With the extensive popularity of marijuana consumption and its age-old record of medicinal use, Marijuana has always been a subject of interest among doctors, researchers, and the public. Besides, there is an emerging demand from different groups, including policymakers, to conduct more studies on marijuana (cannabis) to understand its biological application and potential risks better.
While marijuana comes under Schedule I controlled substances in the United States, its potential health benefits have made 33 states in the US legalize recreational or medical cannabis. This reflects the prospective change in viewing cannabis as a medical asset. There is documented evidence on the health effects of cannabis, with reducing symptoms of pain, spasticity, nausea, sleep disorder, and other health effects.
Before going further with the medical usage of marijuana, let’s have a brief idea about marijuana.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana/cannabis refers to the cannabis plant substances like leaves, flower tops, seeds, etc. There are hundreds of chemical compounds present in marijuana, known as cannabinoids. The most researched compounds are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), popular for analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, and anticonvulsant properties. Different compounds act differently on the human body. For example, THC is the primary psychoactive component that makes you high while serving as an antioxidant to alleviate pain and nausea. In contrast, CBD doesn’t deliver the same psychoactive effects associated with THC and can help in reducing anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Marijuana and the Human body
In the human body, there are different cannabinoid receptors present. When the cannabinoids from an external source (consuming marijuana) enter the body, they influence human physiology.
The effects of marijuana vary depending on the percentage of different compounds present in different strains. Moreover, the effects also depend on the ways (whether infused in food or drink or by inhaling) of marijuana consumption and the strains involved.
For example, a hybrid strain like Black Diamond with 18 THC level can produce a significant body high, resulting in sedation and relaxation.
Due to these peculiar characteristics and the intoxicating psychoactive effects of THC, marijuana is scheduled as a controlled substance and has limited usage in medical science. However, there is a need for more crystalized research works and studies to understand its multi-faced characteristics.
Despite all this uncertainty, there is ample evidence of the therapeutic effects of marijuana.
Marijuana in Medical Use
The term medical marijuana refers to the use of cannabis or cannabinoids for the treatment of diseases or symptom relief, commonly as pineapple express strain in Canada. With a clinical prescription, one can take cannabinoids orally, sublingually, or topically. They can be consumed in herbal form as plant extraction or in synthetic form created in laboratories. The most popular prescribed cannabinoid formulations under certain health conditions are Dronabinol and oromucosal spray Nabiximols.
Some of the major health problems on which medical marijuana has shown huge therapeutic potential are cancer, graft versus host disease (GVHD), childhood epilepsy, myocarditis, tuberous sclerosis, and anorexia in AIDS patients.
THC and CBD in Medicine
THC is extracted from the plant and is used for specific drug formulations. Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet are some of the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved drugs containing synthetic THC. These THC formulated drugs help treat nausea related in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment and anorexia for stimulating appetite in AIDS patients.
An experiment on a murine model shows that THC is capable of cell-mediated immunity, making it effective in preventing and treating GVHD. Besides, it helps to reduce tissue injury from bodyweight loss caused by GVHD and aid recovery. But the application to humans has been limited so far; a significant reason is the psychotropic effect of THC.
For its numerous therapeutic effects, FDA has approved one drug, called Epidiolex, containing a purified form of CBD. The drug can help treat rare childhood epileptic disorders, such as Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. In addition, it may be helpful in the treatment of tuberous sclerosis complex, a genetic disorder.
CBD is also a promising novel treatment for managing autoimmune myocarditis and other autoimmune disorders and organ transplantation. The compound’s anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic properties can reduce autoimmune myocarditis. The study shows tremendous therapeutic potential in the therapy of myocarditis.
Furthermore, CBD can be beneficial in GVHD after an allogeneic transplant, showing promising help for managing organ transplantation.
Many other studies on the medical use of marijuana have shown numerous possibilities of medical cannabis to alleviate different symptoms. For example:
- A study reveals that the use of cannabis may produce a protective effect against weight gain and related metabolic changes in Psychosis.
- Another study shows that smoked cannabis exerts orexigenic action by balancing appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult patients.
However, many research works show the role of cannabinoids has varying effects on each individual, and one should always consult one’s healthcare provider before using them. In addition, there is a need for more scientific research works on different cannabinoids and their combinations to evaluate the medical benefits and effects on the human body.
Marijuana has been an integral part of health and life from ancient times. Besides, the progress in current studies of the therapeutic effects on various critical health issues is a clear sign of medical marijuana evolving as a world-class medical asset for humanity. With the increase in the number of human diseases, it is necessary to encourage more research on medical marijuana and unfold its potential while maintaining the boundary of legal policies and regulations.