A Healing Plant
THE MEDICAL BENEFITS OF CANNABIS
Over the past twenty years, medical marijuana programs have expanded from just California to over half of the United States. With 29 states having implemented medical marijuana programs, people are turning to cannabis as a source of healing more than ever before.
The concept of medical marijuana is far less polarizing today, partially due to the advancement of recreational legalization. Recent polls illustrate that approximately 84% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis use for medical purposes. The acceptance of recreational use is progressing with around 61% of Americans in support. Patients and their caregivers have been the driving force behind the development of cannabinoids as medicine. Public opinion has changed mostly because of patient success stories and doctors embracing medical marijuana around the country.
Though people are becoming more accepting of medical marijuana, federal legislation prevents proper scientific research. However, over 60 national and international health organizations officially recognize the potential benefits of medical marijuana. Many of them support granting patients immediate access to legal cannabis and, at the very least, encourage clinical research.
The field of medical cannabis research is limited, but there is extensive anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana. More and more doctors are issuing medical cannabis prescriptions to their patients. This validates the plant’s efficacy of easing disruptive, uncomfortable (and in some cases, potentially fatal) symptoms associated with a range of conditions. Without a doubt, cannabis can help improve the quality of life for so many people.
Medical Cannabis Use
Whether you suffer from joint pain due to arthritis or nausea from chemotherapy, you may be eligible for a medical cannabis card in your state. Due to a lack of overall regulation, qualifying conditions for medical marijuana vary greatly from state to state.
In the United States, medical marijuana is most commonly used for pain relief. Cannabis is often used to treat nausea and appetite loss, muscle spasms, seizures, and insomnia. In many cases, it can also be a powerful treatment for mental conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Medical cannabis is a safer alternative to many traditional prescription medications. As the opioid crisis worsens, doctors are finding that cannabis is being used as an exit strategy for prescription opioid addicts.
Why is cannabis effective for so many conditions?
The human endocannabinoid system, the second largest nervous system in the body, is what makes cannabis such a powerful source of healing. The endocannabinoid system coordinates multiple physiological processes, including motor functions, appetite, sleep, mood and immune function. It helps regulate our emotions, memory, pain, pleasure and other physical sensations.
The ECS functions as a homeostatic regulator, meaning it maintains a consistent and healthy internal environment. This influences different organs to work properly and communicate effectively with the brain. When you consume cannabis, the plant’s cannabinoids, most notably THC and CBD, activate the cannabinoid receptors located throughout your ECS. There are two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, found in the central nervous system and immune/peripheral nervous system respectively. Cannabis works in harmony with the ECS to maintain optimal balance in the body.
Pain and Sleep Disorders
Cannabis is one of the most effective treatments for pain management. It is a powerful analgesic and has anti-inflammatory properties which can help patients living with chronic pain from past injuries, migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia and endometriosis. It can also help ease neuropathic pain stemming from diabetes, HIV, and kidney diseases.
Cannabis is a far safer alternative to commonly-prescribed medications. It is non-toxic and less addictive than opioids; no one has ever overdosed on cannabis. Many people struggling with sleep disorders use cannabis as a sleep aid for its natural sedating, relaxing effects.
Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders
Many people suffering from mental health have reported profound positive effects while using cannabis. While cannabis is a mind-altering substance, certain strains of cannabis have powerful anxiolytic effects. It can help combat stress, restore emotional balance and improve overall well-being. People sometimes complain of paranoia and anxiety when they consume cannabis. This can be attributed to a high THC content in a strain. A balanced ratio of CBD and THC is most effective when treating anxiety and other mood disorders.
Studies show that cannabis can promote new cell growth while also exhibiting neuroprotective properties. This can help alleviate symptoms associated with neurodegenerative disorders. Certain cannabinoids have anti-spasmodic effects which can help patients cope with painful spasms, seizures, and lack of muscle control, especially those suffering from multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Cannabinoids can also reduce cellular inflammation which is the leading cause of progression in Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating and Digestive Disorders
Cannabis can treat many gastrointestinal disorders, including nausea, appetite loss and vomiting. For patients that suffer from gastrointestinal issues or kidney disease, cannabis is a welcomed substitute for NSAIDs in pain management. Evidence suggests that certain cannabinoids can stimulate appetite, making it beneficial for patients with eating disorders, like anorexia, and wasting syndrome.
Many cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy experience extreme nausea and vomiting. Cannabis is so effective at combatting these symptoms that synthetic variations of THC (dronabinol and nabilone) are often used to treat cancer patients, especially in places without access to medical marijuana. Like natural cannabis, dronabinol interacts with the CB1 receptor, causing it to release hunger-inducing hormones. Though the research is limited, some studies suggest that THC can even reduce the level of brain cancer cells.
The TAKE AWAY
Today, cannabis strains are bred to have varying levels and concentrations intended to achieve a specific pharmacologic effect. The powerful medicinal properties stem from the concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as their interaction with the human body.
Across the country, more and more people are replacing their traditional medications with medical cannabis. People are discovering that cannabis can ease certain symptoms and, on the most basic level, help them feel better.