The Higher Learning LV™ Interview: Ethan Russo

Updated: Oct 27

In January 2022, Higher Learning LV™ conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. Ethan Russo, the founder and CEO of CReDO Science and a board certified neurologist.


Other popular articles in the Higher Learning LV Interview series include:


Russo has been a pioneering researcher of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), contributing significantly to the understanding of a variety of phytomolecules (including CBD and THC, among others) and their interaction with the ECS to produce potentially healthy outcomes.

Photo courtesy Ethan Russo


"My background is as a physician, board-certified in neurology with a focus on child neurology. I have always held a strong interest in medicinal plants, which I gradually incorporated into my practice and research endeavors," reads Russo's LinkedIn profile. The popular scientist says his overarching goal is "to bring cannabis-based and other botanical agents back into the mainstream of medicine."


After 20 years of practicing clinical neurology, Russo in 2003 transitioned into a full-time consultancy position with GW Pharmaceuticals, a British pharmaceutical company. In this role, he developed prescription pharmaceuticals from the cannabis plant.


In 2015, Russo became Medical Director of Phytecs, a company devoted to the research and development of "medicines, supplements, and lifestyle approaches to optimizing the function of the endocannabinoid system, the critical homeostatic regulatory mechanism of human physiology."

In 2015, Russo became Medical Director of Phytecs, a company devoted to the research and development of "medicines, supplements, and lifestyle approaches to optimizing the function of the endocannabinoid system, the critical homeostatic regulatory mechanism of human physiology."


Today his focus is on his new role at CReDO Science and the incorporation of his deep research findings into commercially viable products in legal medical and adult-use markets.


The Interview


Higher Learning LV: "Dr. Russo, thank you for taking the time to talk to Higher Learning LV. In 2004, you published a research study about how a deficiency in the human endocannabinoid system may lead to a variety of disease states, including migraine headache, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Nearly 20 years later, what is your current perspective on this theory?"

Ethan Russo, MD: "The theory of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency was actually first presented in 2001 in Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs and was expanded in 2014 and again in 2016 in the study "Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes."


"The concept was that since certain disorders are associated with deficiencies of neurotransmitter function (such as inadequate acetylcholine in Alzheimer disease, dopamine in Parkinson disease, and serotonin in depression), why would there not be an analogous deficiency of endocannabinoids in other human conditions? If such a problem were present, how might it manifest?

"Certainly, one would expect there to be pain and sleep and mood disturbances, among other possibilities. As originally hypothesized, this could help explain certain conditions, such as migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome—all of which are chronic pain conditions that feature an absence of obvious tissue pathology. Nevertheless, these conditions produce hypersensitivity to pain.


"While this started out as a theoretical construct, much subsequent research has resulted from the concept, with demonstrations of deficits of the endocannabinoid anandamide in the cerebrospinal fluid of migraine sufferers. We also are aware of decrements of endocannabinoid function in post-traumatic stress and autistic spectrum disorder. However, we need better and more accessible diagnostic tools to ascertain just how prevalent clinical endocannabinoid deficiency disorders might actually be."

HLLV: "Much attention is being given to isomer molecules of delta-9 THC, including delta-8, delta-10, THC-O Acetate, and HHC. What type of potential benefits do these molecules offer to patients? Are there also dangers?"

ER: "This is an unfortunate development that is an unintended but predictable by-product and manifestation of cannabis prohibition. Right now, thousands of hemp growers and product manufacturers are scrambling for ways to remain profitable. They have turned to bio-alchemy to trans-mongrelize a glut of cannabidiol supplies into something salable.


"Delta-8 THC is a natural component of some cannabis chemovars, it is usually found in only trace amounts. It is somewhat less potent than delta-9 THC."

"Whereas delta-8 THC is a natural component of some cannabis chemovars, it is usually found in only trace amounts. It is somewhat less potent than delta-9 THC and is not innately toxic, but that is not the problem. Rather, the problem is an unregulated industry that features products that are being foisted on an unsuspecting public that sometimes contain massive amounts of delta-8 THC. Some products also contain untold concentrations of contaminants and likely solvent residues.


"To my knowledge, many products demonstrate these traits. THC-O Acetate and HHC, both synthetic, are high potency CB1 receptor agonists with greater potential for adverse events.


"Also, outside the hands of trained professionals using specialized laboratory equipment, the production of these fully synthetic cannabinoids involves methods that are inherently dangerous. Until the industry is properly legalized and regulated, we are currently allowing a perilous public health experiment to proceed unchecked."

