Medical cannabis is about more than boosting mood, increasing appetite, and helping people sleep better. Researchers are working hard to unlock all the science behind the potent plant, but what they know now is significant for the health care of the world’s people and animals. The reason cannabis is so effective for treating specific conditions and symptoms is it works directly with the endocannabinoid system, which is found in all mammals.
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex multi-signaling responsible for regulating several critical homeostatic purposes, such as immune function, appetite, and sleep. It also assists with other areas, including mood regulation, reproduction, and pain response. This system was discovered in the early 1990s and is present in humans and all mammals, which is why CBD companies are promoting hemp products for pets.
The ECS and Phytocannabinoids
The ECS includes internal cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. The system works with internal (endo) and external (phyto) cannabinoids. Thousands of scientific reports show the compounds interact with the cannabinoid receptors and can inhibit or facilitate actions involving different functions.
Each compound’s communication with the ECS differs. For example, THC binds tightly to the cannabinoid receptors while CBD connects loosely with the receptors. The two primary receptors are CB1 and CB2, and they’re found throughout the body. However, the CB1 is more concentrated in the central, peripheral, and enteric nervous systems, and the CB2 sticks to the immune cells. After the cannabinoids send their message to the receptors, the enzymes break them down.
Reduce Inflammation with Cannabis
The CDC estimates about 20% of adults experienced chronic pain in 2019. Additionally, nearly 8% experienced chronic pain that regularly interfered with their daily activities, including work and leisure with friends and family.
Many people have chronic inflammation that causes their pain. Traditional treatments vary from applying heat or ice to physical therapy and NSAIDs. In previous decades, opioids were commonly prescribed to pain patients. However, the opioid crisis put the brakes on managing pain with narcotics.
Now, it’s common for people with any debilitating pain to have difficulty controlling it. Medical professionals often prescribe NSAIDs for the pain. However, these drugs aren’t as safe as many people think for daily use. They can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and gastrointestinal bleeding. High doses can cause kidney damage and increase systolic blood pressure.
On the other hand, there are no known dangers of topical cannabis products, which are ideal for localized pain relief, such as arthritis in the hands, fingers, and wrist or shoulder, neck, and back pain. Additionally, topical cannabis doesn’t enter the bloodstream and won’t cause a “high.”
“… minimizing the adverse effects of higher drug peak concentrations, which can improve patient adherence. Topical administration is potentially ideal for localized symptoms, such as those found in dermatological conditions and arthritis but also in peripheral neuropathic pain for which capsaicin patches have been proposed as a second-line treatment after high quality of evidence was provided.”
Research and patient testimonials indicate medical cannabis is highly effective for treating chronic pain from arthritis, injuries, and during the recovery process following surgical procedures involving bones, ligaments, and muscles.
Additionally, it helps manage associated conditions, such as sleep disturbances, depression, and fatigue. Following a broken bone or similar injury, it can be difficult for patients to sleep, and the immobility issues can cause some people to experience depression. Both the lack of sleep and depression might lead to fatigue. By improving mood and helping people fall asleep, cannabis is an excellent way to treat the whole patient.
Gastrointestinal conditions affect a large part of the U.S. population. Medical cannabis research shows positive improvements for people with Irritable bowel disease. Several studies indicate the potent plant improves the lives of patients diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These ailments are inflammatory, and many of the compounds in cannabis have anti-inflammatory properties.
A report from 2016 highlights the potential for IBD patients.
“A significant portion of IBD patients, particularly those with severe disease, use cannabis to relieve symptoms of pain, nausea, and appetite and to improve their overall mood.”
Although most studies concentrate on CBD and THC to reduce inflammation for patients, most of the 545 known compounds in the plant have this ability.
Mood Disorders and Cannabis
Mood disorders affect millions of people in the U.S. Nearly 20 million adults have experienced a major depressive episode, and 9 million are living with PTSD. Traditional treatments help many but not all of these individuals.
Patient testimonials and decades of research prove the benefits of cannabis for people with mood disorders. It’s well-known that it can boost mood and relieve stress. Individuals that smoke or vape marijuana get an instant increase in happiness, with many reporting giggles and an overall good mood.
For patients with PTSD, it’s not as simple as lifting spirits. People with PTSD benefit from improved sleep, reduced nightmares, and the social setting support it provides. One of the most important ways to manage PTSD is through sleep quality and interacting with other people. Cannabis helps get these patients out and enjoying life again.
The studies involving cannabis and PTSD are impressive. An article in Forbes highlighted the improvements patients experienced when using marijuana for their symptoms. It found PTSD sufferers saw more significant reductions in symptoms and were over 2.5 times more likely to recover than individuals not using cannabis.
More studies for patients with PTSD are on the way. Michigan is funding a $20 million study on medical cannabis for veterans using tax revenue from legal sales.
“This grant enables more rigorous study, overseen by the FDA, which may lead to cannabis flower becoming prescribable medicine someday. Veterans are demanding objective cannabis drug development research, and the state of Michigan is fulfilling our collective obligation to our beloved Veteran community.”
As the legalization of cannabis expands worldwide, so will clinical studies providing results with people rather than animal subjects. However, we know enough about medicinal cannabis now to treat dozens of symptoms and conditions. To learn more about how the potent plant can help you, schedule an appointment with a medical cannabis doctor to get a legal recommendation. Your local dispensary can help you find the right products once you have access.