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The Health Benefits of Medical Marijuana
The use of medical marijuana has expanded rapidly in recent years. With the increased supply and use of medical marijuana, users have had more questions about its health effects. Thankfully, additional research detailing marijuana's health benefits is being published each year.
Clinical evidence has revealed that compounds naturally found within marijuana such as cannabidiol (CBD), and the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), provide remarkable health benefits for those diagnosed with a range of diseases and disorders.
Cannabis was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for medical purposes, but a war between various paper industry cash crops sullied its public image. Since then, a long and hard-fought battle has gradually brought marijuana back into the limelight. Beginning in 1996 with California, medical marijuana began to be dispensed to patients to treat a growing list of ailments.
Twenty-five years later, medical marijuana is now legally available in two-thirds of the United States and is even becoming legal for recreational use as well.
Smoking marijuana has long been stigmatized and associated with negative behaviors. However, that stigma is beginning to fade and claims regarding the plant’s medical benefits have not been disproven. In the end, the slander meant to demonize the plant has been largely unsuccessful.
Why Does Medical Marijuana Work?
Medical cannabis is a unique resource that contains a myriad of chemicals with incredible effects known as cannabinoids and terpenes. The effects of these cannabinoids and terpenes are already evident across more than half of the U.S. as 35 states have recognized and legalized medical marijuana use.
While we know that cannabinoids like Delta 9 THC and CBD are responsible for desirable medical benefits, researchers are still conducting clinical trials with over 100 different cannabinoids found in marijuana to further isolate and understand each chemical’s effects (such as Delta 8 THC, Delta 8 THCA, CBDA, CBDM, CBDP). For now, they have named the overall combination of chemical uses the "entourage effect".
What Symptoms Does Medical Marijuana Help?
According to Harvard, Americans primarily use medical marijuana to treat pain. While medical marijuana isn't strong enough for very severe pain (such as post-surgery pain), research has shown that both cannabinoids--CBD and THC--can alleviate pain.
THC is cited as being most useful for neuropathic pain, while CBD is cited as being best for inflammatory pain. Medical marijuana helps alleviate pain thanks to its effect on neurotransmitters on cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
Medical marijuana has also been shown to help manage pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Not only that, but research has demonstrated that medical marijuana can be beneficial for neuropathic pain caused by HIV.
Aside from marijuana's psychological utility when it comes to treating PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, the use of cannabis has also been known to promote homeostasis in the body. First, the multitude of cannabinoids in marijuana attaches to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. Then the resulting entourage effect relaxes the body and promotes balance among the immune and nervous systems. This has lead to further research into the medical benefits of cannabis.
The overwhelming support behind the medical usage of marijuana probably has you wondering how exactly people are benefitting from it. It may surprise you to learn that medical marijuana is effective in helping treat common but serious medical conditions and other health problems. From long-term pain relief to releasing eye pressure in glaucoma patients, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of medical cannabis have profound and fast-acting positive health effects for patients with a wide variety of health conditions.
Dealing with consistent discomfort and pain is the leading cause of pain medication prescription and subsequent addiction. Thankfully, marijuana offers pain relief and a higher quality of life for those suffering from chronic pain without the debilitating physical addiction that's often a byproduct of opioid treatments. Trauma-induced injury pains, arthritis pains, and even some pains caused by cancer can be managed on a regular basis with medical marijuana products or raw flowers. The plant's pain management capabilities cannot be overstated.
While medical marijuana may not be a cure-all, it can certainly improve the quality of life for someone dealing with chronic pain. The plant is in high demand these days since alternatives to commonly-prescribed medications have become more prevalent, and many patients are no longer willing to endure the adverse side effects incurred by opioid-based medications.
Epileptic seizures are terrifying both for those who experience them and those who witness them. While epileptics may grow somewhat acclimated to them over time, the condition is still debilitating and leads to undue trauma for diagnosed youth.
Aspects of the entourage effect have been found to reduce seizures in epileptics, and quick-acting applications like topical medical marijuana lotions may even stop seizures as they occur. While doctors haven’t pinpointed the exact causes behind these solutions, CBD and THC are given most of the credit. CBD-only products are known to help with epileptic symptoms, but to date the most effective solutions combine both THC and CBD.
Multiple Sclerosis is another use case in which the effects of cannabis are beneficial. MS is a disorder of the central nervous system. The symptoms are intermittent and often include muscle spasticity, which is responsible for high-intensity pain, spasms, and loss of muscle function. Scientists believe the abnormal immune activity that causes inflammation and the destruction of myelin in the brain and spinal cord exacerbates the symptoms of MS. When the immune system reacts in this manner, the inflammation along the spinal cord or in the brain puts pressure on the body's nerve endings.