Nishi Whiteley and Ethan Russo (Photo courtesy Ethan Russo)

HLLV: "You recently co-founded CReDO Science with Nishi Whiteley. The company's mission is 'to commercialize patented products generated from our investigation of the cannabis plant and the endocannabinoid system (ECS).' Can you tell us more about the types of products and services that will be available under the CReDO Science brand?"

ER: "CReDO Science is an intellectual property holding company. We provide ideas on which we partner with other firms for development, manufacturing, and distribution. Among others, we recently published a study on cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) in which we demonstrated the presence of five statistically significant genetic mutations in affected individuals. Our study results can serve as a screening tool for the disorder. A commercial test is available from our partner EndocannaHealth.


"CReDO Science is an intellectual property holding company. We provide ideas on which we partner with other firms for development, manufacturing, and distribution."

"We also have partnered with Canurta to produce nutritional and supplement products from hemp sprouts and other parts of the cannabis plant that will leverage the profound anti-inflammatory potential of cannflavins and other polyphenols from cannabis. This is significant because these products will feature none of the adverse event profile of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The range of disorders that could potentially benefit from products of this type is simply stunning.


"On the extraction front, we recently published a proof-of-concept study of what we have dubbed Kryo-Kief™, a method of isolating glandular trichomes via carbon dioxide dry ice vapor from organic and regeneratively grown fresh cannabis flowers.


"This process obviates the need for drying or solvents to extract high potency cannabinoids and terpenoids [terpenes and terpene-like molecules]. We feel that this process will be critical to the development of standardized cannabis-based pharmaceuticals and may also be attractive to high-end cannabis consumers.


"Among our other concepts are a cannabis-based treatment for head lice and a cannabis-based disinfectant that will kill bacteria and enveloped viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.

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"Finally, we have moved into the formulation arena and have developed a preparation that we hope will address both symptoms and the underlying pathology of an orphan neurological degenerative condition. We have several formulation partners at this point, including Caps by Cookies and the Daygold line of cannabinoid/terpenoid blends. Our aim at CReDO Science is to make cannabis safer and better through rational targeting of optimized formulas that include the best agents. Other collaborations are in the works."

HLLV: "Should more attention be given to cannabinoids other than CBD and THC, such as CBG, CBN, CBC, and THCV? What value do these less common cannabinoids offer to patients and their caregivers?"


"We know a great deal about THC and CBD, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the therapeutic potential of the 'minor cannabinoids.' A case in point is cannabigerol (CBG), 'the mother of all cannabinoids.'"

ER: "Yes, absolutely. Whereas we know a great deal about THC and CBD, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the therapeutic potential of the 'minor cannabinoids.' A case in point is cannabigerol (CBG), 'the mother of all cannabinoids,' which has shown great promise for pain, anxiety, and sleep disturbances—among other symptoms—in a recent survey study. It is also a powerful antibiotic against vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, two dangerous hospital-acquired infections.


"Our collaboration with Breeder's Best has pledged to support independent cannabis breeders to develop unique cannabis chemovars that will help make available rare cannabinoids to medical consumers. It is clear to me that great things from the cannabis plant are yet to come and that these innovations will offer patients better choices in their therapeutic options."

HLLV: "Much industry bandwidth is given to a single category of phytomolecule produced by hemp and cannabis, the cannabinoids. However, plentiful research has revealed significant medicinal efficacy from terpenes and flavonoids. Should lifestyle consumers, patients, and the companies that serve them better utilize terpenes and flavonoids in their quest for healthy outcomes?"

ER: "In a word, yes! I have spent the past 25 years researching and supporting the concept of cannabis synergy and the clinical advantages of the entourage effect. A certain part of the cannabis industry is pursuing cannabinoid isolates and synthetics. However, it is our belief that complex medical conditions faced by many patients, including cancer, require botanical agents that exhibit multiple mechanisms of action.


"These may include different components that address the problem at hand (such as pain) through different approaches and complementary components that extend the therapeutic index of terpenoids like alpha-pinene and linalool. Respectively, these molecules reduce the short-term memory impairment and anxiety engendered by rich doses of THC. The rational design of cannabis-based medicine portends to provide better results for patients and their caregivers. The future of cannabis commerce is bright, indeed!"


Like what you just read? Check out our new Cannabis for Cancer Hub that features links to all of our articles about marijuana for cancer.

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