An Overview of Cannabinoids
The term “medical marijuana” can often refer to the entire marijuana plant, adding to its extracts, used to treat various illnesses. And the FDA does not recognize whole marijuana plants as medicine – yet. The reason for this is that the FDA requires carefully conducted clinical trials in hundreds to thousands of human patients/subjects, and so far, researchers haven’t conducted enough large-scale clinical trials that show that the benefits of the entire marijuana plant (as opposed to its cannabinoid ingredients) outweigh its risks in patients it’s meant to treat.
We currently have two FDA-approved pill medications made of cannabinoids, based on scientific studies, and continued research is likely to lead to more medications created and officially approved in the future.
This brief dive into the cannabis chemistry known as cannabinoids is meant to educate you. Many people don’t know how to answer the question “How is marijuana a medicine?” And we at Humanity want to arm you with the knowledge to answer that question in straightforward terms.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the specific chemical compounds that comprise the cannabis flowers and are shown to provide relief from many symptoms and illnesses, such as inflammation, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, and more. Examples of cannabinoids include the psychotropic THC and the non-psychoactive CBD.
These cannabinoids simply imitate and work with our endocannabinoids, which your body naturally produces, to help your body naturally maintain stability. This article from Scholastic discusses what the endocannabinoid system does, how it interacts with receptors to regulate important body functions, including how you move and react. Cannabinoids mediate communications between cells, and you need a healthy and normally-functioning endocannabinoid system.
What medications contain cannabinoids?
Two FDA-approved drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, contain THC. They treat nausea, such as when it is caused by chemotherapy and helps to increase appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS and other debilitating diseases.
These drugs also assist with inflammation and there is testing being done showing that cannabinoids can helps quell the symptoms of major illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
The United Kingdom, Canada, and several European countries have approved nabiximols, called Sativex, which is a mouth spray that contains both THC and CBD. Sativex treats muscle control problems caused by Multiple Sclerosis, but it isn’t yet approved by the FDA in the United States.
Epidiolex, a CBD-based liquid medication that is used to treat certain forms of childhood epilepsy, is being tested in clinical trials but isn’t yet FDA-approved in the US, but is in places like Brazil.
Health Benefits of Medical Marijuana
An incomplete list of specific ways using medical marijuana can help humanity and our health. This list is pulled from this article in Business Insider and I have included their sources.
- Treat glaucoma – according to the National Eye Institute
- Can actually increase lung capacity according to a study from the American Medical Association
- Help prevent epileptic seizures (2003 study published in The Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics)
- CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported in 2007.
- Researchers at Harvard Medical School says it reduces anxiety
- Slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, says a study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute
- Ease painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal
- A 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy, while only 29% of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessens the treatments side effects. Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54% of hep C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8% of nonsmokers.
- Can ease the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. THC-like compounds made by the body increase the permeability of the intestines, allowing bacteria in. Cannabinoids in marijuana block these body-cannabinoids, preventing this permeability and making the intestinal cells bond together tighter.
- Alleviates pain, reduces inflammation, and promotes sleep, which may help relieve pain and discomfort for people with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers announced in 2011
- Recent research from Israel shows that smoking marijuana significantly reduces pain and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients.
- The Department of Health and Human Services recently signed off on a proposal to study marijuana’s potential as part of treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Marijuana is approved to treat PTSD in some states already. In New Mexico, PTSD is the number one reason for people to get a license for medical marijuana, but this is the first time the U.S. government has approved this type of proposal.
- Research from the University of Nottingham shows that marijuana may help protect the brain from damage caused by stroke, by reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke.
- A recent study in the journal Cerebral Cortex showed that in mice, marijuana lessened the bruising of the brain and helped with healing mechanisms after a traumatic injury.
Have you had experience with medical marijuana? What was your experience like? Share with us here or on our Instagram!