There is probably no one on the planet who knows more about CBD than Dr. Gregory Smith. The Hair Authority met with Dr. Smith to learn more about research he has recently completed and its implications for the hair loss community.
Dr. Smith earned his medical degree from Rush Medical School in Chicago, and a Master of Public Health from Harvard University. He completed residency training in Preventive Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is a former Major in the US Army.
He has had extensive experience and education in the field of cannabinoid medications. students and medical professionals on the science and applications of cannabinoid medications.
Dr. Smith has several peer-reviewed research publications. He completed a human trial on the bioavailability of nanoparticle CBD in 2019 and is currently conducting research on bioavailability of other CBD formulations, as well as a study of the efficacy of topical CBD/CBDa for hair regrowth.
Dr. Smith’s new medical textbook called ‘Cannabidiol (CBD): Basic Science and Clinical Applications’ I set to be published by Springer Press this coming year. Dr. Smith consults as a scientific and medical advisor on cannabis, and cannabinoid therapeutics with over a dozen companies in four countries.
Doctor Smith will be sharing future research results and insights with Hair Authority readers in a special column, “Ask the Expert.”
Hair Authority – Our readers are interested to learn more about CBD – where it comes from, why it’s important, and why everybody is looking at it today. You have recently completed a study that explored the effects of CBD on hair loss. What did you learn?
Dr. Smith – Can we stand back a little further and start with the endocannabinoid system? This often abbreviated ‘ECS.’ Understanding the how the ECS works in the body will lead us to better understand CBD and give me a chance to discuss the other components in hemp oil that are important for their effects on the hair follicle.
One of the primary functions of the ECS is maintaining energy homeostasis, so let’s take it from there.
CBD is just one many cannabinoids that are present in cannabis oil or hemp – I prefer to say, “hemp oil” because the terminology is less drug related. There are 113 different fat-soluble chemicals in hemp oil called cannabinoids.
The bad actor, of course, is THC, and you know, we don’t deal with that. The good one is CBD. Both of these are present in high quantities in the oil. The other 111 are very tiny amounts, perhaps half a percent or one percent.
When we started looking at hemp oil, we realized that there are a lot of effects from cannabinoids on our innate ECS in the body, including ECS receptors on the skin and hair follicle. So, as you can imagine. a lot of pharmaceutical companies started looking at hemp oils and although we documented a variety of effects, we didn’t learn what system these other chemicals were using until 20 years later, some time in the 1990s. We knew that CBD had some very important therapeutic effects and that they impacted both the brain and the body, but it was only in the ’90s that we discovered the ECS and realized it had more receptors in the brain than any other neurotransmitter system; more than serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, all the common neurotransmitters that everyone’s heard about.
The ECS has the second highest number of receptors throughout the body, including the skin and scalp. So, it’s a very important system.
Why is it important for hair growth? Because originally the body produced hair to regulate heat loss or maintain heat. Twenty-five of all heat loss is through the scalp, so the hair on the scalp was very important to our ancient ancestors during past ice ages. One of the primary functions of the ECS is energy homeostasis. What does that have to do with the hair follicle? Well, when it’s cold and an ice age comes along, we up-regulate follicles so they get thicker and longer and provide some heat maintenance. This was especially true for our ancestors who had lots of hair all over their body – the elongated and thickened hair would maintain heat. Almost like some species develop a winter coat.
These days, people no longer have as much body hair, but the hair on our head still functions in a very sort of atavistic or old-fashioned way. It responds to these receptors in a very nice way. The hair follicle has a receptor called the CB1 receptor. There are several types of ECS receptors, but the CB1 receptor is like a keyhole on the cells of the hair follicle, and you need a key to unlock its actions. If you put the key in, in this case, an Endocannabinoid substance our body makes, it turns the hair cell off. It tells the hair shaft to stop elongating and it tells the matrix cells to make the hair thinner. So, you get thinner, shorter hair. However, when we use CBD and the varin cannabinoids from hemp oil, we block that from happening. We block the body’s ability to turn these cells off, and as a result, we block hair loss and thinning, including conditions like androgenetic alopecia.
If we give CBD and the varin cannabinoids in a topical solution, it penetrates the base of the hair bulb and sits on these receptors and blocks anything getting to them that might tell them to turn off. Studies have shown that the net result is an increase in hair shaft elongation which is one effect through one type of cell type that are keratinocytes. It also stimulates matrix production through matrix cells, which make the hair thicker. It can also stimulate melanin sites for hair color and increase the duration that the hair shaft stays around before it goes into the catagen phase and dies.
In addition, there is another ECS receptor with the horrible name of TRPV1 receptors. We commonly call this the ‘capsaicin’ receptors since it has to do with telling our skin when it is hot or burning. Capsaicin in the ingredient in hot peppers that causes a burning sensation in our mouth. When we overstimulate the TRPV1 receptor in the hair follicle we fool it into letting the hair shaft to keep growing. We can fool the ‘capsaicin’ receptors with an ingredient found in peppermint oil.
So, there are lots and lots of good effects through the ECS using CBD, varin-type cannabinoids and peppermint oil.
Hair Authority – Is that what you sought to demonstrate in the clinical study?
Dr. Smith – Correct. I wanted to see how substantial the effects of CBD really were. For all we knew, the effects could have been small. We truly didn’t know much about hemp oil since the subject of hemp and cannabis oil was previously a hands-off topic due to the stigma.
