"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."
"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"
"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."
"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."
"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."
"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."
"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."
"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"
"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."
"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."
"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."
"So ... what does the thinking?"
"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."
"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"
"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."
"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."
"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"
"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."
"We're supposed to talk to meat."
"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."
"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?" "Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."
"I thought you just told me they used radio."
"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."
"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"
"Officially or unofficially?"
"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."
"I was hoping you would say that."
"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"
"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"
"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."
"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."
"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"
"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."
"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."
"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."
"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"
"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."
"They always come around."
"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."
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Beta-caryophyllene is present in the essential oils of various plants including rosemary, hops, black pepper and cannabis. Like most terpenes, beta-caryophyllene contributes to the unique aroma associated with plant oils.
But in 2008, German researchers discovered that beta-caryophyllene also acts as a cannabinoid by binding to marijuana pathways in the body.
Although some compounds like THC activate both cannabinoid pathways — CB1 and CB2 receptors — beta-caryophyllene specifically targets the CB2 receptor, which does not produce a high.
"The results also support the involvement of the CB2 receptor"
"The present study has clearly demonstrated the anxiolytic and anti-depressant effect of â-caryophyllene and its underlying mechanism in a CB2 receptor-dependent manner in rodents," wrote the authors, a team of scientists with the United Arab Emirates University.
"The results also support the involvement of the CB2 receptor in the regulation of emotional behavior and suggest that this receptor could be a relevant therapeutic target for the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders."
Previous studies have also demonstrated a role of CB2 receptors in reducing anxiety and depression, the team adds.
On the other hand, CB1 receptors, which are more widely dispersed in the brain, are known to exert a ‘biphasic' effect when it comes to anxiety and depression. Studies show cannabinoids that target CB1 receptors can help at low doses, while high doses seem to make things worse.
A better understanding of beta-caryophyllene's properties, however, may help explain why cannabis users often cite relief of anxiety and depression as reasons for their use.
According to a 2013 report in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, "epidemiological studies have indicated that the most common self-reported reason for using cannabis is rooted in its ability to reduce feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety."
Scientists in the UK have now traced marijuana's ability to prevent the growth and spread of cancer to specific pathways found in tumor cells, known as cannabinoid receptors.
Dr. Peter McCormick of the University of East Anglia (UEA)'s School of Pharmacy explained the findings to Medical News Today:
"THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties. This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors."
The study, published last month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, showed that injecting THC into mice with implanted tumors caused the cells to kill themselves — a process known as autophagy.
It also slowed the growth of tumors in breast and brain cancer cell lines.
While anecdotal reports have suggested that marijuana can fight cancer in some patients, Dr. McCormick notes that pharmaceutical companies have focused on developing synthetics and that the actual mechanisms remain "poorly understood."
But Dr. McCormick hopes his team's discovery will help speed along the development of new cancer treatments.
"By identifying the receptors involved we have provided an important step towards the future development of therapeutics that can take advantage of the interactions we have discovered to reduce tumor growth."
Previous research had already linked the anti-cancer effects of THC to the CB1 receptor, which is the most common cannabinoid pathway found in the body. CB1 receptors, when activated by THC, are also responsible for the marijuana high.
However, the group showed for the first time that CB2 receptors and GPR55 receptors are also involved, lending further evidence that marijuana can treat various cancers by acting through more than one pathway.
Still, Dr. McCormick believes patients shouldn't treat themselves with marijuana just yet.
"Cancer patients should not use cannabis to self-medicate, but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future."
It may not be only THC in the plant that fights cancer, though.
A 2013 study by a team at St. George's, University of London identified six different compounds in cannabis with anti-tumor properties including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigevarin (CBGV).
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THC, or tetrohydrocannabinol, is the most recognized ingredient in cannabis. It is best known for causing the high that you get from using marijuana.
As a result, THC has also caused the most controversy surrounding the plant's medical use, with many health professionals citing the high as a drawback.
However, while compounds like cannabidiol (CBD) have started to gain favor due to their lack of psychoactivity, decades of research have revealed a number of medical benefits unique to THC. Here is a list of 7 of them:
1. Pain Relief
One of the most common uses of medical marijuana is for pain relief. And as it turns out, THC is the ingredient in marijuana responsible for its pain-relieving effects.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another common reason to use medical marijuana. Interestingly, the high from THC is also associated with temporary impairments of memory.
While this may be seen as a drawback for some marijuana users, impaired memory is often therapeutic for those who struggle to forget painful memories, such as patients who suffer from PTSD. Recent studies confirm that oral doses of THC can help relieve a variety of PTSD-related symptoms including flashbacks, agitation and nightmares.
3. Nausea and Vomiting
THC has been available in pill form for treating nausea and vomiting in cancer patients since the 1980s.
