Cannabis Health and Science
Cannabis is so versatile, it has been used as medicine for over eight thousand years! The first doctor to use it (as an anesthetic) was Hua Tuo in the second century. He prepared a potent mixture of ground cannabis indica and mixed it with wine to prepare people for surgery. While pain relief was its primary use, cannabis was also a key ingredient in over 2,000 different medicines up until 1937, when prohibition pretty much killed the medical marijuana industry.
If you’re curious about using cannabis as medicine, we have compiled some information about its potential benefits below and included links to primary sources so you can develop an informed opinion. That being said, none of us are doctors, and doctors are the only people qualified to dispense medical advice. We’re only qualified to advise you on stuff like different ways to consume cannabis and what to do when you’re too high, not your health.
Cannabis for Pain
Throughout history, people have used cannabis to reduce pain, and this is still the number one reason it is prescribed. You may have noticed these effects already if you’ve ever felt particularly relaxed and comfortable after smoking a joint or nibbling a cookie. Cannabis acts on the body’s natural cannabinoid receptor type-1 and type-2 (also known as CB1 and CB2) in areas of the central nervous system that control pain perception.
Different cannabinoids also work to reduce inflammation and muscle control problems, making it popular with people who experience neuropathic pain or suffer from multiple sclerosis. Patients who rely on a high concentration of THC for relief prefer strains that have a high percentage of CBD as well. As you may recall from our article How to Choose a Strain, CBD helps to counteract some of the intoxicating effects of THC, which is an important consideration for many sufferers of chronic pain.
Many doctors and patients are also looking to cannabis as a substitute for opioid pain management, which is correlated to high levels of dependency and potential overdose. Recent studies have demonstrated that cannabis can be just as effective at reducing pain as opiates, with fewer debilitating side effects.
Cannabis for Nausea
Cannabis can also work to increase appetite and suppress nausea. No duh, right? Everybody gets the munchies once in a while, we even published an article on the best foods to eat when you’re stoned, but to some patients, this can be a real lifesaver. Cannabinoids have been found to be more effective than some more conventional medications like metoclopramide, prochlorperazine, and promethazine in mitigating the symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. This is the result of our bodies’ natural endocannabinoid systems, and their role in managing our upset stomachs. CBD and THC both have measurable anti-emetic effects, which has made cannabis a game-changing medication for cancer patients who have trouble keeping down their food.
Some recent research has even suggested that cannabis may be effective at treating leukemia cells in vitro. It may still be a stretch to say that cannabis could cure cancer, but rest assured that there are many scientists exploring that very possibility as we speak.
Cannabis for Mental Health
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that cannabis helps relieve stress and reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and even post-traumatic stress disorders. Depending on the dosage, cannabis has been demonstrated to offer some relief from anxiety and depression. Low doses of THC can have anxiolytic and mood-elevating effects, but high doses can do the opposite, triggering symptoms that can resemble a panic attack. CBD can also contribute some anxiolytic effects, which is why people with anxiety prefer balanced strains to those without CBD. If you have certain pre-existing conditions like paranoia or schizophrenia, you may want to avoid using cannabis. Some research has suggested cannabis use may exacerbate these conditions (although other research suggests it may help with them. Medical science is complicated!)
Another way that cannabis could be medicine for the brain is that it can reduce the accumulation of amyloid-β, which is one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease progression. Recent research suggests certain cannabinoids may even be able to reverse some of the disease’s debilitating effects.
The Entourage Effect
As you read more about the science behind medical cannabis, you will come to understand that many trials focus on the effects of just one or two specific cannabinoids that they have chemically isolated. This is a necessary step for the process of developing sound medicine, but Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam has found some evidence to suggest that cannabinoids work better when they work together. We’ve already seen this in the way that CBD can attenuate some of the psychedelic side effects of THC, and more research is ongoing to try and pin down exactly how these different compounds interact with each other to bring us the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. This hypothesis is called “the entourage effect,” and it may explain why synthetic THC and CBD products are not as effective at managing symptoms as an extract prepared from the whole plant.
This is a developing field of study, so the available information about the medical effects of cannabis is likely to change over time. We already know so much more about cannabis than we did before 2008, when medical cannabis first became re-legalized, and there are new studies being published every day. One place to keep up with those changes is right here at Pot Mates. We’re excited to follow the development of this wonderful plant as medicine and will do our best to share the news with you as soon as it happens. Another place to keep track of ongoing research into medical cannabis is Wikipedia’s medical cannabis research page, which offers a breakdown of the latest studies on the effect cannabis has on a number of different medical conditions. We encourage you to stay informed and always consult your doctor before starting a new treatment regimen.