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Joe's Easy Eggs

Blog Post # 8, December 11, 2019

Health Benefits of Chicken Eggs

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Fats and more than 12 proteins found in eggs have demonstrated nutritive, antimicrobial, immune-enhancing, anticancer, anti-hypertensive, and antioxidant properties in humans, animal models, and in vitro experiments [1].

        Egg proteins are generally associated with defense and development mechanisms of the egg, and these functions may be conveyed to humans. For example, lysozyme is a protein in egg whites that protects the developing egg embryo from microbial infection [1]. Lysozyme degrades the structural component of bacterial cell walls. Due to lysozyme’s antibacterial activity, it is incorporated into oral health products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and chewing gum, and is also used as a natural food preservative. Researchers have also demonstrated

that lysozyme prevents tumor formation and growth in mice [1]. Components of another egg white protein, called ovalbumin, significantly lowered systolic blood pressure in hypertensive rats [1]. Phosvitin, a protein found in egg yolks, provides antioxidant activity by binding with iron ions and preventing them from forming free radicals [1].

    The fatty components of egg yolks also have several benefits. Egg yolks provide dietary cholesterol (about 5% of the yolks dry weight). Cholesterol is important for the elasticity and functionality of cell membranes, is a precursor for bile and hormones [1,3]. Demonstrating the importance of cholesterol in cell membranes, scientists conducting a 2004 study were surprised to find that when depleted of cholesterol, bovine aortal cells (the aorta is largest artery in mammals) were significantly stiffer (less elastic), and this effect was reversed by replenishing the cells with cholesterol, causing the membranes' elasticity to be "fully recovered" [3]. This finding is quite remarkable, considering that hypertension (high blood pressure) causes stiffening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) leading to a compounding effect of elevating blood pressure [4]. Regarding human growth and development, infant formula enriched with egg yolks provides enhanced nutrition and more closely resembles mother’s milk [1]. Makrides et al. (2002) found that infants fed this type of formula did not develop elevated blood cholesterol, and had improved iron levels [2].

 In the same light, an experiment in which human subjects ate four eggs per day (from chickens with high-omega-3 diets) for four weeks, found that blood cholesterol levels did not increase, and in fact, decreased fatty acid levels and clotting factors were observed [1]. Also, rats fed egg yolk phospholipids (fats containing phosphorus) had lowered blood cholesterol levels [1]. Egg yolk phospholipids may additionally prevent and help treat Alzheimer’s disease, by increasing levels of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that is decreased in concentration in Alzheimer’s cases [1].

My Easy Method for Cooking Eggs

Materials: Eggs, butter, large frying pan, lid that will fit the frying pan (from a large pot)

 

Step 1: Begin heating a large frying pan on medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter, and move the butter around the wall of the pan to melt it and thoroughly cover all of the surfaces. 

 

Step 2: When the butter starts forming small bubbles, it’s hot enough to add the eggs. If unsure, flick a few drops of water onto the pan— if they sizzle, it’s hot enough.

 

Step 3: Crack your eggs into the pan, and cover with the lid. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the top of the yolks turn opaque (white). The lid will retain heat and allow the top of the eggs to cook— no flipping necessary! Add salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy!

Eggs + Mushrooms:

Easily modify the recipe above by adding your favorite mushrooms, without using an additional pan. You can also use this same method to add other vegetables such as bell peppers or onions. 

Step 1: Butter your pan as in the above recipe. Add ~8 oz of fresh, sliced mushrooms when the butter is as hot as previously described. Stir the mushrooms frequently, over medium heat, until they are tender (about 6 minutes). 

 

Step 2: Spread out the mushrooms evenly in the pan. Melt another half tablespoon of butter around the wall of the pan.

 

Step 3: Crack your eggs on top of the mushrooms. Cover pan with lid and reduce to low heat. Cook until the egg yolks turn opaque. Add salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy! 

References: 

[1] Nolan, J.K., Marshall, P., and Yoshinori, M. Literature Review: Advances in the Value of Eggs and Egg Components for Human Health (2005). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 53, 8421−8431

https://ikhebeenvraag.be/mediastorage/FSDocument/266/Advances_in_the_Value_of_Eggs_and_Egg_Components_for_Human_Health.pdf

 

[2] Makrides, M., Hawkes, J.S., Neumann, M. A., Gibson, R. A. (2002) Nutritional effect of including egg yolk in the weaning diet of breast-fed and formula-fed infants: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 75, Issue 6, Pages 1084–1092, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/75.6.1084

[3] Byfield, F.J., Aranda-Espinoza, H., Romanenko, V.G., Rothblat, G.H., Levitan, I. (2004) Cholesterol Depletion Increases Membrane Stiffness of Aortic Endothelial Cells. Biophysical Journal; 87(5): 3336–3343. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.104.040634

 

[4] Sasamura, H. and Itoh, H. (2011) Hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Nihon Rinsho. 69(1):125-30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21226272

The Blurry Line Between Foods and Drugs

Blog Post #7, Nov. 21, 2019

Photo 1: The morning chocolate by Pietro Longhi; oil and canvas. Venice, Italy 1775–1780. Spanish conquest of the Americas brought chocolate to Europe. Eating chocolate was invented long after it gained European popularity as a beverage.

As you eat your favorite snack or sip your favorite beverage, you might not consider what kinds of novel compounds you’re consuming. Many foods and beverages contain drugs, or compounds that aren’t considered drugs, but which have drug-like activities in the human body. Some examples are coffee, chocolate, tea, bananas, milk, nuts, poultry, herbs, spices, and mushrooms. In recent years, the term nutriceuticals has gained popularity. In 1979 DeFelice defined nutriceuticals as “food, or parts of food that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease [1].” Viewing foods and beverages as supplying compounds with roles beyond nutrition is a powerful aspect in a holistic approach to human health. The old adage “you are what you eat” is underscored by the nutriceutical concept. Some components that are critical to health and happiness are supplied by our dietary intakes, and like vitamins, the body may not be capable of synthesizing certain essential chemicals, which therefore must be consumed in appropriate quantities.

Scientific appreciation of the complexity of this subject is in its infancy, and future research will certainly shed more light on the roles our diets play in bodily functions such as signaling in the nervous system. As researchers further analyze the chemical components of foods and beverages, and the effects of these components in human physiology, it seems likely that virtually no food will be left out of the nutriceutical discussion. Furthermore, if you regularly eat dessert or drink soda, you’re likely satisfying a powerful addiction for strongly sweetened and/or high-fat foods and beverages collectively known as ‘hyperpalatable foods,’ which have drug-like qualities. This article will examine a few common foods and beverages and the effects of drug compounds found in them; it will also assess the health threat of hyperpalatable foods, which as you’ll see can be at least as addictive as drugs of abuse such as cocaine. 

Coffee, Chocolate, and Tea

These three beverages (eating chocolate was invented long after drinking it) derived from Coffea spp., Theobroma cacao, and Camellia sinensis plants respectively, share the common characteristic of containing theobromine and caffeine, two related alkaloids. Both compounds have stimulant effects, with caffeine being the stronger of the two. Theobromine is found in higher concentrations in tea and chocolate than in coffee, and unlike caffeine, it is not implicated in insomnia [6]. Clinical studies have found that theobromine significantly lowers LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and raises HDL (“good cholesterol”), thereby protecting the heart [6]. The stimulant effect of caffeine has made coffee and tea universally revered. In addition to stimulant effects, caffeine from coffee consumption is also believed to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases [6]. 

    Flavonoids in coffee, chocolate, and tea also provide health benefits via their anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-diabetic, anticancer properties. Flavonoids are pigment compounds found in many plants. One study found that dark chocolate significantly lowered blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity (insulin resistance is characteristic of diabetes), and hypothesized that this was due to flavonoids [6]; however, the authors cautioned that excessive caloric consumption from chocolate could cancel out such benefits. Those who are interested in chocolate for health should eat minimally sweetened dark chocolate, to maximize their intake of beneficial compounds while avoiding excessive sugar [9]. 

