Master Chef Challenge – Pomegranate Peel

Eight pomegranates later I’m glad to report that making pomegranate extract in the home kitchen is possible and the product can be used in a variety ways. Whether or not it has health benefits would need to be determined by clinical trials and chemical analysis and/or by the individual user at their own risk. But someone needs to be patient number one and being a professionally trained quantity foods and individual diet planner and producer helped give me the knowledge base I needed to turn the animal based research into a home kitchen recipe.

Background info – “an extract” of a food could be considered in Master Chef terms as either a raw, fresh squeezed juice or as a heated/simmered tea or soup stock.

Tea: A tea is generally made from dried herbs or dried fruit or flowers and is usually steeped for about 15-20 minutes for herbal tea or for one and half to four or five minutes for a green tea or black tea. Over steeping tea leaves can release an excess amount of the more bitter tannins which can have negative health effects of blood clotting for some people, (more on tannins in different types of tea: livestrong.com), and less healthy oxalic acid which can be a problem for people with kidney stones. (Rooibus, red tea, does not have oxalic acid. (beliefnet.com)) (Cold brewing (tching.com) may release less tannin content; although some tannins can have health benefits and some people get used to stronger more bitter black tea.

Soup stock: Soup stock may be made from washed and trimmed parts of vegetables that are not being used or are too fibrous for use in a food being prepared for direct consumption. A bone stock is simmered or roasted for a couple hours to release as much nutrient content as possible from the bone marrow (inner part of the bones) and cartilage and other trim that isn’t pure fats. A vegetable stock is simmered for less time as the nutrients from vegetables are released in a shorter amount of time, twenty to thirty minutes usually is adequate to release full flavor without destroying nutrients and flavor from over heating.

Juice: A good quality juicer is needed which the average home kitchen typically does not have. And a juicer can only handle soft fruits or vegetables of a consistent quality, carrots are generally possible but tougher seeds or peels need to be removed from other vegetables or fruits. Orange peel can not be juiced and would likely taste too bitter for making a quantity of juice. I use a sprinkle, 1/8 th teaspoon of minced dried lemon peel in soup which I add at the table rather than to the soup pot to retain more of the aroma and redcue risk of break down of the flavor or phytonutrients during the cooktime of a soup.

Pomegranate peel is very tough and is fairly dry. The soft whitish inner membrane could be run through a juicer but the brilliantly colored reddish peel also likely contains healthy phytonutrients and makes up more of the volume of the trim leftover after removing the juicy seeds.  Research on pumpkin seed kernels revealed that toasting them increases phospholipid content and that is a nutrient that can have health benefits for promoting Nrf2 and other health promoting needs for the body. So my kitchen trials focused on making a soup stock type of pomegranate peel/membrane extract. I tried batches simmered for 20 minutes which retained more color and for 30 minutes which broke down more of the pulp and resulted in a thicker, creamier extract. Both products seem to help my health symptoms and improve my energy level and mood.

Two large pomegranates.

Eight pomegranates later:

