.

A collage art of a woman lying down in the clouds surrounded by cannabis leaves, smoking a joint.
@_callmefelicia_

If you step out into a cannabis dispensary — or even to your nearest beauty retailer — you’ll find a lot of different cannabis skincare products. CBD and cannabis in skincare have become almost mainstream and it’s not hard to find a variety of different CBD skincare products.

When shopping for cannabis skincare, keep your eyes open for whether it’s made with cannabinoids or with hemp. You also want to check the concentration of cannabinoids in the product. The higher it is, the more cannabinoids your skin can enjoy in each application. Higher concentrations are also better for skin complaints and diseases, while lower concentrations can be enjoyed as everyday skincare.

It’s completely safe to use cannabis on your skin everyday — but it might not be safe to use other ingredients on your skin every day. Make sure you read the ingredients of your cannabis skincare products to understand what’s in it and whether or not you want to put that on your skin every single day!

Have you used cannabis in your skincare routine? What kind of products did you use and what did it make your skin feel like? Drop your cannabis-skincare story in the comments!

  • What are THC’s main effects on the immune stystem?

    THC is primarily immunosuppressive, meaning that it reduces pathological immune responses. However, it might also help the immune system carry out jobs that it usually can’t in certain contexts such as cancer.

  • Is THC anti-inflammatory?

    Yes, and anti-inflammation is one of the immunomodulatory effects of THC. This is another reason that THC is so versatile in the clinical setting, as many diseases have inflammation at their source and origin.

  • What are some immune disorders that THC can be used for?

    So far, the anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of THC have been found to be useful in cancer, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s and even depression.

We’ve recently been bombarding you with a lot of information about the immunomodulatory effects of cannabis, and last week we focused on the immunomodulatory effects of CBD. This week we’re having a look at the immunomodulatory effects of THC to investigate its role in different immune-related diseases.

It’s important to remember that when it comes to cannabis research, it often happens that cannabis is studied as a whole plant, and not necessarily as separate cannabinoids. Much of the research that exists lumps all cannabinoids under the same umbrella. 

So to keep things interesting and to bring you new and exciting research that we haven’t already presented to you in other articles, we’re going to look at THC’s immunomodulatory effects in context. For all intents and purposes, THC contains many of the same immunomodulatory effects as CBD such as induction of apoptosis, antiproliferation, and an off switch for pathological immune responses. 

Instead of going into these in detail again, we’re going to look at the research that delves into THC’s role in different immunological diseases. Through that, we’ll investigate the different ways THC might work in the body to bring about those immunological responses. Let’s jump right in!

THC, cancer, and the immune system.

A digital anatomical artwork depicting a human head, hand, thoracic cavity, and heart.
@tups.arts

Before we jump into the interest THC has created in its potential to treat cancer, let’s talk about why cancer is actually an immunological disease.

Cancer is essentially an immune disorder because it comes about when the immune system fails to do its job — attack and destroy unhealthy cells. Cancer cells are those that proliferate out of control, therefore causing tumours. On the other hand, autoimmune conditions ensue when the immune system fails to recognise the host cells and attacks healthy ones instead of sick ones.

How, then, might THC be useful in the treatment of cancer?

As cancer cells are those that proliferate out of control, and ones the immune system has failed to recognize, THC can intervene with tumor progression on a number of levels. The first is by inducing cell apoptosis – the programmed death of cancer cells that the immune system couldn’t take care of on its own. Interestingly, THC is thought to do this through autophagy — which literally means “self-eating”. In certain types of cancer cells, THC induces autophagy, therefore causing the cell to kill itself. It is a very important aspect of its anti-neoplastic properties. 

The second mechanism is via THC’s antiproliferative properties. THC may interfere with the tumor’s ability to grow by inhibiting pathways that lead to the growth of blood vessels. Cancers need blood to grow, and blood vessels grow in cancers. By inhibiting the growth of blood vessels, the cancers are essentially starved and can’t continue to grow. 

THC is also immunosuppressive.