Tryptophan: Bananas, Milk, Bread, Poultry

Turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, and bread are a few of the richest sources of dietary tryptophan. Like vitamins, tryptophan cannot be synthesized by the human body, and therefore must be eaten in a healthy quantity. Most notably, tryptophan is the sole precursor for serotonin synthesis in the human body [2]. Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter impacting mood, sleep, pain, depression, anxiety, and sexual function. Its activity is increased by antidepressant ‘SSRI’ and ‘MAOI’ drugs, the use of which has aided our understanding of serotonin activity.

Photo: Dairy cow chilling out. Photo by Keith Weller [26] 

Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work by preventing serotonin re-uptake (removal) near serotonin receptors, thereby making more available to the receptors for neurotransmission [10]. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) prevent the enzyme MAO from breaking down serotonin in nerve endings, which causes serotonin to build up at neurotransmission sites between nerves [11]. Because tryptophan cannot be synthesized by our bodies and is required for serotonin synthesis, the level of tryptophan in our diets is very important for mental health. Also, other amino acids compete with tryptophan for transportation across the blood brain barrier (BBB). For this reason, when eating sources of tryptophan, simultaneous carbohydrate consumption tends to favor tryptophan crossing the BBB, while protein consumption tends to inhibit it [2]. 

    With the Thanksgiving holiday around the corner, it’s appropriate to mention that turkey is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid which you have probably heard is responsible for making you tired after thanksgiving dinner. This is because tryptophan is used by the body for melatonin synthesis. Melatonin is a hormone involved in wake/sleep cycles that is secreted by the pineal gland (the ‘third eye’) during periods of darkness [5]. It is sold as a sleep-aid supplement. Drinking a glass of warm milk at bedtime is a traditional sleep-aid because milk is a good source of tryptophan. If you wake up at night and have trouble going back to sleep, drinking a few ounces of milk might do the trick. 

    Musicians popularly eat bananas before nerve-racking performances, due to their high tryptophan content. Next time you are anxiously anticipating an upcoming event, try eating two bananas a couple of hours beforehand. You’ll be amazed by how relaxing this can be.

Vegetables, Herbs, and Spices

If you’ve ever looked over a few shelves of herbal supplements and wondered if they had any validity, you may be surprised to know that many legally used herbs contain powerful drug compounds. An exhaustive list of medicinally active herbs would be far too extensive for this article, but a few good examples include onions, thyme, black pepper.

    According to Dauqan and Abdullah (2017), fresh thyme has a higher antioxidant content  than any other herb [14]. The medicinal qualities of thyme include antimicrobial, antiviral, cough-supressing, and digestive system-aiding effects, and are attributable to the active compounds thymol and carvacrol [14]. Tea made of thyme has been reported to calm the smooth muscles of the digestive system, and also to benefit a distressed respiratory system. However, thymol found in thyme is toxic at high dosages, so avoid ingesting concentrated essential oil of thyme [12]. 

    Onions contain the active compound quercetin, a flavonoid that benefits eye health, and combats heart disease and cancer. Onions also have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and blood-sugar regulating properties. Raw onions provide the strongest health benefits [13].

    Black pepper (Piper nigrum) contains the terpene β-caryophyllene, which activates the THC-binding site of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor. For this reason, black pepper can technically be considered a cannabinoid like THC [16]! Black pepper also possesses anti-indigestion, anti-asthma, and arthritis-relieving, and strong antibacterial properties [15]. 

Mushrooms: They’re all “Magic”

Photo: Ganoderma lucidum, aka reishi. This is the "mushroom of immortality," which protects the liver, heart, and nervous system, and fights cancer. Photo by Eric Steinert [23].

Mushrooms are amongst the most promising nutriceuticals. Many species of mushrooms are recognized for their wide range of medicinal benefits, which are associated with multiple compounds present in mushrooms. These compounds work with each other synergistically to provide their benefits, and therefore the development of mushroom-derived therapies should not be focused on isolating individual medicinal compounds. There are more than 100 medicinal uses for mushrooms, including combating cancer, aiding brain and nervous system health, reducing systemic inflammation, fighting microbes and parasites, and treating diabetes.

The beneficial compounds in mushrooms include terpenoids, polyphenols, proteins (including enzymes), polysaccharides (especially β-glucans, a primary component of fungal cell walls), vitamins, and chelating agents [18]. Although the medicinal attributes of mushrooms are wide- ranging, here I will focus on a few mushrooms known to assist the nervous system, and the active compounds unique to these species.

    Ganoderma lucidum, also known as reishi, is a beautiful polypore mushroom revered by the Chinese since ancient times, which provides neurological, cardiovascular, liver protecting, and anti-cancer benefits [18,19]. It is traditionally known as the “mushroom of immortality [18].’ Ganoderic acids are biologically active terpenoids found in Ganoderma which have been found to assist the the new growth and survival of neurons [19]. Ganoderma also reduces the viability of human cancer cells, prevents cancer cell division, and induces cancer cell apoptosis (programed death) [18]. 

        Hericium erinaceus, aka lion’s mane, is a unique mushroom that looks like a pom pom or a lion’s mane. Recent studies have concentrated on the neurological benefits of terpenoids called erinacines found in H. erinaceus. In rats, erinacines A and S both induce nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis. NGF stimulates the growth and development of neurons, which is an exciting discovery with potential for treatment and prevention of conditions such as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological diseases. 

Photo: Hericium erinaceus, aka Lion's Mane mushroom, known for its neurological benefits, especially stimulation of nerve growth. Photo by Plam1234 [24]

Erinacines also reduced in the size and burden of amyloid plaques in rats, and improved rats’ performance in the Morris water maze. Amyloid plaques are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, so the ability of lion’s mane to fight them is another exciting revelation [17,19]. Furthermore, lion’s mane extract has been shown to enhance the myelination of nerves in rat brains [19]. Myelin is analogous to the rubber coating of wires, and assists in the proper transmission of nerve signals. Albert Einstein is said to have eaten mushrooms daily, often three times per day [20]! Slides of cross-sections of his brain are studied to elucidate what made his brain unique. Notably with regard to myelin’s role in intelligence, Einstein’s brain was found by W. Men et al. (2013) to have a thicker corpus callosum than the brains of control subjects, and this is one of the most heavily myelinated areas of the brain [21]. It's possible that mushrooms contributed to this aspect of his brain. In addition to the benefits of erinacines, which are only found in the mycelium and not the fruiting body (mushroom), a group of compounds called hericenones also stimulate the secretion of NGF. And unlike erinacines, hericenones are found in the fruiting body, so culinary use of the mushroom supplies these compounds. 50- to 80-year-old participants in a double-blind clinical study showed improvement of mild cognitive impairment from consumption of Hericium fruiting bodies [17].

Photo: Cordyceps militaris fruiting body emerging from an infected insect pupa. Photo by Jason Hollinger [25].

       Cordyceps militaris is a fascinating, insect-attacking mushroom that grows its fruiting bodies from the corpses of its insect victims. Like reishi, cordyceps is also revered in China, where it is regarded as having high potency for treating various diseases. In a 2011 study by Lee, et al, an ethanol extract of C. militaris “was found to stimulate primary neurite [nerve fiber] sprouting and extension of neurite outgrowth.” The extract also “significantly reversed” the memory recall deficit of rats which previously had their memories impaired by treatment with scopolamine (a toxin found in belladonna and mandrake—tomato relatives with fascinating histories and witchcraft associations), which was shown by their post-cordyceps-extract improved performance in the Morris water maze test. Another study determined that cordycepin found in cordyceps mushrooms contributes nerve growth and anti-inflammatory effects in the brain [19]. 

          More common culinary mushrooms such as the ubiquitous button mushroom Agaricus bisporus, shittake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes), and oyster  

mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.) also have many medicinal actions, including (but not limited to) assisting immune function, preventing tumor cell proliferation and lowering cholesterol, and reducing inflammation respectively [18]. Don’t hesitate to incorporate these easily obtained mushrooms into your diet!

