Hemp Facts - Safety and Use
Who determined the “safety” of THC in legal cannabis products?
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has determined the Lowest Observed Effect Level (LOEL) to be 5mg THC per day per 154lb (0.04mgTHC/kg) body weight. This scientific data has resulted in an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0.0035 mg/kg (or .35%THC limit) based on an Uncertainty Factor* of 100 plus adjustments for specific circumstances.
Therefore, for all potential consumers of products containing .3% THC or less the LOEL (which is, “usually not distinguishable from a placebo.”) is 0.077mg/day (or 1.3oz of straight, unextracted hemp seeds or extracted oil) per 10lb of body weight.
Ugh… what does that even mean? How much is that?
That means that your 10lb dog would have to eat 1.3oz/day of pure THC to reach the LOWEST observable effect from having consumed the product. Your 50lb dog would have to eat 6.5 ounces a day. Your 100lb dog would have to eat 13 ounces a day.
So that’s the “lowest” amount… how far off is that from the “highest” amount that creates an Observable Effect?
EIHA determined that the maximum LOEL and ADI of THC per day is 100mg/kg (or 23.14oz). What this means is that depending 6.6lbs of raw hemp or hemp extract per day; your 50lb dog would have to eat 32.9lbs of raw hemp or hemp extract per day to potentially reach toxicity.
Wait, you said you need 1.3oz/day of pure THC or 6.6lbs of raw hemp or hemp extract... what’s the difference?
The studies done on THC toxicity used pure, isolated, injected THC. This is not a product that people keep in their households or use as a food or supplement. Therefore, we did the math on a product that contains .3% THC as a whole plant, rather than the purified THC mg/kg used in the studies. What that means is that 1lb of raw hemp that is .3% THC would only contain 1.4mg of THC in the full pound
Could my pet eat that much? … Actually, my pet could eat anything… what if he DOES eat that much?
Google says that 3.5oz of raw hemp contains 585kcals. Dogs should eat no more than 200kcals per 10lbs of body weight per day. Therefore, if they were eating exclusively hemp a 10lb dog would get 1.2oz/ day to meet caloric requirements, and their stomach capacity is only 2.6oz. In order to possibly see medicinal effects of hemp, though, they would have to consume a minimum of 1.3oz a day…statistically, though, it’s highly unlikely they would have effects at this level… the level in excess of their entire diet for an entire day.
Alright, but my 50lb dog ate 5lbs of food at once before, so I know it can happen. What if they ate a whole bag of pure hemp seeds?
The minimum lethal oral dose for dogs for THC is more than 3 g/kg. (or 3,000mg/kg). Therefore, a 22.7kg/50 lb dog would have to eat 68+ grams of THC (or 800lb POUNDS of hemp) per day to reach the "minimum lethal oral dose for dogs." Sooo… eat up!!
Are there any cases of death in dogs caused by THC products?
Dr. Rob Silver, DVM states that the only death in lab studies on dogs required IV Dosage of THC at 60mg/kg for 11 days before causing death (that would be 1,364mg/day for a 50lb dog), though dogs developed tolerance of up to 300 times greater than the initial dose after 2-3 administrations resulting in tolerance as high as 160mg/kg IV producing effects LESS than those in the first doses at only 2mg/kg. There are 3 other referenced associated deaths in pets, however, one of them also ate large amounts of additional illegal drug substances (so THC cannot be determined as a cause of death), one ate THC containing chocolate (chocolate is known to kill dogs so THC cannot be determined as a cause of death) and one had a severe heart condition and was given Morphine upon arrival to the Vet (THC and Morphine cause decreased respiration which was contraindicated in a pet with a heart condition).
Hopefully, you're not saying, "So it can happen… that’s it, I’m out!!"
Hold your horses!!! Do you know how many pet foods actually contain Garlic or Onion (an AAFCO approved ingredient in your “complete and balanced” pet foods)? Veterinary Medicine DVM states that onion toxicosis occurs for cats at a minimum of 5g/kg (1tsp/2.2lb or 4.55tsp/10lbs) and for dogs at a minimum of 15-30g/kg (3-6tsp/2.2lbs or 1.5-3 ounces per 2.2lbs), resulting in hematologic changes. Therefore, garlic and onion are FAR more toxic than THC products and they're probably in your pets food right now.
Aren’t I buying a CBD product, not a THC product?