Marinol, a pill containing synthetic THC, was the first THC-based medication to be approved by the FDA for this purpose. Since then, other THC pills have been developed and prescribed to patients undergoing chemotherapy, including a pill called Cesamet.
4. Appetite Stimulant
Along with its ability to reduce nausea, THC is known to work as a powerful appetite stimulant in both healthy and sick individuals. Similarly, Marinol and Cesamet are regularly prescribed to boost appetite in patients with cancer and HIV-associated wasting syndrome.
A number of studies conducted with Marinol suggest that THC can also stimulate weight gain in anorexia.
Treating asthma may not seem like an obvious use for medical marijuana. But as it turns out, THC's ability to improve breathing in asthmatics is supported by research dating back to the 1970s.
Following trials that showed smoking marijuana could help calm asthma attacks, scientists tried (and failed) to develop an inhaler that could deliver THC. While the THC inhaler idea was ultimately abandoned, some say modern-day vaporizers might be the solution.
Another benefit of THC recognized early on was its potential to relieve eye pressure in patients with glaucoma.
Likewise, after studies in the 1970s showed that smoking marijuana could reduce symptoms in glaucoma sufferers, scientists tried (and failed again) to develop a way to administer THC in eye drops. The idea proved too complicated due to the fact that THC is not soluble in water.
While some glaucoma patients rely on medical marijuana to this day, The American Glaucoma Society maintains the position that its effects are too short-lived (lasting 3-4 hours) to be considered a viable treatment option.
7. Sleep Aid
Many are aware of the sleep-inducing effect of marijuana, and research shows that THC is largely responsible. In fact, trials conducted in the 1970s found that oral doses of THC helped both healthy individuals and insomniacs fall asleep faster.
Interestingly, more recent studies suggest THC may also improve nighttime breathing and reduce sleep interruptions in those who suffer from a common disorder known as sleep apnea. Researchers are currently working to develop a THC-based medicine for treating the condition.
With a rising number of patients seeking a prescription for marijuana, clinicians are increasingly faced with the dilemma of prescribing a treatment that lacks support or recommending patients not use a medicine that could benefit them in the long-run.
Most, out of caution, end up choosing the second option.
"It's understandable that physicians might be reluctant"
But deciding not to prescribe marijuana may not be erring on the side of caution, he says.
Indeed, despite a lack of evidence for cannabis, there also isn't much evidence against it. At least compared to the variety of potent pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed for pain.
"We consider them evidence-based therapies, but they really haven't been studied and documented for many patients in a way that shows that their benefits offset their risks," notes Dr. Juurlink.
"All drugs have toxicities, whether they are plant based or come from pharmacies. It's the case that the direct toxicities of drugs for pain — like Oxycontin or Fentanyl or anti-inflammatory drugs — are simply much greater than the toxicities of cannabis."
Patients who suffer from severe pain are often treated with opioid-based medicines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But the dangers of these drugs have become increasingly apparent and experts are urging for an end to their loose prescribing.
Recent data ranks Canada as the second highest per-capita consumer of prescription opioids, second only to the U.S. In Ontario, the rate of opioid-related deaths doubled between 1992 and 2010, now totaling about 550 deaths a year.
"You can make a case to prescribe cannabis"
NSAIDs, while less acutely fatal, are known to cause intestinal bleeding and kidney problems when taken too regularly.
But can medical marijuana be safely prescribed as an alternative to painkillers? Dr. Juurlink seems to think so.
"I think the point that physicians, and perhaps patients, can take away is that you can make a case to prescribe cannabis to select patients. Especially when the patient tells you that it works for them and when prescribing it allows the patient to reduce their use of other noxious drugs."
Just over half of rheumatology specialists believe cannabis or cannabis-based medicines can help in the treatment of rheumatic conditions like arthritis, according to a survey by the Canadian Rheumatology Association.
Of the 128 doctors that responded to the survey, 55% thought there was a role for cannabis or cannabinoids in treating rheumatic conditions. 45% said there was no role.
Despite the divide in opinion, the vast majority of respondents said they were unsure of how to prescribe cannabis.
Over 75% of respondents said they lacked confidence in their "current knowledge of the endocannabinoid system in health and disease." What's more, 90% of respondents said they would not feel confident writing a prescription that included dosing, frequency and method of administration.
Those that did feel confident recommending a dose offered 0.5-3 grams/day as a starting dose. A single dose per day was the most commonly recommended treatment schedule, with others suggesting 2-3 doses per day.
The lack of confidence among rheumatologists is concerning, conclude the authors of the survey, considering the widespread use of marijuana by patients with arthritis.
In 2013, federal data showed that more than half of Health Canada's 30,000 registered cannabis patients were using it to treat severe arthritis. Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001.