Hyperpalatable Foods and Beverages

Foods and beverages rich in sugars and/or fats, such as sodas and desserts, are collectively known as ‘hyperpalatable’— that is, they are excessively attractive and pleasurable to consume. People become addicted to such foods and beverages. Like drugs of abuse, the mechanisms behind this involve reward via dopamine in the central nervous system [5]. Dopamine acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter, and is known as the “pleasure hormone.” Dopamine plays a critical role in reward-learning and reward-seeking in humans and other animals, and dopaminergic nerves are activated in human brains by imagination of pleasurable future events [22]. Animal brain imaging analyses show activation of similar areas of the brain from both food and drug cues. However, results of such studies indicate that reinforcement mechanisms for addiction to hyperpalatable foods and beverages are much more robust than dopamine reward alone. Studies have shown that when rats are given the exclusive choice of either sucrose (sugar) or cocaine, or the choice between sucrose and nicotine, in both cases they “develop a strong and persistent preference for sucrose [5].” From a survival or evolutionary perspective, these findings make sense, since drugs are not required for survival like foods are. Furthermore, the behavioral and neurochemical signs of sugar withdrawal resemble those of heroin withdrawal [5].

Conclusions

The overlapping relationships between foods and drugs blur the distinction between the two. Plant- and animal-based foods that act as nutriceuticals can be effective in preventing and treating diseases, and should be the first line of defense against chronic illness. Future research in this field will continue to enhance our understanding and effective application of nutriceuticals, and medical approaches in the coming decades will likely be continually more reliant on the actions of plants that herbalists have appreciated since ancient times.

References and Further Reading:

[1] https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QXR5DAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA53&ots=qVhZiAjb6T&sig=cxjJ-A1dUQM8_dt-YyvINRgu7SM#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

[2] Richard, D.M., Dawes, M.A., Mathias, C.W., Acheson A., Hill-Kapturczak N., and Dougherty, D.M. 

(2009) L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. 

International Journal of Tryptophan Research. 2, 45–60 

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.4137/IJTR.S2129

 

[3] Bolling, B.W., Chen, C.-Y.O., McKay, D. L., and Blumberg, J.B. (2011) Tree nut phytochemicals: composition, antioxidant capacity, bioactivity, impact factors. A systematic review of almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. Nutrition Research Reviews, 24, 244–275 

https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/F28DC9CF2246C09ACEFBDF41623CAB63/S095442241100014Xa.pdf/tree_nut_phytochemicals_composition_antioxidant_capacity_bioactivity_impact_factors_a_systematic_review_of_almonds_brazils_cashews_hazelnuts_macadamias_pecans_pine_nuts_pistachios_and_walnuts.pdf

 

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate 

 

[5]  https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2e6e/e7bca89987e704bfd3bec1b355af63bd2cef.pdf

  

[6]   https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/10/4159/htm

 

[7]  https://www.pnas.org/content/109/35/13944/

 

[8]   https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids

 

[9]   http://ieomsociety.org/paris2018/papers/88.pdf

 

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181155/

 

 [11] https://search.proquest.com/openview/8f7de2f4c943e9e3bf785a54b800a8bc/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=48278

 

[12] The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr, Clarkson Potter Publishing (2014), ISBN-13: 978-0449819937

 

[13] Article about onions: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9f9d/17e95f089a6891cba097023e530ead558ffa.pdf

 

[14]Thyme article https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/02cb/1a62c0714765ed5dee2ef2db16433b617c26.pdf

 

[15] Black pepper article http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/9828/1/IJNPR%201%282%29%20213-215.pdf

 

[16] beta caryophyllene article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2449371/

 

[17] Lion’s mane article https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bn/2018/5802634/

 

[18] medicinal mushrooms article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/

 

[19] neurologically beneficial mushrooms: https://cdn.fbsbx.com/v/t59.2708-21/69594345_1511801382295500_4186771559370719232_n.pdf/Neuroactive-Components-of-Culinary-and-Medicinal-Mushrooms-With-Potential-to-Mitigate-Age-Related-Neurodegenerative-Diseases.pdf?_nc_cat=105&_nc_oc=AQkTldQoA2yehC3kSALqiXqp_clGzMwdGyi8sP_eLKcu6IlFcYlYJIx_F4q59TiFvDST-r6cv6q_G9u9BdLmC07b&_nc_ht=cdn.fbsbx.com&oh=bd62dd7fed62b5e37867924673301eaf&oe=5DD76993&dl=1

 

[20] Einstein’s diet https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/82879/10-breakfasts-enjoyed-historys-most-productive-people

 

[21] Einstein’s brain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959548/

 

[22] Dopamine https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0960982209018442?token=E8E5BAF4AF84AA28913ABF26383994F8DFDC9926E1192149FE717F9167CAC3E8881D44DF90C59D9F2761B4A8D15B7E31

 

[23] Ganoderma photo https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ganoderma_lucidum_01.jpg

 

[24] lion's mane photo https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hericium_erinaceus,Lion%27s_Mane,_Hedgehog_Mushroom.jpg

 

[25] cordyceps photo

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trooping_Cordyceps_with_host.jpg

 

[26] Dairy cow photo: wikipedia commons; Photo by Keith Weller. Original post: https://www.ars.usda.gov/oc/images/photos/k5176-3/

Anti-Inflammatory and Inflammatory Effects of Exposure to Cannabis 

Blog Post #6, October 20, 2019

Years ago a friend said she “could get high just by smelling that weed.” Is it possible that smelling cannabis could induce a psychoactive or physiological effect, and if so, by what mechanism? Two plausible mechanisms are the inhalation of airborne trichomes, and the inhalation of terpene vapors evaporated from cannabis plants or cured flowers. 

      The labels of two sativa-dominant strains from an Orlando dispensary indicate that the flowers contain 0.2% and 0.1% THCV. Could this small quantity of THCV possibly be a ‘contaminant’ from airborne trichomes, blown into the air from neighboring high THCV plants in the same grow room? 

      Contemplating these questions brings attention to the subject matter of this article, which will examine three issues: the potential for cannabis trichomes to form airborne dust and consequences of exposure to such dust, the effects of direct contact with intact trichomes on cannabis plants, and the impacts of inhaling evaporated cannabis terpenes. Cannabis can act as a powerful anti-inflammatory, while surprisingly also being capable of producing a highly inflammatory allergic response. In fact as you’ll see, even cannabis is seemingly ‘allergic’ to its own cannabinoids. 

Photo 1: Various types of cannabis trichomes-- (A) a unicellular, non-glandular trichome; (B) cystolith trichomes with visible cystoliths at their bases; (C) a capitate "sessile" trichome; (D)    a capitate "stalked" trichome; (E, F) bulbous trichomes displaying morphological variation. Photo by Dr. David J. Potter © 2016 Andre, Hausman and Guerriero

There is no scientific literature directly addressing cannabis trichome dust, or loss of cannabis trichomes to wind; however, there are strong indications for the likelihood of this phenomenon. But before we examine evidence for the potential of cannabis trichomes taking flight… 

What Exactly are Trichomes?

Trichomes are tiny, often hair-like structures that protrude from the surfaces of plants and have a wide variety of shapes, compositions, and functions. Trichomes assist in protecting plants against herbivorous animals, water uptake (in bromeliads and cacti), protection against excessive UV light, and in hindering microbial plant pathogens.

       There are two main groups of trichomes: glandular and non-glandular. The glandular trichomes of many plants are of interest because they're able to produce and store a vast array of compounds such as terpenoids, phenols (including flavonoids), defensive proteins, acyl sugars, fatty acid derivatives, and polyketides. Many of these compounds are useful in pharmacology, food production, perfumes, and natural pesticides, and some are toxins used defensively by plants. In some species, chemicals found in trichomes are synthesized elsewhere in the plant; for example, nicotine is synthesized in the roots of tobacco plants, and is transported into the leaves and trichomes. Tobacco trichomes secrete oily derivatives of nicotine onto leaf surfaces to deter herbivory by animals and insects. Also, although tobacco trichomes don’t synthesize nicotine, they do synthesize terpenes (Schilmiller, Last, and Pichersky, 2008). 