Yup… but Full Spectrum products that contain a variety of cannabinoids including THC, CBD, CBGA, CBC, Terpenes and 100’s of other compounds contribute to whole body healing via the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. CBD has been studied and confirmed to be non-psychotropic and safe at levels in excess of 1,500mg/day. So what are these “specific circumstances” that you mentioned that required a margin of safety/uncertainty factor?
Children – children are stated to have significant decreased sensitivity to THC and cannabinoids. Studies show that “CB binding increased almost 50% with increasing age” as a result of the maturation process creating increased “cannabinoid receptor density.” To summarize, sensitivity to cannabinoids such as THC are minimal until the endocannabinoid system develops fully in adulthood. One study utilized 8 children, ages 3 to 10 years old, and provided them with 18mg of THC per square meter of body surface; 4 times daily (that’s around 120mg/day of pure THC with a relative potency of 75%). At this dose, “only mild psychotropic side effects in two children and none in the other six” were noted despite the fact that “23mg of delta-9-THC (is) a dose at which adults usually experience considerable psychotropic effects.”
Puppies and kittens are the same as children in that their endocannabinoid systems are not fully developed either, thus decreasing sensitivity.
Genetic factors (uncertainty factor of 2) – there can be a “…variation in polymorphisms of the specific genes (CNR1 and CNR2) that encode the most well-defined cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and polymorphisms in the enzymes that are mainly responsible for the degradation of THC in the liver (mainly CYP2C9).” 10% of volunteers in the study were carriers of the CYP2C9 gene and experienced increased sedation following administration of THC at lower doses. To summarize, about 10% of the population can be assumed to have a lower tolerance to THC based on a genetic lack of cannabinoid specific enzymes.
Fetal exposure (uncertainty factor of 5 plus 2 for potential ethanol and other drug exposure) – “…fetal exposure after oral THC intake by the mother, e.g., with hemp foods, will be lower compared to inhalative THC intake by the mother…in addition, oral ingestion by the mother results in a much lower maximum peak concentration compared to inhalation of the same dose, further reducing possible impacts from THC. These differences in the transfer to the fetus between oral and inhalative uptake of THC thus provide an additional margin of safety from potential teratogenic effects.” To summarize, fetal exposure is of minimal concern at all, especially when it is consumed rather than smoked (does your dog smoke?)
Increased fatty diet consumption or body weight (no uncertainty factor suggested) – THC “accumulates in adipose tissue where it is stored for long periods of time.” “THC accumulated in (reproductive tissue) fat at significantly higher concentrations than in other organs such as the liver, brain, lungs and other fatty tissue.” Therefore, obesity and high fat diets cause increased sensitivity to cannabinoid containing products, in particular during conditions (such as exercise and stress) that stimulate lipolysis which liberates THC from adipocytes and increases THC blood levels. 5 No uncertainty factor was applied because fetus’ and infants are never obese and do not consume high fat foods. Of note, CBD products (including those containing 0.3% THC) that are extracted and preserved in high fat oils (e.g. Coconut Oil) have increased efficacy at lower dose due to the conjunction of high fat oils in the presence of cannabinols.
So if my pets food had Hemp in it, it would be safe and medicinal???!!!
Safe, heck ya!!! Science shows it’s basically impossible to OD on THC or CBD. Medicinal, not so fast… this will depend on the sourcing of the product. Nutritional values and contents will depend on whether hemp products are sourced from whole, raw hemp or if it’s sourced from hemp that was previously used to extract medicinal oils. Obviously the latter will have the majority of its nutrients and cannabinol substances stripped from it, making it no more than a high fat, high fiber filler for your product.
Ok, cool… so then if I’m giving it, how do I know how much I should dose?
Because the range from LOEL and ADI to toxicity is so vast there is no standardized recommendation for dosing yet. What science DOES tell us, though, can help to determine how to get to the right dose for you or your pet.
Follow these guidelines:
- Puppies, Kittens and Children need much higher doses to receive effect and benefit from CBD or THC products. However, the reason they need more is because their endocannabinoid systems are not fully developed yet. While CBD and THC products can be beneficial for acute situations in underdeveloped young, maintenance dosing could potentially HINDER full development of their endocannabinoid system and cause a decrease in adult endocannabinoid receptors. Therefore, use of exogenous cannabinoids in children, puppies and kittens in not recommended.
