Vitamin THC: Should Cannabinoids be Considered Essential Nutrients?

In 1753, a Scottish surgeon by the name of James Lind proved that scurvy could be effectively cured with citrus juice. By drinking plenty of lemonade over the course of a two-week long treatment, his patients would fully recover from the fatigue, sores and bleeding typically inflicted by this malady, which was formerly thought to be caused by poor digestion and unclean water (when the real culprit was a simple deficiency in vitamin C).

Until that discovery, the debilitating and often fatal disease limited the ability of seafaring vessels to travel long distances. But after Lind’s popularization of a cure, sailors learned to effectively prevent scurvy by packing barrels of lemon juice and fresh limes for their travels. Today, the disease is so rare as to be almost unheard of, but British sailors retain the nickname limeys, which dates back to their adoption of the practice.

Meanwhile, often derided as a marketing term without scientific basis, the label “superfood” indeed has no legal definition, but according to the Macmillan Dictionary it can be applied to any food that’s “considered to be very good for your health and that may even help some medical conditions.” And so, because vitamin C is found in large quantities in citrus fruits—oranges, lemons and limes can be considered superfoods.

You are what you eat, after all, and foods like kale, sweet potatoes, blueberries and wild salmon provide essential macro- and micro-nutrients that the human body requires for health. Superfoods confer increased vitality and allow humans to fully thrive, along with preventing or treating diseases.

For example, broccoli has widely touted anti-cancer properties, while salmon provides Omega-3 fatty acids that protect your heart, and blueberries arrive packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids that prevent inflammation and can help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Now imagine that all around the world, millions of people are suffering from a modern-day version of scurvy—that is, an easily treatable condition caused by a lack of essential nutrition. Only in this case, the missing dietary element is cannabis, or more specifically cannabinoids, a set of incredibly medicinal compounds found primarily in the marijuana plant.

All humans have what’s called an endocannabinoid system, comprised of receptors that fit these cannabinoids like a lock fits a key, and this endocannabinoid system regulates many vital systems in the body—including respiratory, circulatory and neurological. Which means, if that system malfunctions and cannabinoids are not brought into the body from the outside (by smoking/vaping/eating cannabis) to return it to balance, the negative consequences can be severe, or even life-threatening.

Dr. Ethan Russo first articulated this idea of “clinical endocannabinoid deficiency” (CECD) in a 2004 scientific paper, describing a condition that contributes to high levels of cancer and degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis. With the research to back it up, he’s basically claiming that a lack of cannabis can be the underlying cause of these and many other potentially deadly conditions.

Now imagine that the preventative cure for all of these painful, heartbreaking outcomes could lie in the cannabis plant being widely used as a dietary supplement, much as lemons and limes ended scurvy over two hundred years ago.

After all, if CECD is caused when the body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids on its own, and this lack of endogenous cannabinoids can be corrected by adding cannabis from herbal sources, such a simple dietary supplement could save untold lives and relieve immeasurable suffering.

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