Medical Marijuana: What is AYUSH Ministry’s stand on CBD?

We came across a tincture that contains both CBD and THC and carries with it an AYUSH ministry certification.

Alt Remedies
7 min read
AYUSH ministry has certified a raw cannabis tincture that contained both CBD and the more controversial THC.

Where does our government stand on CBD or cannabidiol? We came across a CBD tincture that carried with it an AYUSH Ministry certification. The tincture also contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

AYUSH ministry certified raw cannabis tincture.
AYUSH ministry certified raw cannabis tincture.
(Photo: The Quint)

Speaking to FIT, Vinesh Chandrakant, the owner of India’s largest CBD store (which sells the aforementioned tincture too) said,

“As far as the government is concerned, there is no difference between CBD and THC in India. The AYUSH Ministry permits the use of the Vijaya or cannabis extract (think Bhaang)- so both CBD and THC are permitted. It is up to the discretion of the manufacturer or distributor to reveal the ingredients on the box. But having the support of the government goes a long way.”
Vinesh Chandrakant

He adds that these formulations are part of India’s ancient heritage, and the AYUSH Ministry aims to encourage ancient culture. “Formulations with THC in Bhang are common in ancient India and even today.”

So with the government’s backing, Vijaya products are finding a market in India. For clarity, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) outlaws the recreational use of cannabis - but it does not apply to the leaves or seeds of the plant. Besides the medicinal use is encouraged once proper regulations and licenses are acquired.

But wait, what exactly is Vijaya, CBD and THC? FIT breaks it down.

What is CBD?

Put simply, cannabidiol or CBD is an oil derived from the cannabis plant - more commonly known as the marijuana plant or ganja or Vijaya in India. CBD is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, reports Healthline.

The oil is made by extracting CBD from the plant and then mixing it with a carrier oil like coconut oil or even hemp seed oil.

CBD oil is known to potentially relieve pain, inflammation and stress without the other effects of marijuana - like the ‘high’. Many studies confirm its health benefits, and admittedly, marijuana has been used since ancient times to treat pain - according to this clinical review, there have been instances of use as far back as 2900 B.C!

“The history of cannabis in India can be traced to 1000 BC. In classical ayurvedic texts, nearly 191 formulations and more than 15 dosage forms have cannabis as a key ingredient. Dried leaves of cannabis collected from cultivated or wild source are not covered under psychotropic substance act and are legal as an ayurvedic drug.”
Dr N Srikant, Deputy Director General, CCRAS

Coming back to the present, there is growing evidence that the non-psychoactive compounds of marijuana like CBD can help with chronic pain, reports Medical News Today. In the recently concluded US elections, several states voted to legalise recreational use of marijuana.

We will get into the health benefits further down, as CBD is known to help with inflammation, Alzheimer's and even cancer pain.

However, its legality is still contested in many parts of the world - but there is mounting research to show it has potential.

What is THC?

Now THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, it’s what gives you the feeling of a ‘high.’ People consume it through smoking but also though oils, tinctures, capsules and more.

THC has much of the same health benefits of CBD but it comes with more legal questions. Several studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC is effective in treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

What’s Going on With AYUSH, CBD & THC?

“In India, no one sells only CBD - it is always CBD and THC.”
Vinesh Chandrakant
Documents from the Office of the Drug Controller (AYUSH Ministry) of Madhya Pradesh that accompanied the sale of the tincture (mentioned as number 10).
Documents from the Office of the Drug Controller (AYUSH Ministry) of Madhya Pradesh that accompanied the sale of the tincture (mentioned as number 10).
(Photo: The Quint)

Vinesh explains that Indian manufacturers make Vijaya, and don’t isolate pure CBD. “No one in India has invested in the infrastructure to isolate pure CBD and with the AYUSH Ministry’s go ahead we can purchase the plant and most products have an average ratio of 1:1 CBD to THC.”

Vinesh tells us that since the permissions and legality are taken care of, they instead focus on the medicinal aspects of CBD.

“We have a doctors panel on our website where people can get a consultation and get referred products. Alternatively, customers can come with their own doctor’s prescription as we need that to sell them anything from our store,” says Vinesh.

Since many of the products have THC, they can theoretically be used recreationally, and because Vinesh sells the products for their medicinal use as is allowed by the government, does this become a problem? “See, for recreational use, people mostly smoke or eat the drug socially, and don’t use tinctures or oils. There is no ‘recreational environment’ around the products we sell," he adds.

Almost all customers to their shop come with medical issues, and Vinesh tells me that many parents buy products for their child to treat their epilepsy.

In international circles, there has been some concern about giving THC to children even if it can help treat certain conditions as it can have a detrimental effect on their brain development. Vinesh explains that products recommended for children are the ones with only CBD oil - and not THC. So most of these products are imported and are therefore solely with CBD oil. “The US has the infrastructure to isolate CBD,” adds Vinesh.

