and whether CBD can really be transformed into THC, we asked Peter Rausch in an interview.
In the 1990’s, the chemist Peter Rausch developed the world’s first hemp-based cosmetics series and has been researching on cannabis for decades. The chemist holds four cannabis patents and is considered a pioneer in hemp research. We spoke with him about the obstacles and opportunities for cannabinoids in medicine, and whether CBD can really be transformed into THC.
Only very few doctors in Austria already use cannabinoids and know about their therapy potential. How would you assess the future development?
Most of the more than 60 natural cannabinoids have hardly been explored as yet. The use of THC is greatly handicapped as a medication by its classification as an addictive substance, and by the doctors’ lack of knowledge. While CBD is not subject to the Narcotic Substances Act, the cards have been stacked against it for other reasons. Only a few synthetic cannabinoids have been used as medicinal products up till now. On the other hand, cannabis research was very successful in the discovery of cannabis receptors and of the endogenous endocannabinoids, which steer important functions in our bodies. But these findings, as well as the already proven therapeutic possibilities with cannabinoids, are not adequately taught in the course of medical training. This is urgently in need of change.
Studies have shown that depending on the blood circulation and the stomach acid, CBD can be transformed into THC in the stomach. What does this mean for the medicinal effect of CBD? Is it then even possible to rule out a psychotic effect of CBD?
CBD is a direct precursor substance in the production of THC, which can be carried out with simple methods such as isomerisation. The fascinating thing is that this is not yet widely known. Because in stomach acid as well, depending on the preceding food intake, smaller or larger amounts of CBD are directly transformed into THC. In my view, that is probably the largest obstacle for broad and successful use of CBD in medicine, because sooner or later CBD could likewise become subject to the regulations for addictive drugs.
Is there then any justification for the current CBD hype? CBD requires quite a high dosage in order for it to achieve a medicinal benefit.
I find the prevailing CBD hysteria completely overblown. Because aside from the disadvantages such as a high dosage, lack of clinical data and the exclusion of patentability, the hype is in the range of illegality. CBD is currently not admitted for medicinal purposes, nor as a food supplement, nor for cosmetics. That will certainly force the authorities to react, which is already becoming apparent with the new addictive drug amendment. A change in the legal framework could also lead to restrictions for cultivation.
Do you find it realistic to use CBD as a nerve-protecting therapy following traumatic brain injuries and strokes?
As far as I know, the nerve-protecting effect has so far only been determined in rats. Whether that is also true for humans has yet to be investigated. Should the assumption prove correct, then CBD would have to be administered to stroke patients very quickly in an injectable, water-soluble form, because every minute counts here.
You succeeded in showing that THC is formed through biosynthesis, but also through external influences such as short-wave UV radiation. So is the THC-free cultivation of cannabis plants even possible?
I am not a biologist, but I think this is possible with the modern genetic methods.
What does this mean for recreational users? Is a UV lamp at home sufficient for turning CBD buds into THC buds?
There is a scientific study which shows that CBD which is dissolved in a certain solvent and irradiated with a certain UV wavelength can be transformed into THC. Whether this would also work directly with the buds on the plant, I couldn’t say.
Cannabinoids are alcohol- and fat-soluble, neither of which is an advantage for medicinal uses. What does this mean for the use of cannabinoids in medicine?
Cannabinoids are unfortunately not water-soluble, but alcohol- and fat-soluble. For this reason, the body only resorbs about 20 percent of them. This means that about 80 percent of the THC consumed orally worldwide lands in the toilet, or when smoked mainly lands in the atmosphere, in the form of decomposition products.
Which form of administering CBD or THC would you find the most expedient for medical treatment?
The most effective would be a water-soluble form because of its better bioavailability and the possibility of intravenous administration, such as infusions for cancer patients or following strokes or traumatic brain injury. That may not be sexy, but expedient.
Where do you see the greatest disadvantages of CBD in therapeutic applications?
CBD can very easily be transformed into THC, and is even less readily soluble than THC. Because of the poor resorption, the dosage has to be relatively high, up to a gramme per day and more. Added to this is the fact that CBD is a versatile universal medication with many pharmacological effects, but exactly that is what is NOT called for in medicinal applications. The doctor wants a medication which reliably works against a certain symptom, and does not at the same time have immuno-stimulating, antidepressive and liver-protecting effects and further side effects.
What is your conclusion about the current CBD hype?
CBD is an interesting substance with a variety of interesting medicinal effects, which however have only been little studied on humans to date. Above all because of its tendency to very easily convert to THC, it seems to me that it can only be used as a medicinal product to a limited extent. More interesting from a medicinal standpoint could be synthetic CBD derivatives which contain individual effects of CBD with greater effectiveness, and which are not precursor substances of THC. A further advantage: CBD derivatives can be sufficiently protected by patents for the extremely cost-intensive registration of medicinal products.
Peter Rausch founded his company Nektar Naturkosmetik in 1980 and since then has devoted himself to the development and production of high-quality cosmetic products on the basis of natural domestic raw materials. The chemist has been researching on cannabis for decades, holds four cannabis patents and is considered a pioneer in hemp research. His latest development is a procedure for making natural cannabinoids water-soluble and therefore easier to administer for medical use.