A Case for Medical Cannabis,
Commonly Known as Marijuana
Establishing fact and fiction in the debate about marijuana and its’ usefulness in medicine or potential harm to society has created a large divide between the opposing views. The following information is an attempt to provide some help in understanding what has been researched concerning the how and why medical cannabis can be helpful. It is not known by many that the United States government has a patent, U.S. Gov patent: 6630507.B1, that covers the uses of cannabinoids. These are the most widely known plant chemicals in marijuana. It states that cannabinoids have antioxidant, anti inflammatory, and neuroprotetive properties that can be effective in the treatment of age related inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
The claims that are made about cannabis being successful in the treatment of many chronic diseases are scientifically based. The human body has an endocannabanoid system consisting of of naturally produced chemical messengers and receptors located in most tissues and organs. The brain has the greatest number. They are responsible for regulating many of the activities the body needs for health and vitality. These include: mood, memory and learning, pain, reward, sleeping, mating, and neurogenisis and neuroprotection (which helps replace lost brain cells and protect existing cells). In other words: eat, sleep, relax, forget and protect.
The most familiar chemical messengers in cannabis are the THC and CBD. Cannabis contains hundreds of plant chemicals. Only a few have been studied. Some of the studied chemicals are terpenoids, flavenoids, alkaloids, and lesser known cannabinoids. It is important to know that these messengers work together to regulate and maintain balance. Balance in the body is called homeostasis, and it is how we maintain health.
It is helpful to view cannabis, not as a drug, but rather as an herb with medical value. Drugs can be plant or artificially derived. They usually contain one or two active ingredients and inhibit or enhance one pathway or activity. This can lead to imbalance and side effects. It also makes them easier to study and patent, creating financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies. Herbs are derived only from plants and contain many chemicals that work together. They can be used to support weakened organs, stimulate or inhibit activities, and achieve balance according to what the body needs. Many have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties with few or not side effects when used properly. The terpines (terpenoids) in cannabis are also found in many herbs and spices which have beneficial effects. For example:
1. Betacaryophellene is also found in basil, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, black pepper and clove. It acts as a cannabinoid and is helpful with stress, anxiety, depression, and has antioxidant properties.
2. Myrcene is also found in hops, eucalyptus, lemon grass, and bay leaves. It acts as a sedative and is helpful with sleep.
3. Limonine is also found in citrus fruits, is an antioxidant, and lowers stress reaction and anxiety.
4. Linnalool is an alcohol/terpene and is also found in lavender. It is anti-inflammatory and has sedative and anti-anxiety properties.
Herbal preparations can be ingested with edibles, drinks, sublingually (under the tongue), with nasal spray, absorbed through the skin with oils, creams, and patches, and with rectal or vaginal suppositories. Inhalation by smoking or vaporization may be helpful, but this may not be ideal since heating changes the chemical nature and associated effects. Juicing the fresh flowers and leaves maybe the most beneficial for consumption, but this requires access to live plants.
How to use this valuable herb as far as methods and dosing is slowly being evaluated due to legal considerations. Presently, Israel seems to be doing the most government funded study. The University of Colorado and University of Massachusetts have done some studies. More studies on how to use cannabis need to be done. The pharmaceutical industry can not find value in this endeavor because there is no single phytochemical in cannabis that works well in isolation to treat disease and can be patented. Regardless, the risks to human health are worse without the availability of cannabis for medical use. After all, mother nature is much wiser than we are.