Photo 2: Nicotiana rustica (strong tobacco), covered in trichomes. Nicotine is synthesized in the roots of tobacco plants, and is transported to the trichomes, which secrete nicotine derivatives. Nicotine was used as an early insecticide. Researchers have genetically modified tobacco roots grown in liquid tissue cultures to produce THCA, the precursor to THC (Sirikantaramas et al., 2005). Photo by the William Rafti Institute 

Cannabis Trichomes

Cannabis has five distinct types of trichomes: unicellular, non-capitate trichomes, cystolith trichomes, “sessile” capitate trichomes, “stalked” capitate trichomes, and bulbous trichomes (see Photo 1). The former two types are non-glandular, and the latter three are glandular. All five types have a high silica content, and cystolith trichomes each have a characteristic cystolith at their base composed of calcium carbonate, which can be seen in photo 1-B. 

       According to Dayanandan and Kaufman (1976), “sessile” capitate glands and “stalked” capitate glands, both have stalks just one cell tall. Therefore "sessile" is an incorrect classification. “Stalked” capitate glands are perched on pseudo-stalk extensions of the hypodermis, making them appear taller, but the two capitate types are otherwise the same. Bulbous trichomes take on a variety of cellular configurations, but their structure is nearly the same as capitate trichomes. Bulbous trichomes differ from capitate trichomes only by secreting less resin into the membrane-bound cavity that sits atop the trichomes, the occurrence of "nipples" (Photo 1-F) that sometimes form on their cuticular membranes, and by having chloroplasts in their head cells. Click here to view Dayanandan and Kaufman's SPECTACULAR ELECTRON MICROGRAPHS of cannabis and hops trichomes!!! (opens in a new window)

         Glandular cannabis trichomes primarily synthesize and store cannabinoids, but also produce a wide array of terpenes and phenolic compounds. Cannabinoids including CBG, THC, CBD, CBN, and their acidic precursor molecules, have powerful anti-inflammatory properties (ElSohly, 2007). Although the acid precursors of cannabinoids dominate the composition of resin on live and freshly harvested plants, THC and CBD may be present at levels higher than 1% w/w in recently dried buds. These compounds are responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Many terpenes abundantly produced by cannabis are anti-inflammatory (Andre, Hausman, and Guerriero, 2016), and terpenes additionally produce various stimulating, relaxing, and otherwise medicinal effects. Phenolic compounds act as antioxidants in plants; in humans, the modes of action responsible for their health benefits are unknown (Schilmiller, Last, and Pichersky, 2008). It’s believed that the total mixture of bioactive compounds in cannabis trichomes provide synergistic health benefits, analogous to the beneficial synergy of compounds obtained by eating fruits and vegetables. Isolated cannabinoids are thought to provide less benefits and more side effects than the mixture of compounds in cannabis resin; for example, Nallathambi et al. (2017) found that THCA in combination with the multitude of compounds in cannabis resin provided a powerful, non-psychoactive anti-inflammatory effect for treatment of irritable bowel disease.

       So, cannabis trichomes contain compounds that could induce psychoactive and physiological effects if the trichomes were to be inhaled and absorbed. But can trichomes break free from plants and create airborne dust?

Photo 3: Cannabis x sp.'Triangle Kush' flowers and leaves covered in glandular trichomes, which are the sites of cannabinoid biosynthesis. Cannabis trichomes also produce copious terpenes. Photo by Joe Bender

Airborne Trichome Dust

Glandular cannabis trichomes have an abscission layer directly beneath the head cells, which allows the resin gland at the top to be easily removed by being "rubbed, shaken, or washed" from plant material (El Sohly, 2007). Abscission layers allow plants to shed organs such as leaves and fruits without leaving wounds vulnerable to infection. The ability of trichomes to abscise is the underlying principle behind hash and charas production: screens or filter bags are used to separate trichomes from plant material, or trichomes are removed from live plant material by rubbing branches in the hands. 

       Loss of intact trichomes is evident when trimming dry cannabis buds over a solid surface, They accumulate and become a visible powder. This is less pronounced yet still apparent when trimming fresh ('wet') buds; evidently the trichomes are less likely to abscise prior to drying. 

       Although reports in the literature regarding cannabis trichome loss are absent, there seems to be sufficient evidence to suggest that trichomes are most likely lost during the growth and development of cannabis plants, and determining to what extent this occurs would be a worthwhile research goal. 

        To examine the "flight" of cannabis trichomes, let's start by looking to the (2009) work of Dr. Alfons Buekens, regarding dust particle characteristics. According to Dr. Buekens, “inhalable particles” are defined as being particles 10 micrometers or smaller. He writes, "Smaller [≤ 10 µm] particles follow the airflow to the deeper parts [of the respiratory tract] and have a high probability of depositing by diffusion.”  

       Bulbous trichomes are about 10 micrometers (µm) in diameter. For comparison, airborne fungal spores range in size from about 1 µm to 20 µm. There are no reports regarding chemical content of bulbous cannabis trichomes, but because they secrete resin and share characteristics with capitate trichomes, it's plausible that they contain cannabinoids. Furthermore, some strains have relatively small capitate-type trichomes, which may be closer to "inhalable" size at maturity. It's also possible that wind or other vibrations such as from gardening activities could knock resin glands loose early in their development when they're closer to 10 µm in diameter. According to the CDC, a 10 µm spherical particle with the density of water takes 8.2 minutes to fall 5 feet in stagnant air; a similar 100 µm particle takes 5.8 seconds. Cannabis resin has the same density as water, about 1 g/ml; therefore, the relatively spherical trichome glands should have similar aerodynamic characteristics to water droplets. 

        With enough air movement, it seems probable that even large (>50 µm) trichomes could become airborne and create respirable dust, and travel considerable distances. Trichomes directly entering the respiratory system could be a route for absorption of many therapeutic cannabis com-pounds in low quantities, by people with daily exposure. Large trichomes are more likely to be deposited in the nasal passages and upper respiratory tract, and small trichomes (≤ 10 µm) could penetrate deeper into the lungs and be absorbed more easily. Is it feasible that cannabis industry workers could over time absorb a biologically significant quantity of resin via passive inhalation? And could the resin of inhaled trichomes also partially decarboxylate in the lungs prior to absorption into the bloodstream? These questions may be difficult to answer, since most cannabis industry workers smoke too much weed for us to ever test their blood and say, "Aha!"

Photo 4: Humulus lupus (hops) cone with glandular and non-glandular trichomes. Hops and cannabis both produce β-myrcene, an anti-inflammatory terpene with a characteristic scent common to both plants. Photo by Baldurmen 

Evaporated Terpenes

Terpenes are the largest group of plant chemicals, and more than 100 terpenes are found in cannabis trichomes (Andre, Hausman, Guerriero, 2016); however, no more than 40 terpenes have been identified in a single cannabis plant (El Sohly, 2007). Terpenes are the main contributor to the aroma of cannabis, and varying combinations and concentrations of terpenes give strains their unique fragrances. Terpenes are volatile, meaning they evaporate readily at room temperature, which is why they produce strong scents. They are the main component of essential oils, which produce their 'essences' as terpenes evaporate. Consider that some therapeutic effects of aroma therapy may derive from the absorption of terpenes into the blood stream via the lungs, as opposed to being a result of the sensory input of the smell. Terpenes are used in conventional medicine such as in Vick's Vapor Rub for example, which contains the cough-suppressing terpene menthol, and several other terpenes and volatiles from cedar, eucalyptus, and thyme.

Photo 5: Harvesting hops in the Kingdom of Bohemia circa 1898. The compounds in hops trichomes act as flavoring and preservative agents in beer. Photo by František Krátký (1851-1924) {{PD-US-expired}}

        Amongst the most common terpenes in Cannabis spp. are the monoterpenes β-myrcene and linalool, which are found in hops and lavender respectively. Monoterpenes are the most volatile terpenes, and therefore strongly contribute to the scent of living cannabis plants as they readily evaporate. Both β-myrcene and linalool have anti-inflammatory properties, which is a common trait amongst monoterpenes (Andre, Hausman, Guerriero, 2016). β-Caryophyllene is another common cannabis terpene, which is also found in large amounts in oregano (Origanum vulgare), black pepper (Piper nigrum), and cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.). It is a sesquiterpene with anti-inflammatory properties. Gertsch et al. (2008) determined that β-caryophyllene's anti-inflammatory effect is due to it selectively binding to the THC-binding site of the CB2 receptor, and therefore it could actually be considered to be a cannabinoid! This is less surprising when considering that cannabinoids are terpenophenolic compounds (El Sohly 2007), meaning they are closely related to terpenes.  