Medical marijuana helps reduce this inflammation and decrease the frequency of spastic episodes by preventing pressure from affecting the nervous system. Many MS patients claim that marijuana has a profound effect in treating the muscle spasms, balance, bladder control, tremors, speech, and eyesight issues caused by their condition. Some wheelchair-bound MS patients even say they can walk unaided thanks to their marijuana use.
Early research indicates that cannabis's can reduce the autoimmune attacks responsible for the symptoms of MS.
Inflammatory bowel diseases are incredibly destructive conditions and can be detrimental to individuals' self-esteem and everyday functionality. Crohn’s disease in particular is a condition in which “flare-ups” occur in the digestive tract, causing patients' digestive system to devolve into chaos. It can cause constipation or diarrhea and often damages the digestive tract, leading to rectal bleeding and a blood-mixed stool. It’s a grisly condition that can lead to severe weight loss and malnutrition.
Once again, the anti-inflammatory properties from the entourage effect can reduce such flare-ups and possibly even help achieve clinical remission. Medical research has proven without a doubt that marijuana is a great medical aid for Crohn’s patients and may even be prescribed by a doctor with full confidence regarding its efficacy. Crohn’s patients can enjoy fewer flare-ups, pain relief, an increased appetite, and much less stress when they use medical marijuana.
Glaucoma is caused by optic nerve damage in the eye, which is usually a result of increased intraocular pressure. When left untreated, it can lead to a gradual loss of eyesight. It has been estimated that nearly three million people, or one percent of the United States population, has glaucoma.
The homeostatic properties of the entourage effect have been acknowledged as the reason for marijuana’s ability to lower pressure in the eye. It's an effective treatment for glaucoma because reducing the intraocular pressure reduces damage to the optic nerve and prevents progressive vision loss.
The Difference Between THC and CBD
Marijuana flowers contain the cannabinoids THC and CBD. THC is the cannabinoid which causes the psychoactive effects for which marijuana is most well known. CBD is a cannabinoid which doesn’t induce psychoactive effects but still offers numerous health benefits.
Some researchers have argued that the combination of CBD and THC together in its natural state is the most effective medical cannabis product. The beneficial chemical synergy present in that product is known as the entourage effect. Whether THC and CBD are most effective isolated or combined is highly dependent on the individual patient.
CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve sleep quality, decrease anxiety, relieve pain and reduce muscle spasms. CBD is particularly appealing for patients since some don't want to experience the high produced by THC.
THC has also been shown to ease nausea and vomiting, protect brain cells, trigger neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells), and diminish symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). THC is also particularly effective at increasing one's appetite, which is helpful for those who suffer from anorexia and/or take medication that suppresses their appetite.
Among the cannabinoids present in medical marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the most popular and are widely accepted as the catalysts behind marijuana's physical and psychoactive effects. However, cannabinoids have varying effects, especially when combined.
THC is the foremost cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. CBD is chemically identical and similar in effects and usage to THC, but it doesn't induce psychoactive changes. CBD can also be extracted from both hemp and cannabis plants, while significant THC concentrations can only be found in cannabis.
THC is also the component of marijuana that's socially stigmatized and suppressed by prohibition while CBD is legal for purchase at dispensaries across the country. It won’t be long before marijuana prohibition ends, but CBD is a more accessible option for people looking to enjoy the health benefits of medical marijuana in states where it is still illegal to possess it recreationally. Medical marijuana laws are always changing, so be sure to track relevant legislation in your state.
Delta 8 Benefits
Much of this cannabis literature is new, but Delta 8 THC research is even newer. Some has already surfaced showing Delta 8 THC can help increase neuroplasticity and cognitive functions, improve appetite, reduce inflammatory pain, eliminate nausea, and protect against tumors. If that wasn’t enough, it even helps lower anxiety and provides relief for patients with PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder.
What is Delta 8?
A farm bill introduced in 2018 opened the gates for a new cannabinoid to enter the market. Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol offers the same benefits of the Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol found in cannabis, just with a slightly lower degree of potency. Once again, its effects include increased neuroplasticity and cognitive functions, improved appetite, reduced inflammatory pain, protection against tumor growth, and reduced nausea.
Aside from its physical benefits, it also helps promote mental health and can be used as a treatment aid for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and stress. These may sound like stale claims, but Delta 8 is exciting for more than just its benefits as another cannabinoid treatment.