A painting of a woman whose thoracic cavity is exposed, has wounds on her arms and legs, a concept of disease
@gladys_harlequin

In contrast, THC also has immunosuppressive qualities. This is actually true for most cannabinoids, and as we described in the article The Immunomodulatory Effects of Cannabis, it’s one of the most important properties of cannabis and cannabinoids as a whole.

But when we think about cancer, for example, this quality of immunosuppression is… counterintuitive. The immune system has already failed to recognize unhealthy, cancerous cells. Suppressing the immune system further, theoretically, can actually promote the growth of tumors. 

For example, in one study, researchers found that in murine models, THC actually increases breast tumor growth and metastasis. It does this by suppressing the immune system, therefore impairing its ability to actually interfere with tumour growth. 

By the same breath, THC can also improve immune-mediated cancer surveillance in certain contexts. It has become an extremely important part of THC-immunology research to identify in which context THC enhances the immune system and in which it suppresses it.

It may also be the case that THC acts directly on tumor cells to reduce cancer, but actually suppresses the immune system. This would mean that THC doesn’t use the immune system per-se to have anti-neoplastic effects.

The reason THC’s immunosuppressive qualities are important is because there are a lot of diseases caused by an overactive immune system. For example, Crohn’s disease and lupus are autoimmune diseases caused by overactive immune systems. It is another reason that THC is being investigated so thoroughly with respect to the immune system. 

Anti-inflammatory: a property that makes THC so versatile.

A photograph of a cannabis leaf on a rainbow background wall.
@cannabisfoodshow

One of the properties that makes THC (and cannabis) so versatile is its apparent ability to reduce inflammation. It makes THC versatile because there are a lot of diseases for which inflammation is a primary factor.

For example, through being anti-inflammatory, THC might have positive effects on Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s and even depression. Typically, THC brings on anti-inflammatory responses by causing cell death of T-cells, a kind of immune cell that creates the inflammatory response. 

This is part of the immunomodulatory effect of THC. It’s also why many people use THC for inflammation. However, this is also why THC and other cannabinoids may not be a great therapy choice for those whose immune systems function properly. If immunosuppression is induced in a healthy immune system, then it may make a healthy person more susceptible to disease.

The immunomodulatory effects of THC are complex and it’s for this reason that there’s ongoing research to understand exactly in which context THC and other cannabinoids are useful in immunological diseases. As we demonstrated, the effects are multifaceted — on the one hand, THC might kill cancer cells and improve immune surveillance, but on the other hand, it’s one of the best immunosuppressive agents we have. 

The ongoing research into exactly how and when to properly use THC in the clinical setting is very much needed so that we can better extract the best clinical potential possible.

  • What are the three most common skin diseases cannabis can help with?

    Eczema, psoriasis, and acne are the three most common skin diseases that cannabis seems to reduce symptoms for.

  • How does cannabis help with skin diseases?

    Cannabis is altogether anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative, helping in cases of eczema and psoriasis. It may also reduce sebum production, helping with acne. Finally, cannabis is antimicrobial which helps to reduce complications.

  • Is using cannabis topically enough?

    No. Certain skin diseases are caused by internal health issues such as gut dysbiosis, and therefore, internal treatments are also necessary to reduce symptoms. However, topical cannabis is a great skincare routine for everyday.

Even though cannabis has only just made its way into skincare, it’s likely that our ancestors were using topical forms of cannabis long ago. But more than just making your skin glow, cannabinoids may also help with skin diseases such as psoriasis or eczema. There is a robust body of evidence to suggest that cannabis can reduce skin inflammation and pain associated with these diseases.

Given how rampant eczema and psoriasis are across the Western world, cannabis as a dermatological treatment is a massively untapped market. Though cannabis and cannabinoids are now commercially available in skincare, it’s less used in dermatology.

Above and beyond factors of beautiful skin, failure to manage psoriasis or eczema have complications. And so treatment is essential, sometimes taking the form of topical treatments and depending on the severity, internal treatments too. In this article, we delve deep into cannabis and dermatology and how cannabinoids can help with skin diseases.

What are some common skin diseases and their causes?