- Obesity and high fat diets relative to stress and exercise – Remember that CBD and THC stores in fat, either in the body or dietary fats. Consuming CBD or THC products in conjunction with high fat foods, or for overweight people or pets, will increase the efficacy of smaller doses. CBD and THC stored in fat cells will be released into the blood during exercise or stress.
- Personal sensitivity – remember there is a genetic component to being capable of breaking down THC or CBD. Should you or your pet have a higher sensitivity to THC and CBD you’ll need a much lower dose than others to have the same effect.
What is the form of product you are consuming?
– Consuming a tincture made from high fat hemp or coconut oil will increase efficacy. Consuming an herbal powder or pill will still likely work but you will need higher doses to have the same effect. Another consideration to these products is that an extracted oil will absorb into the cells much quicker and work more acutely than an herbal form. Pills and powders will have to be broken down and digested before they will be absorbed. The effect of pills and powders
may last longer, but take longer to start working. While the effect of tinctures may not last as long, but start working quickly. For some conditions it could be beneficial to use both tinctures and powders to ensure more consistent all-day effect.
- Start low and work up – Starting with low doses and working up is usually the most beneficial method for finding the right dose. This provides the body the opportunity to fill the cannabinoid receptors at the pace and density that it uniquely requires. This also allows you the opportunity to monitor responses and determine if you or your pet have a higher level of genetic sensitivity. Studies also show that once receptors fill the endocannabinoid system bases future function on that level of availability of cannabinoids to fill the receptors. Ultimately, if you start at high dose you will have to stay at high dose as you will train the body to accommodate the amount provided. Therefore, starting low will ensure that you are only providing the body with what it uniquely needs rather than flooding at your personal high expense.
Are there any concerns I should about these products? It seems like they’re safe no matter what, right?
Yes!!!! There are several things you should consider when picking a product:
- Extraction method – there are numerous means of extracting the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the cannabis plant. Some of these methods use chemicals that leave behind trace amounts of those chemicals which can be detrimental to your pets’ health. Ultimately CO2 and responsible ethanol extraction are going to produce the safest final products.
- Organic vs inorganic products – Cannabis plants are known for their bioaccumulation abilities. This means that any chemicals and nutrients the cannabis plant is exposed to during growth are absorbed and retained at high levels in the plant itself. When considering a consumable product from cannabis it is important that no chemical fertilizers or other additives are used as they are likely to end up in the final product. Using organically grown products is the best way to ensure product safety for you or your pet.
- Environment of growth – while cannabinoids are the most researched compounds found in cannabis plants the terpenes and flavonoids are also crucial to the medicinal effect of the product. These are difficult to reproduce in identical levels from crop to crop and are subject to temperature, climate, and other environmental factors. It is important that the cannabis is grown in clean and controlled environments. The final product should also be tested at a third party laboratory that measures not only CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids, but also measuring beneficial terpenes and flavonoids. This is crucial when purchasing product from the same company but a different crop, knowing as much as possible regarding the content and levels of those compounds will decrease the risk of a change in efficacy when starting a new bottle.
Alright… and what all did you say it’s good for again?
- Seizures: seizure activity can be the result of multiple different primary disease processes and each different cause is addressed differently by cannabinoids. The three most common causes of recurrent seizure activity are neoplasia, epilepsy, and immune/inflammatory disease.
o Neoplasia: Benign or malignant tumors in the brain can cause swelling and inflammation that result in seizure activity. Both CBD and THC have proven anti-inflammatory benefit, decreasing the pressure put on healthy brain tissue.
o Epilepsy: Seizures that result from epilepsy are a complex process that is still not fully understood. CBD and THC have been proven to target GABA and other receptors in the brain that help to decrease frequency and intensity of seizure activity. The cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system are specifically targeted by THC.
o Immune/Inflammatory disease: meningitis and encephalitis are examples of diseases that can cause seizure activity. Cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system and immune system will be targeted by THC and CBD. These Phyto cannabinoids decrease inflammation and immune response, therefore decrease
frequency and intensity of seizure activity.
- Cancer: The American Cancer Society reported that “THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells . Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.” CBD and other cannabinoids can also mitigate/decrease symptoms of cancer such as nausea and pain.