“The product they receive depends on their doctors prescription. For children and adults with non-serious or not very painful ailments like say anxiety, or little back pain, our doctor would not recommend or prescribe THC.”
Vinesh Chandrakant

Vinesh adds that Vijaya is “entrenched in Indian culture,” and so there is less fear about social acceptance and more excitement about future growth prospects.

In August 2019, AYUSH experts pitched for the legalisation of the medicinal use of cannabis, saying India can revolutionise pain management with cannabis by using Ayurvedic knowledge, as FIT reported then.

Also in 2019, for the first time ever, the Center allowed research on cannabis for medicinal purposes. Early in 2019, the World Health Organisation also proposed recategorising cannabis in international law because of its medicinal properties.

“The Indian government is working very hard as medicinal marijuana or cannabis will be legalised soon. Scientists are aggressively working to find out the active components of cannabis.”
Dr Saurabh Saran, SCIR-IIM Technology Business Incubator, Jammu in 2019

"We are trying to develop seeds more of active compound cannabidiol (CBD) and less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). To make cannabis available for pain management to masses, we need to develop our own varieties as we cannot look at the option of only exporting cannabis. It has to be indigenously developed for medical cultivation and pain management," he added.

Then in September 2019, the narcotics department within the revenue wing of the Union finance ministry gave the green signal for researching CBD and THC, reported The Times of India. This meant the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in Lucknow (UP) and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) was growing cannabis for the research.

The images are documents from the Office of the Drug Controller (AYUSH Ministry) of Madhya Pradesh certifying the sale of the aforementioned raw cannabis tincture, that were sent along with the product.

Health Benefits of CBD

  • Cancer

There has been growing research in the field of CBD and cancer, looking at how it may help improve the response to chemotherapy, lessen its side effects like nausea and vomiting, and prevent the growth of cancer cells.

  • Epilepsy

One of the most studied uses of CBD is in treating epilepsy and other neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis. In fact, in 2018, the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD in treating people aged 3 plus for:

  • Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
  • Dravet syndrome

There is growing research into how CBD may help prevent seizures too.

Sativex, an oral spray consisting of CBD and THC, has been proven as a safe way to effectively reduce muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis, reported Healthline. A study found that Sativex reduced spasms in 75 per cent of 276 people with multiple sclerosis.

Other studies have shown CBD’s effects on improving sleep quality on those with Parkinson’s Disease.

  • Alzheimer's Disease

In 2014, a study on mice found that long-term CBD treatment could prevent memory loss of face recognition and cognitive decline - symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.

  • Inflammation and Pain Relief

Much of the research on CBD oil focus on it as an alternate treatment for chronic pain.

Patients with fibromyalgia, which has symptoms of chronic and widespread pain, exhaustion and cognitive difficulties often resort to CBD oil as traditional drugs offer little respite. Research in 2018 suggested CBD oil as an effective pain reliever.

There have been studies with animal trials in 2018 that showed CBD reduced inflammation in mice. Then there was a 2019 study that showed CBD as an ointment when applied to the skin reduced inflammatory skin disease.

  • Type 1 Diabetes

Several studies have found that CBD helps reduce the pancreatic inflammation of Type 1 diabetes. Another study from 2018 on rats with diabetes found that CBD helped with preserving their memory and reducing nerve inflammation.

  • Anxiety and Depression

CBD is known to have relaxing effects on those with anxiety and depression, two of the most common mental health disorders in the world.

CBD oil has shown anti-depressant like effects, and a 2019 study on mice with anxiety showed that it could reduce symptoms.

This study shows that it can even be effective in treating insomnia and PTSD in children.

  • And Much More
  • CBD may also help with acne and scarring due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Some studies have shown it has a positive effect on substance abuse treatments and addiction.
  • Studies also show it can help with antipsychotic effects and help treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia

CBD Oil Risks

Clearly, there is much to be loved about CBD from a health perspective, but like all drugs and treatment options, it is not without risk.

While medicinal research is growing, there is still much unknown about the side-effects of CBD for certain conditions. It’s best to consult a doctor before treatment.

Some potential risks, according to the FDA, include:

  • Liver injury
  • Changes in alertness which can be dangerous
  • Interaction with other drug treatment
  • Damage to fertility, especially in men
  • Gastrointestinal distress and diarrhoea
  • Mood changes like irritability and agitation

The FDA also suggests we do not know the effects of CBD on those with developing brains like children, on newborns and pregnant women in a long-term way.

The Bottom Line

CBD oil is fast-emerging as an alternate source of relief for various ailments from cancer to depression to diabetes. While much is still left to be researched and studied, especially in terms of long-term impact, in India, our government has given the go ahead to study the medicinal effects of CBH and THC so we can expect to see more alternate treatments coming our way.

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