A painting of a woman with psoriasis and eczema on her elbows, a concept of skin disease.
@pia_teglgaard

Dermatology is its own science because skin is extremely complex — and there are a lot of different ways it can dysfunction or be affected by ill health. In fact, when you think about it, the skin is an organ. In traditional medicine, the skin is an organ of protection and elimination. By virtue of that, diseases of the skin often have to do with underlying, internal health problems.

Let’s check out a few of the most common skin diseases and what causes them.

Eczema.

Eczema is a term often used interchangeably with dermatitis and refers to an itchy, bumpy, inflammatory rash that appears on the skin. Eczema is thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the skin barrier, causing the skin to become exposed to irritants. It’s also believed that this dysfunction is caused by a gene alteration.

There is an entire school of thought that eczema is related to immune dysregulation, as many eczema sufferers also experience greater susceptibility to infections, asthma and allergies. It’s also been suggested that eczema can be a result of gastrointestinal problems.

The final result is an itchy rash that is sometimes dry and flaky, and sometimes seeping and wet. It is sometimes triggered by certain irritants such as pollen, and in others flares up during stressful periods. 

Psoriasis. 

Psoriasis is interestingly different from eczema. For starters, rather than appearing as a rash, it appears as a raised plaque of skin that’s flakey, itchy, inflamed and painful. For the most part, psoriasis is considered a chronic inflammatory condition and a disease of the immune system. 

A major complication of psoriasis is that up to 30% of those who are unable to manage the condition will advance to psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterised by chronic psoriasis and painful arthritis in an asymmetrical pattern.

There are multiple forms of psoriasis, all of which present with a slightly different skin disease pattern. Erythrodermic psoriasis is even life threatening, and causes the skin to peel off the body. It can cause hypothermia and can be fatal if it isn’t managed properly.

Overall, psoriasis is considered a more visceral condition than a disease strictly related to dermatology. There are more internal forces at play than the simple dysfunction of the skin barrier as we saw in eczema.

Acne.

Acne is the result of the hair follicles on the skin becoming clogged with debris, dead skin cells, and skin oils. Depending on whether the pores are open or closed, this can cause blackheads or whiteheads. 

Acne is most commonly associated with teenagers because hormonal changes can affect the amount of sebum (or oil) produced by glands in the skin. Excess production of sebum can cause the blockage of pores and hair follicles and lead to acne. However, the gut microbiome has also been implicated in acne. The microbiota of the skin on those with acne is different to the microbiota on those with healthy skin and imbalances in gut microbiota are thought to be at play.

Skin disease is complex, and it should be obvious now why in certain cases, topical treatment isn’t sufficient. As we demonstrated with acne, sometimes probiotics are used to restore the gut microbiota. The treatment for skin conditions is often just as complex to match the skin disease itself. Let’s check out what cannabis has to say about skin diseases.

Cannabis and dermatology.

A collage art of a woman whose head has been replaced by a cannabis bud, and she is floating in the galaxy with a globe.
@callmefelicia

As we mentioned, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of cannabis for different skin diseases. The primary qualities that make cannabis so therapeutic for skin are its antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory qualities. It’s also a pain reliever which is an important factor for those with skin disease, and finally, it is also thought to have some anti-itch properties!

Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in various functions of the skin, and the skin itself actually has its own little endocannabinoid system. That’s to say that the skin actually produces endocannabinoids and receptors. Because endocannabinoids act on so many different cell types, changes in the skin’s endocannabinoid system can affect the whole skin. 

The endocannabinoid system of the skin governs proliferation, differentiation, and hormone production from certain cell types such as sebaceous glands. It also governs cytokine production which may be beneficial for those with eczema or allergic skin reactions.

So far as research goes into cannabis and how it helps skin diseases, most studies are in vitro, meaning they were performed in a petri dish. We don’t know yet to what degree this research translates into clinical evidence, and we won’t know until large scale clinical trials take place. Let’s poke our heads into some of the scientific research and how this can be applied to different dermatological problems.

The research that supports cannabis for skin diseases.

