By Dr. Kimberly Free, ND
The climate of the Pacific Northwest is warming quickly this spring evident in the flora and fauna. The external shift in seasons triggers an internal shift in the body. The return of the light and warmth stimulate the nervous and endocrine systems. Metabolism is stimulated as bodies and minds depressed by lack of light rally once again to action. Spring is the season of the Liver in the Chinese medical system, and many springtime health regimes include detoxification or cleansing therapies which focus on improving overall health and liver function.
The Liver is a workhorse of an organ having many vital and diverse functions. It creates and releases bile to aid in the digestion of dietary fats, and detoxifies and metabolizes chemicals and drugs. The liver receives all the blood coming from the stomach and the intestines, and breaks down the nutrients and chemicals into forms that are easier to process before passing them on to the rest of the body. Toxins are ultimately excreted by the organs of elimination which include the bowels, kidneys, urinary bladder and skin. Having so much to do, it is the strong and silent type, rarely complaining itself. Health issues involving the skin, joints, reproductive system, immune system, and digestive system, specifically the gallbladder, are some of the body’s first signals that Liver function is compromised.
People living with chronic and debilitating health conditions need to take special care when implementing detoxification, cleansing and other therapeutic treatment options. The process of detoxification takes physical and metabolic energy, the kind of energy an already debilitated system may not have. Simply put, if the body has issues with eating, sleeping, or eliminating waste, it is time to nutrify before you detoxify.
Liver function plays a large role in cannabis metabolism. The form in which cannabis is used determines its impact on the body, its metabolism by the body, and its storage and excretion by the body. The route of administration also determines its bioavailability or how well it is able to be used by the body. The phytocannabinoids ∆⁹-THC/THCA, CBD/CBDA, CBN, CBG, and THCV are among the most well researched cannabinoids. They are highly lipophilic, meaning they prefer to accumulate and be stored in the fatty tissues of the body.
Inhaled cannabis, smoked or vaporized, is characterized by a rapid rate of onset of effect. The inhaled substance entering the lungs immediately crosses into the blood stream and is distributed to the brain, liver, kidneys and other fatty tissues. Average peak ∆⁹-THC levels are reached in 3 – 8 minutes and the effects are felt for 2-4 hours. Bioavailability was found to be in the range of 10-27%. Metabolites can take over 10 days to be cleared by the body.
Ingested cannabis passes through the stomach and intestines and undergoes first pass metabolism in the liver and in the special cells of the small intestine. Bioavailability is considered low as cannabinoids are degraded by the digestion process and metabolized into other forms. Here cannabinoids like ∆⁹-THC are metabolized into 11-OH-THC. This metabolite, 11-OH-THC, enhances the psychotropic and sedative effect of ∆⁹-THC and takes longer to be processed and cleared by the body. When eating cannabis preparations effects take longer to feel, usually 45 minutes to two hours, and can last 6-8 hours.
Suppositories or rectal administration of cannabis compounds has been researched and found to be one of the most effective means of administering cannabinoid compounds. The cannabinoids enter the blood stream without going through the first pass metabolism in the liver and small intestines. Bioavailability was found to be 65%. Effects take a longer time to feel than with inhaled forms of cannabis and are felt for a shorter duration than with ingested cannabis. Researchers have also found a similar level of bioavailability with the sub-lingual sprays for the same reason as the suppositories, where first pass metabolism is by passed by direct absorption through the blood vessels under the tongue.
The overall state of health of the body and function of the metabolic processes has a direct impact on how well phytocannabinoids are able to be utilized. Organ function and particularly Liver health is our body’s stored wealth. Nourish and protect is well.