  1. For a concentrated product meant for frequent use I would recommend using organically grown pomegranates as the commercial growers may use glyphosate for weed control between the rows of pomegranate trees/shrubs. (Pomegranate trees/shrubs can survive 200 years – invest now – they can take 5-6 years to become fully producing but can have multiple trunks which resprout regularly and can be divided easily to create more rows of trees or should be pruned to reduce energy lost to the fruiting branches. they need a fairly dry climate but with some regular ground water or irrigation, excessive rainy or humid seasons increase risk of infection in the blossoms and tend to produce less quality fruit. So pomegranates are a good crop to consider investing in as we head into a drier, hotter planet, regions that are less ideal right now may become ideal in a decade or two. (Pomegranate growing tips: California, Georgia))
  2. The fruit is likely coated in a food grade wax to help it remain fresh longer. Washing the outer surface before cutting is a good idea, I just rinsed mine rather than using any special produce washing chemical. (Example of a product designed to remove food grade waxes. TraderJoe’s Fruit and Vegetable Wash) Glyphosate may be a chemical that is actually taken up into the produce or animal product so washing the exterior would not remove hypothetical risk from produce grown with it. (The chemical, glyphosate,is very similar to an amino acid, glycine, and it may be incorporated directly into protein structures in place of molecules of glycine, hypothetically. This theory needs more research; which wouldn’t be difficult for professional chemists with access to radioactive marking chemicals – radioactive label the glyposate; grow the product with the standard application rate of glyphosate/Roundup; and then test the produce, or animals that were fed with the produce, for presence of the radioactively labeled glyphosate – not a task for the home kitchen chef).
  3. Remove the juicy seeds and trim the peel and membrane of any discolored spots. It is not uncommon to have some brownish areas and a few bad seeds. Just trim away the discolored areas and discard. Cut away the discolored inner part that would be white from areas of the tougher rind that is still colorful rather than brownish to preserve more of the fruit. (math to add later, I measured yield to get an average, * see the end of the post for the details.)
  4. If a larger quantity of pomegranates are available to make a big batch of extract then any excess seeds that won’t be able to be used fresh can simply be put in a freezer bag or container and frozen for later thawing to use fresh on salad or as a snack or dessert fruit. I rinsed the seeds before freezing to remove any residue left from the occasional bad/rotten seeds. The pomegranate tips I read suggested a simple method to trim many pomegranates was to score the rind in half and then sixths or eighths; and fill a clean sink or large container with water and remove the seeds under water. Good seeds tend to be heavy and sink and bad seeds and the membrane and rind tend to float. Skim off the top layer of floating seeds and membrane and separate and trim the good parts of the inner membrane and rind and discard any decayed rind or seeds. Drain the bowl or sink and remove the seeds and sort for any bits of membrane. I didn’t try this method. I sorted god and bad seeds into separate bowls and trimmed the pile of peel/membrane of discolored areas afterward. Using food safe gloves might help protect the skin if prepping a large batch. The juice is acidic and can be a little drying to the skin. Put the seeds in a refrigerator container to use fresh or a freezer container to store for later use.
  5. I chopped the trimmed peel and inner membrane into roughly a quarter inch dice to try to maximize how much phospholipid and other phytonutrients might be released during the simmering phase. The extract might be as potent with a larger chop or no extra chopping. I didn’t experiment with that aspect – all batches were made with a quarter inch dice.
  6. I tried varying amounts of water with the chopped membrane and found it was easiest to work with when more was used, about one cup of water per one cup of diced peel worked fairly well for draining afterwards. One large pomegranate produced about two cups of diced membrane. I added one teaspoon of cold pressed organic coconut oil to the water/peel mixture in a large nonstick stockpot (or saucepan depending on the amount I was making). A little extra oil can help some phytonutrients be released from produce – (tomato sauce made with a little oil has more available lycopene content then tomato products made without oil or the fresh tomato.)
  7. Bring the peel/water/coconut oil mixture to a simmer at medium high heat ( a few minutes) and promptly turn down the heat to medium or low, cover with a lid, and continue at a gentle simmer (barely bubbling) for 20-30 minutes. Try not to overheat which might be noticed as a caramelized sugary smell or membrane fiber sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stirring occasionally can help.
  8. Drain the extract in a metal colander or soup stock wire mesh skimmer (example). Store in glass or metal until cooled as hot liquids can interact with some types of plastic and cause plastic molecules to enter the food. I rinsed the leftover peel with a few additional cups of water and got a second and third batch of more dilute extract that also had flavor and some health symptom relief effects. Master Chef challenge – there’s probably easier ways to do this. I did try running one batch of the softened membranes through a juicer and it didn’t really work, turned it to pulp, a blender would have done that, but the taste is very bitter, the extract is bitter enough without adding the actual peel (I sampled a little, sugar can’t help everything taste better.)
  9. Use the extract fresh or freeze the excess. It is quite acidic and fairly concentrated. To drink it as a juice I diluted with water, doubling roughly the volume and adding an ounce of 100% cherry juice and a spoonful of sugar helped the flavor, but pH strips and my stomach told me the acidity is the main issue with making it tolerable to drink. It is more acidic than coffee. I started adding baking soda as I do to my coffee but instead of one pinch per cup of coffee I ended up needing four pinches to get the pH adjusted to around a 6.0 it started at 4 or less (water is ~ a 7.0) (I happened to have pH strips on hand).
  10. I also tried the extract in a thick bean/rice vegetable soup, adding about an 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the more concentrated extract per couple bowls of soup to thin it for reheating and a little addition of something acidic can help with digestion, especially for older people (about 3 cups of soup). I regularly add a spoonful or two of lemon/lime juice to my bowls of bean soup or one spoonful of apple cider vinegar Iit is slightly more acidic). I tried a slightly smaller amount in the same soup for a group of people and while they all weren’t regular bean soup eaters they all found it okay and a couple of them liked it. (The chocolate chip cookies were more popular.)

My health symptoms seem to be more stable with the addition of extract  to my diet than they were with the 1/3 to 2/3 cup of pomegranate seeds each day. The other advantage is that freezing extract and seeds could help make it easier to have a reliable year round source for something that is needed for a daily health need.

The unchopped peel in the scale, a large bowl of good seeds and a small bowl of a few discolored seeds. This pomegranate didn’t really have many bad spots.
The chopped, 1/4 inch dice, raw peel and inner membrane.
The raw chopped peel and water before heating.
A large batch of the extract with peel and membrane after cooking 30 minutes.
A pan with drained extract and a colander with the leftover larger peel – this batch was cooked for 20 minutes.
A little chilled coconut oil is floating on top of the containers prepped to freeze.

Math yield:

The large pomegranate averaged more seeds but the total peel/membrane ended up being only a little more than from the small size. However the small ones I had were fresher and had fewer bad spots to trim so less waste may have been the major difference. The size difference isn’t type, it depends on when the blossom was pollinated. The pomegranate can have a few blossom setting times during the spring and blossoms that pollinate early produce large fruit and later ones produce smaller fruit. Or a shorter or drier growing season or less fertilizer applied to the rows may also result in smaller fruit. Pomegranate are usually sold by unit price rather than by pound so a larger fruit averaged about twice the size of the small size and would be a better deal if the price was per unit/ per fruit rather than by weight.

The large fruit, (six), averaged 18 1/4 ounces, 510 grams. And provided an average of 11 1/4 ounces, 306 grams, good seeds, and 7 ounces good peel/membrane, 195 grams, and 3 1/4 ounces bad seed/peel, 106 grams.

The small fruit, (two), averaged 9 3/4 ounces, 270 grams. And provided an average of 4 ounces good seeds, 110 grams, and 4 3/4 ounces good peel/membrane, 123 grams, and 1/4 ounce bad seed/peel, 6 grams.

The total extract made depended on how much water I used and the concentration varied so it would be difficult to give any accurate yield but roughly the amount of water used resulted in a similar amount of extract produced. Each pomegranate roughly produced two to three cups of concentrated extract which needs to be diluted with another two t three cups of water or soup to be palatable.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

It is not a coincidence that my phospholipid rich diet overlaps with the Nrf2 promoting foods

The punchline – phospholipids are the building block of cannabinoids which are also a phytonutrient that causes an increase in production of Nrf2. (1, 3) The most concentrated source of cannabinoids or phospholipids is found in medical marijuana or the non-euphoric CBD oil which is more likely to be available legally. However there are other legal sources of phospholipids and cannabinoids. The phytonutrients are also found in cocoa beans/baking cocoa/dark chocolate (processing reduces the concentration and availability of the ‘bitter’ tasting nutrients in more processed milk chocolate and chocolate syrup.) Phospholipids add a slight bitter taste to foods which I’ve always been able to taste and tend to prefer. A genetic screening did find that I have a double/ both sets of genes/ difference in my ability to make any chemical with phosphorus – the phospho- part of phospholipids which are important in many chemicals in the body not just cannabinoids. (4 – an open access textbook on phosphorylation)