       Because terpenes readily evaporate at room temperature, inhalation of terpene molecules when smelling cannabis or working around cannabis plants is inevitable. It is therefore not far-fetched to speculate that therapeutic, perhaps anti-inflammatory doses of terpenes could be absorbed when working around cannabis plants on a daily basis. And although it may not be pronounced, maybe one could obtain a psychoactive effect from smelling raw cannabis. 

Photo 6: Cannabis x sp. 'Original Blueberry' by DJ Short. Smell with caution! Photo by Joe Bender

The Flip Side: Inflammatory Effects

Cannabis is capable of inciting several types of inflammatory allergic reactions. Grow workers sometimes complain of serious lung irritation and can’t work around certain strains, or have to quit working around cannabis plants altogether. Many workers experience skin irritation if their skin comes in contact with cannabis resin, with differential, strain-dependent effects.

        Dr. William Silvers, a practitioner in Colorado with 30 years of experience as an allergist, says cannabis frequently causes industry workers including growers and budtenders “classic allergic” reactions including “asthma, allergic rhinitis (nasal inflammation) and especially a lot of dermatitis and contact urticaria (hives).”  Dr. Silvers discussed the use of a classic pin-prick allergy test using cannabis crushed with a mortar and pestle, which he said caused some subjects to "light up" (with a rash-like response). He also noted that heavy cannabis users seemed more likely to have an allergic response. 

       Symptoms of asthma and rhinitis seem more likely to be associated with inhaled trichomes than with inhaled terpenes, but this is purely speculation. However, a study by Sercombe et al. (2011) identified Platanus (sycamore tree) trichomes in the nasal passages of subjects, and concluded “Platanus trichomes are inhaled and may constitute a respiratory irritant.” Sycamore trichomes are sharply pointed, and although branched, they more closely resemble the non-glandular trichomes of cannabis (see Photo 1-A,B) than the glandular-type (Photo 1-C,D,E,F). Like sycamore trichomes, non-glandular cannabis trichomes may likewise be a respiratory irritant, contributing to the symptoms observed by Dr. Silvers. 

       Dermatitis caused by cannabis mirrors the effect of Primula obconica. Primin in Primula obconica typically causes dermatitis following direct contact with the plant's trichomes, but some highly sensitive individuals react without contacting the plant. Christensen and Larsen (2001) found significant quantities of airborne primin in the headspace of experimental vessels containing intact P. obconica plants or chopped P. obconica leaves, using GC-MS to analyze air samples. They concluded that in cases of dermatitis airborne primin should be considered as a potential cause. Although they found higher primin levels in the headspace of the chopped- leaf vessels, and hypothesized that this was a result of damage to trichomes, their analysis did not elucidate whether the primin was volatilized into the air, or was present in suspended trichome particles floating in the air. Interestingly, olivetolic acid is an intermediary molecule in the biosynthesis of both primin and THCA (Schilmiller, Last, and Pichersky, 2008).

        As mentioned in the introduction, cannabis seems to be "allergic" to its own cannabinoids! 

Cannabinoids are synthesized and stored in the trichomes as a way of isolating them from the plant material (Andre, Hausman and Guerriero, 2016). Researchers were able to induce 100% cell death via apoptosis in both cannabis and tobacco cell suspension cultures, by suppling 50 µM concentrations of both CBGA and THCA for 24 hours (Sirikantaramas et al., 2005). 

Photo 7: Primula obconica. This ornamental plant has glandular trichomes laden with primin, a compound that causes contact dermatitis. The biosynthetic pathway for primin in P. obconica closely resembles that of THCA in Cannabis spp.. Both pathways use olivetolic acid as a intermediary molecule. Photo by KENPEI

Conclusions

Both the ability of trichomes to easily abscise from their stalks, and their tiny size and expected aerodynamic characteristics, support the hypothesis that cannabis trichomes can form inhalable airborne dust. Experiments are needed to determine to what extent this occurs in cannabis gardens, processing facilities, and dispensaries, and to determine the bioavailability of compounds in inhaled trichomes. While glandular cannabis trichomes may contribute anti-inflammatory and otherwise therapeutic benefits, they could also act as a respiratory irritant, as could non-glandular trichomes. Industry workers sometimes experience respiratory irritation from cannabis exposure. Contact with cannabis plants can cause dermatitis and other allergic inflammatory responses, which are commonly experienced by grow workers. 

        Terpene molecules are readily inhaled in the presence of cannabis plants and cured flowers. Although they have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, their accumulation and activity in human subjects by way of passive exposure to cannabis has not been quantified. 

        Inhalation of trichomes and evaporated terpenes, especially when working around cannabis on a daily basis, are two seemingly unexplored routes of absorbing cannabis compounds which deserve further attention. 

Photo 8: Trichomes serve as a defense against herbivorous insects and animals. This beetle was immobilized by sticky resin from glandular cannabis trichomes. Photo by Joe Bender

Sources:

Nallathambi, et al. (2017) Anti-Inflammatory Activity in Colon Models Is Derived from Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid That Interacts with Additional Compounds in Cannabis Extracts. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2(1): 167–182.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627671/

Schilmiller, Last, and Pichersky (2008) Harnessing plant trichome biochemistry for the production of useful compounds. The Plant Journal, Volume 54, Issue 4 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03432.x

​P. Dayanandan and Peter b. Kaufman  (1976) Trichomes of Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae) American Journal of Botany. 63(5): 578-59 https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/142132/ajb211846.pdf

Andre, C.M., Hausman, J.N., and Guerriero, G. Cannabis Sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Frontiers in Plant Science 7: 19. Published online 2016 Feb 4. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00019

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740396/

 

Kiwoong KimHyejeong KimSung Ho Park, and  Sang Joon Lee (2017) Hydraulic Strategy of Cactus Trichome for Absorption and Storage of Water under Arid Environment. Frontiers in Plant Science. 2017; 8: 1777

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5651663/

Christensen, L. P., & Larsen, E. (2001). Direct emission of the allergen primin from intact Primula obconica plants. Poster session presented at 24th International Symposium on Natural Products Chemistry: Current Trends in Natural Products, Mexico City, Mexico.  https://findresearcher.sdu.dk:8443/ws/portalfiles/portal/118237588/POSTER._Primin._24th_International_Symposium_on_Natural_Products_Chemistry_Current_Trends_in_Natural_Products_Mexico_City_4_10_November_2001.pdf

Sercombe, J.K. et al. (2011) London Plane Tree bioaerosol exposure and allergic sensitization in Sydney, Australia. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Volume 107, Issue 6, Pages 493-500

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1081120611006508

S. Sirikantaramas, F. Taura , Y. Tanaka, Y. Ishikawa, S. Morimoto and Y. Shoyama (2005) Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid Synthase, the Enzyme Controlling Marijuana Psychoactivity, is Secreted into the Storage Cavity of the Glandular Trichomes.Plant and Cell Physiology. 46(9): 1578-1582 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7719403_Tetrahydrocannabinolic_Acid_Synthase_the_Enzyme_Controlling_Marijuana_Psychoactivity_is_Secreted_into_the_Storage_Cavity_of_the_Glandular_Trichomes

Gertsch et al. (2008) Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 1; 105(26): 9099–9104. 10.1073/pnas.0803601105

Mahmoud A. ElSohly (2007) Marijuana and the Cannabinoids. Humana Press, Totowa, NJ ISBN: 978-1-58829-456-2

A. Buekens (2009) Pollution Control Technologies – Vol. I - Dust-Particle Formation and Characteristics. Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems

https://www.eolss.net/Sample-Chapters/C09/E4-14-01-04.pdf

Generation and Behavior of Airborne Particles (Aerosols)

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aerosols/pdfs/Aerosol_101.pdf

Tobacco photo by the William Rafti

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco#/media/File:Native_American_tobacco_flower.jpg

Hops macro photo:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hops_Lupulin_Macro.jpg​

Hops harvest photo {{PD-US-expired}}:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kratky,_Frantisek_-_Sklizen_chmele_(ca_1898).jpg

Links to photo and license for Primula obconica plant respectively

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Primula_obconica2.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License,_version_1.2

Dr. William Silvers, cannabis allergy podcast transcript:

https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Media/Silvers-Transcript.pdf

 

The High Stakes of High Fructose Sweeteners

Blog Post #5, October 14, 2019

Photo: Three varieties of corn. Corn starch is converted to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) using enzymes. HFCS is a sweetener used in many processed foods and beverages such as soft drinks.

