Records of the benefits of medical marijuana stretch back thousands of years to use in ancient China. But after almost a century of prohibition, many of us forgot the plant ever had medicinal benefit.
Opinions are changing fast with the recent wave of cannabis legalization. And if you’re one of those curious souls who wants to learn more about the medicinal properties of marijuana and the conditions it treats, then here we lay it all out.
How Does Medical Marijuana Work
Every one of us has a complex web of interconnected nodes within us that makes up what’s known as the endocannabinoid system. The system consists of a series of receptors located all through the body from the brain, organs, connective tissues, and immune cells to our glands.
The endocannabinoid system helps regulate everything from pain perception, mood, appetite, gut motility, memory, emotions, stress response, and even our immune system response.
Cannabinoid Profiles in Medical Marijuana
The cannabinoids present in medical marijuana interact with this system to produce a myriad of beneficial effects that help to restore balance.
When you ingest cannabinoids like THC or CBD, these molecules bind with endocannabinoid receptors within the body. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that produces the well-known high. But aside from its intoxicating effects, it also induces many medicinal benefits such as inducing sleep and providing pain relief.
CBD is another important cannabinoid with many medicinal benefits. The primary benefits include reducing inflammation, anxiety, and seizures, all without the intoxicating effects of its cousin THC.
In medicinal cannabis, it’s often the ratio of THC to CBD that governs its medicinal potential. Depending on the condition you’re treating, this ratio is critical. THC is great for chronic pain, while CBD is better for anxiety relief, and your symptoms may require a specific blend of both.
But things aren’t that simple. Cannabis is a complicated plant, and there’s a lot more to it than THC and CBD. There are 112 known cannabinoids within the plant, many of which occur in small quantities but provide a medicinal benefit that science is still trying to understand.
The Power of Terpenes in Medicinal Cannabis
Other useful medicinal compounds include terpenes. These aromatic compounds give cannabis its unique and pungent smell, and there are over 200 of them in the cannabis plant. Some of the more common ones interact with the cannabinoids to produce what is known as the entourage effect. The synergistic relationship between the compounds actually enhances the properties of medicinal cannabis.
Myrcene is abundant in medical cannabis and helps counteract the intoxicating effects of THC as well as inducing sleep. Limonene, with its citrusy scent, has anti-depression and anti-anxiety properties, while pinene, the potent smelling terpene from pine trees, helps counteract the short-term memory effects of THC while also being a potent anti-inflammatory.
Learning about terpenes is crucial in understanding how different strains provide medicinal benefit. Once you become experienced, you may even learn to detect their presence and predict their effects by smelling the bud alone!
What Conditions Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Now that you understand a little of the theory, here are the top conditions treatable with medical marijuana. While it may not be a cure-all, and science is still uncovering its many mechanisms of action, there’s little doubt that it’s highly effective in combating and controlling the symptoms in a range of conditions.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects 65 million people globally. Those affected experience seizures that range in intensity from relatively mild up to a complete loss of consciousness.
Medicinal cannabis is one of the most effective treatments for controlling the seizures associated with epilepsy. CBD, in particular, has proven very useful in controlling and reducing the frequency of seizures. One of the most effective cannabis strains available for epilepsy is Charlotte’s Web. This high-CBD strain is named after a young girl by the name of Charlotte Figi. She once suffered from up to 300 seizures per month, but reduced that number to two, after using an oil extract from Charlotte’s Web flower.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
We’ve all experience digestive issues from time to time. But when things get out of hand, the resulting inflammation contributes to what is known as inflammatory bowel disease. It includes conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and cannabis is helpful in reducing the physical pain associated with such conditions. Equally as important, cannabis also helps with the associated psychosomatic effects by reducing depressive symptoms and enabling patients to have a much more positive outlook on life.
We’re all familiar with insomnia in this day and age due to our collective tendency to sit in front of screens and bathe ourselves in blue light until the wee hours. Scientific research suggests that strains with low to moderate levels of THC coupled with high levels of CBD may offer relief from sleep disorders. THC induces drowsiness, while the CBD helps ensure you stay asleep and get a restful night’s sleep.
As we age, there’s no getting away from creaky, stiff joints. And sadly, for many, this results in arthritis. There are over 100 different forms of arthritis, and some of them can be extremely crippling.
Evidence suggests that cannabis is effective at providing pain relief for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, researchers noted the significant analgesic properties of cannabis and its ability to suppress symptoms.
Many forms of arthritis don’t have an outright cure. And when elderly people reach a certain age, the pain associated with arthritis sometimes no longer serves its purpose, resulting in a decrease in life enjoyment. Medical cannabis, with its ability to manage pain symptoms, may well be one of the most effective medications for arthritis.
Cancer has been around forever, and most of us know someone affected. Conventional treatments are invasive and often crippling, but cannabis shows much promise in the treatment of cancer and in managing the side effects of common treatments like chemotherapy.
Back in the mid-1970s science showed that the administration of THC can reduce tumour size with consistent use. But years of prohibition meant that it never became a viable option within the medical community until legalization began rolling out in recent times.
Scientists have also come to note the ability of CBD to stimulate a process known as apoptosis—a natural process whereby the body destroys cells. When this process doesn’t perform optimally, malignant cells can proliferate, and cancer can spread.
Cannabis is extremely useful in helping patients undergoing chemotherapy deal with the adverse associated side effects. It helps provide relief from the all-too-common associated vomiting and nausea.
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. Symptoms vary wildly and include pain spasms, tingling, vision issues, and balance problems. Studies show how cannabis extracts help reduce the pain experienced by those affected. Medical professionals also note how cannabis exhibits remarkably few side effects when compared to conventional medications for MS.
Spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injuries can affect motor skills and lead to the loss of function of some body parts. Cannabis is a potent treatment that targets the underlying pain and muscle spasms that many of those affected experience. One scientific study suggests that cannabis can improve neurogenic symptoms, and even help treat those who are unresponsive to standard treatments.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may result in panic attacks, mood swings, and sleep issues. Due to its calming properties, CBD is particularly useful in treating the anxiety-related symptoms of PTSD.
In addition, cannabis can also enable patients to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly once they do. There is also evidence suggesting that CBD can help suppress the all-too-common nightmares experienced by those affected with PTSD.
Cannabis is a Multi-Purpose Therapeutic Alternative
Beyond the many varied medical conditions discussed here, there are dozens of other areas undergoing intense scientific investigation. Plus, many patients are using cannabis as an at-home remedy for even more conditions. Medical marijuana is a miraculous plant simply because of the number of therapeutic benefits it may have.