For example the original Lemonhead TM candies have more flavor to me than the more recent version of lemon flavored Chewy Lemonhead, (lemonhead.com). Bitterness is something we have a specialized set of tastebuds to detect. Our tastebuds have a few specific types and there are some that detect sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and some for Umami (fermented protein/free amino acid/a hint of soy sauce like flavor). Recently reseachers have suggested a set detect starch but sweet is also a starch so it might be similar to the sweet detecting tastebuds. The article explains that the difference between simple sugars and complex, longer chain carbohydrates called polysaccharides, can be detected suggesting there are two types of carbohydrate sensing tastebuds. (2)

Our sense of smell adds a lot more differences to our enjoyment of foods and beverages. Terpenes are particularly good smelling and other phenolic compounds also add aroma. Cinnamon and vanilla, basil, oregano and lemon are all sources of phenolic compounds or terpenes. These were discussed in more detail in the recent post on Nrf2 and diet tips for promoting Nrf2. It is a protein that causes genes that make important antioxidants to become active so it helps protect us against damage from oxidative stress which can be caused by health factors or by real world worries whether an upsetting conversation or bad traffic.

Pomegranate seeds (not the juice) and pumpkin seed kernels are also good sources of phospholipids. The spice cardamom powder is also a good source. See the section The DASH Diet and Pumpkin Seeds on the home page of my other website: effectivecare.info. A salad recipe and more information about genetics and cannabinoids are also available on that site or in the post Is it Starvation or Addiction?

Pomegranate extract has been studied in animal based research to examine in more detail how it helps hypertensive blood pressure problems and reduce oxidative stress. The mechanism was found to involve increasing Nrf2. The formation of mitochondria increased, and their function improved. Before treatment the hypertensive animals had fewer of the specialized proteins that are involved in production of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cellular organelles primarily responsible for turning blood sugar/glucose into usable energy. (5)

This study uses a pomegranate extract that incorporates the peel, seeds and juice as all contain the bioactive phytonutrient, punicalagin, thought to be most helpful for anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-diabetic effects. The animals who received the extract were found to have better blood pressure, reduced heart hypertrophy ( a sign of worse heart health) and a lower heart rate. Neuronal/nerve cell activity and oxidative stress markers were decreased in the experimental treatment group compared to the control group which received a saline solution and no pomegranate extract. Angiotensin converting enzyme which is involved in blood pressure control was lower in the experimental group  that received pomegranate extract and may be the mechanism for the lower blood pressure. Pro-inflammatory cytokines were reduced in the experimental group after treatment, an indication that hypertensive inflammation was reduced. The pomegranate extract treatment led to increased levels of phosphorylated AMPK which then leads to an increase in Nrf2 and its resulting increases in antioxidant proteins which protect against injury and inflammation from oxidative stress chemicals. (5)

Pomegranate is referred to as an ancient fruit in a research study on its benefits against hepatocellular carcinoma. Spoiler alert – it was found beneficial. (6)

“PE (Pomegranate Extract) treatment (1 or 10 g/kg), started 4 weeks prior to the DENA challenge and continued for 18 weeks thereafter, showed striking chemopreventive activity demonstrated by reduced incidence, number, multiplicity, size and volume of hepatic nodules, precursors of HCC (Hepatocellular Carcinoma).” (6)

One to ten grams per kilogram (1 to 10 g/kg) (6gives us a quantity but that is of the extract which is made with the juice, seeds and peel. The inner peel is whitish in color while the outer peel is vibrantly colored similarly to the juice. An average adult weighs somewhere around 70 kg (68 kg ~ 150 pounds) so the animal study used an equivalent of 70 to 700 grams of pomegranate extract. Five grams is about a teaspoon so 70 grams would be slightly less than 5 Tablespoons or about 1/4-1/3 cup which is roughly a half a pomegranate worth of seeds with the juice and would be a reasonable serving size. Ten times that would be more than a typical serving at approximately two and a half to three and a third cups of pomegranate extract per day, for 22 weeks (6– but if you have Hepatocellular Carcinoma that might sound good compared to other chemotherapy treatments.

My health and anxiety seems to be improved with a half a pomegranate worth of the seeds per day, or half in the morning and half in the evening when anxiety is worse. I have not tried using any part of the peel or interior whitish colored membranes so I don’t know what how edible they would taste. Pumpkin seed kernels are a higher fat food and the serving size is about 2 to 4 tablespoons, 1/8 to 1/4 cup as a snack my themselves or sprinkled on a salad. I prefer to have some of both foods every day. As well as other dark green leafy vegetables and herbs, beans, rice, nuts and other seeds, and ground lemon powder and/or lime or lemon juice. One healthy food alone isn’t enough to improve my health and mood on it’s own however the half a pomegranate can improve my mood when I’m having a worse anxiety moment. Pumpkin seed kernels are a higher fat and protein substance and don’t seem to have the quick acting mood lifting effect but I notice when I run out of them and don’t have any for a few days.

Regarding the “ancient fruit” reference in (6), yes pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible, Old Testament; 1 Samuel 14.2, “Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree…” and Old Testament; Haggai 2.19: “Is the seed yet in the barn? Do the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still yield nothing? From this day on I will bless you.” (7)

Menu tips to be continued later, Happy holidays!

