Traditional herbal medicine is here to stay

Beyond CBD sensationalism, traditional herbal remedies, although taking a back seat, are here to stay. They are to be respected for their blood sugar regulating, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular and antimicrobial activity. Cheap, sustainable plant extracts (including cannabinoids) that work directly against serious infections such as malaria, HIV Aids, Herpes and Murine toxoplasmosis, to name a few. We need to remember that the Cannabis Savita species have never traditionally been associated with health benefits until recently. Dagga (hash or marijuana) was introduced to Africans during the slave trading days a few centuries ago. The Dutch and Portuguese people taught them to smoke it for courage in battle. Zulu warriors especially drew valour from the weed and attacked their enemies with bloodshot eyes, fearing nothing, feeling no pain.

Today herbal medicine still plays an important role in the lives of our African people. 60% of the local population embrace traditional medicine and use indigenous plants for muti (medicine). The leaves, bulbs, bark and roots that the Inyangas (bush doctors) gather are sold on street corners and cost next to nothing. Ironically, this trade is unregulated by the Medicines Control Council. It remains to be seen how affordable a shot of CBD would be to someone who depends on herbal muti (medicine) to manage their blood sugar, aches and pains and evil spirits. For many, it would be the equivalent of a month’s groceries. Most of them have always routinely smoked dagga (Marijuana) even prior to the relaxed 2018 regulations so they don’t give a hoot. When I tried to buy some clean, THC free hemp from a Rasta street stall in Cape Town the vendor rolled his eyes at me as if I was crazy! South Africans of the lower income groups receive free hospital treatment as well as medications as a bonus from government so they have nothing to really be anxious about. They take home carrier bags of medicines without really understanding how to use them. Although potentially more dangerous than smoking a “zol” they are free!

Therapeutic benefits of Nigella Sativa (Kalonjie or Black Cumin) seeds

What do we mean by safer and more effective alternatives to CBD? Many superfoods (and flowers) contain the healing compounds that nourish our endocannabinoid system. Some of them mimic the biological activity of the classic cannabinoid but have a slightly different structure and are called cannabimimetic compounds.

Nigella Sativa (Kalonjie or Black Cumin) seeds, or black seed oil for instance, are no strangers to households in the Middle East and as the backbone of Unani Tibb (Arabian Medicine) they are said to cure one of all ailments except death. It is now also known as a phytocannabinoid superstar. None of us can defeat the grim reaper but over the years I have even been told by people in their eighties who use the seeds as a tonic or for diabetes, skin disorders and so on that it is very helpful. The spicy, pungent little black seeds can be chewed or ground up and added to other spices or used as oil. It is legal, doesn’t get you high or goofed up and as a foodstuff it is cheap and freely available. Benefits include immune stimulation, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, anticancer, hypoglycaemic, antihypertensive, anti-asthmatic, antimicrobial and anti-parasitic activity. Apart from helping to control pain, epilepsy, Parkinsonism and anxiety kalonjie improves learning and memory, alertness and is mood elevating. It does not make one feel forgetful, groggy and sleepy either! In experimental animal models it was shown to prevent damage to brain cells from various neurotoxins.

  • 1. Type 2 diabetes – Researchers found that just two grams daily of black seed could result in reduced fasting blood sugar levels, along with decreased insulin resistance, and increased beta-cell function in the pancreas.
  • 2. Epilepsy –  Published in Medical Science Monitor, one study found black seed to be effective at reducing the frequency of seizures in children who resisted conventional treatment. Black seed indeed has anti-convulsive properties.
  • 3. Colon Cancer – In cell studies, black seed has been found to have anti-cancer properties, inhibiting the growth of colon cancer cells specifically. In one animal study, the seed was able to fight colon cancer in rats successfully with no observable side effects. The same obviously can’t be said for conventional cancer treatments.
  • 4. MRSA – The deadly and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection known commonly as MRSA responded favorably to treatment with black seed in this study from the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan.
  • 5. Protection Against Heart Attack Damage – An extract from black seed has been shown to possess heart-protective qualities, dampening damages associated with heart attacks and boosting overall heart health.

Read: Health Benefits of 60+ Foods

It is effective against cancer in blood system, lung, kidney, liver, prostate, breast, cervix, skin with much safety. The molecular mechanisms behind its anticancer role is still not clearly understood, however, some studies showed that TQ has antioxidant role and improves body's defense system, induces apoptosis and controls Akt pathway. Although the anti-cancer activity of N. sativa components was recognized thousands of years ago but proper scientific research with this important traditional medicine is a history of last 2∼3 decades. There are not so many research works done with this important traditional medicine and very few reports exist in the scientific database.

  • 6. Breast Cancer – A few studies have linked a thymoquinone extract from nigella sativa to reduced breast cancer tumor growth and increased apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer cells.
  • 7. Brain Cancer – A study published in the online journal PLoS One indicates thymoquinone from black seed can induce cell death in glioblastoma cells. Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive brain tumors of all.
  • 9. Brain Damage from Lead – A study published in Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology  indicates black seed is able to dampen and reverse damage to the brain sparked by lead toxicity.
  • 10. Oral Cancer – Research indicates thymoquinone from nigella sativa is able to induce cell apoptosis in oral cancer cells.

These ten benefits of nigella sativa are truly only the tip of the iceberg. Mounting evidence indicates this seed is a powerful healer.   for diabetes proof

Flaxseeds are so rich in cannabinoids the authorities wanted to regulate them!

Very recently it was discovered that flax (linen) seeds produce cannabinoid-like compounds very similar to CBD, which appear to have very similar anti-inflammatory effects

The presented data suggest for the first time that flax products can be a source of biologically active cannabinoid-like compounds that are able to influence the cell immunological response. These findings might open up many new applications for medical flax products, especially for the fabric as a material for wound dressing with anti-inflammatory properties.