In 2007, researchers at Nottingham University put cannabinoids to the test to see if they could stop skin cells proliferating. They tested THC, CBD, CBN and CBG. The researchers found that cannabinoids inhibited skin cell proliferation and concluded that this would be a useful quality in the treatment of psoriasis. 

Another study was published in 2014 that found CBD in particular to have sebostatic and anti-inflammatory actions on human sebocytes. Sebocytes are the cells in the skin that produce sebum, the oily substance that is responsible for blocking pores and causing acne. In exerting a sebostatic quality, it can help to reduce acne formation and therefore, poses a potential avenue of treatment for acne. 

Interestingly, it seems that cannabinoids might not be the only potential therapy for skin diseases when it comes to cannabis. In 2005, researchers investigated the effects of internally consumed hempseed oil on patients with atopic dermatitis/eczema. They found that the daily consumption of hempseed oil changes plasma lipid profiles and that this reduces the symptoms of eczema. 

On top of all of this, cannabinoids have been shown to have antimicrobial activity. This is important for those with autoimmune diseases or skin diseases because infection is a complication. 

There seems to be a high affinity for cannabinoids and the skin, making cannabis especially useful in skin diseases where inflammation or proliferation or itching are major factors. So while cannabis and cannabinoids might not be useful on all skin diseases, it does seem like cannabis can provide symptomatic relief, and in some circumstances, curative results in certain skin conditions. 

Differentiating between dermatology and skincare.

A collage art of a woman putting lipstick on in the mirror with cannabis in the background.
@bethhoeckel

There is a whole world of cannabis skincare out there. Cannabis loves skin, it beautifies it, and it keeps the balance of fats on the skin’s surface balanced. This isn’t quite the same as dermatology which is about curing skin diseases and dysfunctions. What does make them alike is the fact that what goes in your body shows on your body. And so taking care of your skin, whether it’s sick or healthy, always involves a dietary or internal medicine aspect.

Taking care of your skin on a daily basis might include eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and using cannabis skincare products. But dermatological treatment might include a specialised diet (some foods are allergens), internal treatment to manage hormones or gut issues, and topical cannabis treatment.

Cannabis is good for virtually any skin, but it could be especially useful when treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, or acne. But this is always coupled with a healthy or specialised diet and necessary internal treatment, depending on the cause and the severity.

Have you ever used cannabis to treat a skin disease? How did you use it and was it effective? Let us know in the comments!

Key takeaways.

  • What makes smoking harmful?

    Toxic substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced during combustion that can cause cells to transform and become cancerous.

  • What are the top benefits of vaping?

    Vaping produces a more robust, pronounced flavour, it’s more discreet than traditional smoking, and you have the ability to control the temperature and therefore your experience.

  • What are the risks of vaping?

    We still don’t know a lot about the technologies used in vapes and the e-liquids themselves, and the risks revolve mainly around what we don’t know yet. Plus, the substances used in e-liquids, though they are considered safe, might not be considered safe for inhalation.

The modern alternative to smoking cannabis is vaping. For some users, it’s a healthier inhalation option. For others, vaping delivers a better flavour experience. But how much healthier is it — and does the fact that it’s healthier also mean that it’s risk free? 

Given how new vaping is in the overall scheme of things, there’s not an awful lot of research to guide us in our decision making. There is, however, a consensus that vaping is much less harmful to health than smoking. 

There are other benefits to vaping cannabis such as the variety and versatility of cannabis e-liquids. For example, cannabis vapes often have very precise cannabinoid content and cannabinoid ratios. For some users this is seen as better control over their cannabis experience.

In this article, we’re going to check out firstly, what makes smoking harmful, then we’ll look at all the pros and cons of vaping cannabis. Inhale responsibly!

Why is smoking harmful?

A collage art of a woman sitting on a cannabis bud, fanning her face in the sunlight.
@wetoast

Before we talk about some of the reasons you might want to switch from smoking cannabis to vaping, let’s have a look at exactly what makes smoking harmful. It’s really important to remember that smoking cannabis and smoking tobacco are two completely different things. But in any case, the lungs were made for inhaling air and using its oxygen — they were never intended to inhale burning plant material.

