Which health conditions does cannabis help? [Insights into ongoing research.]Reading Time: 12 minutes
Table of Contents
History of Medical Cannabis
Treating Epilepsy Seizures
Cannabis Relieves Pain
Relief of Arthritis
Stress and Insomnia
Caution with Chronic Anxiety
Cannabis and Cancer
Cannabis Research for Glaucoma
Cannabis Research for Diabetes
Cannabis Research for Asthma
Cannabis Research for Alzheimer’s
Cannabis Research For Crohn’s
Cannabis Anorexia and Bulimia
Cannabis Research for ADHD
Cannabis Research for Skin Conditions
Centers For Research & Treatment
History of Medical Cannabis
Dating back two centuries, doctors have been prescribing cannabis extracts in tinctures and ointments for numerous health conditions. They didn’t understand why cannabis worked, but as clinicians, they found it a helpful remedy for several health conditions, including migraines, infections, hallucinations, nausea, and even depression.
Healers used cannabis therapeutically for treating pain and spasms in Asia for thousands of years. The historical Chinese name is Má, 麻 associated with the Chinese word for hemp, Dama. In India, where physicians prescribed edible cannabis, the Hindi word is Bhang भांग. Mexican Spanish refers to cannabis as Marihuana, spelled today as Marijuana.
Medical cannabis became more predominant in the west in the middle ages. Later on, British army surgeons experimented with cannabis in the early 19th century, using it as a pain killer together with Opium.
In 1890, J.Russell Reynolds, MD. (Physician to Her Majesty) reported that cannabis was one of the most valuable medicines they possessed when pure and administered carefully.
Since the 1960s, the leaders in medical cannabis research have come from Israel, The Netherlands, Canada, and the Czech Republic. Studies have shown that cannabis has hundreds of substances, around 113 of which are phytocannabinoids. These act upon the endocannabinoid system receptors that signal the body to handle physiological and psychological functions— appetite, metabolism, pain control, memory function, and more.
Two principal phytocannabinoids are delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (d9THC), psychoactive, and Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive pain-relieving compound. Collectively with cannabis terpenes and flavonoids, these substances act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, benefiting the immune system. It’s this entourage effect that makes medical cannabis so effective.
In the last half-century, medical cannabis development is relatively new compared to other prescription drugs, requiring a physician to understand patients’ medical history, present condition, and most significantly, comprehensive knowledge in the practical application of medicinal cannabis. Clinical use of medical cannabis requires experimentation through trial and error.
Today, clinicians use medical cannabis for numerous health conditions, including epilepsy seizures, pain relief related to Fibromyalgia, and Muscular dystrophy (M.S.). The drug’s prominence developed with AIDS patients suffering from Wasting syndrome (cachexia). Since then, patients suffering from the effects of chemotherapy cancer treatment use medical cannabis for nausea and inducing appetite. Medical cannabis relieves the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis and is an effective sleep aid for insomnia. Researchers are also investigating Cannabinoids for treating anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, and Crohn’s disease.
Cannabis can counteract the effects of stress and is a probable reason why weed is such a popular recreational drug.
The following paragraphs detail how Doctors and researches are using cannabis for several of these health conditions.
CBD for treating epilepsy seizures
As previously mentioned, the entourage effect of several compounds, and particularly CBD, dramatically relieves symptoms of seizures in epilepsy.
In severe epilepsy cases, cannabis oil containing d9THC and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), commonly known as Cannabivarin, helps control uncontrolled seizures.
In the U.S., the FDA has approved a pharmaceutical-grade, highly purified form of cannabidiol (CBD) oil Epidiolex, produced by G.W. Pharmaceuticals in the UK. Epidiolex is suitable for young children, for the relief of seizures.
Research in Israel has concluded that there is tolerance buildup, requiring increase dosage over time.
“Our findings suggest that cannabidiol tolerance exists, and it limits the efficacy of this antiseizure treatment in the long-term clinical management of epilepsy in the pediatric and adults population.”
How Cannabis relieves pain
Studies suggest that migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome may arise from a deficiency of endocannabinoids. Clinical trials with medical cannabis have shown relief for these disorders. Physicians have used cannabis to treat migraines for thousands of years, the use of which has been well documented.
The problem has been the inconsistent application in the quality, type, and dosage applied. Modern medicine is exacting in the dosage of standardized chemical-based medication produced by pharmaceutical companies. The exact dosage is the primary reason why the medical community and regulatory bodies such as the FDA haven’t mainstreamed cannabinoids to replace opiates for health conditions.
