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What Are The Health Benefits of Cannabis?
In the last ten years, there’s been an explosion of scientific research on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, with over 8000 new publications since 2008. That’s an average of 2.3 new papers on cannabis every single day for the last ten years.
The fantastic thing about cannabis is its vsast array of effects on the human body, which has helped fuel many cannabis studies. The primary question scientists looked to answer was how can cannabis be so safe while offering such incredible effects, which led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system.
The reason people use cannabis as a medicine so often (and for a long time; thousands of years) is because of the recently discovered human endocannabinoid system. Ancient civilisations probably didn’t know the exact physiology of why cannabis worked so well for restoring health, but they knew it worked.
The endocannabinoid system, present in all humans and many animals, consists of a series of receptors found throughout the body that react to and accept cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. These receptors can respond to a stimulus and transmit signals to sensory nerves. The cannabinoid system has many different functions, but the goal is always the same, homeostasis or maintaining a stable internal body environment despite changes in the external environment.
This system was discovered in the mid-1990s by an Israeli researcher called Dr Ralph Mechoulam, who also identified THC as the psychoactive element present in cannabis in the 1960s. He found two primary receptors called CB1 and CB2, which play critical roles in the endocannabinoid system that influences pain, memory, appetite, and inflammatory and immune responses.
CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are in the peripheral organs and cells linked to the immune system.
CB1 Receptors target:
- Motor activity
- Motor co-ordination
- Short term memory
- Pain perception
- Immune cells
CB2 Receptors are much broader than CB1 and influence most of the body
- Adipose tissue
- Skeletal muscle
- Reproductive system
- Immune system
- Respiratory tract
- Cardiovascular system
A receptor is essentially a lock on the surface of a cell. When the correct key binds with the right receptors, it delivers a message such as pain. These receptors receive endocannabinoids that our body naturally produces and phytocannabinoids (plant-based) such as CBD and THC.
CB1 and CB2 receptors can only accept cannabinoids to work, which led us to make our own cannabinoids. THC fits perfectly into CBD1 receptors primarily bound in the brain, which explains its ability to create a high.
CBD does not fit directly into CB1 or CB2 receptors but displays unexpectedly high potency as an antagonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD as an antogonist raises the issue of breaking down the cannabis plant into individual compounds and how they act compared to leaving them as a whole and experiencing a synergistic effect, having all the cannabinoids working together as nature intended.
The Endocannabinoid system is a chemical system instead of the central nervous system, which is electrical. Manipulation of the endocannabinoid system can control cancer, diabetes and strokes. In the future, the endocannabinoid system will likely save more people than surgeries.
This system is still being discovered and understood, but we know it is present in almost every animal species and plays a critical role in our existence.
One use of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system would be at the site of an injury. They decrease the firing of nearby nerves, which calms immune cells, prevents excess inflammation and manages pain. What you may have heard called the “runner’s high” is an expression of the endocannabinoid system with your body making its own cannabinoids.
The cannabis plant makes a resin containing cannabinoids that bind to our cannabinoid receptors and influence their activity. Technically, the cannabinoids produced by cannabis are phytocannabinoids, while humans make endocannabinoids. However, both of them influence the endocannabinoid system receptors.
An optimally functioning cannabinoid system is essential for health. Research has now shown that consuming external cannabinoids can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. The more receptors one has, the more sensitive to cannabinoids they may become, so smaller doses can have more significant effects.
A optimally functioning cannabinoid system is essential for health. Research has now shown, consuming external cannabinoids can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. The more receptors one has, the more sensitive to cannabinoids they may become so smaller doses can start to have larger effects.
Some other cannabinoids produced by cannabis are:
- CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
- CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
- CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
- THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
- THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
- CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
- CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
- CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)
CBDA and THCA are the most abundant cannabinoids in most cannabis strains, but CBGA is the starting acid that enzymes in the cannabis plant used to make CBDA, THCA and CBCA.
The significant differences between the cannabinoids determine by the extent to which they are psychologically active.
The three classes of cannabinoids, the CBG, CBC and CBD, are not known to have such an effect. THC, CBN, CBDL and some other cannabinoids, on the other hand, are known to be psychologically active to varying degrees. Cannabinoid acids do not have any psychoactive effects, but they do have antibiotic and insecticidal properties that help to protect themselves.