If you were to examine the Wikipedia page for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and then stop there, you might think it's nothing to worry about. You'd learn that HFCS has the hearty approval of the FDA, the USDA, and the CDC, and studies are cited saying they found insignificant evidence to single out HFCS as a particularly dangerous sweetener. So it must not be a health threat, right? Well, the information in this article will raise serious concerns about this dubious syrup. In addition, a relatively new "health" product will be examined: agave nectar. As you'll see, marketing this product as being healthy is bogus. 

What is HFCS?

High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch, using three enzymes that convert the starch to glucose and then to fructose. The final product is a syrup consisting of 90% fructose, which is designated "HFCS-90." To make the other two types of HFCS, known as HFCS-42 and HFCS-55, HFCS-90 is mixed with glucose syrup to dilute it to 42% and 55% fructose. Since its creation in 1967, HFCS has replaced the use of cane and beet sugar (sucrose) in many processed foods and beverages, including soft drinks/sodas, fruit drinks, baked goods, cereals, yogurts, frozen deserts, jams, jellies, sauces and other condiments, and a variety of other products. According to a 2010 review by Parker, Salas, and Nwosu, the use of HFCS in the United States increased by 1,000% between 1970 and its peak use in 1999, when consumers began to question its impact on health. 

These researchers noted that the increased use of HFCS in the United States occurred at the same time as an increase in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndromes. 

Characteristics of HFCS

The position maintained by some researchers is that HFCS is not significantly different from sucrose (cane, beet sugar). They reason that because sucrose is 50% fructose, and 50% glucose, it is virtually the same as HFCS-55 (55% fructose, 45% glucose).             

         First, this is incorrect because consuming even small 

Photo: Agave salmiana is a good representative species of the general form of agave plants. 

amounts of fructose alters liver metabolism. Petersen et. al (2001) reported that adding "small catalytic amounts of fructose" to ingested glucose increased glycogen synthesis by the liver, while decreasing the glycemic response of diabetic test subjects. Glycemic response (think "glycemic index") is the body's response to carbohydrate consumption, which includes the secretion of insulin. Fructose does not even elicit an insulin response. Glucose has a glycemic index rating of 100, and serves as the standard by which other foods are compared. Fructose scores a 25 on the glycemic index. Shockingly, products containing HFCS are marketed to diabetics because they're "low on the glycemic index," when in fact fructose is known to increase risk factors for diabetes. 

        Another flaw in the view that sucrose is equivalent to HFCS-55 is their differing compositions. Beyond HFCS-55's fructose content being slightly higher than that of sucrose, HFCS-55 consists of a mixture of independent glucose and fructose monosaccharide molecules. Contrastingly, sucrose is a disaccharide, with each sucrose molecule containing one glucose and one fructose molecule bound together with a glucosidic bond. This bond has to be broken before sucrose sugars can be metabolized, whereas in HFCS, the unbound glucose and fructose molecules are more immediately available.

        While government policy toward HFCS seems based on HFCS-55, HFCS-90 is used in foods and beverages. There's no law requiring ingredient labels to specify which type of HFCS is used, so consumers are blind to actual product contents. One use of HFCS-90 is to sweeten yogurt. A 1986 study concluded that HFCS-90 was by far the best tasting sweetener for strawberry yogurt. HFCS-90 is also used in breakfast cereals. Recently, a lobbying move by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has allowed HFCS-90 to be labeled simply as "fructose" or "fructose syrup," which was desired by the CRA and food and beverage manufacturers as a way of duping consumers who are now wary of the health impacts of HFCS. For example, General Mills Vanilla Chex advertises that it's free of high fructose corn syrup, while "fructose" (HFCS-90) is in the ingredient list!

Lacking Evidence or Lack of Concern

Multiple animal and human studies have concluded that excessive fructose causes major health complications; however, most of these studies used pure fructose, not HFCS-55. For this reason, the US government and some researchers say that there is insufficient evidence to demonize HFCS. This is clearly ludicrous concerning HFCS-90, but pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! Look over here at HFCS-55! 

        Regardless of the lack of direct evidence against HFCS-55, the results of studies performed with pure fructose are nonetheless shocking. They identify several dangerous modes of action by which fructose acts upon metabolism. 

        For example, Teff et al. (2004) compared the physiological effects of glucose and fructose-sweetened beverages, and found that pure fructose reduced insulin and leptin response, and failed to suppress ghrelin. Insulin response leads to leptin production. Leptin is a hormone that contributes to the feeling of satiation (fullness) after meals, so low levels of leptin lead to increased appetite and overconsumption of calories. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and is normally suppressed by meals. A decreased suppression of ghrelin due to consumption of fructose could therefore also result in excessive appetite. Another finding of this study was that fructose elevated blood levels of triglycerides, which are fats synthesized during carbohydrate metabolism. Unlike glucose which is readily metabolized in glycolysis to form ATP and NADPH (the main sources of cellular energy), fructose metabolism forms the building blocks of triglycerides and phospholipidsSo not only does fructose increase appetite, it also increases the body's synthesis of fats from sugars! 

          A 2009 review by Angelpoulos et al. reinforces these findings regarding appetite stimulation and triglyceride elevation caused by fructose consumption, and also concluded that fructose is associated with increased blood levels of uric acid. They noted that other than gout, elevated levels of uric acid are seen in association with many diseases, and this condition is increasingly suspected as a contributing cause of diseases, as opposed to being a result of disease. One group of researchers fed rats a diet high in fructose, and within 10 weeks the rats developed elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance; however, they were able to reduce these effects by giving a group of rats uric acid-lowering medications along with the high fructose diet.  

A New Low in High Fructose Sweeteners

Agave "nectar" is a relatively new sweetener that is marketed as a health product, but is probably the most unhealthy sweetener. Agave plants are the source of sugars used in the fermentation process for tequila production. More appropriately considered "agave syrup" (it isn't nectar), this sweetener is marketed as being desirable due to being very low on the glycemic index, with a rating of 15. The reason it produces such a low glycemic response is that it contains about 85% fructose—the lowest glycemic sugar. The very thing that makes agave syrup unhealthy is touted as a health benefit. This product is simply a new way for agave farmers to make money. It is a cleverly disguised slap in the face to health-conscious consumers who've purchased it under false pretenses. 

Discussion

Although the number of products that contain HFCS-90 has been downplayed, and products are not labeled with HFCS-42 or HFCS-55 (just "high fructose corn syrup"), these latter two formulations are said to be the most commonly used. HFCS-42 is used in mildly sweet products such as bread; HFCS-55 is sweeter and is the type used in soft drinks. HFCS-55 has a slightly higher ratio of fructose to glucose than that of sucrose (cane sugar), and its composition as a mixture of independent fructose and glucose molecules differs from that of sucrose, which is composed of fructose and glucose molecules bound together in pairs. This allows more rapid metabolism of HFCS-55 compared to sucrose; however, it's important to avoid overconsumption of either sweetener. More research is needed specifically testing the effects of HFCS-55, but consumer health concerns are not unwarranted.       

       In the case of HFCS-90 (90% fructose), there is sufficient evidence to seriously cast doubt on its safety as used in foods and beverages. The negative effects of pure fructose include decreased levels of insulin response and subsequent leptin production, and decreased ghrelin suppression by meals, collectively leading to increased appetite and overconsumption of calories. Triglyceride production is also increased by fructose consumption. Furthermore, fructose increases uric acid levels. Uric acid is implicated in gout, insulin resistance, and other illnesses such as metabolic syndromes. 

