Every day it becomes more difficult to deny the benefits of medical marijuana. Just ask anyone who has used it for managing their pain with a life-altering illness like cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis. They will be the first to tell you how it has changed their lives for the better.
Taking medical marijuana into the body can relieve or even eliminate most symptoms that accompany their illness. If you compare cannabis to prescribed medicines, you might be surprised to find out that cannabis carries little to no side effects. The same cannot be said for most of today’s pharmaceuticals. With each prescription drug comes a one or two page flyer listing all the possible side effects associated with that particular medicine, not the least of which is often “death”.
Patients still fearful of smoking medical marijuana can try another way of getting the medicine into their system:
- Edibles (drinking / eating)
- Vaporizer (inhaling)
- Spray (mucosal)
- Tincture (using whole plant extracts)
- Tonic (orally)
- Suppository (vaginal / anal)
- Topical (applied to skin)
All the above ways can be accurately measured for a precise dosage.
Medical marijuana not only benefits the symptoms of debilitating illnesses, in studies they have found that it eases the symptoms of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, nausea, asthma and so many other conditions. In fact, the list is very long, with over one hundred and thirty conditions already studied. Medical marijuana is not a “cure all” by any means. It is however, very beneficial for many conditions, like brain cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), but many patients have found relief of symptoms in conditions such as: Lyme’s disease, bulimia, selectivemutism, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), autism, eczema, palmer hyperhydrosis, cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS), epilepsy, muscle spasms, post polio syndrome, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), movement disorders, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), gout, and chronic pain. Many women report cannabis relieves symptoms of both PMS’ (pre and postmenstrual syndrome). Some of the latest studies have reported how well cannabis does in the treatment of depression and several anxiety disorders.
Medical marijuana can be abused just as any medicine can. However, no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose. In fact, it is almost impossible to “overdose” using medical marijuana.
The first thing the United States needs to do is to reclassify medical marijuana. At last, science has shown that the benefits far outweigh any harm that can come from taking the herb cannabis. Some of the most important things about medical marijuana are:
- It is natural
- It is an herb
- It is grown in our own soil
- It is unrefined
- It is unchanged
- It is not enhanced
- It is made up of healing compounds called cannabinoids
Benefits of the Cannabis Plant
Hemp fiber is one of the strongest fibers in the world. Another consideration to the world is that it is renewable. Cannabis seed is a complete source for vegetable protein. Sixty five percent of hemp seed’s protein content is in the form of globulin edestin, meaning it is readily available to the human body. Maximum nourishment is provided by the cannabis seed. Hemp seed oil (which comprises 30 % of the seed) is lower in saturated fats than any other cooking oil, including soybean and canola oils. The by-product of pressing hemp seed for its vegetable oil is a high protein seed cake much like tofu. Hemp seed extracts can be used to make tofu-like curd, butters, and sprouting the seeds improves its nutritional value. Hemp seed can be ground into meal and flour or made into a nutritional breakfast cereal.
All domesticated animals (dogs, cats, birds), farm animals (cows, sheep, goats), and poultry (turkey and chicken), could be fed a nearly complete diet with just protein and fat (oil) extracted from hemp seed. Hemp seed food protein could save many of the world’s children dying of protein starvation. Studies indicate that depletion of the ozone layer threatens world soya production. Hemp, on the other hand, resists the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation and actually flourishes in it by producing more cannabinoids that provide protection from ultraviolet light.
Prior to 1937, there were more than ten million acres of seed-laden cannabis hemp growing wild in the United States. Many millions of birds fed off them as their food. Then the government began its total eradication policy. It put an end to this primary link in the food chain. Thus began a program of biocide (killing of life) that continues today, unabated, at the insistence of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Americans (about 7 % of the world’s population), use close to forty percent of the world’s energy. Our current fossil energy sources also supply about eighty percent of the pollution, which I might add, is poisoning the whole planet. On a global scale, the most energy efficient plant is hemp, an annually renewable resource able to replace all fossil fuels. “When hemp is grown for biomass as an energy crop, CO2 is breathed in by the living plants, and then when the hemp biomass is burned for energy, the CO2 is released back into the air, and thus the CO2 cycle is balanced.”