People are suffering from inflammation more in modern western life through poor nutrition, environmental toxins and sedentary lives. In addition, as technology has evolved, we are becoming lazier, using harmful chemicals and eating processed foods, which are all pro-inflammatory.
Inflammation can be a major cause of most diseases, so it is essential to consume plenty of natural anti-inflammatories in our diet. Most plants in our diet are anti-inflammatory, but the cannabis plant suppresses inflammatory response and decreases disease symptoms.
The flavonoids present in cannabis and many other plants are potent antioxidants as well as cannabinoids which work together and offer anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body.
Medical Cannabis For Disease And Chronic Pain
Cannabinoids have been tested in several experimental models of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, diabetes and hepatitis, and protect the host from pathogenesis through the induction of multiple anti-inflammatory pathways.
Medical cannabis induces tumour cell death and inhibit tumour angiogenesis, the growth of blood supply to cancer cells. Being able to slow down and reverse the blood supply to a tumour is one way to help the body control it and stop the cancer from spreading.
The cannabinoids in cannabis may also be beneficial in certain types of inflammatory cancers. In these inflammatory situations, cannabinoids can either directly stop tumour growth or suppress inflammation and tumour angiogenesis.
Chemotherapy can be a life-saving option for some cancers. However, as it kills cancer cells and immune cells, when the treatment stops, there is no immune system left to contain any remaining cancer cells which can thrive without an immune system to stop them. There are plenty of anti-cancer cannabinoids in cannabis that work best together, rather than just CBD or THC separately.
Immune cells are supposed to recognise abnormal cells and destroy them. However, a tumour can go unrecognised because it looks like a normal cell. Cannabis can help refocus the immune system to recognise cancer cells better.
However, not all cancer cells respond the same way as they vary in size and form. Some respond well to cannabinoids, and some don’t.
While it can help your body fight the disease, cannabis is not a locked-in cure for anything. Cannabis can, however, help cancer patients beyond fighting the disease by mitigating some of the adverse side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and lack of appetite.
There are no official clinical trials on the interaction between human cancer cells and cannabis. These results have come from animals, cancer patients and unpublished studies.
Cannabis may dampen the immune system or relax it. It’s beneficial for those with auto-immune diseases when their immune systems start to work overtime and attack good tissue. Type 1 diabetes is a potentially severe autoimmune disease that cannabinoids can relieve.
Cannabinoids dampen the response to bacterial or foreign agents and may kill immune cells that would go on to become cancer cells The cancer cells continue to express CB2 receptors, and the CBD tells the cells to die.
Along with providing chronic pain relief to those who have cancer (lung cancer, testicular cancer, etc.), medical cannabis products can also treat chronic pain for other diseases and some physical injuries. Some of the problems that medical marijuana can help with include:
- Neuropathic pain: Neuropathic pain is severe pain of the nerves. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an awful disease that causes painful nerve damage. Medical cannabis can help with multiple sclerosis by numbing nerve pain.
- Arthritis pain: Arthritis can cause chronic pain of the joints and make them stiffer. Medical cannabis provides pain relief to arthritis patients by lowering the chronic pain effects and loosening the joints.
- Back and neck chronic pain: Chronic pain that originates from a previous injury or long-term strain. Medical marijuana can affect the cannabinoid receptors and numb chronic pain.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS for short): Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a nasty disease that causes stomach cramping, diarrhea and more. While medical cannabis doesn’t have the properties to lower most irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, its anti-inflammatory properties can help with inflammatory pain.
Cannabis can help digestive issues such as leaky gut, IBS and colitis through its host of anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties.
The Pharmaceutical Alternative
In many cases, pharmaceutical drugs tend to mask symptoms rather than address the root cause of the problem. Cannabis, on the other hand, can help eliminate the root cause of many medical condition, making it a huge threat to the pharmaceutical industry.
Top pharmaceutical companies make more than oil companies by making drugs to combat a symptom, which creates a side effect that they develop another drug to fight. This system puts the pharmaceutical companies in a great money cycle, which is under threat by the growing use of cannabis as a medicine.
- According to the US government, at least 100,000 people die each year from prescription drugs; 0 from cannabis.
- CBD oil has no withdrawal symptoms or addictive properties that many painkillers do.
Pain is now one of the most over-treated problems with harmful pharmaceutical drugs. Most prescription opioids are very easy to get addicted to and can easily be overdosed on and negatively impact the user’s life if not careful.