THC is the primary cannabinoid that alleviates migraines, as well as cluster headaches. THC can be administered in low quantities of less than 2.5mg, as a prophylactic, to prevent the onset of migraines. At the start of a migraine headache, taking THC through vaping may mitigate a migraine episode in larger doses.
Cannabis for treating fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia symptoms include musculoskeletal pain, tiredness, disturbed sleep, memory, and fluctuations in mood. Studies show that fibromyalgia magnifies the brain’s signals of pain sensations. The cause of this condition may be due to an endocannabinoid deficiency. The cannabinoids in medical Marijuana replace the missing endocannabinoids and reduce the sense of pain. Cannabinoids relieve a variety of pain through its analgesic and antiseptic agents.
Cannabis in the relief of arthritis
Studies have shown that cannabis can reduce arthritis pain. CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory. Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A.) is an autoimmune disease, causing severe inflammation of a joint’s inner lining. R.A. causes severe chronic pain, joint damage, and disability. Osteoarthritis (O.A.) is a cartilage breakdown in the joints, neck, elbows, thighs, and knees. O.A. causes stiffness, pain, and loss of movement and joint deformation.
Cannabis therapy can relieve discomfort, but the psychoactive compounds can have a disturbing effect on older patience. Plant cannabinoids can reduce inflammation and pain and induce joint cartilage survival. Interestingly, THC has double the potency of hydrocortisone on the CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Doctors increase dosing with precaution and control tolerance buildup of long-term use, with intermittent breaks.
Oral ingestion takes longer to be absorbed but is better for arthritis as it has a more prolonged effect on the body. Take extreme caution if you are a novice with cannabis edibles, as using the wrong type of cannabis can lead to psychedelic experiences. Vaping has an immediate impact but stays for a shorter time in the body.
Cannabis use in stress management and insomnia
For many, stress has increased over the years. Cannabis use for recreational use has grown significantly, particularly in regions with a social-economic decline. The rise of traumatic events globally and pressure in work conditions have led people to take up cannabis vaping, smoking, and edibles.
Stress can increase heart rate and blood pressure and aggravates many health conditions. Cannabis can counteract the effects of stress. That’s why weed is such as common recreational drug, lifting people beyond worry and concerns. Certain Hybrids of cannabis effectively manage stress, but over-use and dependence can be just as destructive as stress itself.
The endocannabinoid system reacts to stress, regulating the body’s response. The EC-system also manages the emotional memory associated with stress, the right kind of weed can help you forget the reason for being stressed in the first place.
The EC-system regulates the Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) responsible for the immune system, digestion, emotions, sexual response, and energy expenditure. The EC-system helps the body adapt to stress by releasing steroid hormones. As cannabinoids naturally fit well the EC-system, they have an immediate effect in triggering the EC-system to respond to stress. CBD encourages nerve production in the hippocampus.
Long-term overdosing can reduce the system’s ability to handle stress and even have the opposite effect. The most effective dose for stress relief may be relatively small and below the psychoactive threshold, below 2mg of THC. Oral intake is an effective method of administration, as well as vapor inhalation in small doses. Cannabis breeds with terpenes Myrcene, Linalool, and Limonene are also more effective.
Cannabis has been used extensively for sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. CBD has a sedative and soothing effect. A lot depends on the cannabinoid composition and ratio of CBD to THC and dosage. Sativex, a 50/50 balance of CBD/TCH, and Myrcene, a terpene found in Indica cannabis oil, are useful as a sedative.
Studies have also shown there is no development of tolerance when using Cannabis as a sleep-aid. It can be useful for prolonged use, beneficial for cancer patients, who may have difficulty with exercise to induce sleep. People with insomnia should first consider their exercise regime and try meditation. The latter is a highly effective method of relaxing the mind before bed.
Caution in using Cannabis chronic anxiety
The first step in managing chronic anxiety is to seek professional help. Chronic conditions may be symptomatic of something worse. Psychiatric advice is essential for OCD, panic-disorder, PTS-disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and Schizophrenia.
When considering treating anxiety with Cannabis, lower doses of TCH and a higher CBD ratio are necessary. High amounts of THC can exacerbate anxiety and panic. Too high CBD can cloud judgment and create apathy and over-sedation. There are studies about using them separately.
Varieties of cannabis with the terpene Linalool and the herb lavender are successful in relieving anxiety.
The balance of cannabinoids and dose amounts need to be measured carefully with considerable caution. The method of ingestion, smoking, vaping, eating, or suppositories makes a difference. Learning to titrate by feeling the effect will naturally control how much of the cannabinoids are absorbed.