- Diabetes : According to the Diabetes Council: “CBD balances the endocannabinoid system by increasing the fat breakdown, increase the mitochondria activities and promote metabolism, and decrease fat storage…improve glucose tolerance by decreasing insulin resistance in the muscle and liver cells. Although it may not completely treat diabetes, CBD can alleviate the condition so that diabetic individuals can suffer from less blood glucose fluctuation and manage their blood glucose level with less medication. Another factor that CBD is a suitable treatment option for type 2 diabetes is that insulin resistance is a great contribution to the disease. The anti-inflammatory ability can improve the body’s sugar metabolism, suppress the short inflammation reaction to sugar ingestion, and provide many other health benefits to
prevent complications that result from type 2 diabetes.” Ultimately the endocannabinoid system is an active part of the disease process that is diabetes, by supplementing phytocannabinoids such as CBD, we can provide the body with the necessary tools to manage the disease without medication.
- Pain Management and Inflammation: pain is often the result of inflammation in joints and other parts of the body. By decreasing inflammation we will also decrease pain. This is the same thought behind NSAID’s such as rimadyl and galaprant. CBD and other cannabinoids are also able to target pain receptors in the brain and adjust or dampen the brain’s perception of chronic pain.
- Immune Mediated Diseases: CBD has particularly targeted receptors in the immune system to improve balance and homeostasis. By calming an over-reactive immune response these phytocannabinoids will decrease symptoms of immune diseases such as hemolytic anemia, IBD/IBS, and polyarthritis.
- IBD: Immune mediated inflammatory bowel disease is becoming an increasingly common diagnosis in dogs and cats. This disease is primarily an immune response that causes inflammation in the intestines and colon which lead to nutrition absorption and other GI issues. CBD and other phytocannabinoids will target and decrease the inflammation and calm the immune response.
Whatever… nothing can work that well for that many things
Cannabis owes its efficacy to the endocannabinoid system. This is a system of receptors throughout the body that aid in a multitude of body processes. In fact the body produces its own endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are compounds organically produced by the body to target cannabinoid receptors.
The endocannabinoid system employs two cannabinoid receptors:
o CB1: found primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system
o CB2: found primarily in the immunologic system with some presence in the
peripheral and central nervous system and the GI tract.
o Anandamide is an agonist for CB1 receptors while 2-AG primarily targets CB2
Endocannabinoids are responsible for maintaining homeostasis, this is likely why cannabis has proven beneficial for so many health issues - Balance! The endocannabinoid system bio regulates the following physiologic processes (and more): Inflammation, Energy Metabolism, Immune Regulation, and Brain Activities (Memory, mood, and cognition)
● Phytocannabinoids: these are compounds produced by a plant. While we primarily think of cannabis as containing cannabinoids, they are also found in plants such as echinacea, liverwort, and black pepper. There are over 60 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, THC and CBD are the most well known and researched of these compounds.
CBD and THC do all that?
No!!! Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavinoids do all that! There are many chemical compounds naturally found in cannabis products. Here is a list of them and what they do:
● CBD: cannabidiol
o This phytocannabinoid regulates endocannabinoid uptake, encouraging a homeostatic state - less receptor bound than THC, which allows CBD to wear many hats in the body and primarily act as a regulator for many receptors.
o CBD also targets multiple protein receptors throughout the body, such as:
▪ Vanilloid (TRPV1)
● Pain perception
● Neurogenic inflammation
● Body temperature
● Also targeted by anandamide and capsaicin
● Also targeted by caffeine and theobromine
● Found in nerve cells, mast cells, the cardiovascular system, and lungs
● Signal inflammation, lower heart rate during stress, protect against ischemic injury
● Inhibits mutated cell growth
● Important for asthma
▪ Opioid receptors
● Stimulates dopamine release, mood regulator
● Allosteric modulator: enhance or inhibit how a receptor transmits a signal by changing the shape of the receptor
● Interacts with the GABA-A receptor in a way that enhances the receptor’s binding affinity for its principal endogenous agonist, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system o Sedating effects of Valium and other Benzos are mediated by GABA receptor transmission. CBD reduces anxiety by changing the shape of the GABA-A receptor in a way that amplifies the natural calming effect of GABA
o Reduces inflammation, anxiety, pain perception, nausea, and seizure activity
o Modulates blood pressure, appetite, sleep, and bone density
o Gene Expression Regulation: energy homeostasis, lipid uptake, and insulin sensitivity
o CBD affects cytochrome P450 enzymes, more significantly than grapefruit ▪ Blocks the P450 enzymes from metabolizing medications as quickly as they would otherwise be metabolized - roughly 60% of prescription medications utilize this enzyme
▪ What this means: the prescribed dose of medication remains effective in the system longer, allowing a potentially harmful level of those drugs to build up
▪ The cool thing: lower dosing of prescription medications will result in the effect of a higher dose without the same risk of side effects
o CBD lessens the psychoactivity of THC
▪ CBD regulates endo and phyto cannabinoid uptake, blocking CB1 uptake of THC in excess
● THC: tetrahydrocannabinol
o More receptor bound, targets primarily CB1 receptors
o Stimulates Dopamine release, but only as needed!
