Cannabis is a powerful plant with great therapeutic potential. Unfortunately, our understanding of this ancient plant is still limited, implying that we still don’t know how to make the most of it. Here are 10 advantages and disadvantages that are currently known about medical cannabis.
Cannabis changes the way we perceive diseases and their respective treatments. But to what extent do these benefits apply, and what potential disadvantages can there be with the use of cannabis in the treatment of diseases?
The benefits of medical cannabis
The concept of cannabis as a medical substance is increasingly being tolerated, but it is still necessary to be able to conclude from the full spectrum of the plant in terms of a medical tool. Below we discuss the potential benefits of medical cannabis.
1. Cannabis is natural & potent
The main benefit and advantage of medical cannabis is that it is natural. The plant can grow on six of the seven continents and some anthropological evidence suggests that it may be one of the oldest cultivars of mankind .
It is also a versatile plant and its chemical constituents can be extracted and concentrated into various forms, allowing a wide range of potential administrations. Researchers continue to explore which cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds can be used alone or synergistically to help patients.
2. Cannabis has been medically exploited for centuries
Just as there is a great deal of research indicating that cannabis is probably one of our oldest cultures, there is also a great deal of evidence to suggest that it is one of man’s earliest remedies. The Pen Ts’ao (Bencao gangmu), published in the 16ᵉ century and believed to be the world’s oldest pharmacopeia, recommends cannabis for constipation, pain, malaria, and other disorders.
3. Inflammation & Pain
Pain and inflammation are both symptoms and causes of multiple disorders. Recent studies suggest that chronic inflammation may be an underlying factor in coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. In an article entitled “Inflammation: A unifying theory of disease,the Harvard Medical School states that chronic inflammation is “a responsible and common factor in many diseases.
Many of the compounds found in cannabis (including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD , but also other terpenes such as myrcene, limonene, linalool, and more) have been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties. Since the discovery of the key role of the endocannabinoid system in the management of inflammation, much research has since focused on the potential of cannabis to tame the inflammation caused by pancreatitis , ulcerative colitis , Alzheimer’s disease and many (too many) other conditions.
4. PTSD patients
More than one in thirteen adults will develop PTSD as a result of experiencing a traumatic event. A large proportion of these patients may turn to cannabis to relieve the symptoms associated with the disorder.
Unfortunately, most of the evidence linking cannabis use to PTSD patients comes from anecdotal reports rather than sophisticated clinical trials. On the other hand, some research suggests that patients with PTSD have both an abundance of cannabinoid receptors and reduced levels of endocannabinoids in their bodies.
Research also shows that the endocannabinoid system is heavily involved in the management of memory and learning processes , as well as with anxiety, fear, memory, and addiction . One study found that PTSD patients who used cannabis had a reduced risk of depressive episodes or suicidal thoughts.
5. Cannabis & Seizures
The CBD was propelled into the world stage in 2011 with the dramatic and touching story of the late Charlotte Figi. Today, concrete evidence shows that CBD, a non-toxicant compound found in cannabis and hemp, can help reduce crises related to Dravet’s or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.
The seizures are believed to be caused by an abnormal and accelerated triggering of neurons. In most cases, those suffering from epilepsy have no diagnosis as to the reason behind the disorder. The endocannabinoid system is very active in the central nervous system and key areas of the brain related to epilepsy such as the hippocampus. Studies also show that CBD, THC, and THCA, as well as terpenes such as linalool, have anti-seizure (anti-convulsant) effects.
Although our understanding of how compounds act against seizures is still lacking data, the above research is a reliable starting point for at least some theories.
6. Nausea & Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are well-known symptoms. They are linked to many problems ranging from simple gastroenteritis to much more serious conditions such as appendicitis, meningitis, and more. Many drugs and medical treatments (such as chemotherapy and antiretroviral therapy) can also cause nausea or vomiting.
Some cannabis compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes have shown antiemetic effects in research settings. CBD has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting by interacting with 5-HT1A serotonin receptors . However, other studies also show that inhibition of anandamide (an endocannabinoid and CB1 agonist) metabolism using FAAH inhibitors (such as CBD) may also be another useful pathway for reducing nausea.
7. Depression & Anxiety
As can be seen, cannabis has an effect on mood, which is why so many people enjoy using it to relax, to be more cheerful, and to have a good laugh. At the same time, some people may also experience anxiety or paranoia with it, making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions about how marijuana may affect those suffering from depression or anxiety. However, some research shows that there is a link between cannabis and these disorders.
The latter shows that endocannabinoid activity affects mood, feelings of anxiety or fear, and stress. Some researchers have gone so far as to suggest that endocannabinoid dysfunction may be an underlying cause of clinical depression. Unfortunately, our understanding of the link between cannabis and depression goes no further, and most support for cannabis as an antidepressant comes from anecdotal patient reports.
While cannabis has great medical potential, certain limitations must be known.
8. Lack of knowledge on this subject
Unfortunately, the last 70 years and more of prohibition have not done much to encourage research on this plant. Although there is a lot of promising research on its medical potential, much of this research has come from laboratory studies on cells or animals rather than from double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. This lack of data on cannabis and its mechanisms of action is undoubtedly one of the biggest drawbacks of medical marijuana.
9. Limited Access
Although attitudes towards cannabis are improving day by day, we are still far from having access to it as a medical remedy. Medical cannabis is only legal in approximately 30 countries, and some countries are far less progressive than others when it comes to prescribing it. In the United States, for example, the laws or lists of disorders eligible for treatment with medical marijuana vary widely from state to state.
In addition to this, some medical programs prescribe only CBD, while others prescribe a mixture of CBD, THC, and other non-toxic compounds. Besides, a large proportion of currently accepted cannabis treatments are derived from synthetic cannabinoids as opposed to cannabis phytocannabinoids.
10. THC doesn’t fit everyone
Although many people perceive this compound as just “what gets you high,” there are many more hidden secrets other than the psychoactive effect of THC. Alas, the fact that THC has such a popular psychoactive effect is in itself a real barrier to its acceptance. Some people simply don’t like the effects of THC, while others experience feelings of anxiety or paranoia after taking it.
Similarly, some disorders have long been treated with THC, such as glaucoma, which requires daily and regular doses that could keep patients high all day, an unimaginable option for those who need to be alert and active all day. Because of this, and for many other reasons, CBD has since been considered the cannabinoid with the greatest medical potential. Its non-psychoactive nature and increased availability worldwide make it a more viable candidate for study and prescription.
The Potential & Limitations Of Medical Cannabis
As we have seen in this article, there is much encouraging evidence to support the idea that cannabis and its constituents have promising medical properties. Unfortunately, there are still some drawbacks that prevent the full potential of this ancestral plant from being unlocked. As our knowledge expands, perhaps one day we will have new ways of exploiting and manipulating cannabis to heal the body and mind effectively and legally.