In Brief
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women – in the U.S. alone, more than 610,000 people die from it annually.
  • GrowBlox Life Sciences LLC announced that they plan to develop a drug that could prevent and treat cardiovascular disease using cannabis.

Stokes’ Secret Ingredient

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. In the U.S. alone, about 610,000 people die from it every year – totaling one out of every four deaths. As a response to this statistic, pharmaceutical company GrowBlox Life Sciences LLC announced that they plan to develop a drug that could prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. Their main influence is from a patent that was obtained by Dr. Alexander Stokes, a research professor from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Credit: University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Stokes developed a novel therapy for heart disease, and in 2015, was issued a patent. The main ingredient? Cannabis.

When asked about this original therapy and its relation to managing to heart disease, he commented:

Many types of diseases ultimately affect the heart by making it work harder. The heart muscles compensate by getting bigger. The heart becomes stiffer and less functional and eventually starts to fail. We have a way of protecting the heart with a completely new therapeutic approach – a therapy that allows the heart to compensate for the extra work it needs to perform, without losing function and failing.

The patent claims the regulation of cannabinoid receptor TRPV1 through plant-based cannabinoids, specifically marijuana. TRPV1 is majorly responsible in the progression to heart failure. The medicinal compounds in marijuana are able to bind to TRPV1, instilling their effects inside cells. With the development of a separate cannabis-based drug by the pharmaceutical company alongside Dr. Stokes therapy, they hope to reduce the number of heart disease cases. This comes with the “entourage effect,” a theory stating that some cannabis compounds are more effective when paired with other compounds, rather than used alone.

The Healing Powers of Cannabis

The CDC states that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Chances are you know someone who has suffered from it or has experienced a heart attack. The approaches from Dr. Stokes and GrowBlox Life Sciences LLC are just two players in the medical field on a mission to solving this epidemic. But their approach brings to light a growing trend in medicine – the use of cannabis compounds in treatment and prevention.

Marijuana extract has been used in studies on diseases such as Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. In one particular study, scientists found that the cannabinoids regulated certain events implicated by Alzheimer’s. Researchers also formulated a drug utilizing cannabis compounds in treating Alzheimer’s, which helped neurons grow and connect with brain cells to increase memory formation. Their properties have even been used to treat inflammatory diseases.

While cannabis certainly isn’t a magical cure-all, it is important that scientists are free to research its effects on patients, and that doctors are able to offer patients the best treatment available.