Unfortunately for mankind, all the prejudice surrounding cannabis use has overshadowed its wonderful properties and potential uses, especially in the medical field. In this article we will examine some promising facts about health treatments with the marijuana plant.
Why does cannabis have medicinal properties?
To understand this, we must first know that in the human body there is a system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) that is responsible for regulating various physiological functions such as sleep, appetite, pain response, digestion and others. This ECS is made up of enzymes, receptors and chemicals called endocannabinoids that are produced by our own body and act as signalling molecules (messengers) for the receptors.
Interestingly, the cannabis plant contains over 100 compounds called cannabinoids that are similar to our own endocannabinoids, hence the similarity in name. You may have heard of THC and CBD before, which are just two of the most famous cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. These chemicals have the ability to bind to receptors in our SEC, found in our brain and skin, and help regulate our cells' response to signals and neurotransmitters.
Chronic pain management
It is known that one of the signals that cannabinoids can regulate is the pain signal. According to scientists and doctors, chronic pain, especially pain caused by nerve damage or dysfunction, is one of the most difficult types of pain to treat. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of cannabis in reducing this type of pain, in conditions such as neuropathy, arthritis and fibromyalgia. THC and CBD interact with receptors to affect the perception of pain and decrease the response of our neurons to that particular signal.
As with pain signals, cannabinoids can modulate the responses of an uncontrolled brain in cases of brain tremors, seizures and similar disorders. Patients suffering from conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy and Parkinson's disease can benefit greatly from regulating their brain's response, and studies have shown a reduction in their symptoms when incorporating cannabis-based therapies. Not only can cannabinoids can decrease seizure frequency and intensity, but they also offer neuroprotective properties, attenuating neuroinflammation and aiding in the management of muscle spasm, seizures and tremors.
Mental Health Conditions
In recent years, researchers have begun to explore the potential of medical cannabis in the treatment of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of the plant's non-psychoactive cannabinoids, has shown anxiolytic and antidepressant properties in preclinical and clinical studies. It is also worth mentioning that in cases of prolonged depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, a person's Endocannabinoid System may have become imbalanced or disturbed, and may benefit from the external help of cannabinoids to restore its original balance.
Supportive Care in Cancer
Patients undergoing cancer treatments often experience debilitating symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Medical cannabis, particularly in the form of pharmaceutical grade cannabinoids such as dronabinol and nabilone, has proven to be effective in mitigating chemotherapy-induced side effects. These compounds not only alleviate the discomfort associated with treatment and prevent nausea and vomiting, but also stimulate appetite, allowing patients to maintain a healthier nutritional status during their recovery process. It is also believed that some cannabinoids can promote the creation of new brain cells through a process known as neurogenesis.
Many diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome, are characterised by inflammation. Cannabis used for medical purposes has been shown to have anti-inflammatory qualities that can help people with certain conditions feel better overall and reduce their symptoms. Cannabinoids can provide relief from pain, inflammation and other related symptoms by modifying the immune response.
Acceptance of cannabis by the medical community
The therapeutic potential of medical cannabis for a variety of conditions has gained recognition within the medical community, as it is now undeniable that the plant has properties that can help manage chronic pain, neurological disorders, cancer-related symptoms and inflammatory conditions. However, the main reason why most doctors do not prescribe medical marijuana to their patients, despite being aware of the potential benefits, is due to the legal regulations of their particular country or state.
Legality of cannabis
For those of us living in Barcelona, it is much easier to access cannabis legally. Thanks to the decriminalisation of cannabis use throughout Spain, we now have access to cannabis associations and weed clubs throughout the city that offer excellent quality products and expert staff who can advise us on the proper uses of cannabis. However, if cannabis is to be used for medicinal purposes, it is never advisable to do so without the supervision of a doctor or health professional. Please consult your doctor before using cannabis if you are taking other medication or have pre-existing medical conditions.
As the legality surrounding cannabis use is changing around the world and more and more countries decriminalise its use and research each year, we can look forward to a promising future of progress in this field. There is still a long way to go before medical cannabis is fully established as a viable therapeutic option, there is no denying that, but the advances made so far are already helping people and offering another alternative for those who have not responded well to traditional medicine.