In recent decades, certain chronic health conditions and diseases have become more prevalent. Conditions like diabetes, cancer, and even high blood pressure are diagnosed more frequently today than they were 50 years ago. As a result, more people are being prescribed medications to treat these conditions.
But looking back hundreds and even thousands of years ago, before modern-day prescriptions were available, research indicates that cannabis may have been used to treat some such conditions.
Marijuana contains both CBD, a chemical that can affect the brain and make it function better, and THC, which can relieve pain. Both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be extracted from cannabis.
If you live in one of the 29 states where medical cannabis is legal, consider talking to your doctor about the health benefits of cannabis.
Here are some of its health benefits about which you may not have been aware.
Research has indicated that using marijuana may help treat certain mental health conditions, including social anxiety. Using marijuana can improve the user’s mood and may act as a sedative. Cannabinoids have neuroprotective properties that can help control fear and anxiety within the brain and promote general well-being.
Helps with PTSD
Medical marijuana has also been approved in some states to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is the number-one reason for the prescription of medical marijuana cards in New Mexico.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease and can lead to stroke or heart attack. Some researchers believe that cannabinoids may offer a protective role for the body by decreasing blood pressure.
This has shown to be especially true for older adults. People aged 60 and older with hypertension were evaluated after using cannabis, and recent studies found that their blood pressure decreased within hours after use.
Besides helping decrease anxiety, cannabis can also be a treatment option for depression. Multiple studies have found that the endocannabinoid compounds in cannabis can help stabilize one’s mood and relieve stress.
Chronic stress can reduce the production of endocannabinoids, which can lead to depression. Cannabis helps supplement those endocannabinoids and therefore reduce depression.
Helps with Alcoholism
No drug is completely risk-free, including marijuana. But the risks associated with marijuana use are much more tame than the risks of alcohol use.
Alcohol users may be able to help curb their intake by consuming low doses of cannabis instead. Cannabis can also act as a better sleep aid than alcohol.
One of the most commonly-known uses for cannabis is its ability to help reduce nausea. This is especially common for people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. But, nausea of any source, whether it’s a chronic illness, digestive distress, or eating certain foods, can be treated with marijuana.
Cannabis can help regulate the body’s metabolism and slow down the digestive process. Marijuana also acts as a pain reliever that helps relieve the painful feeling associated with nausea.
Cannabis can also help stimulate appetite and treat other gastrointestinal symptoms, including irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Chronic Pain Relief
Millions of people live with chronic pain of some type, from headaches to back pain to neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage. Many people treat their chronic pain with opioids, which can be habit-forming.
But, studies have shown that cannabis, either on its own or alongside doctor-approved prescription medications, can help decrease patients’ pain and improve their quality of life.
Cannabinoids have been found to provide pain relief thanks to their chemical makeup. The body’s endocannabinoid system receives and translates information from these cannabinoids, which help regulate functions like sleep and pain response.
Regulates Metabolism and Facilitates Weight Loss
Studies have shown that cannabis can help regulate the body’s metabolism as well as managing its caloric intake. This can lead to a lower average BMI for cannabis users and a reduced likelihood of obesity.
People who use cannabis say that it can help them focus better, resulting in better athletic performances and a more active lifestyle.
Cannabis has been linked to aiding the regulation of insulin. In addition to its effects regarding lower blood pressure and weight loss, cannabis has also been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Slows and Stops Spread of Cancer Cells
The American Association for Cancer Research believes that marijuana can be used to slow the spread of certain kinds of cancers, including brain cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancers.
Studies have shown that cannabidiol can turn off a gene called Id-1. Id-1 promotes the spread of cancer, and treating it with cannabis can prevent the formation of cancer cells and strengthen the immune system.
Oral cannabidiol is an effective treatment for the nausea and vomiting that are often associated with chemotherapy. Other side effects such as pain and loss of appetite appetite can also be alleviated with marijuana use.
Research shows that THC, an active ingredient in marijuana, can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. THC can slow or block the progression of amyloid plaques, which reduce cognitive function and kill brain cells.
Helps with Parkinson’s
Besides being a treatment for chronic pain and a sleep aid for those with Parkinson’s Disease, marijuana can also be used to help reduce tremors and improve fine motor skills.
Pain associated with arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, is often resistant to treatment. But studies within the past 10 years have shown that people with arthritis who use cannabis-infused topical creams and gels have experienced reduced inflammation and pain thanks to the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Helps with Seizures
CBD, one of the cannabinoids found in cannabis, has been found to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Studies and research on how the drug can be used to control seizures are ongoing, but current evidence has shown that there can be up to a 51% decrease in seizures for patients who use medical marijuana.
The use of cannabis to treat seizures is the only FDA-approved medical use of the drug today. Epidiolex is a CBD-based drug that can treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, which are rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
Protect Brain After a Stroke
Cannabis research indicates that the drug may be used by stroke victims to reduce the size of the area affected by the stroke. Cannabis can also protect nerve damage by activating the endocannabinoid system to release 5HT1A and cannabinoid receptors.
These are just a few of the medical benefits of marijuana. Other conditions that may be treatable with medical marijuana include multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, migraines, and muscle spasms.
Research on the full health benefits of the cannabis plant is ongoing, so if you’re considering using cannabis for treatment of a medical condition, speak with your doctor first.
John DiBella is a medical marijuana advocate, owner of The Sanctuary Wellness Institute, and a writer. When he’s not writing blogs about medical marijuana, he enjoys hiking, camping and sailing.