▪ Some application as an anti-anxiety, in severe anxiety cases
o Reduces inflammation, muscle spasticity, pain perception, and nausea
o Increases appetite, and immune system activity
o Very effective in managing Neurogenic Pain
o THC does have the most side effects in both animals and people
o Side Effects of overdose in animals:
▪ Urinary Incontinence
▪ Light Sensitivity
▪ Respiratory suppression
● CBN: Cannabinol
o No definitive studies on which CB receptors CBN targets
o CBN is a breakdown product of THC, usually found in very low concentrations
o Supports normal sleep cycle, appetite stimulate, stimulates normal bone growth, anti inflammatory, antibiotic, anticonvulsant, lowers body temperature (recommended topically for burns), and shown to treat psoriasis
● CBG: Cannabigerol
o Antibacterial, slows and reverses tumor growth, stimulates normal bone growth, and anti inflammatory
o Decreases intraocular pressure
o Partial agonist for CB1 receptors, unknown interaction with CB2 receptors Terpenes are compounds that contribute to the “smell” of a plant and are considered the medicinal compounds in essential oils. Not all of the following terpenes are found in every cannabis plant. The content is determined by strain, growing environment, and processing.
● Limonene: Citrus smell, Supports weight loss, cancer prevention and treatment, and bronchitis. Improves skin penetration when added to ointments and lotions.
● Myrcene: Earthy, hint of fruit. Anti-inflammatory, sedative, and muscle relaxer. Perhaps what contributes to the tired feeling attributed to indica strains.
● Linalool: Floral and slightly spicy. Also found in cinnamon, mint, and other flowers and fungi. Anti-inflammatory, treats liver cancer, supports normal motor movement.
● Alpha Bisabolol: Floral, found in chamomile. Wound healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory.
● Delta 3 Carene: Piney, earthy. Anti-inflammatory and helps dry body secretions (runny nose, tears, etc)
● Borneol: Earthy, camphor. Analgesic, treats insomnia, bronchodilator, and anti-septic.
● Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Pinene: Pine, also found in pine trees. Anti-inflammatory.
● Eucalyptol: Spicy, used as a cooking spice and fragrance. Cough suppressant.
● Terpineol: Pine, clove. Antioxidant.
● Caryphyllene: Hoppy. Anti-anxiety, anti-depressant
● Camphene: Herbal smell. Anti-inflammatory, antibiotic.
● Geraniol: Rosy scent. Mosquito repellent protects against neuropathy.
● Phellandrene: Peppermint. Antidepressant.
● Sabinene: Spicy, oaky, peppery. Supports liver function and digestion, joint support, anti-inflammatory, soothe skin conditions
● Isoborneol: Found in mugwort. Anti-viral, inhibits herpes simplex 1
Flavanoids found in cannabis:
● Quercitin: Anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-cancer. Found in cannabis, red wine, and green tea.
● Apigenin: Anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory. Found in parsley, celery, and chamomile tea.
Ultimately cannabis will improve the quality of life of any animal that is put on the correct dose. The body and it’s constant balancing act is complex and simply because we don’t get the result we wanted/expected is not a reason to discontinue cannabis. Dosing adjustments and diet review are important parts of the conversation. The primary impact of cannabis is to assist in making that balancing act easier and more efficient, if there are numerous imbalances this may take longer or require a higher dose. Although the instant gratification of small dose ranges and well defined efficacy has become a luxury of modern medicine there is nothing available that has been proven to have more than one of the benefits of cannabis with NO long term negative side effects. Therefore the “tweaking” and time required to elicit a desired result is VERY VERY worth it!
*Uncertainty Factor – a number derived from measurements in animals or small groups of
humans in order to estimate a Lowest or No Observed Adverse Effect Level value for the whole
human population; also called a margin of safety.
4. EIHA article titled Statement by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) on the study
by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on Scientific Opinion on the safety of Hemp
(Cannabis genus) for use as animal feed, 2011-05-31