Long-term use of Cannabis develops tolerance. Intermittent breaks are necessary. Treatment of anxiety and stress should take into account exercise, diet, and meditation. Cannabis is not a solution to anxiety on its own.
Alleviating the suffering of AIDS
The danger of weight-loss and nausea in patients with AIDS inspired the growth and legalization of cannabis for medical purposes four decades ago. The epicenter of the gay community in San Francisco was the perfect catalyst for experimenting with Marijuana for treating the symptoms of AIDS, as cannabis was commonly available. Cannabis is exceptional in increasing appetite in patients regardless of the type of illness; its use has no negative impact on the immune system.
Cannabis and cancer
Patients that undergo chemotherapy use cannabis for treating diarrhea and vomiting. Marijuana increases appetite, relieves anxiety, lifts depression, promotes relaxation, and treats cancer-related pain. Studies show that Sativex works well in treating nausea associated with chemotherapy. Alleviating symptoms of cancer treatment improves patients’ quality of life.
Cannabinoids do a better job of treating the pain associated with cancer than opiate-based drugs. Sativex is now undergoing testing for treating advanced pain, where opioids are ineffective. Cannabis is also useful in inducing sleep.
Tests have shown that Cannabinoids also suppress tumor cells’ growth, but needs further testing in human clinical trials. Studies have shown a reduction in cancer signaling pathways, tumor-cell proliferation of blood vessels, and the programmed death in cancer cells.
There is still insufficient evidence that cannabis is an effective medicine for curing a wide range of cancers. Cannabinoids may be useful in treating specific types of cancer. THC in high doses can inhibit tumor cells, but in low-doses may increase growth. Cannabis is maybe helpful in the treatment of cancer in the head, neck, and lungs. Some studies have found that cannabinoids may stop prostate cancer cells from growing.
“Studies found that cannabinoids may stop prostate cancer cells from growing and dividing, cause prostate cancer cells to die, and stop prostate cancer cells from invading other tissues and spreading.”
There are over 100 types of cancer types. Each disease and patient needs a different kind of treatment. It’s a massive project to research cannabinoids and their respective effects on each cancer type.
Cannabis research for treating glaucoma
Glaucoma is a disease that reduces peripheral vision and can lead to blindness. The condition is the result of the optic nerve deteriorating over several years. High pressure of the aqueous humor fluid inside the eye presses upon the cornea at the front of the eye.
Research dating back over 50 years has shown the alleviation of pressure in the eyes for several hours after THC is ingested as a pill or injected. But treatment needs controlling, with significant amounts of THC, several times during each day. The side effects of using THC also need consideration, as it is psychoactive.
Cannabis research for treating diabetes
According to the center for disease control, healthy levels of insulin result in fewer cases of diabetes. Often associated with obesity, diabetes is a growing phenomenon globally, especially in the U.S., annually costing 100s of millions of dollars. Diabetes affects more than 100 million Americans.
Hemp and cannabis-based drugs may be useful for new treatments of diabetes symptoms.
Clinical research studies have linked the possible benefits of cannabis for treating diabetes. Recreational users that have used marijuana frequently over several years show lower rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus.
These reports do not address the state of health in these users concerning other medical conditions.
“Epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus in marijuana users compared with people who have never used marijuana, suggesting a relationship between cannabinoids and peripheral metabolic processes.”
Treatment with cannabinoid compounds and derivatives may help control blood sugar, may be less likely to be obese, even with higher calorie intake. Users may also benefit from higher levels of good cholesterol.
What is clear from these reports is that more controlled clinical trials are needed.
Other studies have shown that while there may be no delay in type 2 diabetes, medical cannabis can benefit those already diagnosed who suffer complications from type 1 or type 2.
Studies have confirmed that people with diabetes that have used medical cannabis have shown the following benefits:
- Cannabis helps with stabilizing blood sugars.
- The anti-inflammatory action of cannabinoids on arterial inflammation
- Neuroprotective attributes that can help with general pain reduction, including gastrointestinal pain.
- The reduction of muscle cramps.
- Cannabinoids may act as vasodilators to improve circulation, lowering blood pressure.
- Cannabis ointments may relieve the skin tingling sensations associated with diabetes.
- Cannabis can with “restless leg syndrome” (RLS) and aid sleep.
