There’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence about the healing benefits of marijuana. As acceptance of the drug increases nationwide, new research will only enhance our knowledge of cannabis and its use in treating various conditions and diseases.
In no particular order, here are 7 healing benefits of cannabis:
1. Dravet’s Syndrome
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who made news nationwide after reversing his stance on medical marijuana and issuing a public apology, changed his opinion after meeting Charlotte Figi, a 5-year-old girl with Dravet’s Syndrome. In his documentary, “Weed,” Dr. Gupta chronicled Charlotte’s struggle with a severe form epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Charlotte “started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.” The high-CBD strain, Charlotte’s Web, is named after her and is used to treat other children with Dravet’s Syndrome.
For some people, especially those who have never smoked marijuana before, large doses of THC can actually heighten anxiety and paranoia. But for a large majority of those who suffer from daily anxiety, the THC and CBD found in cannabis actually reduces symptoms. A group of researchers at Vanderbilt University discovered cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala–a region of the brain that is responsible for regulating anxiety and our fight, flight, or freeze response. “The discovery may help explain why marijuana users say they take the drug mainly to reduce anxiety,” said Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., the paper’s senior author and professor of Psychiatry and of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Those prone to panic attacks or anxiety after consuming a high-THC sativa should stick with more relaxing indica and high-CBD strains.
PTSD isn’t an approved medical condition in every state with a medical marijuana program, but in states like New Mexico, PTSD is the number one reason for people to get a medical marijuana card. THC and other cannabinoids help control the system that causes fear and anxiety in the body and brain. This is particularly important for veterans–an estimated 11% to 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom) have been diagnosed with PTSD in a given year. Organizations like Weed for Warriors, “believe that smoking pot is a better treatment for PTSD than the slew of opiates, benzos, and antidepressants that the VA uses to medicate the disorder.”
4. Protects the brain from concussions and other trauma
Football players in the NFL sustain repeated concussions throughout their career, often resulting in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE causes brain degeneration that is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and progressive dementia.
The NFL prohibits players from using marijuana, but some players are asking them to reconsider their position, citing the benefits cannabis has on chronic pain and in healing the brain after a concussion or other traumatic brain injury. In an open letter to the NFL, Harvard Professor Lester Grinspoon wrote, “Already, many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory and clinical data.”
5. Stops cancer from spreading
In 2007, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading. CBD works by turning off a gene called Id-1. Id-1 copies itself at a rate faster than non-cancerous cells in the body, allowing the cancer to metastasize. Additional research done by the American Association for Cancer Research has found that marijuana works to slow down tumor growth in the brain, breast, and lungs.
6. Improves the symptoms of lupus and other autoimmune disorders
Lupus is a chronic disease in which the immune system becomes hyperactive and starts attacking the body, resulting in inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs. Marijuana helps alleviate symptoms of lupus, calming the immune system and reducing nausea and inflammation.
7. Reduces pain and nausea from chemo, and stimulates appetite
One of the most well-known uses of cannabis is to help treat the side effects of chemotherapy. Cancer patients suffer from pain, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. According to the American Cancer Society, people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine. In fact, the only FDA approved use of cannabinoid drugs that contain THC to treat the side-effects and symptoms of chemotherapy and AIDS.
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