Smoking is harmful because smoke, whether from cannabis or tobacco, irritates the lining of the bronchial airways. The smoke also causes a transformation of the normal cells that line the bronchial passages, turning them into cells that secrete a large amount of mucous.

When you burn cannabis (and virtually anything), toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are produced. These can be converted via enzymatic pathways into cancer-producing cells, and so they are pro-carcinogens.

Smoking is harmful, not really because of what is being smoked, but because fundamentally the act of inhaling burning fumes is harmful. Burned substances are not supposed to be consumed in the general sense because they are known to contain toxic PAHs — this is even what makes barbecued meats a less healthy option than grilled or baked meats

Why is vaping healthier than smoking?

Vaping removes the combustion aspect of smoking without the inhalation aspect. And so what the user receives is vapour rather than smoke. As we just talked about, PAHs are typically produced during the combustion of any carbon-based organic matter like wood or coal, for example. So the reason that vaping is healthier than smoking is because no matter is combusted before inhalation, therefore there are no PAHs in vaped cannabis

According to the Royal College of Physicians, vaping is unlikely to cause greater than 5% of the damage caused by smoking. Although their analysis specifically relates to vaping nicotine rather than cannabis, it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume a similar comparison with cannabis.

(Other) Benefits of vaping.

So we’ve established why vapourizing cannabis is considerably healthier than smoking cannabis. Without PAHs, there’s way less mutagens and carcinogens getting into your lungs which equals better lung health. But there are more benefits to vaping than the simple fact that it’s healthier than smoking.

In fact, for a lot of vapers, it’s also more enjoyable than smoking.

Better flavour.

Vaping cannabis is altogether more flavourful with less contamination of the cannabis taste. Even if you roll straight green joints, the taste and effect of the paper alters the taste of pure cannabis. The same can be said for a pipe, where most of the aromatic terpenes are burned by direct flame. 

Better control.

Vaping gives you better control over your cannabis experience in a number of ways. Firstly, you can control the temperature at which you vape. You can then completely optimise the different vaping temperatures for different cannabinoids to maximise their taste and effects. 

Secondly, you have greater flexibility in terms of cannabis products. Cannabis vapes and e-liquids are typically sold with precise cannabinoid concentrations such as 1000mg CBD or 500mg THC. Sometimes, they are mixed to a precise ratio, allowing you to fully tailor your cannabis experience.

Better discretion.

By virtue of the smell only (let alone the amount of smoke), vaping is much more discreet than smoking. This is especially true if you vape at lower temperatures. Many people prefer to vape because you can do it on the fly without everybody in your street noticing!

What are the risks of vaping?

A collage art of a woman wearing cannabis clothes and a cannabis hat and pointing her finger towards the sky.
@_third_eye_art

It’s somewhat hard to have a conversation about the risks of vaping because there are few studies, and those that exist are inconsistent. It’s a difficult topic to study because of the variation in different materials and technologies used in vapes, the variation in composition of the liquids, and the difficulty in comparing the number of puffs of a vape to the number of cigarettes smoked. For this reason, it’s been hard to compare the risks of vaping to the risks of smoking.

The fact that we don’t know much could be considered a risk, too. For example, many of the flavourings used for vape liquids are made of substances that are “generally considered to be safe”. But these additives and colours are considered safe for oral consumption, and very little is known about how these additives affect our health when inhaled.

As we mentioned earlier in this article, lungs were made for breathing in air and nothing else. But we also said that vaping isn’t likely to exceed 5% of the damage of smoking — so that gives us an idea of where on the Richter scale of harmful vaping is.

Making the switch from smoking to vaping.

The switch from smoking to vaping is a positive one albeit a personal one. Some people simply never switch to vaping because they use cannabis recreationally and don’t use it often enough to feel the need to switch. Often, medicinal cannabis users prefer to vape to minimise the potential harm caused by smoking.

It can also happen that sometimes you don’t find your favourite strain in a vape and so you decide to buy it in its flower form! The versatility of cannabis is also one of the reasons cannabis is so accessible to so many different kinds of people. And that’s also why cannabis is so much loved!