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. Li X., Han D., Tian Z., Gao B., Fan M., Li C.Li X., Wang Y., Ma S.Cao F.,

    Activation of Cannabinoid Receptor Type II by AM1241 Ameliorates Myocardial Fibrosis via Nrf2-Mediated Inhibition of TGF-β1/Smad3 Pathway in Myocardial Infarction Mice., Cell Physiol Biochem 2016;39:1521-1536, https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/447855 (1)

  2. Chase Purdy, The human tongue has a sixth sense and its a taste bud that loves carbs. Quartz, qz.com, Sept. 8, 2016, https://qz.com/776857/the-human-tongue-has-a-sixth-sense-and-its-a-taste-bud-that-loves-carbs/ (2)
  3. Wang Y, Ma S, Wang Q, Hu W, Wang D, Li X, Su T, Qin X, Zhang X, Ma K, Chen J, Xiong L, Cao F: Effects of cannabinoid receptor type 2 on endogenous myocardial regeneration by activating cardiac progenitor cells in mouse infarcted heart. Sci China Life sci 2014;57:201-208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24430557 (3)
  4. Claude Prigent, Editor, Protein Phosphorylation, Publisher: InTech, Chapters published November 29, 2017 under CC BY 3.0 license InTechOpen.com, https://www.intechopen.com/books/protein-phosphorylation (4)
  5. Wenyan Sun, Chunhong Yan, Bess Frost, Xin Wang, Chen Hou, Mengqi Zeng, Hongli Gao, Yuming Kang,and Jiankang Liu,

    Pomegranate extract decreases oxidative stress and alleviates mitochondrial impairment by activating AMPK-Nrf2 in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of spontaneously hypertensive rats., Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 34246.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054377/ (5)

  6. Anupam Bishayee, Deepak Bhatia, Roslin J. Thoppil, Altaf S. Darvesh, Eviatar Nevo, and Ephraim P. Lansky.,  Pomegranate-mediated chemoprevention of experimental hepatocarcinogenesis involves Nrf2-regulated antioxidant mechanisms., Carcinogenesis. 2011 Jun; 32(6): 888–896. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3314278/ (6)
  7. Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Containing the Ole and New Testaments, Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1952, 1 Samuel 14.2, page 297, Haggai 2.19, page 984 https://www.amazon.com/1952-Revised-Standard-Version-Bible/dp/B000U2L3E0 (7)

Is it Addiction or Starvation?

1. Talk Therapy or “Just say no” can’t help a genetic difference.

Talk therapy is also beneficial but can not “cure” a biological difference in metabolism.
  • Looking up the definition of the word “disease” suggests that a genetic difference affecting a body wide receptor system might fit the term “body disease.” “Disease: a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.” – Oxford Dictionaries (I.1.disease)
Redefining the neurobiological underpinnings and genetic risks of the behavior we call addiction could lead to more targeted help for the sufferers of addiction rather than continuing to treat them primarily by focusing on a discussion of their difficulties with motivation or impulse control.
The Endogenous Cannabinoid System holds answers.
Background information:
  • Endogenous refers to something that can be made internally by our body rather than a chemical that is needed to be obtained from an external source on a daily or semi-regular basis. An example such as oxygen from the air we breathe is needed within every few minutes or cellular damage can start to occur; or trace nutrients such as essential fats or fat soluble vitamins may not be needed as often because they can be stored in the fat and membranes of the body. They may only need to be consumed in the diet every few days or weeks without resulting in negative health effects. The body can store extra vitamin D during summer months that can last most of the winter but does start to run out by springtime.
A person with a metabolic difference due to genetics, chronic illness, or the standard changes associated with aging may need an external source of nutrients that other people of average health would be able to make internally – “endogenously.”
  • Cannabinoids are a type of chemical called phospholipids which are formed from a lipid, a type of fat, and the mineral phosphorus.
I have a genetic difference in my ability to phosphorylate (I.2.wikigenes.BHMT) so that I am unable to make phospholiids endogenously and I have found that having an external source of cannabinoids in my diet every day helps my chronic illness conditions and improves my muscle and nerve control. I am registered as a Medical Marijuana patient in a state where it has been legalized for medical use.
     Some of my symptoms that are relieved by the herbal medicine have been troubling me since I was an infant. I had severe eczema throughout my childhood and severe congestion. Rarely could I breathe through both nostrils and nosebleeds were also common. The enzyme the BHMT gene produces when functioning incorrectly is associated with a risk for vascular problems – ie nosebleeds or easy bruising or spider veins or all of them.
     The protein that the gene normally produces is necessary in Glycerophospholipid biosynthesis, metabolism , and Phospholipid metabolism, (so a double mutation in this gene may make it difficult for me to make phospholipids endogenously), among 17 pathways in all – that is an important enzyme: (I.6.genecards.BHMT) And the CDK-mediated phosphorylation and removal of Cdc6 SuperPath involves 97 other pathways which include a Calcium2+ pathway and a Parkinsons Disease pathway and creatine metabolism (important for muscles) and synthesis of DNA and many other metabolic paths/chains of chemical events : (I.7.genecards.phosphorylation)
  • Phospholipids are found in human breast milk and helps stimulate the infant’s appetite and helps support adequate weight gain. The cannabinoids and phospholipid group perform two main functions – they are flexible and form a significant part of membrane walls, like building blocks or bricks; they can also be released from the membrane and act as messenger chemicals that can activate other systems or be modified slightly to become a different type of messenger chemical called eicosanoids.
  • Eicosanoids include the leukotrienes: Santa Cruz Biotechnology,(I.8.scbt.com)

2. It might be motivating to learn of an underlying cause to cravings.

It might help a person to learn that for a person with a genetic difference, difficulties with motivation or impulse control are likely due to an underlying deficiency of a substance they are missing, which would likely have helped them have better impulse control and to not have cravings for substances.
Someone without the genetic difference would be making the substances internally which would help them have good impulse control and not crave substances.
     Helping the person with substance abuse problems to find approved external sources of the substance (cannabinoids) seems like it would be more helpful and potentially more motivating for them to be able to view themselves as a worthwhile person with special dietary needs rather than as an unmotivated drug addict who just doesn’t try hard enough to change.
     Substance abusers likely quit using and relapsed again more times than anyone cares to count. every single time a chronic user runs out of their substance of choice they are “quitting” until they get more.
     Do you blame a hungry person for eating breakfast in the morning? Should a person just “quit eating” if they have an overeating disorder? Answer: No.
  • Cannabinoids might help some types of eating disorders and some types of drug or alcohol addictions by providing an essential nutrient that the person might not be able to make.
  • If the body can’t make an important substance or convert substances into active forms then it becomes an essential nutrient – essential for that specific person’s daily diet.

3. Genetics of the cannabinoid system and binge eating disorder, alcohol abuse and drug addiction.

“It is important to note that, as with alcohol, marijuana, and heroin, a human genetic variant of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor gene CNR1 has been associated with susceptibility to cocaine and amphetamine dependence (Ballon et al. 2006, Comings et al. 1997; Zhang et al. 2004).
  • Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System; Ch.13: Drug Addiction, (page 334, I.9.Searchworks)
Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond is a reference textbook available online as a pdf. (I.10.Endo.pdf)  It includes information regarding the genetic differences known to be associated with binge eating disorder and other drug addictions affected by rimonabant, a chemical which inhibits the endogenous cannabinoid system. Use of rimonabant affected craving for food/sucrose and alcohol in animal research, and it was found to reduce rewarding effects of morphine/opioids, amphetamine, cocaine and diazepam in other studies.
  • Rimonabant is not in use for drug addictions because it is associated with a significantly increased risk for suicide. This is an important point to note – blocking the endogenous cannabinoid system is associated with a significant risk for suicide.
The problem with addiction to some substances or to eating excess food for some cases of over eating disorders is an underlying inability to make the cannabinoids but a remaining need for them and a hunger, an urge for “something,” something that is unknown however. And what people choose to consume in order to try to quench that unknown hunger varies from food and alcohol, to the rest of the drugs that are commonly abused.
     Dietary sources are needed instead. However our food supply has limited sources. Vine ripened produce or lemon oil, rich in aroma, are examples of a food containing cannabinoids or a similar group of aromatic and medicinal phytochemicals called terpenes. Chocolate and the herb rosemary are two other food sources. The spices cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg are also sources. Non-euphoric cannabinoids also exist and may have medicinal benefits depending on the patient’s condition. Copaiba oil is a food grade essential oil that can have non-euphoric cannabinoid content with medicinal benefits.
     Wouldn’t it be nicer to tell starving people that they are starving rather than that they are poorly motivated?
  • For more information regarding binge eating disorder, drug addiction and rimonabant: See Ch.3: Endocannabinoid Receptor Genetics and Marijuana Use, (p72-73 & 91, I.10.Endo.pdf) and Ch.13: Behavioral Effects of Endocannabinoids, mentions that research with rimonabant has helped show excessive alcohol drinking behavior and development of alcoholism may be related to genetic differences in the CB1 receptors. (p319, I.10.Endo.pdf)
  • Impulse control deficits may involve the cannabinoid system: See Ch.13: Behavioral Effects of Endocannabinoids, (pp325-330, I.10.Endocannabinoids.Full Text.pdf).
  • Schizophrenia may be related to a deficiency in the cannabinoid receptors themselves rather than being due to a deficiency in cannabinoids: See Ch.15, Neuropsychiatry: Schizophrenia, Depression, and Anxiety,; of the book Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond: (p378, I.10.Endocannabinoids.Full Text.pdf)
More recently a gene has been identified in binge eating disorder, the gene for the cytoplasmic FMR1-interacting protein 2 (CYFIP2). (I.11.sciencedaily) The gene has a number of known variations and has allso been associated with Fragile X, an autism like condition, ADHD, autism, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and Prader-Willi Syndrome.. (I.12.ncbi.FragileX)
     The enzyme the gene CYFIP2 produces when functioning normally is involved in many metabolic pathways in the body including one that plays a role in myelination of nerve cells and one in phospholipid metabolism. (I.13.reuters) (I.14.genecards.CYFIP2)
     So an external source of cannabinoids might help a person with a problem in their CYFIP2 gene to have normal appetite control and also to protect their nerves from multiple sclerosis – which causes degeneration of myelin.  Myelin is similar to the lipid part of some of the phospholipids of the endogenous cannabinoid system. Multiple sclerosis has been associated with social anxiety and eating disorders (I.15.omicsgroup) which are also conditions associated with gene differences in the cannabinoid system. Myelin is made with sphingomyelin which is made of sphingolipids. (I.16.sphingolipids) Easy right? (I.17.mpcfaculty.lipids) Even easier – coconut oil is about 50% phospholipids and is a good source of sphingolipids. (I.18.coconut)
    I don’t know if I have any differences in my CYFIP2 gene; it was not one of the 30 genes that were included in the Nutrigenomic Screening I had done for my personal use for the “purposes of research.” Genetic screening is only used for certain conditions in standard health care currently and some types of health care claims can not be made by practitioners about genetic screening for other conditions – no guarantees in life or lab tests. The screening I had was designed to test genes commonly found to have differences associated with autism. (I.33.Nutrigenomic Screening) (p22, I.34.example of the genetic screening I had)
     I have a genetic difference in my ability to phosphorylate (I.2.wikigenes.BHMT) The gene I have a double malfunction in, BHMT, is also associated with multiple sclerosis except it seems to be with an over activity rather than too little function. Methionine and homocysteine metabolism and vitamin B12 may be involved. (I.19.BMHT.MS) Hypothyroidism may be associated with over expression of this gene: (I.20.wikigenes)
     The enzyme BHMT/1 (Call – T), Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT), in normal health helps produce the amino acids methionine and Dimethylglycine (DMG).
     DMG has been found helpful in ADHD, autism, allergies, alcoholism drug addiction, and chronic fatigue syndrome among other chronic issues. Methionine has been found helpful in treating depression, allergies, alcoholism and schizophrenia among other chronic issues. Since learning of the difference in my genetics I have been taking the two amino acids in a powder form that I add to a glass of water. It doesn’t taste good but it leaves me feeling more energetic and with a more positive mood.
     What it tasted most like was a tart red wine and the nutrient content of red wine does contain free amino acids, so someone with a problem with the BHMT gene may have problems with unidentified cravings that wine seem to help. While I did love red wine, it didn’t love me. It was one of the first triggers for severe migraines that I identified and started avoiding. A painkiller did help with migraine pain somewhat but zero time spent with a migraine is my goal.
     I found based on the information that is available regarding dose, that a half teaspoon of each of the amino acid powders helped my mood without causing such an energy boost that it caused an increased heart rate or prevented me from going to sleep. I tried one teaspoon of each initially and found that it was too much of an energy boost. Both amino acids can act as activating chemicals within the brain.
     I have early symptoms of neuropathy, I would rather prevent multiple sclerosis than to learn more about it first hand. Taking the supplemental methionine may be helping my body do what it needs to do to prevent an autoimmune breakdown of my myelin.

4. Sometimes people are wrong – Nixon was wrong.

If the good people, in their wisdom, shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.” – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1894), (p 634, I.23)
Hemp fiber was essential for rope and strong fabric. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp and is said to have smoked it too. It is time to stop being disappointed in loved ones who are likely suffering from a metabolic deficiency that leaves them susceptible to substance abuse or overeating and instead start accepting that they have needs that a person of average health doesn’t have or may not have to the same extent. Many nutrients are needed in a just right amount, not too little or too much.
     Cannabinoids are powerful and can be consumed in excess however it does not have the toxicity and deadliness of many other substances that are abused, including alcohol.
     The American Medical Association has recommended that marijuana be rescheduled as an herb with medicinal benefits. (I.24.AMA resolution) (I.25.veteransformedicalmarijuana)
     Rescheduling marijuana as a medicinal plant would free academic researchers to study its medicinal benefits. As a “Scheduled Substance” currently research studies are only supposed to assess toxicity and rehabilitation areas rather than design experiments assessing the medicinal value. Currently the synthetic form of the main euphoric cannabinoid, THC, is listed at a “safer” level of risk than the marijuana plant itself.
     The synthetic forms can be even more dangerous as they are more concentrated and are in isolation rather than also providing the non-euphoric cannabinoids that are found in most strains of marijuana and which have calming effects. Synthetic THC or THC in excess can cause paranoia and other mood symptoms that would have been unknown to Thomas Jefferson when he enjoyed smoking marijuana that was milder in the amount of THC it likely contained and more likely to be balanced with non-euphoric cannabinoids.
     The problem with black market development of a product is that it is often being designed to maximize the “buzz” or “euphoria” rather than the medicinal or pain killing effects. However, there is not that much “euphoria” felt by the person with chronic illness who is using a larger quantity of marijuana everyday due to an underlying inability to make cannabinoids because a tolerance is built up and they simply need some of the herb or other concentrated sources of cannabinoids every day just to maintain a state of health and function that is a little closer to everyone else’s “normal function“.    

     The person with a chronic need wants an herbal medicine that has a balanced variety of cannabinoids that treats a variety of symptoms, not just the euphoria inducing THC that can lead to overdose symptoms of a racing heart, feeling very chilled, and paranoia or anger combined with extra energy, so manic behavior might be a risk with an overdose reaction. Real lime or lemon juice products that are concentrated rather than being a watery lemonade may help counteract some of the mood changes associated with an overdose of THC. More on lemon oil is included in the next section. 

5. Medical Marijuana helps reduce opioid use, which can save lives.

     We currently have an epidemic of deaths due to opioid medications, prescription and black market drugs. The increase in deaths is due in part to the over prescription of opioid painkillers by the medical community but it is also due to black market substitutes that have been introduced in recent years. One type is particularly potent and is being sold as something else so consumers wouldn’t even know that they were being given a stronger version of an opioid medication than the prescription medication they were told they were purchasing on the black market – key point – don’t buy drugs on the black market because you don’t know what they might contain.
     This likely seems an obvious point which, honestly, even the drug addict knows that but their need is great enough during withdrawal that they may be more likely to take risks.
     Women may be especially at risk for opioid addiction whether it is due to differences in size or physiology is unknown. Addiction to opioids seems to occur for women at lower doses of the medication that were taken for a shorter amount of time than for men who become addicted. Women may be more susceptible to the cravings for the drug. (I.27.jotopr)
     In states with medicinal marijuana sales of painkillers dropped,which would include the opioids. Physicians are not comfortable with the inability to “prescribe” a set dose. “Take two hits and call me in the morning?” was asked in jest or in seriousness by a psychiatry professor, Deepak D’Souza, who also has researched marijuana. (I.28.npr)
     Deaths due to overdoses of opioids have also decreased in those states. (I.29.nbcnews) The cannabinoid and opioid receptor systems may both be involved in the regulation of appetite. Levels of the hormone leptin may be increased in response to CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus. Leptin and other appetite hormones may then “control opioid-regulated feeding…(Verty et al., 2003).” See Ch.13: Behavioral Effects of Endocannabinoids, (p313, I.10.Endocannabinoids.Full Text.pdf).
     Since marijuana use seems to be saving lives and has low toxicity risks, it doesn’t seem like how big a dose is as big a question as how to get a safe reliable supply to more patients in pain. The answer does exist but it is one a physician or psychiatrist is unlikely to like – the dose varies based on the person’s genetics and metabolism, the supply of nutrients available, tolerance, etc.; the answer is “It depends.” But the medication is so safe that worries about “too much” are really unnecessary, except possibly for more concentrated synthetic sources or extracted cannabinoid oil products.
     Signs of “too much” THC or synthetic THC can include a racing heartbeat, which very, very rarely has caused a couple/very few deaths. To the user first experiencing the racing heartbeat of excess THC, it may be frightening and feel like a panic attack. Relax it slows down again and only people with a pre-existing heart condition may be at risk during the time that the heart-rate is rapid.
     So if you have a weak heart – avoid excessive amounts of THC. The rapid heart-rate doesn’t occur at low doses. It may be accompanied a feeling of being chilled, and suddenly needing a jacket. Anxiety or anger may occur with excess THC or synthetic THC or during withdrawal from an excessive amount.
     The aromatic terpenes in citrus oil can have a calming effect if anxiety is a problem after consuming marijuana. Pinene from pistachio nuts may also be helpful, but a glass of lemonade might help the mood more quickly than eating pistachios because they would take longer to digest. (I.26.fastcompany)
     Artificial lemon flavored products wouldn’t help, only real lemon or lime juice products would help calm a mood unsettled by an excess or imbalance of THC. The plant contains many active phytochemicals which can include terpenes and other cannabinoids that are calming to the mood rather than causing euphoria. THC is the only cannabinoid in marijuana that causes euphoria.
     Opioid medications also cause euphoria – so why is one more socially acceptable than the other? Smoking is dirty and smelly and – the easiest way to not overdose.
     Eating products or the concentrated synthetic dose in one single sitting can leave a person feeling symptoms of overdose about one hour later, far too late to stop at half a serving or a small taste to see how you might handle that particular product and/or the strain that was used in it. Different strains of the plant can cause very different symptoms and help different types of symptoms, so the question of “how much” is less significant than which strain to use and the method to use to consume it.
     Smoking provides fairly instant changes to the mood so it is easy to tell if you’re getting more anxious or developing a rapid heart rate. Strains of marijuana can vary a lot, some types may cause the anxiety symptoms, while others would just cause the stereotypical “couchlock” – falling asleep. While setting fire to the couch might be a very real risk, otherwise, no danger other than possibly drooling a little and looking stupid. Looking stupid is better than looking dead from an opioid overdose – in my opinion – and I am a medical marijuana patient who has experienced these symptoms and read research about safe use.

6. Resources for help or just someone to talk to:

  • National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.” (1.30samhsa.org)
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (1.31RAINN.)
  • U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: “Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday.” (1.32.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

Help is only helpful when you accept it. Recognizing that you need it is the first step.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Links and References:

(I’ll finish this list later, I’ve learned a lazy editing tactic is to skip the footnote numbers until the final draft is complete.)

  1. Disease,” Oxford Dictionaries (I.1.disease)
  2. BHMT,” wikigenes.org, http://www.wikigenes.org/e/gene/e/635.html (I.wikigenes.BHMT)
  3. Glycerophospholipid biosynthesis,
  4. metabolism ,
  5. Phospholipid metabolism,
  6. (I.6.genecards.BHMT) [http://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=BHMT] (I.6.genecards.BHMT)
  7. (I.7.genecards.phosphorylation) [http://pathcards.genecards.org/card/cdk-mediated_phosphorylation_and_removal_of_cdc6] (I.genecards.phosphorylation)
  8. Leukotriene,” (I.8.scbt.com)
  9. Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System; Ch.13: Drug Addiction, (page 334, I.9.Searchworks)  Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System, Editors David Kendall and Stephen Alexander (Springer, 2009, Nottingham, U.K.). (I.Searchworks)
  10. Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond, (CRC Press, 2006, Boca Raton, FL), Chapter Three, Endocannabinoid Receptor Genetics and Marijuana Use, editor and chapter by Emmanuel S. Onaivi, et al., (pages 72-73, 91, and 333), Chapter 15, Neuropsychiatry: Schizophrenia, Depression, and Anxiety, chapter by Ester Fride and Ethan Russo, (page 378), (I.10.Endocannabinoids: FullText pdf)
  11. (I.11.sciencedaily) Genetic risk factor for binge eating discovered. Sciencedaily.com, Oct. 26, 2016,  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161026170543.htm (I.sciencedaily)
  12. (I.12.ncbi.FragileX) Sabiha Abekhoukh and Barbara Bardoni, CYFIP family proteins between autism and intellectual disability: links with Fragile X syndrome, Front Cell Neurosci. 2014; 8: 81., ncbi.nlm.nih.gov https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973919/ (I.ncbi.FragileX)
  13. (I.13.reuters) Pathway Maps: G-protein signaling_RAC1 in cellular process, Life Sciences Research, thomsonreuters.com, http://lsresearch.thomsonreuters.com/maps/383 (I.reuters)
  14. (I.14.genecards.CYFIP2) CYFIP2, genecards.org,  http://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=CYFIP2 (I.genecards.CYFIP2)
  15. (I.15.omicsgroup) Shahla Mohamadirizi1*, Vahid Shaygannejad2, Soheila Mohamadirizi3 and Marjan Mohamadirizi4, Eating disorders in a multiple sclerosis clinical population and its association with social anxiety.   https://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/eating-disorders-in-a-multiple-sclerosis-clinical-population-and-its-associationwith-social-anxiety-2376-0389-1000183.php?aid=82623 (I.omicsgroup)
  16. (I.16.sphingolipids)
  17. (I17..mpcfaculty.lipids)
  18. (I.18.coconut) Handbook of Plant-Based Fermented Food and Beverage Technology, Second Edition, edited by Y. H. Hui, E. Özgül Evranuz  CRC Press, May 17, 2012, https://books.google.com/books?id=5fvRBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA669&lpg=PA669&dq=sphingolipids+in+coconut&source=bl&ots=QlgC46XLn8&sig=Y5AiDM4oUTBp9BS3aOKCtWK0Fbk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQuL-wmdbVAhUG7CYKHXZCCxsQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q=sphingolipids%20in%20coconut&f=false
  19. (I.19.BMHT.MS) Naveen Kumar Singhal, et al., Changes in Methionine Metabolism and Histone H3 Trimethylation Are Linked to Mitochondrial Defects in Multiple Sclerosis. J of Neuroscience Vol 35, Issue 45, 2015 PAGES: 15170-15186 ISSN: 0270-6474 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rohan_Dassanayake2/publication/283710653_Changes_in_Methionine_Metabolism_and_Histone_H3_Trimethylation_Are_Linked_to_Mitochondrial_Defects_in_Multiple_Sclerosis/links/5693c64508aeab58a9a2aaf3.pdf (I.BMHT.MS)
  20. (I.20.wikigenes)
  21. ( methionine )
  22. ( Dimethylglycine (DMG).
  23. John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 14th Ed., 1910, (p 634, I.23)
  24. (I.24.AMA resolution) American Medical Association Medical Student Section, Resolution 2, JUne 8, 2008, http://www.oregon.gov/pharmacy/Imports/Marijuana/Public/AMA_MedStudentSectionResolution.pdf (I.AMA resolution)
  25. (I.25.veteransformedicalmarijuana) AMA Votes to Reschedule Medical Marijuana, VMCA, http://www.veteransformedicalmarijuana.org/node/67 (I.veteransformedicalmarijuana)
  26. (I.26.fastcompany) Chris Dannen, Three Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Eating Cannabis, fastcompany.com Sept. 10, 2014, https://www.fastcompany.com/3035175/three-beginner-mistakes-to-avoid-when-eating-cannabis (I.fastcompany)
  27. (I.27.jotopr) Karen Barth, New Study Shows Women are Hit the Hardest as Opioid Epidemic Sweeps the Country. Jotopr.com, Feb. 27, 2017, https://jotopr.com/new-study-shows-women-are-hit-hardest-as-opioid-epidemic-sweeps-the-country/?utm_source=ReviveOldPost&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=ReviveOldPost (I.jotopr)
  28. (I.28.npr) Shefali Luthra, After Medical Marijuana Legalized, Medicare Prescriptions Drop for Many Drugs. npr.org, July 6, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/06/484977159/after-medical-marijuana-legalized-medicare-prescriptions-drop-for-many-drugs (I.npr)
  29. Reuters, Legalized Marijuana Could Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, Study Finds. March 27, 2017,nbcnews.com,  http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/legalized-marijuana-could-help-curb-opioid-epidemic-study-finds-n739301 (I.29.nbcnews)
  30. National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (1.30samhsa.org)
  31. Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (1.31RAINN.)
  32. U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-8255, (1.32.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
  33. Amy Yasko, Nutrigenomic Testing, Holistic Health International, http://www.holisticheal.com/health-tests/nutrigenomic-testing (I.33.Nutrigenomic Screening)
  34. Amy Yasko, Methylation Analysis Pathway: John Doe, Neurological Research Institute, http://www.holisticheal.com/media/wysiwyg/John_Doe_MPA_05.19.17.pdf (p22, I.34.example of the genetic screening I had)

Looking up an itch found a synthetic cannabinoid in clinical trial for four diagnoses; Resunab

Cannabinoids are the active phytochemicals found in marijuana which include the euphoric THC and many, many non-euphoric types. A synthetic version of one of them has reached trial stages for autoimmune and skin related diagnoses and for the life shortening genetic condition Cystic fibrosis.

I stumbled across the information while looking up whether marijuana has been found helpful for preventing or treating eczema or the autoimmune skin condition psoriasis, [link] – yes was potential answer and a specific synthetic cannabinoid was mentioned: Ajulemic acid.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science found that Cannabinoids, having anti-inflammatory properties, work to inhibit the proliferation of skin cells called keratinocytes, which play a role in causing psoriasis. [link]

Its Wikipedia page led me to the company and the clinical trials. The synthetic molecule is being purified and called Resunab by the company Corbus Pharmaceuticals. They have already been approved for Phase Two trials for the drug for four different serious diagnoses: Cystic Fibrosis, Systemic Sclerosis, Dermatomyositis, Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus. The synthetic cannabinoid activates the CB2 receptors and does not cause symptoms of euphoria as does THC, the euphoria promoting chemical found in marijuana. [Read more regarding Resunab and the clinical trials by Corbus Pharmaceuticals]

And why was I looking up eczema and psoriasis and cannabinoids? – the incredible itchiness I’ve been experiencing since only a few days off of my medical marijuana. Some autoimmune symptoms are worse and a previously tiny itchy spot is now raised scabby patches over a large area of my back – arrgh. (It’s talk like a pirate day.) My genetic study and personal life experience has proven to my satisfaction that my body needs an external source of cannabinoids — and a non-euphoric source would be nice but a euphoric source in the meantime is less itchy than having no source – for me at least and maybe for the other psoriasis patients who participated in previous research studies.

Take home point for patients with one of the four diagnoses in Stage 2 trials – contact the company for more information regarding whether they are still looking for patients to participate.

Take home point for me – I’m not 100% sure but my back is itchy, and I think the take home point is that my body needs an external source of cannabinoids and I should just accept that and adapt my life to the current realities of limited legality, limited access, difficulty traveling legally, etc. Marijuana has been found to help promote brain cell growth, prevent cancer, and help reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with autoimmune disease. And previous reading had suggested that I have a genetic problem in my keratinocytes that may be associated with, drum roll,  migraines, TMJ, IBS, and eczema. I have had all of those problems for many years of my life, decades of discomfort, hours of lost time with my children, hours of reduced productivity at work.

But marijuana is a powerful drug and the strains and quality of what is available to medical patients varies greatly. It is safest when the strain has a good balance of euphoric and non-euphoric cannabinoids — both types have medical properties and affect the neurotransmitters in the brain and throughout the nervous system.

Previous (very messy collections of notes) posts on keratinocytes:

  1. Substance P, neuropathic pain, migraines, and the cannabinoid system
  2. An article on Morgellons; a link, and a comment I added re keratinocytes

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.