Helichrysum, a species of plant that belongs to the sunflower family, has been used for hundreds of years and contains the compound CBG (Cannabigerol) which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Black pepper contains BCP (Beta Caryophyllene) and has anti-inflammatory properties that may relieve symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis.

Hops (Humulus), the ingredient used in making beer also belong to the Cannabaceae family and contain the phytocannabinoid CBD (but no THC). Hops have shown a great deal of promising results in studies.

Echinacea is a supplement that is most often associated with preventing the common cold. It has been shown to contain a compound that binds with the CB2 receptors and can help stimulate the immune system.

The authors propose that the term phytocannabinoid is more appropriate now that scientists have discovered that BetaCaryophyllene activates the CB2 receptor and is “among the most abundant plant essential oil component.” Betacaryophyllene in found in nearly all plants, in fact it was proposed years ago that it is a “dietary cannabinoid.”

So, what else have you been eating that mimics the effects of molecules from cannabis?

Echinacea, Ruta graveolens (Citrus Family), and the Brassica genus (Mustard family, i.e. Broccoli) all contain compounds which may bind the CB2 receptor, some with an affinity or strength similar to THC. Note that unlike the CB1 receptor, the CB2 receptor does not cause psychotropic effects.

Even the Apiaceae family contains a compound which interacts with the CB1 receptor. Why should you care about the Apiacea family? Carrots.

Carrots and its relatives contain the compound falcarinol.  This appears to interact with both cannabinoid receptors, undergoing a mysterious alkylation reaction at the CB1 receptor. The questions of how and what this compound is doing to the CB1 receptor still needs to be investigated before we can draw any conclusions about the similarities between cannabis and carrots.

Black Pepper is a potent, healing herb that surprisingly has a lot in common with cannabis. Not only does it also contain a large amount of the beta-caryophyllene terpene responsible for the peppery smell in marijuana strains like OG Kush, Trainwreck, and Girl Scout Cookies, but it also initiates a physiological response within the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). Black pepper also tunes the endocannabinoid system via the alkaloid guineensis. This dynamic plant provides potent anti-inflammatory properties that help ease pain from arthritis and osteoporosis.

Commonly used as a go-to cold remedy, echinacea actually has a lot in common with our favorite girl, Marijuana. However, echinacea engages the endocannabinoid system (the CB1 receptor, specifically) with cannabimimetics rather than cannabinoids. It’s this engagement with the endocannabinoid system that causes echinacea to relieve anxiety, migraines, fatigue, and arthritis. The N-alkyl amides (NAAs) contained in echinacea are very similar to THC in the way they regulate pain, inflammation, and the immune system.

Most often used as an antidepressant and mood-stabilizer, helichrysum actually contains large amounts of cannabigerol (CBG), a phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant!

More research needs to be done on the discovery of CBG in helichrysum flowers but strict South African native plant laws make it near impossible to study the plant out of the country. Giovanni Appendino, the researcher who discovered “non-cannabis” CBG, believes the cannabinoid-like compounds made by all plants begin from an aromatic acid. Because of its use in African ritual ceremonies, Appendino believes helichrysum has psychotropic effects similar to cannabis.

Italian researchers have recently found that black truffles create the same anandamide, “bliss molecule,” as cannabis and cacao. As mentioned previously, anandamide is an endocannabinoid naturally produced by the body that regulates mood and pain perception through binding to CB1 (cannabinoid receptor 1).

Interestingly enough, researcher Mauro Maccarrone, who is studying anandamide in black truffles, notes that truffles are much older than cannabis. A study recently showed the black truffle has been around for nearly 156 million years, while cannabis is believed to date back 70-110 million years ago.

Produced from one of the most antimicrobial plants on the planet, essential oil extracted from Chinese Rhododendron can kill anything from staph infection to cancer cells, according to Italian researchers at University of Padova.

A 2011 study, New Cannabinoid-Like Chromane and Chromene Derivatives from Rhododendron anthopogonoides, found that “Two new cannabinoid-like chromane and chromene derivatives named anthopogocyclolic acid and anthopogochromenic acid and five related compounds known as synthetic analogues of cannabinoids: cannabichromene (CBC) type, cannabicyclol (CBL) type and cannabicitran (CBT) type, have been isolated together with geranyl orsellinic acid from the Chinese medicinal plant Rhododendron anthopogonoides”.

Long used as a pain-numbing gel in the Amazon region, electric daisy was found to block pain receptors at their nerve endings thanks to research conducted at Cambridge University. The compounds that cause the effective pain-relief of this flower are cannabinoids called N-isobutylamides that affect the CB2 receptors and regulate pain and inflammation throughout the body.

This New Zealand native that is known for its ability to treat liver, bladder, and gallbladder issues contains high amounts of a cannabinoid called perrotentinenic acid which is conspicuously similar to THC. While liverwort does not seem to have any psychotropic effects, it is believed to bind with CB1 receptors. Just like cannabis, liverwort is known for treating bronchitis and chronic respiratory problems.

Typically used in a medicinal tea to ease anxiety, chronic pain, and provide sedative effects, Kava has grown in popularity for Western use as a natural anxiety remedy. You may have noticed the effects kava provides are very similar to cannabis, which is likely due to a compound in kava that binds to the same receptor as THC. Kava is full of compounds called kavalactones; one kavalactone called yangonin interacts directly with the CB1 receptor which is predominant in the central nervous system. Similar to cannabis, kavalactones bind to brain locations associated with addiction and cravings. Research is still nascent, but Pacific Islanders have been using kava as a treatment for addiction for decades.