MTSU students researching hemp discover promising compound

Special Reports

Hemp has been hailed for its versatility — from its fiber that can be used as material for textiles and construction to one of its compounds, cannabidiol (CBD), for its therapeutic effects.

However, as with any new product on the market, much of the evidence surrounding its effects is anecdotal.

CBD research, which is still in its infancy, to back those claims is limited.

From chronic pain to anxiety and insomnia — even the aches that come with age — you hear story after story of the benefits of CBD.

“Had a shoulder injury that got worse,” said Wade Plumlee, who uses CBD oil. “It works for me. It gives me relief.”

It’s relief that doesn’t come with the ‘high’ of its close cousin marijuana.

The difference? CBD only has trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Several studies have shown the compound has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, with promise in treating migraines and mitigating the symptoms that come with cancer treatment.

In the summer of 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first, and so far, the only CBD medicine, Epidiolex, used to treat seizures associated with certain types of childhood epilepsy.

The research is coming in from universities across the country, including here in Middle Tennessee.

“Do they have anti-cancer properties as some research suggests? Do they have anti-inflammatory properties to actually do the rigid testing it takes to prove these hypotheses?” asked Dr. Elliot Altman, Director at the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research.

These are questions Dr. Altman and his team of graduate students at Middle Tennessee State University have been trying to answer for the past three years.

“As a group effort, we have found there are several compounds that are showing promise and metabolic processes that affect disease inflammation and cancer,” explains Shannon Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at MTSU.

That quest turned into an unexpected discovery that is now patent-pending and soon to be on store shelves.

“We developed a unique compound that, through our colleagues, shows a beneficial impact on inflammation from compounds produced by the plant,” Smith said.

“I’m really proud of our result,” Altman added. “They all understand the big picture we’re after and how we’re going to get there.”

Other key questions include the potential side effects of taking CBD and how much of the product one should use for specific pains.

According to a recent presentation by Dr. David E. Edwards, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, you should start with a low dosage and go slow.

All day Thursday, Linda Ong has special reports in every newscast investigating Tennessee’s Hemp Surge.

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