       It seems that the Corn Refiner's Association has had an unhealthy lobbying influence on the policymaking decisions of the US government regarding high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a $2.6 billion dollar industry, 85% of which is controlled by just four companies. The power of this industry has swayed government in its favor, for example in the case of the aforementioned ingredient relabeling effort to mislead consumers by changing the name of HFCS-90 to "fructose" or "fructose syrup." After 50 years of shady HFCS marketing, the agave industry is now using similar, if not more absurd marketing tactics. Saying agave syrup is healthy because it's low on the glycemic index is ridiculous. Agave syrup's extremely high fructose content is what gives it a low glycemic index rating. 

        As you can see, there are high stakes in the sweetener industry for producers' profits, and for the health of consumers.  

 

Sources:

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/139/6/1242S/4670463

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/89/6/2963/2870348

https://febs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1432-1033.1969.tb00696.x

https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0022030286804581?token=53E2552C25F246FC263004FA3F6AA25B2DDB2BC30FFB0EFA4E2C5BAE6CE5059307BF5E038C47EEF27470192F9B17F37A

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.967.775&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://prn.fm/high-fructose-corn-syrup-now-labeled-as-fructose-or-hfcs-90/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/leptin-101#how-it-works

http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup

 

Spreading Cannabis Topicals Infused with BS: The Blood-Brain Barrier Myth

Blog Post #4, October 7, 2019

Illustration: Sketch of the human brain. The blood-brain barrier is a structural and chemical pathway barrier that limits movement of chemicals between the bloodstream and cerebrospinal fluid. 

Anyone who's long been involved in the cannabis industry has heard the term "blood-brain barrier," and has most likely heard it misused or referred to in a false context. Discussion of topical cannabis products generates the most BS concerning the blood-brain barrier. A google search for 'the "blood brain barrier" "cannabis" "topicals”' revealed the following examples of misleading information, on websites found on the first page of search results: 

  • (from Green Nectar) "Most cannabis infused topicals, even with active THC, cannot breach the bloodstream when absorbed transdermally and won’t cross the blood brain barrier as a result."

  • (from Dixie Elixirs) “…topically applied THC doesn’t have the opportunity to cross the blood-brain barrier.”

  • (from Oregon's Finest) “Because topicals are designed not to break the blood-brain barrier, they won’t cause any psychoactive effects or make you feel “high”, even if a topical contains THC”

  • (from Green Dream) “when cannabis is applied to the skin, it doesn’t break the blood-brain barrier”

  • (from Capital Compliance Management this one's particularly rich) "Because topicals are absorbed through the skin, the cannabinoids won’t pass the blood-brain barrier that is usually surpassed by other methods to get you high. No matter how much THC is present in the topical, your mood, perception, or behavior won’t be affected. You’ll just get the medicinal effects and nothing else.” 

What's the Blood-Brain Barrier?

The blood-brain barrier was first described as a result of tests in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which dyes were injected into the circulatory systems of human test subjects and lab animals, and scientists observed that the dye didn't stain the brain as it did other organs. It has since been shown that the bloodstream is isolated from cerebrospinal fluid (fluid in the brain and spinal cord) by the structures of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) and their surrounding tissues in the brain, and by complex pathways for transporting chemicals in and out of the brain. Collectively, these mechanisms are known as the blood-brain barrier (BBB). What's important for the reader to understand is that the blood-brain barrier prevents certain substances that are already in the blood stream from entering the brain. In the context of this article, note that the BBB is not located in the skin, as is seemingly implied by some faulty statements about topical cannabis formulations. 

         

Destroying the Cannabis BBB Myth

When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD enter the bloodstream via capillaries in the lungs, and are transported in the blood to the brain, where they produce the effects on the central nervous system that cannabis is known for. Likewise, cannabinoids in oral mucosal cannabis formulations (tinctures, lozenges) enter the bloodstream via capillaries in the mouth, and ingested formulations such as edibles and capsules enter the bloodstream via 

Photo: Blood sample in a 'Vacutainer' vial 

capillaries in the digestive tract. In all of these cases, the cannabinoids cross the BBB to produce a 'high.' 

         So, what's stopping cannabinoids in topical formulations from crossing the BBB, as is so often claimed? The short answer is, nothing. Carrier oils for cannabinoids in topical formulations, such as coconut oil and hempseed oil, are in fact absorbed into the bloodstream via capillaries in the skin. A study by Solanki et al. (2005) demonstrated that oils massaged onto human infants entered their bloodstreams, and significantly altered the fatty-acid ratios in their blood, with safflower oil and coconut oil elevating levels of essential fatty acids and saturated fatty acids respectively.

Discussion

Part of the confusion surrounding the issue of cannabis topicals and the BBB is certainly due to irresponsible perpetuation of a misunderstood concept, namely what the BBB is and where it's located. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding, or worse yet willful ignorance, is being used to boost topical sales, by way of misleading consumers. While it's true that topicals are unlikely to cause users to feel 'high,' apparently this is simply dose-dependent, with most topicals not containing a large enough cannabinoid content, or not being spread over a large enough area of the skin, to produce psychoactive effects. There are however, industry insiders who are aware of the reality behind cannabis topicals. According to Noel Palmer, analytical chemist and former chief scientist at Mary's Medicinal's: “The common theory is that if you disrupt the stratum corneum [outer layer of the skin] with ‘permeation enhancers’ and/or ‘carriers’ – then you can promote diffusion of [an] API [active pharmaceutical ingredient] into the bloodstream, even if it’s lipophilic [as cannabinoids are]. This has been proven time and time again with other drugs, which is where the precedent came from. THC isn’t that different. Permeation enhancers can be liposomes, fatty acids, terpenes, etc.” Palmer notes that concerning drug tests, topical formulations could indeed "likely generate a positive result when testing for THC and THC metabolites.” So, cannabinoids dissolved in carrier oils can enter the bloodstream via the skin, and once in the bloodstream they are transported to the brain, just like cannabinoids in smoked, vaporized, oral mucosal, and edible or encapsulated formulations. 

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not to be misconstrued as medical advice. Consult your physician regarding medical issues. 

 

Hemp at Odds with Sensimilla

Blog Post #3, October 4, 2019

Photo: Indoor hydroponic crop of Triangle Kush beginning to flower. 

It's often mistakenly referred to as a different plant than marijuana, but hemp is just another name for the same plant. In today's usage, the term 'hemp' is nothing more than a legal definition. In order to be legally considered hemp, Cannabis spp. plants must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. There are many uses for hemp, including production of fiber, seed oil, food, bird seed, and construction materials. The national legalization of hemp production in the United States via the

Farm Bill presents a great opportunity for farmers to return to growing the once popular crop, which was made illegal by marijuana prohibition. Hemp plants are bred for fiber production, seed production, or both, and they're now being bred for higher levels of CBD, and for desirable terpene (flavor) profiles for smokable flower. It's a common misconception that hemp doesn't produce much sticky resin. Although sometimes as resinous as THC-producing plants, hemp plants produce CBD in the resin instead of THC. Another popular misconception is that only sativa plants are useful for hemp production; while this is true for fiber hemp, sativa, indica, afghanica, and ruderalis plants can be used for seed hemp production. Dual purpose plants that produce fiber and seeds are also sometimes grown, but these plants aren't as productive for either specific purpose. 

A considerable portion of hemp grown in the near future will be for smokable flower and CBD production, and even for CBG production. Some breeders are now focusing on developing strains that mature (ripen) with high levels of CBG, a cannabinoid which is gaining public interest. CBG is the precursor cannabinoid which is converted to THC or CBD or both, within the trichomes of cannabis plants. Farmers growing cannabis for smokable flower remove male plants from the field, or use 'feminized' seeds, which in theory produce only female plants, although hermaphroditism is common and problematic. Avoiding growing male plants allows for 'sinsemilla' production. 'Sin - semilla' is Spanish for without seed.

Conflicting Interests

Photo: Closeup of trichomes on Triangle Kush flowers containing about 25% THC. "Hemp" typically produces CBD instead.  

