In 2022 the global legal cannabis market was valued at USD 22.1 billion. This is forecasted to grow rapidly, with a growth rate of 25.5% by 2030. A Key contributing factor to this significant growth prediction is the accelerating legalization of cannabis products and the growing acceptance of its use in the medical field and consumer goods. Although the use within certain limitations of cannabis products has been approved for medicinal purposes in countries like the United Kingdom (UK), the employment of this substance is still in its early stages and requires a great deal of further research to identify potential indications, contraindications, and long-term side-effects.
Cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, being Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) the most popular ones. Still, there are restrictions regarding clinical testing, combined with a stigma surrounding the use of such products and their potentially addictive nature. This addictive nature of cannabinoids is under scientific debate, and it is believed to be related to the psychoactive properties of some cannabinoids. Some cannabinoid users develop cannabis use disorder (CUD), which may involve symptoms such as increased tolerance, withdrawal, unsuccessful attempts to quit, and continued use despite negative consequences. Thus, non-psychoactive cannabinoids are believed not to have addictive properties. Meanwhile, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study, more than 23.8 million people have CUD globally, with one in three cannabis users in Europe having developed medical issues related to cannabis use. The resulting reluctance to embrace cannabis as a medically prescribed treatment has led to many cannabinoids, mostly CBD, being registered and marketed through the cosmetics or nutraceutical routes, since there are fewer regulatory requirements. While patient safety must always be the utmost priority, recent studies have shown the use of cannabis derivatives to be extremely promising in the treatment of numerous medical conditions and should be treated as other drugs with their safety and efficacy studies, considering the efficacy concentrations and margins, balancing their adverse effects versus their positive health benefits.
Health benefits of cannabis derivatives
While further research is required, with some studies having only produced modest findings about the efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of the studied conditions, cannabis derivatives are effective in the treatment of several conditions:
- Neuropathic pain: CBD helps with chronic neuropathy pain in humans.
- Arthritis: A 2016 study in the European Journal of Pain used an animal model to see if CBD could be beneficial to sufferers of arthritis in managing their pain. Researchers applied a topical gel containing CBD to rats with arthritis for 4 days, observing a significant drop in inflammation and signs of pain, without additional side effects.
- Multiple sclerosis: it has been suggested that short-term use of CBD oil can reduce the levels of painful muscle spasms experienced by patients with multiple sclerosis.
- Chronic pain: research has shown CBD to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, with no evidence of patients developing a tolerance to the substance over treatment time.
- Anti-addiction and drug withdrawal treatments: Cannabis derivatives have shown to be effective in anti-addiction and drug withdrawal treatments, as coadjutants to mitigate their symptoms.
- Schizophrenia, anxiety and stress: cannabis derivatives shown to be effective as co-adjuvants to mitigate the psychotic episodes in schizophrenia, and as a treatment for anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders related to stress and anxiety.
Use and regulation of non-addictive cannabis within the cosmetics industry
The claim behind the use of CBD in cosmetics products lies primarily in its antioxidant property. Furthermore, CBD-infused topical products such as creams and serums can potentially be useful for treating irritated skin. CBD skin care products have also demonstrated a capacity to treat dry or sun-damaged skin and even treat acne. This industry has experienced a boom in recent years, although it could be down to the development of CBD use as a trend, rather than being based on reliable scientific pieces of evidence. While regulations are not as strict as those governing medical use, questions remain surrounding the legality of the use of cannabis derivatives in cosmetic products. The European Union regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 governs the use of narcotics in cosmetic products in the EU. The regulation draws on the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs in determining which substances are considered narcotic in this context. However, the convention defines cannabis as being extracted from only certain parts of the plant, leaving a loophole for the use of CBD and low-concentrate THC extracted from parts of the plant other than the flowering top.
Biobide’s value proposition for cosmetic cannabis derivatives, the relevance of the Zebrafish model
As a pioneer in the use of the Zebrafish larvae as a New Alternative Methodology (NAM) for preclinical testing, Biobide is optimally positioned as a partner to companies seeking to assess toxicity and efficacy assays of cannabinoids, while ensuring regulatory compliance and the safety of future patients and consumers. Zebrafish has been proven to be an excellent in vivo alternative model for researching the nervous system and studying behavioral alterations due to its physiological and structural similarity to humans and its fast development. Alterations in the mobility pattern of larvae induced by known drugs can be observed and analyzed, which strongly support zebrafish is a good predictive model of neuroactivity in humans. Cannabinoid efficacy assays have been designed in Zebrafish to demonstrate the efficacy or safety of these compounds, through behavioral analysis. Besides, the Zebrafish larvae model offers fewer ethical concerns and bureaucratic work as it is not considered an experimentation animal before 5/6 days post-fertilization (dpf), since during this period they cannot swim or feed independently.
Thus, Biobide has developed High Content Screening (HCS) assays in 5 dpf zebrafish larvae for the identification of different behavioral alterations including locomotion, anxiety, sleeping, or learning processes. These safety and efficacy assays allow obtaining highly reliable information on the effect and toxicity of cannabinoids, to be applied with high accuracy and reproducibility to humans, in a faster way and at lower costs compared to rodents. Biobide also offers antioxidant and regeneration assays taking advantage of the Zebrafish capacities for the evaluation of efficacy of cosmetic substances. These assays are especially suited for cannabinoids with well-known antioxidant properties.
The use of cannabis derivatives offers exciting prospects for the medical field and the cosmetic or skincare industry. Despite a significant increase in the uptake of such products, there remains work to be done when it comes to understanding all the potential benefits and possible harmful effects of them. As a partner to the industry for the Drug Discovery and Development Process, Biobide offers innovative and time and cost-effective evaluations to perform large-scale drug and compound prescreening in Zebrafish larvae (NAMs) at a HCS level to analyze the safety and efficacy of cannabis products, exploring new therapeutic or cosmetic indications.
- Legal Cannabis Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Source (Marijuana, Hemp), By Derivative (CBD, THC), By End Use (Medical Use, Recreational Use, Industrial Use), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 – 2030, (https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/legal-cannabis-market)
- Balancing risks and benefits of cannabis use: umbrella review of meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and observational studies, The BMJ 2023; 382 ( https://www.bmj.com/content/382/bmj-2022-072348).
- Does CBD oil work for chronic pain management?, Medical News Today, (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319475).
- 7 Potential Health Benefits of Cannabis (2021), JWU, (https://www.jwu.edu/news/2021/09/7-potential-health-benefits-of-cannabis.html#:~:text=A%20recent%20study%20found%20that,to%20reducing%20and%20preventing%20symptoms)
- Evolving CBD Regulations – Impact on Cosmetics and Skincare, (https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/GB/en/technical-documents/technical-article/food-and-beverage-testing-and-manufacturing/flavor-and-fragrance-formulation/evolving-cbd-regulations)