Do you prefer vaping or smoking? Have you made the switch from smoking to vaping before? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments.

Key takeaways.

  • How does cannabis affect the immune system?

    Most cannabinoids have an immunosuppresant action, meaning they tone down the activity of the immune system. This can be useful for those who have pathological immune responses, such as in autoimmune disease.

  • How is cannabis used clinically for its immunomodulating effects?

    Cannabis’ immunomodulatory effects can be taken advantage of in autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s, and even Alzheimer’s. Immune dysfunction plays a role in the pathogenesis and progression of all of these conditions.

  • How does this affect the everyday user?

    In one study, researchers found that users had reduced immune responses, but other researchers say it’s far too early to understand how cannabis affects the immune system, especially for the everyday user.

One of cannabis’ prized pharmacological activities is its ability to reduce inflammation in those with pathological immune responses. And actually, cannabis’ anti-inflammatory property is just one of a range of different immunomodulatory effects that cannabis can produce. A number of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant work through the immune system in some way, causing a modulation of immune response.

Immunomodulation refers to anything that affects the immune response, whether it’s because it’s immunosuppressive (reduces the immune response), immunostimulant (stimulates the immune response), anti-inflammatory, anticancer, etc. Any medication that affects an immune response is said to have immunomodulatory properties, and when it comes to plant medicine, cannabis is high on the list.

We’re really just in the infancy of understanding how to perfectly use cannabis for its immunomodulatory properties. We know that cannabis has powerful anti-inflammatory properties for those with Crohn’s disease and might use anti-inflammatory mechanisms to reduce depression and epilepsy. But to what degree does the immunomodulatory effect of cannabis affect the everyday user who has no particular pathological immune issues?

In this article, we’re talking about some of the immunomodulatory effects of different cannabinoids, how they can be used in disease, and also how that might affect the everyday healthy user. 

An introduction to your immune system.

An illustration of a deep dissection of the human back and neck showing the vasculature of that area.
Jules Cloquet, 1825.

The immune system is your body’s way of defending itself against pathogens — and even against itself! Your immune system is coded even with anti-cancer genes, knowing that sometimes it needs to switch itself off, otherwise it can make the organism sick. In certain individuals, this “switch off” mechanism doesn’t work, and autoimmune diseases, sometimes cancer, and transplant rejection occurs.

The immune system is made up of different types of white blood cells, lymphatic fluid and lymphatic tissues and organs such as your lymph nodes. Specialized cells investigate the body (T cells) while other specialized police cells hunt down pathogens and destroy them (macrophages). These cells go through a very sophisticated training program called maturation where they learn to identify what’s the host and what’s a pathogen. 

Some immune cells (B and T cells) even have a memory that can last almost a lifetime so that if the organism is infected twice by the same pathogen, it mounts a faster response the second time.

It can sometimes happen that the immune system isn’t able to recognize itself. This happens as a result of defective elimination of self-reactive immune cells. In essence, the human body’s immune system starts attacking its own tissues. Crohn’s is considered an autoimmune disease, as is rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, multiple sclerosis, and lupus

Some autoimmune conditions only occur in a certain part of the body such as with Hashimoto’s (affecting the thyroid) and arthritis (affecting the joints). Others become systemic and have a range of symptoms all over the body such as in lupus.

Cannabis’ immunomodulatory effects can be very useful in autoimmune conditions because of its immunosuppressive behaviours. It can also be useful for acute infections and moderating painful immune responses such as injury inflammation. Let’s check out some of the ways cannabis affects the immune system.

How does cannabis affect the immune system?

Like we mentioned, cannabis is currently in the clinical spotlight for its immuno-suppressant effects. Its most exciting use is its potential ability to suppress pathological immune responses that are responsible for disease onset and progression, such as Crohn’s disease. 

There is research to support cannabis as an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant, antibacterial, and even possibly antifungal.

But not all cannabinoids possess the same qualities to the same degrees, so let’s have a look at the different immunomodulatory effects of different cannabinoids.

