Biohacking with Cannabis + Diving Into Cannabinoids and Terpenes with Curt Robbins
Curt Robbins is a technical cannabis writer and educator. It seems like every question we ever have about cannabis, Curt has an in-depth article on the subject. So we picked Curt’s Brain about topics like Biohacking Using Cannabis, Cannabis For Athletic Recovery, Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and More.
You’ve Written on the Idea of Biohacking your Endocannabinoid System, tell us about this?
I started this series, but have only developed two articles on it so far. I had been incentivized by Cycling Adventures in Southern California, most notably in the Malibu area. Exercise is such an important part of overall health. When you get down to the biochemistry of it, you find that THC from a plant like cannabis is basically mimicking the behavior and even the molecular activity and binding affinity with the receptors.
“In essence, biohacking is figuring out what makes you tick—what makes you feel and perform your best, particularly under ideal circumstances…Biohackers believe that continual, significant tweaks can lead to immediate, measurable changes in your life” – Civilized
Our bodies produce a cannabinoid called anandamide and anandamide has been called the bliss molecule. There are several ways that anandamide production can be peaked or revved up within the body for its health benefits.
One of the greatest is exercise. Especially endurance exercise. Anandamide is a painkiller. It reduces inflammation. We’re finding all these really good benefits from it that are somewhat similar to the benefits of THC.
From Curt’s article: “Biohacking, an emerging trend that is sometimes defined as “do-it-yourself biology” and “self-experimentation in medicine,” is an effort to decrease negative conditions—with the goal of improving health and even enhancing performance.
Some ways in which one can engage in biohacking include intermittent fasting, different manipulations of diet (such as going gluten-free or eliminating certain toxins or allergens), improvements to sleep, and even breathing exercises, neurofeedback, and mindfully practicing gratitude and forgiveness.
The potential payoff of such positive lifestyle changes can be immense and even life-saving. Those who chase anandamide and integrate exercise + clean diet + organic herbal medicine into their daily and weekly routines sometimes enjoy significant benefits—such as prevention of disease or a decrease in negative symptoms (like the aforementioned anxiety, depression, lethargy, and pain).”
Can you Tell Us More About Cannabis For Athletic Recovery?
I think one of the great things about using hemp or cannabis for athletes, especially the ones really hitting it hard and endurance athletes, is that there are so many consumption avenues. You’ve got topical, transdermal, sublingual (under the tongue), etc. Athletes get sore muscles, achy joints and they need to keep mobility maximized. So between inhaling it, eating it and topically applying it to our skin we have a lot of ways we can approach this challenge.
A lot of athletes, both professional and amateur, take a variety of pharmaceuticals, both legal and let’s be honest, illegal, right? Steroids… I like to think of hemp and cannabis – especially if you go with organic and full spectrum formulations as performance optimizers without the negative side effects of pharmaceuticals.
Let’s Switch Gears – You’ve written extensively about Minor Cannabinoid CBG – Tell us About it?
The average consumer/patient in North America barely understands CBD. The cannabis plant has well over a hundred different cannabinoids, 200 terpenes, 20 flavonoids, and that’s just those three categories. So we’re talking about hundreds of chemicals.
For decades we’ve been familiar with THC, it’s been immortalized by Seth Rogan and Cheech and Chong and that whole entertainment culture. Granted, a lot of the other molecules don’t give psychoactivity so it was warranted that THC has gotten all this attention over the decades.
One of my favorite, minor cannabinoids is CBG or Cannabigerol. I like it so much that I wrote a 50 page, 15,000 word white paper on it and cited 60 peer reviewed research studies in it. It was very educational.
CBG is considered minor because it’s typically under 1% in most cultivars. THC and CBD are the cannabinoids everyone knows about. But we see this interesting pattern – that all of the cannabinoids provide similar efficacy. They’re not identical, but they reduce inflammation or they tend to reduce anxiety. CBD and THC are good for reducing anxiety and we see these common patterns among them.
CBG is one of my favorites because a lot of companies are focusing on CBG. What we need more of is at a genetic level. If you’re a cultivator or a product manufacturer and you want a CBG rich product, either you have to create an isolate – You have to gather all the CBG molecules together and that can get very expensive and be very tedious and just not profitable.
It’s a lot easier if we can breed cultivars of cannabis and hemp that are rich in CBG, and some companies are doing that. The folks I wrote the white paper for a company called Hemptown USA in Medford, Oregon – in 2019, they had a hemp crop that produced 13.5% CBG and 4% CBD. And that 4% CBD is also kind of a miracle because most cultivars, most plants have under 1% CBD. So it could be argued that that CBD volume is 400% the normal. So I think we all need to focus on the genetics and the pathway of these molecules.
