In recent years, we have learned a lot about the potential health benefits of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. These chemicals are just two of the many active compounds that the cannabis plant produces. They are thought to relieve the symptoms of a wide variety of conditions, ranging from pain and anxiety to epilepsy.
THC and CBD exert their benefits by influencing the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is involved in numerous biological processes, from mood to immunity. And the more we learn about it, the more we realize just how important it is.
Developments in cannabis research have led scientists to try and create their own, laboratory-made cannabinoids. One of these is ajulemic acid, a chemical that is showing great promise in the treatment of several conditions.
In this article, we look closer at ajulemic acid, how it works, and some of its possible benefits.
What Is Ajulemic Acid?
Ajulemic acid is a synthetic cannabinoid, meaning that it is made in a lab rather than produced by the cannabis plant. It has several other names, including lenabasum, anabasum, CT-3, and IP-751.
Scientists derived the compound from a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating chemical in marijuana. This metabolite’s full name is delta-8-THC-11-oic acid. Therefore, we class ajulemic acid as a THC-11-oic acid analog.
Ajulemic acid is orally active, meaning that you can take it by mouth. Although it is derived from a metabolite of THC, it does not appear to have any intoxicating effects. This lack of psychoactivity is a bonus for patients who want to experience the benefits of cannabis without the accompanying ‘high.’
Although it shows promise for a number of conditions, ajulemic acid is very much still under investigation. It is not yet widely available to the public – only participants in clinical trials.
Researchers are currently studying ajulemic acid for:
- Chronic inflammation
- Cystic fibrosis
- Systemic sclerosis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
So, how does ajulemic acid work? Let’s take a look.
How Does Ajulemic Acid Work?
To understand how ajulemic acid works, first, you must understand the basics of the endocannabinoid system.
This system is a network of cell receptors and chemicals called endocannabinoids. These receptors and chemicals bind together to trigger a range of responses throughout the body. There are two main types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system: CB1, and CB2. These both have slightly different functions.
You can find CB1 receptors mainly in the brain and nervous system. They are involved in mood, appetite, sleep, and pain, among other things. These are the receptors that are triggered by the THC in weed, causing its psychoactive effects.
You can find CB2 receptors throughout the body, but especially in the immune system. They play a vital role in immunity and the inflammatory response. They are also where cannabidiol (CBD) exerts many of its actions.
CB2 receptors are also where ajulemic acid acts. Therefore, it has some similarities with CBD, namely anti-inflammatory effects. However, since it is an analog of a THC metabolite, ajulemic acid also shares some of this cannabinoid’s effects.
So, how might ajulemic acid be useful in a clinical setting? Here’s the research so far.
Research on Ajulemic Acid and Its Benefits
To date, there are several studies into ajulemic acid and its benefits. Most of these studies involve animals, such as rats and mice. However, a few human studies are also underway.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the joints. This causes chronic inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and pain.
An animal study showed that ajulemic acid prevented cartilage and bone damage in rats with this painful disease. It also reduced the number of T-cells, a type of immune cell involved in autoimmune inflammation.
Furthermore, ajulemic acid appeared to reduce bone erosion. This means it could also be useful for some types of osteoporosis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is another autoimmune disorder. In this case, the immune system attacks cells in the nervous system. This causes inflammation and a wide variety of symptoms, including spasticity.
Ajulemic acid could have some benefits here, too. A study on mice found that it had an anti-inflammatory effect on peripheral nerves and thus reduced spasticity.
MS is one of the most common reasons why people use medical marijuana and cannabis-based medicines such as Sativex. Ajulemic acid could potentially offer the same benefits without the psychoactive effects.
Another animal study showed that ajulemic acid might slow the spread of cancer cells. It reduced tumor diameters by as much as 50%, and was as effective as THC, if not more so.
A separate study found that survival rates improved moderately after ajulemic acid treatment.
Scleroderma is a condition that causes thickening of the skin and sometimes organ damage. It happens when the immune system attacks connective tissue, causing scarring.
A human, clinical study assessed whether ajulemic acid could help. It was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. This means that participants received either ajulemic acid or placebo, and neither they nor the assessors knew which.
The results suggested that ajulemic acid may have potential clinical benefits. Skin biopsies showed reductions in the genes associated with inflammation and fibrosis (excess tissue formation). Further studies are currently underway to confirm these findings.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. People with CF have a lower than average life expectancy due to a high risk of lung problems.
A double-blind, randomized controlled trial found that ajulemic acid may help. It reduced inflammation, white blood cell count, and respiratory exacerbation.
However, one of the most significant findings regarding ajulemic acid for CF was its absorption rate. People with CF often have difficulty absorbing drugs due to the thick mucus in their digestive systems. However, these issues did not seem to affect the effectiveness of ajulemic acid.
Dermatomyositis is a condition that causes inflammation of the muscles and skin. It can also affect organs such as the heart and lungs.
Research into ajulemic acid for dermatomyositis is ongoing. However, initial results show that it could help to reduce inflammatory markers known as cytokines.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Lupus is another autoimmune disorder that causes joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Research is currently underway to investigate whether ajulemic acid could help.
A Phase 2, double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial of 100 patients will compare ajulemic acid to placebo. The results are due to be released in 2020.
Is Ajulemic Acid Safe?
The research so far suggests that ajulemic acid is safe and well-tolerated by patients.
It avoids one of the main problems with traditional anti-inflammatory medicines; the risk of gastrointestinal damage. Prolonged use of these drugs can cause bleeding in the digestive system and issues like stomach ulcers. Researchers have not observed any of these problems with ajulemic acid.
Furthermore, this cannabinoid does not seem to cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Additionally, there are no reports of kidney, cardiovascular, or respiratory problems.
Another potential benefit of ajulemic acid is that it is unlikely to cause interactions with other medications.
Drug interactions happen because the liver breaks down most substances in an enzymatic pathway known as CYP450. This means that if you take two medications together, the effectiveness of one or the other can be increased or reduced.
However, it seems that the body processes ajulemic acid differently. Therefore, it could be safe to take alongside other medicines, although more research is necessary.
What Is Ajulemic Acid? Final Thoughts
Ajulemic acid is a synthetic cannabinoid and may have a variety of clinical uses. Although research is ongoing, it shows promise for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, and cystic fibrosis.
Most of ajulemic acid’s benefits seem to stem from its anti-inflammatory properties. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system, much in the same way as the natural cannabinoids, THC and CBD. However, it has the additional benefit of being non-intoxicating with a low risk of side effects and interactions.
There is no doubt a lot more to learn about ajulemic acid before it becomes widely available. However, there is already a growing stack of positive research to back it up. Therefore, it seems likely we will hear much more about ajulemic acid and its benefits soon.