NIH To Investigate Minor Cannabinoids
NIH To Investigate Minor Cannabinoids, Despite a lack of robust evidence, cannabinoids — such as CBD — are often assumed to be safe and effective in managing pain and used for such purposes in real-world settings. Now, nine new research awards totaling approximately $3 million will investigate the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of actions of the diverse phytochemicals in cannabis, including both minor cannabinoids and terpenes. These awards, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will strengthen the evidence regarding cannabis components and whether they have potential roles in pain management.
“The treatment of chronic pain has relied heavily on opioids, despite their potential for addiction and overdose and the fact that they often don’t work well when used on a long-term basis,” said Helene Langevin, M.D., director of NCCIH. “There’s an urgent need for more effective and safer options.”
Minor cannabinoids (those other than THC, the high-inducing component of marijuana) and certain terpenes found in the cannabis plant may have analgesic properties, but there has been little research on these substances to understand their effects and underlying mechanisms. The cannabis plant contains more than 110 cannabinoids and 120 terpenes, but the only compound that’s been studied extensively is THC.
“THC may help relieve pain, but its value as an analgesic is limited by its psychoactive effects and abuse potential,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH. “These new projects will investigate substances from cannabis that don’t have THC’s disadvantages, looking at their basic biological activity and their potential mechanisms of action as pain relievers.”
Natural products, including cannabinoids, have shown promise for potential use as nonopioid analgesics; however, we need to know more about whether they work, what they do in the body, and how they might be integrated into multidisciplinary pain management. These new awards support a broad range of cannabinoid and terpene studies.