Research done by a Los Angeles, CA company indicated there are around fifty thousand non-smoking commercial uses for hemp that are economically viable and market competitive. Some of these are:
- Hemp clothing
- High quality textiles
- Bed sheets
- Wall coverings
- Paper products
- Plastic replacement products
Envision a house that is built, plumbed, painted and furnished with the world’s number one renewable resource—HEMP. For the past half- century, the United States has not only discouraged the use of hemp, but also adopted a policy of forced extinction upon this species of plant. The impact of accidentally destroying any single life form has never been fully considered, let alone the effect of this concerted attack upon what is arguably the earth’s primary renewable resource; one that has literally thousands of critical uses—especially in replacing the majority of uses of fossil fuels, timber and petrochemicals.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana contains many compounds. At least sixty-six of these are cannabinoids. These cannabinoids make up the medicinal (healing) parts of cannabis. I feel this is where our money and research should be spent. Understanding how these cannabinoids interact with each other should be a priority in science.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a primary compound and responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. It is a mild analgesic and has antioxidant activities. THC is believed to interfere with parts of the brain normally controlled by the endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter anandamide. Anandamide plays a role in pain cessation, memory and sleep. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major constituent of medi-cal marijuana. CBD represents up to forty percent of extracts of the medical marijuana plant. It may be the most promising compound of all. Cannabidiol relieves convulsions, inflammation, anxiety, cough and congestion, nausea, and inhibits cancer cell growth. CBD is as effective as atypical antipsychotics in treating schitzophrenia. CBD may benefit people with MS, frequent anxiety attacks and Tourette’s syndrome. Cannabinol (CBN) is a therapeutic cannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa. It is produced as a metabolite (breakdown product) of THC. CBN acts as a weak agonist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
B-Caryophyllene is a compound that reduces tissue inflammation. A cannabinoid receptor called CB2 plays a vital part in reducing inflammation in humans and other animals. B-Caryophyllene is a selective activator of the CB2 receptor. It is especially concentrated in cannabis essential oil (12-37%).
Cannabigerol (CBG) is not psychoactive. It relieves intraocular pressure, which may be of benefit in the treatment of glaucoma and other eye problems.
THC (HU210) is synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol. This compound has been studied to find the effects the drug has on neurogenesis (brain cell formation and generation). This THC-like compound actually increased the rate of brain cell formation in the hippocampus (neurogenesis) by forty percent. his study also concluded that the subjects seemed to be less suitable to observable symptoms of anxiety and depression. The hippocampus is the area of a mammal’s brain that controls memory, learning, anxiety and depression. It makes sense that increased brain cell formation in this area of the brain would prove to be beneficial for people suffering from problems associated with these brain functions.
FDA approved recreational drugs like nicotine and alcohol actually decrease brain cell formation. With every new brain cell that is formed, comes the possibility of a new and interesting thought process that can break the boundaries of what an individual was previously capable of achieving.
The U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s position that, “marijuana has no accepted value in the treatment of any disease in the United States”, has remained the same. However, a number of medical organizations have endorsed reclassification of marijuana (this allows further study).
1. The American Medical Association (AMA)
2. The American College of Physicians (America’s second
largest physicians groups)
3. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (America’s second largest cancer charity)
4. The American Academy of Family Physicians
An ironic fact I found while researching this article is that the Health and Human Services division of the federal government hold a “patent” on medical marijuana. The patent “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants”, issued in October of 2003 reads: “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation-associated diseases, such as ischemic, agerelated, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants.”
Inside the Human Body
When smoked or ingested, THC and other (more important) cannabinoids in medical marijuana attach to two types of receptor cells in the body. CB1 is one such receptor. They are found mainly in the brain, especially in areas that control body movement, memory, and vomiting. This explains how marijuana use affects balance and coordination and impairs short-term memory and learning. This also explains why medical marijuana is beneficial in treating nausea, pain, and appetite loss.
The other type of receptor, CB2, is found in small numbers elsewhere in the body, mainly in tissue of the immune system (spleen and lymph nodes). The functions of these receptors are not as well understood. We do know that they serve as “brakes” on the immune system function. This explains why marijuana suppresses the immune system. The “high” associated with THC in medical marijuana is not integral to its therapeutic benefit. However, when treating patients with depression and pain, this mood enhancement can be quite beneficial. Patients often say, “If you feel better, you are better.”
It seems clear that we have just begun to understand the healing properties in cannabinoids. More research (clinical studies) is mandatory. I can see so much potential in Medical Marijuana. I am not overstating when I call it a “wonder drug”. Medical marijuana has been on this planet since the beginning— waiting for its benefits to be realized!
FDA approved cannabis substitutes:
- Nabilone 1985 USA, Canada nausea from chemotherapy that has failed to respond to other antiemetics $4,000.00 / year
- Canasol 1987 USA, CAN, several Caribbean nations intraocular pressure associated with late-stage glaucoma $4,000.00 / year
- Marinol 1985 USA, CAN (1992) nausea and vomiting assoc. with cancer chemotherapy $652.00 (30 doses ) / monthly supply
- Marinol 1992 USA anorexia assoc. with AIDS-related weight loss
- Sativex 1995 CAN adjunctive treatment for the symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain in MS in adults $9,351.00/ year
Written by Jan Chaboya-Hembree for Issue 3 of Cannabis Now Magazine.