As a result, it was very hard to get research money to study CBD or to get articles published. My first textbook, which is now the standard textbook used in English speaking countries to train medical students and pharmacists on cannabinoids, was incredibly hard to get published. But we’ve come a long way since then. My second textbook on this topic was published by the largest book publisher in the world, which is Springer Press. And we now have five FDA approved cannabinoid medicines that are available either over the counter or by prescription at your local CVS. Things are happening very quickly.
Hair Authority – What was the name of those two textbooks?
Dr. Smith – The most recent one is called “Medical, Cannabis, Basic Science and Clinical Applications” for medical and pharmacology students in training. The other is “Medical Cannabis and Opioids: Minimizing Opioid Use Through Cannabis” and it is about using cannabis to get off of opioids. That’s the one from Springer Press.
Hair Authority – Sorry to interrupt, but our subscribers may want to get copies Getting back on track, we were just heading into the clinical study.
Dr. Smith – This was what’s called a proof-of-concept study. We recruited 35 patients from John Satino’s clinic, and with their informed consent, conducted a six-month trial using a CBD nanoparticle serum we formulated ourselves. To be cautious, we only put half the dose we wanted, but in spite of this, we had amazing results.
Hair Authority – Where do you go from here? Do you do a more substantial study to get FDA clearance?
Dr. Smith – The safety of topically applied cannabinoids has been well documented over the years. It’s incredibly safe so we plan to move forward quickly and work on getting the right dose.
We will also study whether including other things in the formulation like peppermint oil will further improve the effect because of its effects on the cannabinoid receptors. Why not combine CBD and peppermint oil extract, which stimulate several different receptors all having to do with elongation, fattening of the hair shaft and prolongation of the period of time that the hair shaft stays alive?
The next step will be a Phase II FDA trial with 60 patients: 3 different groups of 20 patients each receiving a different dosage level.
Hair Authority – How long does this kind of research take?
Dr. Smith – Safety has already been proven. We’ve already done proof of concept, which is the equivalent of a Phase 1 trial. So now we are going into Phase II. If it confirms what we found in Phase 1, then we would look for a large company to get involved and partner with us to move forward into Phase 3 trials.
Hair Authority – Are you looking to partner with a large company or plan to commercialize it yourself?
Dr. Smith – This is an OTC product and we’re already moving forward with hair topicals. We’re also producing a daily oral extract that works synergistically. I don’t think the topical by itself will be the big seller. But it could work synergistically and complement Rogaine and Propecia.
The only place you can currently purchase Alpha-Varin® (this is our proprietary combination of CBD, two varin cannabinoids, and peppermint oil) is www.alphavarin.com. We have both the topical and the additional oral tincture. The varin cannabinoids are actually much more potent for these hair follicle effects than CBD alone.
Hair Authority – Are other groups also investigating CBD, or are you really the lead researcher in this field?
Dr. Smith – Very good question, and there’s a very clear answer. Most companies and clinicians just don’t know what to do with cannabinoids so they’re staying away from them. I think pharmaceutical companies wonder if they’re going to be able to get their drugs approved or patented.
Now that there are several FDA approved cannabinoids, there’s probably less fear, but remember, these are plant extracts? There aren’t many plant extracts that are FDA approved. However, we managed to get five cannabinoid drugs FDA cleared and now that we have broken through that barrier, they’re going to continue to approve them. But there’s no one else out there that I know of doing cannabinoid research on human hair loss.
Hair Authority – Are there other any other products to actually stimulate receptors that increase hair growth?
Dr. Smith – Promoting hair growth is a very specific thing. It’s a lock and key mechanism. The body is designed to do this for the hair follicle. All of the other currently available hair loss therapies, including Rogaine®, Propecia®, Nioxin®, and laser-therapy have their effects by improving the health of the follicle, through various means, such as increased blood flow or decreased accumulation of DHT. Using cannabinoids is a novel approach and is actually using of innate system designed to promote hair shaft elongation, increase hair shaft volume, and increase life of the hair follicle, whereas everything else out there is sort of peripheral. They are more of a support system. The cannabinoid therapy is synergistic with the other currently available treatments.
Do we need more oxygen to make the hair follicle grow faster or less testosterone surrounding the follicles, so they get more blood supply? Sure, they’re beneficial, but they don’t go to the root of the problem. They are not designed genetically to make the hair elongate, thicken and live longer.
Growing long, thick hair is a specific function dating back to the ice age genetically, that we are putting a key into. We’re much closer to treating the specific condition as opposed to being merely supportive around the hair follicle.
Hair Authority – What is the difference in the mechanism between the stem cell therapy and the effect of the cannabinoids?
Dr. Smith – Very interesting question. I do a lot of stem cell injections myself, particularly on joints and I love them. I think surgeons hate us because we’re preventing a lot of orthopedic surgeries on knees, hips and shoulders. The underlying processes that benefit most from stem cell or surgery are degeneration of a joint like the knee or hip. But other degenerative processes like dementia and Alzheimer’s may also be candidates.
CBD more than any other cannabinoid has been shown to slow and prevent degenerative processes in chronic inflammation. It literally turns down the thermostat on the level of inflammation going on. Chronic smoldering inflammation in your joints, in your brain, maybe even in your heart vessels is causing most of the disease and impairment of aging.
When you combine CDB with stem cell therapy, you reduce inflammation and slow down degeneration, then put in stem cells to regenerate new youthful cells, you’re initiating two separate processes. You regenerate healthy tissue, healthy joints and help maintain a healthy mind. That that’s how they work together. They complement each other.
Hair Authority – Congratulations on CBD research and please keep us posted as this exciting project move forward.
- Alpha Varin Complex is available in Tricomax Hair Serum, https://tricomax.com/
2 thoughts on “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About CBD”
Nice article !