What is medical marijuana or medical cannabis?
Medical marijuana is the medical use of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant to relieve symptoms of, or treat diseases and conditions. The Cannabis plant was used medically for centuries around the world until the early 1900s. Medical marijuana facts can be difficult to find because strong opinions exist, both pros and cons. Medical uses and emerging research on off-label uses are summarized in this article.
What are THC and CBD?
THC or tetrahydrocannabinolis the psychoactive compound in marijuana. It is responsible for the "high" people feel. There are two man-made drugs called dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet) that are synthetic forms of THC. They are FDA-approved to prevent nausea and vomiting in people receiving chemotherapy.CBD or cannabidiol is another compound in marijuana that is not psychoactive. CBD is thought to be responsible for the majority of the medical benefits.Epidiolex is a CBD oil extract that is undergoing clinical trials for epilepsy.THC:CBD: Nabiximols (Sativex) is a specific plant extract with an equal ratio of THC:CBD. It is approved as a drug in the UK and elsewhere in Europe for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, spasticity, neuropathic pain, overactive bladder and other indications.Medical marijuana products are available with a huge range of THC and CBD concentrations. Expert opinion states that 10mg of THC should be considered "one serving" and a person new to medical marijuana should inhale or consume no more until they know their individual response.
What are the uses for medical marijuana?
Medical uses of marijuana include both studied and approved uses and off-label uses. In a recent research survey, the most common reasons people use medical marijuana are for
- muscle spasticity, and
- inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease.
More research has been conducted on the compound CBD. Medical CBD is anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and anti-emetic. The CBD compound in medical marijuana appears to be neuroprotective in Huntington's, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease, fetal hypoxia, and other neurodegenerative conditions and movement disorders.
What are the health benefits of medical marijuana?
There are over 60 peer-reviewed research studies examining the benefits of medical marijuana. Sixty-eight percent of these studies found benefit while 8% found no benefit. Twenty-three percent of the studies were inconclusive or neutral. Most research has been conducted on the compound CBD. The benefits of medical marijuana can be attributed to binding to the endocannabinoid system. This has many effects including
- modulating the immune system,
- promoting neuroplasticity,
- emotional and cognitive modulation including learning and motivation, appetite, vascular function, and digestive function.