As the social norms around cannabis slowly evolve in the United States, so do the legalities surrounding this formerly controversial plant. America is finally catching up with many other countries around the world, and recognizing the healing capabilities of cannabis sativa. Although still federally illegal, each year more states introduce laws allowing for legal medical and recreational use of the plant. This not only allows people to finally access the medicine they desperately need, but also allows medical researchers the ability to pursue further cannabis studies when they previously had been restricted.
Although the research from American institutes had been severely restricted until relatively recently, it hasn’t stopped other research centers around the world (in places like Israel, Brazil, Spain and Italy) from picking up the trail. Nowadays, far from being a fringe alternative medicine, medical marijuana and cannabis derivatives, including cannabidiol (CBD), have been proven to fight many diseases and illnesses. Not only has cannabis been found to be equally as powerful as more traditional pharmaceuticals, it has often been found to have even higher potential and with little to no serious side effects. Just as each new secret of the cannabis plant is uncovered, more avenues are opened for future study. At the moment, the medical potential seems endless.
Cannabinoids and the Human Body
Just how does a plant have such a powerful effect on human health? It all comes down to something called cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. One of the most important systems within our bodies is called the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for a host of biological processes. Some examples of what the endocannabinoid system controls are appetite, mood stability, memory, pain perception, the nervous system, and the immune system. Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, specifically crowded around the nervous system, the digestive tract and within the brain, although you can find them less concentrated in other areas.
Cannabis plants are named after the myriad of phytocannabinoids that they contain. Depending on strain, cannabis can contain upwards of 100 different cannabinoids including THC and CBD which are commonly known. Other lesser known cannabinoids are only now being pursued by the medical community. These cannabinoids can interact with the human endocannabinoid system. Some are able to directly influence the cannabinoid receptors, while others (like CBD) interact in a much more complex manner.
Each individual cannabinoid has a special relationship with the endocannabinoid system, for example some are more beneficial to sleep, while others are proving more useful for cancer treatment. More interesting still, each strain of cannabis has a complex mix of these cannabinoids that work together as a whole plant medicine for even more powerful results than previously understood through individual use.
Cannabis and Being Stoned
Importantly, not every cannabinoid found within cannabis triggers the stoned feeling. In fact, only the most (in)famous compound, THC, is responsible for all the psychoactive experiences many people associate with the plant. Therefore, if the specific strain is not bred for a high THC content, there is no way to have a mind altering experience. Having low THC strains is extremely beneficial for people seeking to use cannabis as a medicine, especially for children, seniors, and even pets.
The Healing Potential of Cannabinoids
There are many avenues being explored by international research centers, and there are many areas that already have significant research demonstrating the healing potential of cannabinoids. With just enough space to cover a few points only, we focus on the most highly publicized and proven areas of the medical potential of cannabinoids.
Despite what you might think, cannabinoids are not simply a new drug claiming to cure cancer. They have been scientifically proven time and time again to be extremely effective at targeting specific types of cancer cells in laboratory study and animal trials. Currently, CBD specifically has been shown to slow cancer cell invasiveness, metastasis, cell division and cell migration. The evidence is so powerful, that many large pharmaceutical companies are trying to get ahead of the game and patent different cannabinoids for use as new cancer medications.
Perhaps one of the areas with the most media coverage, strains high in CBD have been found to be extremely beneficial in treating drug-resistant forms of epilepsy. This has been especially true for children, as CBD doesn’t cause any harmful side effects that can be common with other drugs. In some cases, CBD has been shown to dramatically reduce or even eliminate the appearance of seizures in children who had been having dozens of seizures a day.
Depression and Anxiety
The non-psychoactive cannabinoids found within cannabis often have counter effects to the psychoactivity of THC. For instance, CBD actually reduces appetite stimulation and anxiety: two common effects of THC heavy strains. On top of this, cannabinoids have been found to be equally, if not more, effective as treatment for depression and anxiety because they stimulate the SSRI receptors within the brain.
For patients seeking relief from inflammatory diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis, cannabinoids may be able to provide an effective alternative. This is because they are an extremely powerful anti-inflammatory agent that targets the nervous system, and specifically the perception of pain.
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Continuing on the above train of thought, cannabis is a welcome alternative for people seeking non-opioid forms of pain relief. Opioids come with a huge set of risks, including addiction, overdose, and severe constipation, but in recent studies, cannabinoids have been found to be equally as effective for long term pain relief without any of the issues associated with opioids.
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