Cannabis is a great natural alternative that pharmaceutical companies have shut down, because theycan’t have people growing their own pain medication at home for free. Humans did not evolve consuming large amounts of isolated molecules, which is what drug companies offer.
Instead, our bodies expect a full spectrum natural solution and therefore respond best to plants as a whole.
If someone found cannabis for the first time today, it would be promoted as a wonder product and consumed worldwide with fantastic results. Unfortunately, it is still battling the stigma created 80 years ago by the paper and pharmaceutical industry but now is finally breaking through into the mainstream as more and more people realise how beneficial it is for our health.
Cannabis And Pharmaceuticals
Cannabis and natural health is a massive threat to the pharmaceutical industry. If people knew they could grow their own medicine in their garden, they would be pushing for the legalisation of cannabis which could majorly affect pharmaceutical profits.
Many pharmaceutical drugs can affect one’s personality, whereas cannabis does not. In addition, pharmaceutical opioids and pain killers come with a host of adverse side effects and account for approximately 50,000 recorded deaths in the USA alone during 2016.
There are so many different drugs used to treat a vast range of diseases and symptoms. Some can be life-saving, but long term use of most pharmaceutical drugs can lead to significant health complications. Cannabis and its extracts can be a great long term solution, especially for pain.
The cannabis plant is much more therapeutic and beneficial than pharmaceutical replicas.
Pure THC is available as a pharmaceutical drug called Marinol. Yet, cannabis is illegal because of the THC in the plant, even though cannabis as a whole is far better and less psychoactive than pure THC.
In New Zealand, one can get a prescription for Sativex, which is CBD and THC from the cannabis plant. Savitex is probably one of the best pharmaceutical options but has a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, not something one would find in a natural cannabis oil extract or hemp CBD. It’s the cannabinoids working together that makes cannabis so good, and the reason why it has been grown and consumed for thousands of years.
As cannabinoid receptors are everywhere except the brain stem, no one has died from an overdose. There are ways for the substance to be used and disposed of all over the body, so it is one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man.
However, the THC in smoking cannabis can cause a high if not balanced with CBD and other cannabinoids, resulting in anxiety and a loss of control.
Cannabis can interact with pharmaceutical medication. Like with many chemical compounds, there will be a reaction when put together. Caffeine, for example, has 82 different drug interactions, while even something as innocent as grapefruit has many drug interactions.
Most cannabis interactions are very mild, and some even have a positive effect and increase the effectiveness of a drug. However, even if the interaction can be beneficial, it is always good to seek medical advice and monitoring when consuming different drugs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Medical Marijuana Help With Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis can have many adverse effects on the nervous system and the brain. Multiple sclerosis can also cause chronic pain and painful muscle spasms.
Medical marijuana can help with multiple sclerosis by lowering the likelihood of muscle spasms and numbing nerve pain. It can also help the muscles feel less stiff.
Can Medical Cannabis Help With Weight Loss?
One of the significant health benefits that medical cannabis can offer is weight loss. A side effect of medical cannabis is a reduced appetite, so if you take it often, you’ll experience weight loss.
However, if you use medical cannabis with a higher THC level, you will feel more hungry and potentially experience weight gain. To avoid weight gain, you must use a medical cannabis product with low THC.
Will Medical Marijuana Help Me If I Have An Anxiety Disorder?
The symptoms from anxiety disorders (and other mental health conditions) can ruin your personal and working life. However, medical cannabis can help to reduce the symptoms in the following anxiety disorders/mental health conditions:
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Bipolar Disorder.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
- Psychotic disorders.
- Sleep disorders like insomnia.
- Disorders that cause depressive symptoms (depression).
How Many Medical Marijuana Studies Are There?
There are thousands of studies, research papers and clinical trials on the benefits of medical marijuana, which means that there is plenty of scientific evidence to state its multiple uses and benefits.
However, more research and scientific evidence need to surface to ultimately determine the health effects and therapeutic effects of medical marijuana.
Does Smoking Marijuana Have More Health Benefits Than Medical Marijuana?
Smoking marijuana has more psychoactive effects than medical marijuana and creates the infamous high. However, we recommend medical marijuana over recreational marijuana because it offers more therapeutic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Smoking marijuana can even have adverse effects like paranoia which can be horrible if you have an anxiety disorder.