American Herbal Pharmacopoeia: 'Welcome Back, Marijuana!'

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American Herbal Pharmacopoeia: 'Welcome Back, Marijuana!'

A dried, manicured, flower bud from the cannabis indica strain Animal Cookies (Photo by David Downs)

Marijuana - scientific name “cannabis” takes another big step back into the mainstream this week.
 
The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) released the first of a historic, two-part “Cannabis monograph” today which classifies cannabis (marijuana) as a botanical medicine alongside many other widely accepted Complementary and Alternative Medicines. 
 
Written and reviewed by the world's leading experts, the Cannabis monograph brings together scientific data and issues long-awaited standards for the plant's identity, purity, quality, and botanical properties. 
 
The monograph gives doctors who want to prescribe cannabis therapy a full scientific understanding of the plant, its constituent components, and its biologic effects.
 
"The inclusion of cannabis in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia returns the plant to its place alongside as a proven botanical medicine, which has been used for centuries by countries and cultures around the world," wrote Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, which helped support the development of the Cannabis monograph. "Health care professionals, researchers and regulators now have the tools to develop effective public health programs for medical marijuana and to further explore its therapeutic benefits." 
 
Doctors intorduced the first Cannabis monograph in the 3rd edition of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1851, where it remained until the 12th edition in 1942. Cannabis medicines were produced by Eli Lilly and other American pharmaceutical companies until the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 sharply reduced U.S. cannabis production and prescriptions. 
 
ASA writes that AHP began development of a Cannabis monograph in 2011 in part because of a need for validated standards to guide laboratory analysis for quality control of cannabis and related products. Patients, providers, and regulators will benefit from proven testing standards that can quantify the key chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, tied to the plant's therapeutic effects, as well as identify potentially harmful pesticides, metals, and microbes.
 
The Cannabis monograph was reviewed by the world's leading researchers and represents one of the most comprehensive and critically reviewed documents on cannabis in recent times. Much of the information was developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Mississippi under the guidance of Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, who oversees the only federally legal source of medical marijuana in the U.S.
 
The Therapeutic Compendium, the second installment of the cannabis monograph due out this spring, will document the thousands of years of therapeutic cannabis use around the world and describe the totality of modern research on how cannabis directly treats a broad range of conditions and symptoms. It will encompass historical data, pre-clinical and clinical pharmacology, indications, contraindications, side effects, dosing, preparations, safety, use in pregnancy, and interactions with conventional medications, among other fields of information.
 
"The adoption of Cannabis into the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a safe, effective and low-cost botanical medicine is a testament to this human-plant relationship and a significant footprint on the trail towards acknowledgment as such by a much broader audience," said Dr. Michelle Sexton, one of the authors and reviewers of the Cannabis monograph who is a Naturopathic Doctor, herbalist, educator and clinical Cannabis researcher. Dr. Sexton is currently the Medical Research Director at the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy.
 
AHP was formed in 1995 to promote the responsible use of herbal products and herbal medicines. AHP is a worldwide network of botanists, chemists, herbalists, medical doctors, pharmacists, pharmacologists, and other experts in medicinal plants. AHP has published monographs for 28 different botanicals, including Aloe Vera Leaf, American Ginseng Root, and Echinacea. The organization expects to eventually publish more than 300 monographs, covering the most widely used western, Ayurvedic, and Chinese botanicals.