Sadly for humanity, all the prejudice that surrounds the consumption of cannabis has overshadowed its wonderful properties and potential uses -most importantly its medicinal applications. In this article we will take a look at some promising facts regarding health treatments with the plant of marijuana.
Why Cannabis has medicinal properties
To understand this first we need to know that in the human body there is a system called Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which is responsible for regulating several physiological functions such as sleep, appetite, pain response, digestion and others. This ECS is constituted by enzymes, receptors and chemical substances called endocannabinoids that are produced by our own body and serve as signaling molecules (messengers) for the receptors.
Coincidentally, the cannabis plant has over 100 compounds called cannabinoids that are similar to our home made endocannabinoids -hence the similarity in the name. You may have heard of THC and CBD before, these are just two of the most famous cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant. These chemicals have the capability of binding to the receptors of our ECS found in our brain and skin and help regulate the response of our cells to signals and neurotransmitters.
Chronic Pain Management
One of the signals that the cannabinoids are known to handle is the pain signal. Chronic pain, especially that of nerve damage or malfunction, is one of the hardest types of pain to treat, according to scientists and medics. Numerous studies have shown how effective cannabis can be at reducing this type of pain, from conditions such as neuropathy, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. THC and CBD interact with the receptors to affect pain perception and lower the response of our neurons to that particular signal.
Such as with pain signals, the cannabinoids are able to moderate the responses of a brain that is out of control in cases of brain tremors, seizures and other similar disorders. Patients suffering from conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease stand to gain much from a downregulation of their brain response, and studies have shown a reduction of their symptoms after incorporating cannabis-based therapies. Not only the cannabinoids can decrease the frequency and potency of the seizures, but they also offer neuroprotective properties, mitigating neuroinflammation and aiding in the management of spasticity, seizures, and tremors.
Mental Health Conditions
In recent years, researchers have begun investigating the potential of medicinal cannabis in addressing mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids of the plant, has exhibited anxiolytic and antidepressant properties in preclinical and clinical studies. It is also worth mentioning that in cases of prolonged depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, the Endocannabinoid System of a person could have suffered disequilibrium or alterations, and could benefit from external help from cannabinoids to regain its original balance.
Cancer Supportive Care
Patients undergoing cancer treatment often experience debilitating symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Medicinal cannabis, particularly in the form of pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids like dronabinol and nabilone, has shown effectiveness in mitigating chemotherapy-induced side effects. These compounds not only alleviate treatment-associated discomfort and prevent nausea and vomit, but also stimulate appetite, enabling patients to maintain a healthier nutritional status during their recovery journey. It is also believed that some cannabinoids can promote the creation of new brain cells through a process known as neurogenesis.
Many illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and inflammatory bowel syndrome, are characterised by inflammation. Cannabis used for medical purposes is proven to have anti-inflammatory qualities that can help people with certain conditions feel better overall and reduce their symptoms. Cannabinoids may provide relief from pain, inflammation, and other related symptoms by modifying the immune response.
Cannabis accepted by the medical community
The therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis across a range of diseases has gained recognition within the medical community, since 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 don't prescribe medicinal marijuana to their patients, regardless of them being aware of the potential benefits, is due to the legal regulations of their particular country or state.
Legality of cannabis
For us who live in Barcelona, it is much easier to get hands on cannabis legally. Thanks to a decriminalized use of cannabis in all Spain now we have access to cannabis dispensaries and weed clubs all across the city that have excellent quality products and knowledgeable staff that can advise us on the proper uses of cannabis. Nevertheless, if cannabis were to be used for medicinal purposes it is never recommendable to do it without the supervision of a doctor or a healthcare professional. Please talk to your doctor before using cannabis if you are taking another medication or have pre existing medical conditions.
As the legality surrounding the consumption of cannabis is changing all around the world and more and more countries decriminalize its use and investigation every year, we can see a promising future of advancements in this field. There is still a long way to go before medicinal cannabis is completely realised as a viable therapeutic choice, there is no denying that, but the advancements made so far are already helping people and offering another alternative to those who haven't responded well to traditional medicine.