Desert Harvest CEO Heather Florio and Dr. Reza Sharif Naeini of the McGill University Research Center for Cannabis have launched a long-term research plan to determine the benefits of cannabinoids in treating chronic pain.
In particular, Sharif and Florio have partnered together to explore cannabinoid treatment for interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic bladder condition that reportedly affects eight million women and four million men in the United States.
Currently, Desert Harvest offers customers cannabidiol (CBD) and aloe-based products that come in capsules, one featuring a mix of CBD and aloe as well as another pure ‘Super-Strength Aloe Vera.”
“We’ve been in the formulation stage for about three years now for this product. We have over 50,000 interstitial cystitis patients that take our aloe vera capsules on a regular basis,” Ms. Florio told Terpenes & Testing. Her patients suffering from IC reportedly have a host of secondary conditions, including fibromyalgia and arthritic pain.
“We were essentially looking at how we could potentially better help them and provide them with more benefits,” Ms. Florio said. Chronic pain is personal to her as her husband served in the military and was injured. “He has nerve damage in his spine and actually has a titanium plate in his back so he could walk again.”
This experience led Ms. Florio to explore CBD isolates with Desert Harvest’s aloe vera capsules, leading to the company immediately patenting the formulation. “We were able to prove our CBD is 25% more bioavailable in the system than other CBD products,” Ms. Florio said. The 25% figure has been confirmed by the University of Colorado, which studied the effects of the product.
Following the finding, Ms. Florio began to explore the wider benefits of their product in treating specific types of pain, leading her to work with Dr. Sharif at McGill University. “I had read previous research he [Dr. Sharif] had done,” Ms. Florio explained. Dr. Sharif has conducted a range of research exploring chronic pain and possible treatments. Both he and Ms. Florio began targeting IC and the product’s potential treatment benefits.
“Women and men have this constant urge of having to pee, this sensation of bladder fullness and constant pain” that goes along with IC, which could be genetic, Dr. Sharif said. “We’re not sure how the bladder becomes oversensitive.”
Dr. Sharif eventually heard of Ms. Florio’s Desert Harvest product that combines aloe vera and CBD. He also was aware that Ms. Florio had requested for her product to be tested in treating IC. After receiving approval from the Canadian government to conduct the research, Dr. Sharif began exploring CBD and its treatment of IC with aloe vera as an absorption agent pre-clinically by recreating the conditions of patients suffering from IC.
“We monitored a few of these symptoms, ranging from increasing urination frequency, urination volume and the spontaneous pain that the mice would experience after the administration of the cannabinoid – aloe vera combination,” he said.
“There is a fairly beneficial effect of having these cannabinoid compounds in the treatment,” Dr. Sharif explained. Although the study has shown positive results, more deliberation and testing is needed before the aloe vera – CBD combination can be verified as 100% effective.
Regardless, both Ms. Florio and Dr. Sharif made it clear that this scientific research is critical in fighting the opioid epidemic, as cannabinoids could be a potential replacement for prescription pain killers.
More than 81,000 opioid overdoses have occurred between May 2019 and May 2020, pointing to an ongoing crisis in pain medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Sharif’s research and Ms. Florio’s products is one giant step in the direction of fighting the epidemic and bringing relief to tens-of-thousands of patients across the U.S. suffering from IC as well as other conditions.