THC — immunosuppressive.

Overall, the research surrounding THC’s effect on the immune system puts it in the immunosuppressive category. It appears that THC suppresses pathological immune responses via the CB2 receptor. Though the exact pathway isn’t known, the endpoints are mediated by CB2 receptor interaction with THC. The result is inhibited T-cell proliferation and reduced secretion of cytokines such as IL-2. 

In clinical observation, researchers have found that THC reduces the pathological immune response associated with colitis and multiple sclerosis in animal models.

CBD — immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory.

A collage art of kings and queens holding cannabis and other fruits.
@greenagebarcelona

As with THC, it’s generally accepted that CBD’s effects on the immune system are immunosuppressive. Interestingly, CBD might not necessarily have these effects because of CB receptors, as CBD doesn’t have a strong affinity for CB receptors. However, CBD has shown to suppress immune response by promoting cell apoptosis, reducing the secretion of inflammatory cytokines, and reducing cell proliferation

These mechanisms by which CBD reduces the immune response are also what make CBD anti-inflammatory. As inflammation occurs as a result of these pathological immune responses, suppressing the immune system results in a decrease in inflammation.

In older research, CBD has also shown bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity (antibacterial). But it might be cannabis terpenes that have more of a role to play when it comes to antibacterial activity.

CBG — antimicrobial.

CBG is a precursor to other cannabinoids, meaning THC and CBD actually form through the biological pathway of CBG. It’s therefore most abundant in “unripe” cannabis. This cannabinoid as been researched for its antimicrobial properties, especially against bacteria.

In one study, CBG showed promising efficacy in destroying the cell membranes of gram-negative bacteria. It was especially effective when it was combined with other antibiotics. CBG also showed a reduction in the bacterial load in the spleen of the murine models used in the study.

It’s important to remember that antimicrobial activity doesn’t necessarily denote immunomodulatory effects, as the antimicrobial activity doesn’t work directly through the immune system. Rather, it works by killing the bacteria. It can be seen as an assistant to the immune system in eradicating bacteria, but doesn’t directly affect the immune system’s behaviour.

How does this affect the everyday cannabis user?

A collage art of cannabis users dancing on cannabis buds with a screen in the background showing the city.
@greenagebarcelona

It’s clear that cannabis can have serious implications within the immune system, especially for those with autoimmune diseases or chronic inflammation. But how does this immuno-alteration affect those whose immune systems are otherwise good and functional?

One 2003 study found that regular (otherwise healthy) cannabis users may have subdued immune responses. The healthy volunteers showed fewer pro-inflammatory cells and more anti-inflammatory cells. But they were all healthy at the time of being researched.

The anti-inflammatory status of regular cannabis users might be seen as a benefit or positive, but if the result is fewer circulating inflammatory cells, there could be a decreased resistance to infections. 

At the same time, a 2017 report concluded that there was still far too little research to understand the extent to which cannabis and cannabinoids affect the human immune system. 

Clinical applications for immunomodulatory cannabis.

A collage art of a woman picking cannabis buds off a cannabis plant with the sky in the background.
@yerbabuena.life

The clinical applications for cannabis, because of its immunomodulatory effects, are far reaching. For some people, it’s as simple as taking advantage of the localised anti-inflammatory effects of topical cannabis. For others, it’s about reducing inflammation associated with chronic autoimmune diseases.

The most researched clinical applications for cannabis’ immunomodulatory effects are in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. When cannabis is used in other medical conditions, it’s not necessarily for its immunomodulatory effects.

There is a consensus that the endocannabinoid and immune systems are closely tied together, and there is still ongoing research into how these two systems talk to each other and work together. Through this research, we might be unveiling underlying endocannabinoid or immune dysfunction in diseases we didn’t know were caused by these kinds of dysfunctions.

As it stands, though, cannabis in the clinical context is used for its immunosuppressive qualities. It’s not typically considered an immune enhancer, and is also not recommended for those who are heavily immunocompromised.

Have you used cannabis for any of the immunomodulatory reasons we’ve mentioned in this article? What was your experience like? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!