While some farmers are growing sinsemilla hemp, many are growing hemp for fiber or seed production. These growers leave male plants in the field, to produce fibrous stems alongside female plants (which also have fibrous stems), or for the pollination required to produce seeds. This has the potential to create major problems for sinsemilla growers, even for those who are growing indoors. Unlike bee-pollinated crops, cannabis is wind-pollinated. Cannabis pollen has been documented traveling more than 25 miles, across the Mediterranean Sea, from Morocco to Spain to pollinate Spanish cannabis intended to be sinsemilla. Even with careful filtration of incoming air, pollen could make its way into grow facilities via doorways and workers, unless strict procedures and 'air shower' machinery are used. Although some lawmakers in the U.S. are examining this issue, it isn't receiving needed attention in every state. Zoning laws may need to be established for outdoor hemp crops, and in highly populated areas, hemp production may not be possible without clashing with sinsemilla. 

 

Humans, Fruit Bats, and Vitamin C

Blog Post #2, September 28, 2019

Photo: The straw-colored fruit bat Eidolon helvum just hanging out.

Fruit bats are beautiful, fascinating mammals. Also known as flying foxes, they are distinguishable from other bats by their dog-like faces. The largest fruit bats reach weights up to 3.2 lbs (~1.5 kg), and can have wingspans as large as 5.6 ft (1.7 m). Though they're mostly nocturnal, they use sight to locate food, instead of using echolocation. As their name indicates, their primary food source is fruit, although some species eat nectar, and some eat pollen and vegetation. Their hearts are capable of pumping at rates up to 700 beats per minute, without even drinking coffee! So, what do humans and fruit bats have in common? 

Humans and other higher primates, fruit bats, and guinea pigs are the only mammals that aren't capable of making their own vitamin C. All other mammals produce an enzyme in their livers that allows them to synthesize vitamin C from glucose (glucose is a simple sugar, the main product of photosynthesis, and is the most important source of energy for all life). We've lost the gene required to make this enzyme, apparently by consuming enough dietary vitamin C to avoid the need for it. This doesn't tell the full story however, since the small group of mammals that don't synthesize vitamin C help compensate using a special system for efficiently transporting it throughout the body. 

 A protein called Glut1 is uniquely found embedded in the cell membranes of our small 'group' of mammals' red blood cells. This protein allows blood cells to absorb vitamin C and transport it via the blood stream. Glut1 is not found in the red blood cells of mammals that can synthesize vitamin C, such as dogs, cats and mice. This protein greatly decreases the amount of vitamin C we must consume. Humans only need about 1 mg of vitamin C per kilogram of body weight per day, whereas goats for example, synthesize about 200 mg/kg/day.

Roles of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production. Collagen provides structure and elasticity in our blood vessels, skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, and is the most abundant protein in the body. It is essential as an antioxidant for the neutralization of free radicals. Vitamin C 

Photo: The marianna fruit bat Pteropus mariannus shows off its contrasting colors

also assists in iron absorption; it acts as a chelate for iron in the stomach. Chelate is greek for 'crab's claw', and refers to the action of molecules that grab onto other molecules and increase their bioavailability. As chelated iron passes from the stomach to more alkaline areas of the digestive tract, it remains soluble. Another role of vitamin C is in supporting immune system function, due to its antioxidant capability and its complex role in cellular function. 

Dietary Sources of Vitamin C

Some excellent dietary sources of vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits

  • kiwi

  • pineapple

  • Capsicum peppers 

  • white potatoes and sweet potatoes

  • leafy greens such as arugula

  • broccoli and other Brassica plants

Sources:

 

LSD in the Salem Witch Incident

Blog Post #1, September 26, 2019

Photo: Instead of the healthy grains pictured above, Claviceps purpurea infection causes swollen, dark kernels, laden with toxins and LSD. 

The Salem Witch Trials are a horrific historical tragedy, which took place in colonial Massachusetts, in the late winter and early spring of 1692 and 1693. Twenty people were executed for alleged witchcraft. Amongst the contributing factors of the incident were isolation, religious fanaticism (Puritan), and sexism (the majority of those executed were women; Puritans believed women to be more sinful than men). Notably, a South American Indian slave named Tituba did express to other women her interest in the comprehensive witchcraft book Malleus Maleficarum. This gives the events an interesting context, as it surely contributed to suspicion of witchcraft. However, the real nail in the coffin was something more elusive.

Initially, two girls presented undiagnosable symptoms including convulsions, bizarre unintelligible outbursts, apparent hallucinations, delirium, and the contortion of their bodies into unusual positions, and they complained of being pricked with pins. This was shortly followed by additional, alike cases. According to Mary K. Matossian (1982), "three of the girls said they felt as if they were being torn to pieces, and all of their bones were being pulled out of joint." There were multiple witnesses, with outbursts from the ill girls even interrupting a local preacher's sermon. 

Ergotism at Play

Many academics try to explain the events as being caused by social hysteria, scapegoating, and jumping to conclusions, and also claim the girls were faking their symptoms. However, as explained by Matossian, it had been 47 years since the last major case of witchcraft trials in England, and in no following years would such intense persecution of witches take place, which demonstrates this was not a common issue. Furthermore, the events were relatively tightly centralized, in just two counties in the Massachusetts Bay area, which is indicative of microclimate-induced plant disease. Plant pathogens only infect their host plants when provided the proper environmental parameters, which may not have been present in nearby counties. Perhaps most precluding of any social theories of causation is the fact that animals were afflicted by the mysterious illness, and three people and several cows died.

The ergot fungus Claviceps purpurea is a common pathogen of grain crops— usually rye. Infected kernels become darkened and distended as they're replaced by fungal tissue. The fungus produces toxins that can lead to gangrene, as well as other symptoms including convulsions, hallucinations, renal failure, and death. The symptoms of convulsive ergotism are complex and vary in combination between specific cases. With regard to the Salem Witch incident, most tellingly from the post-countercultural-revolution, modern perspective, ergot produces lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD. Albert Hoffman at Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland first isolated LSD from ergot in 1938, and later accidentally absorbed a dose through his finger in 1943. LSD induces a psychedelic experience similar to that of magic mushrooms. LSD causes dilation of pupils leading to increased intraocular exposure to light, and readers who've experienced an LSD psychedelic 'trip' will find it striking that Salem victim John Barlow reported that "daylight seemed to prevail even at night." Dilated pupils also cause the eyes to take on a pitch-black appearance, which could certainly frighten astonished onlookers.

Photo: Chemist Albert Hoffman in 2006. Hoffman discovered LSD.

The Case for a Fungal Pathogen

According to Matossian, tree ring evidence from 1690, 1691, and 1692 suggests that the climate in New England was several degrees cooler than average. This would favor the survival of rye crops over other grain crops, and yet would put the rye at a greater risk of fungal disease. Due to wheat rust infestations (another fungal pathogen), colonists in New England planted more rye and depended on it more than they would have in the old country. In the context of the localized nature of the events, especially damning is the fact that the afflicted population farmed swampy, low-lying, intermittently waterlogged land, which was particularly susceptible to Claviceps purpurea. Shading of many fields by nearby hillsides also contributed to fungus-favoring conditions.

Failed Academia

After examining available evidence, there should be no doubt that the Salem Witch Trials were caused by the ergot fungus Claviceps purpurea. One may be surprised however, by the number of papers refuting this theory. Teachers, social scientists, and historians perhaps turned away from an honest investigation of the events due to prohibition of psychedelics, who claim social, religious, and cultural causes, are 'tripping.' And they are disregarding the intellect of the people of that time, who had no other explanation available to them, yet clearly witnessed a remarkable phenomenon, which cannot be sufficiently explained by hysteria, fear, anxiety, etc. The hard evidence available, including deaths of those who were sickened, animal cases, the specific symptoms and observations of the victims which are attributable to LSD and ergotism, the fact that rye was cultivated, and the local field and climatic conditions, all point to ergotism as the culprit. 

Photo: Ergot-infected wheat displaying distended sclerotia 

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials

            

            A Fever in Salem, by Laurie Winn Carlson

            Ergot and the Salem Witchcraft Affair, by Mary K. Matossian

            Albert Hoffman isolated LSD from ergot fungus