Cannabis research for treating asthma
Cannabis can act as a bronchodilator for broncho-related spasms. There is contradictory evidence that cannabis is beneficial in treating asthma, as it depends on the method used for inhalation. Smoke inhalation can inflame lung tissue. Vaporization at a lower heat can deliver bronchodilation cannabinoids without the damage associated with smoking. Cannabis studies have even shown that regular users have increased lung capacity.
“Vaporization can deliver therapeutic doses of cannabinoids with a drastic reduction in pyrolytic smoke compounds.”
Cannabis research for treating Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s correlates with severe cognitive decline. The causes are beta-amyloid protein fragments, plaque deposits in the spaces between nerve cells, and tangles, twisted fibers of a protein called tau, that builds up inside cells—these kill nerve cells and block communication among nerve cells that affect memory. Inflammation of the nerve cells plays a considerable part. The result is senile dementia.
Historically, doctors recorded medicinal cannabis as having a calming effect on senile dementia and increase appetite.
Cannabis also acts as an anti-inflammatory and has neuroprotective properties. Ongoing research is studying the ability of cannabinoids to arrest the progression of the disease, as endocannabinoids are involved in signaling between nerve cells.
THC and CBD may be able to delay plaque and tangle accumulation. However, treatment using THC needs to be monitored with extreme caution. Cannabis varieties with high CBD content are preferable for their neuroprotective effects.
Cannabis for treating Crohn’s disease
As a chronic condition, Crohn’s disease (CD) is an inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that decreases life quality. If gone untreated, it can cause severe or even fatal complications.
Research is showing that treatment with cannabinoids can potentially provide a therapeutic benefit in decreasing inflammation. However, there’s also evidence suggesting temporary side effects such as weakness, dizziness, and diarrhea.
The research is still in its early stages and remains inconclusive. Future studies with more participants will test the effects of cannabis on people with active and inactive Crohn’s disease, with different cannabinoid compositions and doses.
Cannabis research for treating Anorexia and Bulimia
Both conditions of Anorexia and Bulimia are psychological conditions related to eating disorders. The former was an aversion to eating food altogether while remaining pre-occupied with thoughts about food preparation and content; the latter included a total restriction on eating or a lack of self-control with self-inforced vomiting.
Both health conditions may be an imbalance in brain chemistry, particularly in the brain’s insula region. The insula is responsible for pain, temperature, touch, regulating stomach acidity, and pressure within the intestines.
Studies have shown that patients with Anorexia and Bulimia significantly reduce neurotransmitter activity in the endocannabinoid system. People with these conditions experience and respond to the pleasure of eating food differently.
Without a doubt, the endocannabinoid system regulates appetite. Those using Marijuana for recreational purposes, and both AIDS and cancer patients have experienced increased appetite when using cannabis. Anorexia and Bulimia are psychological and physiological conditions that may be suitable candidates for treatment with cannabis.
However, as with other conditions, one shouldn’t conclude that Marijuana is the only answer. Further research is required, and guidance from a doctor is essential.
Cannabis research for managing ADHD
Studies show that narrow ranges of cannabis breeds can also help with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), allowing sufferers to focus. Cannabis medication for younger users is problematic as it can inhibit the development of the brain. The research and application of cannabis for ADHD have only happened in the last decade.
There are three subtypes of ADHD, a mixed type, an inattentive type, and a hyperactive form. Common symptoms are distractibility, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control. Each patient is unique in how these symptoms manifest.
Changes in the dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain seem to be responsible for causing ADHD. These neurotransmitters interact with the endocannabinoid system.
Treatment for ADHD targets the CB1 receptors in the brain’s EC-system using doses of THC less than 2.5mg. This treatment enables focus for around 90 minutes. Control of this type of treatment avoids the development of dependence and tolerance, that require increased doses.
Cannabis Research for Skin Conditions
The list of health conditions for cannabis research is extensive. The human endocannabinoid system also regulates allergic response and skin inflammation. Research is ongoing in using cannabis compounds for skin conditions, mild skin inflammation, psoriasis, eczema, and even skin cancers, such as melanoma. CBD tinctures, taken orally, can alleviate itching related to many of these diseases.
If you wish to learn more about using medical cannabis for specific health conditions, you should seek guidance from a qualified Doctor with expert knowledge in medical cannabis application. The following list is some of the global leaders in the research and prescription of medicinal cannabis.
Centers for Medical Cannabis Research & Treatment
Canadian Medical Cannabis Clinics
Netherlands Medical Cannabis Clinics
Czech Republic Medical Cannabis
Israel Medical Cannabis Clinics
European Medical Cannabis Resources