Due to recent scientific breakthroughs, marijuana (cannabis plant) has changed its image. After a long history of being tagged as an illicit drug, it is now being hailed by the scientific community for its wide range of medicinal properties. As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged cannabis plants’ many benefits to overall health and wellbeing.
A Brief History of Cannabis
Since ancient times, Cannabis sativa (the scientific name for cannabis) has been known for its medical wonders, especially for its aid in pain relief. Around 4000 BCE, Chinese doctors were using the plant as an anesthetic during surgery. Even ordinary citizens were benefitting from their curative properties.
In modern times, more and more experts are revering marijuana’s potential of becoming a cure for a wide range of diseases. This is fueled by the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the early 1990s. From curing acne to epileptic seizures and other chronic diseases, the herb is proving its countless benefits.
Medical Marijuana: The Wonder Drug
Scientists have discovered 113 cannabinoids, or isolated compounds, from cannabis. Of these, two are being researched: cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it is safe for medicinal use. In fact, patients will not experience any psychoactive effects commonly associated with the use of this drug.
Scientists have volumes of documents proving CBD’s healing powers. For years, researchers have been discovering the substance’s strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Their studies prompted the World Health Organization to release a report in 2017 classifying the substance as safe for consumption. In the same paper, the global body acknowledged the compound’s capacity to control epileptic seizures and treat other diseases. Furthermore, WHO listed a host of issues that CBD has the potential to alleviate or treat:
- Pain Relief
In ancient times, people used marijuana as an anesthetic during surgeries and other medical conditions as stated above. Recently, scientists found that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that ease rheumatoid arthritis and other sources of chronic pain.
- Anxiety and Depression
Some studies have shown the potential of cannabis to treat both anxiety and depression based illnesses. Many patients prefer to use CBD hemp oil over pharmaceutical drugs. They believe that CBD oil is safer and that pharmaceutical drugs have side effects like insomnia, headache, and agitation.
- Heart Health
Scientists have discovered that cannabis can lead to the improvement of heart function and blood circulation. They credit the substance’s healing powers to its antioxidant and stress-reducing properties.
- The Nervous System
Medical marijuana can treat neurological disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Studies have shown its improvement in the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- Cancer Symptoms
Studies have shown that CBD could alleviate severe pain and nausea due to cancer. The substance also has powerful anti-cancer properties.
- Substance Abuse
Researchers have found that medical marijuana can alter the wiring in the brain related to substance abuse. In animal studies, the chemical has been documented to reduce dependence on tobacco, heroin, and morphine.
Even THC has its share of healing wonders. Researchers found its potency in relieving pain and improving sleep quality. Like CBD, it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As seen above, cannabis has many curative properties. The question is how exactly does marijuana provide relief and healing effect in the body? How does the body react when it senses the presence of marijuana?
Endocannabinoid System and Cannabis
In 1990, Dr. Lisa Matsuda and her colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). “Endo” is a shortened form of “endogenous,” which means something produced naturally inside the body, and “cannabinoid” comes from “cannabis.”
Overall, the word “endocannabinoid” means that the human body produces cannabis-like compounds. Likewise, it has an entire system that processes marijuana-like substances.
The system is composed of three parts:
- Cannabinoid receptors found in the nervous system all over the body where endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are adhere
- Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which are enzymes that break down cannabinoids and endocannabinoids
Humans and other mammals have ECS. This system has an important role in maintaining the homeostasis (i.e., internal order) of our body. Our bodies are working to keep everything in order. It is working very hard to keep its internal environment steady, regardless of its external environment.
Our bodies have internal devices that monitor the status of important functions. It checks whether the temperature is too cold or hot. Likewise, it detects whether the endocrine levels are doing well or whether the heart is beating too fast.
When the body senses that something is working outside of the normal range, the ECS will become activated to correct it; hence, when the body is too hot, the ECS will work on cooling it down. Likewise, when the stomach grumbles, the ECS will tell the brain that the body needs to eat.
The ECS acts with precision when it is working properly. It can signal the brain of any imbalances in neurotransmitters and hormones that retain order inside our body. This system does so by producing endocannabinoids. This substance will then be accepted by cannabinoid receptors. Then the enzymes will break it down.
But because of many factors, such as aging and stress, the ECS can lose its efficiency. This condition is known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). This can result in many diseases and other health problems. Some of the known ailments related to a deficiency in endocannabinoids include migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Thanks to medical marijuana (CBD or THC at safe dosages), the entire ECS operation can be corrected or optimized. These products improve the functioning of the system, as cannabinoids mimic endocannabinoids.
The Future of Medical Marijuana
The recent discovery of ECS showed a biological basis for the healing effects of marijuana. This medical breakthrough has renewed scientists’ interest to research the therapeutic potential of cannabis. Now that the medical community has finally accepted cannabis for its medicinal uses, the entire world awaits more benefits from this phenomenal plant.