Why would we want CBG over CBD or do they work well together? What the advantage of having a high CBG strain?
This gets complicated, but they do work well together. I’m not opposed to isolates or artificial formulations. There can be great medicinal benefits in those for certain use case scenarios, certain diseases, et cetera.
Cannabinoids work best when all together – called the entourage effect. I would encourage listeners to check out Dr. Ethan Russo, he talks a lot about the entourage effect. For example, we’ve identified terpenes and cannabinoids that don’t have direct efficacy with a binding affinity – a locking mechanism with a cellular receptor. But they act like traffic cops. If they’re not there, they don’t let the other cannabinoids through or they expedite the travel of those other cannabinoids.
What the science is pointing at is that the more terpenes and the more cannabinoids you can formulate into your product, the better it is.
So you Advocate for Full-Spectrum, can you Define the 3 Categories Full, Broad, and Isolate?
There’s really only three forms in which you can consume any cannabis or hemp product.
- Isolate: where they take a single molecule in a lab and isolate it. So it would be JUST CBD or JUST THC.
- Broad spectrum: means something’s been filtered out. Generally that means just THC has been filtered out but a lot of those processes will strip out some of the other molecules like terpenes and cannabinoids. There are some broad spectrum where they stripped out most of the goodness.
- Full Spectrum: Should have the full mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant with nothing stripped out.
Everybody’s endocannabinoid systems are vastly different and unfortunately you have to experiment. There’s no, just like one size fits all with cannabis and cannabinoids and CBD and CBG in general. Journaling is always my top recommendation.
You Talked About Terpenes – Can you Break Down Terpenes to The Simplest Explanation?
A terpene is an aromatic, volatile (it’s delicate from a molecular perspective) molecule created by a plant. It serves an evolutionary function of basically dissuading pests and predators and attracting pollinators. It’s a way of surviving in nature. It’s an attractant. Like that blinking neon at the corner bar to attract customers.
Cannabinoids are produced only by cannabis and hemp. That’s why they’re called cannabinoids. Whereas 20,000 different plants in nature produce 40,000 different terpenes. So this terpene game is not exclusive to cannabis and hemp whatsoever.
An individual example of hemp or cannabis will not have all 20,000 terpenes. It’ll have maybe a dozen, maybe two dozen. We find amazingly similar medicinal efficacy delivered by terpenes as from cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG.
When it Comes to the Effects of Cannabis – we Used to Think it Was All about Indica vs Sativa. But We are Now Learning that it is all About Cannabinoids and Terpenes. Can you Talk About This?
The marketplace needs categories. From a scientific perspective, Indica and Sativa are just BS, right? But for consumers and even wellness professionals, practicing clinicians, it’s very helpful to have 2 categories.
Something that we may call sativa, even though it might not be scientific, hopefully the marketplace is honest and it is truly uplifting and it doesn’t give you the munchies.
The reality is that most of these cultivars are what I call muddy hybrids these days. Hybrid just means it’s part sativa, part indica. Even the most well-intended breeders and processors and retailers and distributors, they don’t even know what’s in it.
Could it be argued that sativa strains generally have more uplifting terpenes and cannabinoids in them, and that indica cultivars generally have more sedative terpenes?
Yes. That’s the perfect way of thinking about it. What’s interesting is we’re starting to map different terpenes. I seek out strains that are high in Pinene and high in Limonene for an uplifting effect. I’m not a fan of Myrcene or Humulene that you typically find in your Indica types.
If you don’t have a certificate of analysis showing you the terpene profile – say the top three or five terpenes present – and you can’t see the cannabinoid present and their relative ratios, then you clearly can’t make wise decisions.
Let’s talk for a Second about The Raw Form of Cannabis Where we Find THCA?
There are patients throughout North America who have treated some very severe conditions in terms of seizure reduction and epilepsy, pain levels with fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, et cetera with raw cannabis. Whole leaf juicing is one of those things where in theory it’s a no brainer.
THCA – we talked about earlier is the acidic precursor to THC.There’s a process called decarboxylation that happens when we burn it, smoke it, or vape it. THCA is non-psychoactive. It’s the cousin to THC. It’s very, very similar. It offers so many of the benefits of lowering systemic inflammation, et cetera. but without the high.
Listen to our full episode with Curt Robbins on iTunes, Spotify, Podbean, or anywhere you get your podcasts!
For More on Cannabis Podcasting: