As the cannabis industry expands, it also gets more technologically advanced. Within the last few years, a new trend has started which will change how we use cannabis for consumption, especially on the medical front. With nanotechnology, cannabis products can be made to fit a precise diagnosis, and delivered to the exact point necessary.
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What is nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is a branch of technology that involves manipulating particles on an atomic level, with sizes under 100 nanometers. Which – to give a frame of reference – is about 1000 times the thinness of a piece of paper. Nanotechnology is similar to nanoscience, which attacks the same topic, but from the physics side. The two topics are very much intertwined.
In physics, different fields investigate how masses of different sizes behave. Astrophysics examines the nature of how large objects behave, whereas particle physics – on the other end – investigates how the very smallest of particles behave. And particles of these two different extreme sets, behave in their own strange ways. In terms of nanotechnology, particles often conduct electricity better, offer more strength, different reactivity to chemicals, and magnetic abilities.
One of the abilities of nanotechnology, is the ability to force together liquids that would ordinarily not go together: think oil and water. This is an emulsion. When done on particles of bigger sizes, it’s called macroemulsion or microemulsion. When it happens to particles at the size of 20-200 nm, it’s called nanoemulsion. Mico and macroemulsions are used in food products, and chemical industries like for pesticides. Nanoemulsions are newer, and used primarily in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and by biotech companies.
Nanotechnology and medicine application
This process of putting together unlike substances – emulsions, allows for non-water soluble medications to be absorbed by human beings. The process of taking two immiscible liquids and turning them into one liquid, is done with an emulsifying agent like a surfactant (substance that reduces surface tension). By being absorbed into the bloodstream at a very quick rate, nanoparticles can deliver medication more quickly and effectively. Nanoemulsions are also created to increase the effectiveness of medications at their point of interaction.
Nanoparticles can be used as diagnostic tools, to mask the taste of oily liquids, to protect drugs from hydrolysis and oxidation, and to deliver medicine in a targeted fashion. They can also lengthen the time frame of a medication, and increase bioavailability. On top of all this, they can deliver stem cells, create heat, be metallic, or even be radioactive.
To give an idea of what it means to have a targeted drug delivery system, consider that with nanoparticles, instead of a drug being ingested, digested, and then put into the bloodstream where it effects the entire body, the medication can be delivered straight to the necessary site, bypassing the rest of the body. If there are infected cells, nanoparticles can attack them directly, without hurting healthy cells around. Think about how any time you take an antibiotic, it kills all the good bacteria in your stomach and digestive tract leading to all kinds of problems with reflux and superinfections. With targeted applications, these negative effects wouldn’t necessarily have to exist.
How insanely specific can these delivery systems be made? Well, researchers at MIT just created a cancer drug by combining two nanoparticles. The drug, with these two nanoparticles working in conjunction, does two things. It can both target the cancer cells in patients, and deliver a treatment to the infected cells. That’s a pretty cool one-two punch.
Nanotechnology and cannabis
We know that nanoparticles are made by essentially smashing two liquids that don’t actually mix, into one liquid. We know that this is accomplished using a surfactant, or surface tension lessening agent. And we know that once employed, a nanoparticle can provide a couple different services in disease fighting, like the ability to locate a specific site, and the ability to deliver medications to that site. On the website ‘Neurology of Cannabis’, Dr. Daniel Stein published the article Cannabis & Nanotechnology in 2020, which addresses the growing field of nanotechnology and cannabis applications.
Says Stein, when it comes to cannabis, there are several diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and intense inflammation that are already being looked at in regards to cannabis nanotechnology. Since cannabinoids can be stored within nanoparticles, and delivered to a specific and targeted site, cannabis medicines can be stored, protected, and then delivered for a controlled release without degrading. Nanotechnology can even detect and locate diseases by the first few damaged cells, and deliver a cannabinoid to modify the cell’s behavior before more damage can occur.
One thought is that if a nanoparticle can identify and focus on a specific cannabinoid receptor right when a disease is first starting to grow, it might be able to pull a 180degree turn, and keep the entire inflammatory process at bay. Other researchers are working on nanoparticles of a ‘superclass’ which would have the ability to treat illnesses across a much broader spectrum. Future research into the use of nanotechnology and cannabis will focus on making the physical particles stronger, increasing the bioavailability, and improving on routes of administration via pills, injections, or sublingual drops, according to Stein.
Future versions of nanotechnology might include ways to maximize absorption and minimize side effects to create the most potent products possible. Considering all the different varieties of cannabis, with all their specific properties, companies can use nanotechnology to offer custom-made therapeutic products. General benefits could also be enhanced through bioengineering to create a more effective version of nearly anything.
Nanotechnology and the blood brain barrier
The blood brain barrier is a barrier that exists around the brain, and which keeps particles from being able to penetrate into the brain. Drugs that cause a person to feel different mentally, have crossed the barrier. In fact, the barrier can be thought of as a bouncer that keeps unwanted molecules out of the brain.
So when it comes to taking medications for anything that would effect the brain, like antidepressants, or for treatment of nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, it’s important to get active compounds into the brain. In answer to this, researchers are currently working to engineer lipid nanocapsules that will contain cannabinoids, that will be able to get through the blood brain barrier, and deliver treatment to areas of the brain.
Nanotechnology and cannabis edibles
Cannabis edibles are becoming more widely used these days with tons of options for food and drink-related products. However, edibles are tricky in that its hard to define how a specific person will absorb them, and how quickly they will actually start working. The company Sunderstorm started manufacturing Kanha Nanotech Gummies, which CEO of the company Cameron Clarke says should kick in within 15 minutes. At the very least this dissuades people from taking a second dose too early, and possibly overdosing on THC.
It seems there is already quite a building competition between brands in the ‘nanotechnology for cannabis edibles’ department. Back in 2019, as Trait Biosciences – a Toronto-based cannabis company, introduced its own product line developed from technology which transforms fat-based cannabinoids to water-soluble ones, it warned consumers against the very technology it was employing, if it was coming from another company.
Yup, as the company put out its nanotechnology line of cannabis products, it warned consumers “Nanoparticles can permeate into many different types of tissues and you can’t really control that.” And that comes from Dr. Richard Sayre, the Chief Scientific Officer for Trait.
This, of course, doesn’t make what Sayre is saying untrue, in fact, its quite the opposite. He essentially pointed out possible faults in his own company’s products by pointing this out, as well as mentioning his general concern over the use of emulsifying agents like surfactants, and their ability to accumulate in a human system.
There are also other questions which can’t be accounted for yet, like whether nanoparticles can pass from a mother to her unborn child, and if nanoparticles can accumulate in different parts of the body, like the heart, liver, or lungs. Says Dr. Anubhav Pratap Singh, University of B.C.’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems assistant professor, people should know about risks associated with nanotechnology ingestion, especially when the particle size goes under 100 nm.
Companies that sell nanotechnology cannabis products
There are already plenty of companies using nanotechnology to produce cannabis products. Sunderstorm and Trait have already been mentioned, but there are lots more. One such company to be aware of is Geyser Brands, which reportedly closed a deal with Chinese HMI – Hanma Investment Group, which is China’s biggest hemp conglomerate, and a major global technology innovator. Geyser is a cannabis company that develops health and wellness products. They create CBD and hemp-based preparations for conditions like anxiety, pain, and insomnia, using patented nanotechnology delivery systems to allow for slow release.
When it comes to companies specifically in the CBD field which are using nanotechnology, there’s Pressure BioSciences, Inc, a technology company specializing technology solutions, consumables, and, pressure-based instruments. In 2020, it was reported that Pressure signed a deal with Can B Corp for a CBD oil processing system to create a water-soluble nanoparticle solution.
There’s also CBDLiving, which according to COO Sean McDonald, helps with the problem of bioavailability in edibles. Edibles are known to have a low bioavailability. Sometimes only 4-20%, according to McDonald, is actually taken up by the body. He stated, “By nanosizing the protein down to a molecular level, the protein is more easily absorbed into the body, thus increasing the bioavailability to 90 to 100 percent.”
Another is EmbarkNano, formerly Axiomm Technologies, which is coming in from a slightly different direction. Instead of producing a nanoparticle product directly, EmbarkNano produces a precursor to a nanoparticle, in the form of a micro goo, called µGOO. This special goo makes it easy to create nano products, and in that sense acts as a general base for product manufacturing. µGOO is available to other companies, and can help keep R&D budgets in check by offering this service. Companies can then use the goo to build their own individual products. Like a white-label starter kit for nano cannabis products.
A 5-second internet search will tell you that the field of nanotechnology for cannabis use is competitive and growing. By this time next year, there will likely be at least a hundred products out using nanotechnology for cannabis delivery, or other purposes. It should be kept in mind that nanoparticles are like little rebels, doing what they please, and often in an unpredictable way. So perhaps before we get too comfortable in this new nano-sized world, we should make sure that it’s safe, and not doing harm as it gets us our meds.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a medical professional, I have no formal legal education, and I’ve never been to business school. All information in my articles is sourced from other places, which are always referenced, and all opinions stated are mine, and are made clear to be mine. I am not giving anyone advise of any kind, in any capacity. I am more than happy to discuss topics, but should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a professional in the relevant field for more information.