Delta 8 THC is a less potent form of Delta 9 THC. It's found in marijuana plants as part of their cornucopia of cannabinoids, but the truly exciting aspect of Delta 8 is that it's also found in hemp plants. Previously, researchers believed that hemp did not have the same kind of cannabinoids present in marijuana, but Delta 8 disproved that notion.
Is Delta 8 Legal?
Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol is currently legal nation-wide. While some states may be in the process of writing legislation to regulate it, it's legal thanks to a farm bill in 2018 that delineated between hemp plants and marijuana plants. As a result, hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act. The bill also stated that any cannabinoid derived from hemp would be considered legal. The only restriction in the bill mandated that the final hemp product must contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC.
This is a groundbreaking step toward the nationwide legalization of medical marijuana since Delta 8 could eliminate its historical stigma.
Medical Marijuana FAQs
There is so much more to know about medical marijuana and only so much time to learn. As much as we’d like to answer all of your questions right here, that simply wouldn't be feasible. So, to get you started on your educational journey, here are the answers to a few frequently-asked questions:
The story of marijuana prohibition is a long one. At first, there was a stigma perpetuated by William Randolph Hearst in an effort to dissuade the use of hemp for paper products. However, the propaganda evolved and gained steam as folks characterized the plant as a catalyst for political opposition and societal unrest. The populace's general lack of knowledge regarding marijuana and its effects led them to believe outlandish claims like marijuana causes users to become criminally insane.
The public’s naivety and blind trust in the government resulted in harsher and harsher restrictions until the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, when marijuana’s widespread usage was seen as the perfect political instrument for the War on Drugs. The motivations behind this move were purely political, and the stigma was socially charged due to the gullibility of the average citizen.
Marijuana's public image has endured a long uphill battle, but its benefits have remained evident despite the slanderous tales launched against it. With California leading the way in 1996, states began to legalize marijuana and investigate the flood of anecdotal claims proclaiming its benefits. To date, more than two-thirds of the country has legalized marijuana in a medical capacity, and more state laws are expected to legalize the use of marijuana in the near future.
The best way to ingest marijuana depends on the user's personal preferences, but the healthiest way to do it is indisputable. Traditionally, marijuana has been ingested by inhaling the smoke of burning cannabis flowers. However, the heat from smoke can cause damage to the throat and lungs after extended and heavy periods of use. Studies have yet to definitively state that marijuana smoke is as dangerous as cigarette smoke, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
The safest delivery methods are either edibles or vapors. The variety of psychoactive effects edibles can induce lend it more toward home use, but regardless it retains nearly 100% bioavailability of the ingested THC. Since the edibles' effects can last for hours and vary in potency, vapor inhalation may be the more convenient choice. Its effects and benefits are identical to traditional smoke inhalation but it does not cause the same harmful consequences.
Tinctures and topical lotions present another healthy way to absorb CBD and THC so you can enjoy the benefits of medical marijuana. Their reaction is quick and side effect-free, but these methods don't offer as much THC bioavailability when compared to inhalation or edibles. In addition, these products may not be legal in your home state. A combination of THC and CBD is recommended for maximum effect, but if you can't access that you can always seek out Delta 8 or CBD products.
Medical marijuana usually contains 15% to 40% concentration of THC. That means that, in every form, THC will get you high. This change in your state of consciousness occurs when THC binds to CB receptors throughout the body. Inhaling marijuana smoke or vapors delivers the THC directly to the bloodstream through absorption in the lungs. The effects are rapid and noticeable.
Edibles will also get you high, but the effects are different. The chemical process of digestion creates a different reaction that is significantly more psychoactive and lasts for hours. Edibles are also more bioavailable than vapors, but they take longer to produce effects.
Overall, the adverse effects of medical marijuana are minimal. Some common side effects may include dry mouth and fatigue, and for certain people a large dose can induce anxiety or dizziness.
Delta 8 actually is THC. Delta 8 is shorthand for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is a less potent form of the more widely known delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical used to measure the potency of marijuana strains. Delta 8 is found in marijuana strains, and it gained popularity due to its existence in marijuana’s fibrous cousin plant hemp. It has all of the same effects as Delta 9 THC and is considered legal across the United States since hemp is no longer prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.
With medical marijuana's wide variety of medical uses and treatments, the future of medical marijuana research and products is all but guaranteed to be revolutionary. Researchers have already started down numerous paths to discover every detail they can about the cannabinoids in marijuana. Now that they're a few years in, it won’t be long until we learn more about this wonderful plant.