If like me, you’re a regular news reader, you will have noticed an ever growing presence of articles relating to medicinal cannabis (CBD) and its benefits when it comes to treating certain ailments. You may have read about Billy Caldwell, a 12 year old boy with a rare form of epilepsy, who’s mother has been administering CBD Oil in order to prevent him from having seizures. In March 2018, we heard about Joy Smith, a lady who claims she cured her terminal cancer with Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). Whilst this is fantastic news, it leaves us with a little confusion and raises the question as to what these medical cannabis products are and the difference between them?
Who is Rick Simpson?
Ricks story started in Canada 1997, when he was an Engineer working in the boiler room of a Canadian hospital trying to cover the asbestos on the pipes with aerosol glue. Due to a combination of toxic fumes from the glue and the lack of ventilation, Rick suffered from temporary nervous system shock, which caused him to fall from his ladder leaving him with a head injury. For years after his accident, Rick suffered from a ringing in his ears (Tinnitus) as well as dizzy spells. The medication he had been prescribed had little to no effect on his symptoms. After watching a documentary about the positive medical benefits of using cannabis, he started to make enquiries as an option to treat his own symptoms. Ricks Doctor wouldn’t consider cannabis for his head injury so Rick started to acquire cannabis through his own accord and saw a significant improvement in both the dizzy spells and the Tinnitus.
As things were starting to improve for Rick, in 2003 he was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. He had 3 spots of cancer on his arm, 2 on his face and 1 on his neck. Recalling the documentary he’d watched and a study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which stated that THC was found to kill cancer cells in mice, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He developed a highly concentrated cannabis oil, which is now known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and applied this topically to his Basal Cell Carcinoma lumps and covered them with a bandage. A few days later, Rick removed his bandages and much to his satisfaction, the lumps had disappeared. His Doctor and other medical practitioners refused to acknowledge cannabis as a cure but Rick believed in the medicinal, healing properties of the plant and started to cultivate and harvest his own cannabis to create Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). From this point on, this became Ricks mission, to provide his wonder oil, free of charge to whoever needed it.
So, What is the difference between Rick Simpson Oil and CBD Oil?
There are very few individuals that understand the unique nature of the cannabis plant. It is a complex herb made up of almost 500 different compounds and because of the various ways they can effect human receptors, it can be like comparing oranges with oranges when looking at different cannabis products.
Both Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and CBD Oil share a common bond with the compound Cannabidiol however, the likeness ends there. Rick Simpson Oil also uses a second cannabinoid, Tetrahydrocannabinol or as its more commonly known, THC. The main effects of THC are psychoactive , stimulating parts of the brain, which leads to the release of dopamine. Depending on the strain that is used, Rick Simpson Oil can contain 50-60% THC and 10-15% CBD. Studies have shown, that when both THC and CBD are used together, the painkilling properties of them are much more powerful than when either cannabinoid is taken on its own.
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and can be used alone to help with various problems that occur in the nervous system. CBD oil traditionally contains a maximum of 0.2% THC and was readily available to buy as a food supplement until November 2016, when the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) deemed that it had medicinal benefits and should therefore be sold as a medicine. Since then, some sellers are offering CBD oil that is sourced from Hemp rather than cannabis, the legitimacy of which is often called into question.
THC and CBD are thought to have a multitude of medicinal benefits in different areas. A review conducted by Professor Dame Sally Davies shows conclusive evidence that CBD and other medicinal cannabis products can benefit those with one or several conditions. There is still more research to be done in regards to what conditions, illnesses or ailments can be helped or cured with CBD and THC however, because cannabis has been controlled and listed under Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it has been difficult for clinical trials to be carried out. Last week (26th July 2018), Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that Doctors will be able to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis products (CBD) as of Autumn 2018. It is still unclear as to how these products will be rescheduled but for now this is a huge leap in the right direction.