A tale of different plants. Bridging the gap between medicinal marijuana, edible cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids
Giovanni Appendino
in English

The relevance of cannabinoids in medicine can hardly be underestimated, since their study led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid systems, just like plant alkaloids did for other major neural networks. Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical development of cannabinoids has so far been unsatisfactory compared to their potential, as are its uses in nutrition and in technology.

The medical and food potential of the plant and have long been caught in the quagmires of the politicized and polarized debate on recreational marijuana. Medicinal marijuana, that is the use of unformulated cannabis flowerheads, has provided “reverse pharmacology” hints for rigorous clinical investigations, but has also complicated the picture, degenerating in primitive forms of herbalism.

The complexity of the phytochemical profile of Cannabis and its plasticity in response to environmental conditions combine with chemical instability, complexity of purification and regulation hurdles, to make the mainstream development of cannabinoids as drugs technically challenging both at the level of standardized extracts and of single molecular entities.

Conversely, the nutritional aspects of cannabis qualify the plant as a real super-food on account of the contents of essential amino acids, lipids and fiber of its seeds, that are in principle capable to sustain life as a stand-alone dietary ingredient.