Advances in understanding the physiology and pharmacology of the endogenous cannabinoid system have potentiated the interest of cannabinoid receptors as potential therapeutic targets. Cannabinoids have been shown to modulate a variety of immune cell functions and have therapeutic implications on central nervous system (CNS) inflammation, chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and may be therapeutically useful in treating autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Many of these drug effects occur through cannabinoid receptor signalling mechanisms and the modulation of cytokines and other gene products. Further, endocannabinoids have been found to have many physiological and patho-physiological functions, including mood alteration and analgesia, control of energy balance, gut motility, motor and co-ordination activities, as well as alleviation of neurological, psychiatric and eating disorders. Plants offer a wide range of chemical diversity and have been a growing domain in the search for effective cannabinoid ligands. Cannabis sativa L. with the known plant cannabinoid, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Echinacea species with the cannabinoid (CB) receptor-binding lipophilic alkamides are the best known herbal cannabimimetics. This review focuses on the state of the art in CB ligands from plants, as well their possible therapeutic and immunomodulatory effects.
Keywords: Echinacea, Cannabis sativa, Helichrysum umbraculigerum, Radula, endocannabinoids, alkamides, THC, CB receptors, immune system
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