Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, MD, PhD, Physician-Scientist, Medical Geographer and Plant Explorer
Please let me share with you some of my thoughts and understandings regarding the phenomenon of Cannabinergy and its discovery out of Cannabis science.
When one studies the science of Cannabis, it is imperative to approach it from a holistic point of view. The rich ecosystem of Cannabis extends beyond “Science”, as traditionally understood, and into the the realm of Human-Plant relations.
This is why I communicate from my dual role as a physician and medical geographer, for without the cultural and geographic context, we will not be successful in availing the remarkable gifts Cannabis has to offer.
- A Personal Declaration
- Cannabis is easily the most ubiquitous, yet at the same time, most misunderstood, 37-million year old plant in existence today.
It goes by many names, such as Hemp, Reefer, Mari(h/j)una, Pot, Maryjane, Ganja, Chronic, Weed, Bud, and Herb, to name just a few. But do not let this confuse you; it is indeed all one plant.
I have seen it in all stages of its growth, in numerous countries around the world spanning 3 continents. I have a personal understanding of strongly held popular convictions, of all types, regarding Cannabis. My bicultural upbringing as a Desi-American amalgamates two cultures which lie at opposite ends of the spectrum of acceptance of the psychologically-activating effects of Cannabis consumption.
On the one hand, Muskogee, Oklahoma, my birthplace and hometown, is world-famous for being the subject of Country-Western singer Merle Haggard’s 1969 ballad “Okie from Muskogee” which thumbs its nose with superiority and collective moral indignation at the practice of Cannabis consumption (famously, the song opens with the line: “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”).
On the other hand, the South Asian country of India, the land that my parents immigrated from as adults, is steeped in long traditions of sacramental, celebratory, and other culturally accepted uses of Cannabis that span millennia, as documented as far back as the 12th-10th century BCE (BEFORE the COMMON ERA) in texts from the Vedic Civilization of the Indus Valley which proclaim Cannabis as a holy plant provided on Earth for humanity to find relief from distress or woe (Atharva Veda, Book XI, Hymn 6, Verse 15).
Thus, in my own bicultural persona, I have been deeply exposed both to cultures that espouse moral righteousness and moral indignation regarding Cannabis use, a spectrum that reaches from appreciation to vilification.
So, this is the backdrop of my journey to explore all aspects of Cannabis…
Let us move on so that I may share with you what I have discovered about the full potential of this magnificent, yet misunderstood, botanical.
Cannabinergy is the power of Hemp flowers.
In attempting to unlock the mystery of how the resin secreted by the flowers of Cannabis (just as a tree produces resin or ‘sap’)interacts at the molecular level with human and mammalian bodies, scientists in the late 20th century made one of the most groundbreaking, yet-unsung, scientific discoveries in biology, analogous to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
They found that the unique compounds known as cannabinoids (‘like Cannabis’) found in Cannabis flower resin, when ingested, directly interacted with an ancient, never-before described, six-hundred-million-year-old internal biological signaling system in our bodies, known in the medical and scientific world as the endogenous (‘originating from within’) cannabinoid signaling system, or endocannabinoid system (ECBS), for short. An adjective for anything which drives or stimulates this system is ‘Cannabinergic’—hence, we can describe hemp flowers as Cannabinergic.
This ECBS is vital in humans and modulates many essential functions, including mood, movement, memory, pain, appetite, immunity, inflammation, nerve and neuron protection, reproductive function, and even tumor cell regulation, among many others.
I learned more about this system while living in the San Francisco Bay Area and working in a laboratory at UCSF, in part by meeting personally a decade ago with Roger Nicoll, one of the scientists who first published in Nature, the most peer-reviewed scientific journal in the world, the ECBS’s unique primary modality of ‘retrograde signaling’. The abstract of the paper describes: “Signalling by the endocannabinoid system thus represents a mechanism by which neurons can communicate backwards across synapses to modulate their inputs.” This means that the endocannabinoid system facilitates the flow of information in the nervous system from neuron B to neuron A, rather than the other way around, the main directionality of every other known neurotransmitter system in the body.
I became increasingly fascinated by this feedback system and believed that tapping into it responsibly with cannabinoid botanicals and other cannabinoid-based medicines could/would/should play a prominent role in health and well-being, if only the utter black cloud of social stigma surrounding this plant would officially lift . I began to understand the scientific basis for the claims of those who talked about ‘medical marijuana’. Indeed, the discovery of this pharmacological aspect of the ancient Cannabis plant can easily be considered a medical and scientific breakthrough that holds great promise for knowledgeably promoting human health and well-being, easing pain, restoring function and quality-of-life, and curing disease.
So I am most pleased to share this next part of the journey with you directly, let’s begin…