From 1850s to 1930s cannabis started to grow famous for recreational purposes. As the intake of this drug increased over time, The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified it as a Scheduled 1 Drug. So naturally controversies aroused surrounding the medical use of marijuana. To make it more medical-friendly, its active ingredient THC was synthesized in 1966, and finally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1985.
A 1999 a U.S. Government sponsored study by the Institute of Medicine uncovered the beneficial properties of marijuana in certain medical conditions such as nausea caused by chemotherapy, and wasting caused by AIDS. Since 1999, a number of studies have been done to show that smoked marijuana has pain reducing effects.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical objectives, and about 24 of the states now have some sort of medical marijuana legislation.
Medical benefits of marijuana
You will be surprised to know why studies have been done on this herb, and for your favor, here is the list of 20 medical benefits of marijuana you probably never knew!
1. Decrease anxiety
In 2010, researchers at Harvard University suggested that another of the drug’s benefits may actually be reduced anxiety, which would improve the smoker’s mood and act as a sedative in low doses. Beware, though, higher doses may increase anxiety and make you paranoid.
2. Reduce severe pain, and nausea from chemo, and stimulates appetite
One of the most common uses of medical marijuana is for people going through chemotherapy. Cancer patients going through chemo suffer from severe pains, painful nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can lead to further health complications. Marijuana can help reduce these side effects, reducing pain, decreasing nausea, and stirring up the appetite. Also, there are other FDA approved cannabinoid drugs that use THC, for the same purposes.
3. Treat Glaucoma
Marijuana can be used to treat glaucoma, which increases the pressure in the eyeball, injuring the optic nerve and causing loss of vision. According to National Eye Institute, marijuana lowers the pressure inside the eye.
“Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.”
These effects of the drug can prevent blindness.
4. Relieve Arthritis
In 2011, researchers reported that cannabis reduces pain and inflammation, and promotes sleep, which may help relieve pain and discomfort for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers of the rheumatology units at several hospitals gave their patients Sativex, a cannabinoid-based pain-relieving medicine. After two weeks, patients on Sativex had a significant reduction in pain, and improved better sleep quality compared to placebo users.
5. Control Epileptic seizure
A 2003 study showed that marijuana use can control epileptic seizure.
Robert J. DeLorenzo, of Virginia Commonwealth University, gave marijuana extract and synthetic marijuana to epileptic rats. The drugs stopped the seizures in about 10 hours. It is found out that the THC controlled the seizures by binding the brain cells responsible for controlling excitability and regulating relaxation. The results were published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
6. Lessen side effects from treating Hepatitis C, and increase treatment effectiveness
Treating Hepatitis C infection has severe side effects, so severe that many people are unable to continue their treatment. Side effects range from fatigue, nausea, muscle pains, loss of appetite, and depression- and they last for months.
But, pot to the rescue:
A 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology discovered that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully finished their therapies, while only 29% of the non-smokers completed their treatments, maybe because marijuana helps to lessen the treatments’ side effects.
Cannabis also helps to improve the treatment’s effectiveness. 54% of the Hep C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low, and kept them low, compared to the only 8% of the non-smokers.
7. Help with Crohn’s disease
Cannabis may be helpful with curing Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder that causes pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and more. But a recent study in Israel showed that smoking a joint considerably reduced Crohn’s disease symptoms in 10 out of 11 patients, and caused a complete cancellation of the disease in five of those patients. Of course, this is a small study, but other researches have shown similar results. The cannabinoids from cannabis seem to help the gut control bacteria and intestinal function.
8. Decrease the symptoms of Dravet’s Syndrome
Dravet Syndrome causes seizures and severe developmental delays. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, renowned chief medical correspondent for CNN, is treating a five years old girl, Charlotte Figi, who has Dravet’s Syndrome, with medical marijuana strain high in cannabidiol and low in THC.
During the research for his documentary “WEED”, Gupta interviewed the Figi family, and according to the film, the drug decreased her seizures from 300 a week to just one every seven days. Forty other children are using the same medication, and it has helped them too.
The doctors who are recommending this medication say that the cannabidiol in the plant interacts with the brain cells to quiet the excessive activities in the brain that causes the seizures.
9. Slow and stop cancer cells from spreading
It was found in the study, published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, that Cannabidiol has the ability to stop cancer by turning off a gene called Id-1. In 2007, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, reported that may prevent cancer from spreading. The researchers experimented on breast cancer cells in the lab that had high level of Id-1, and treated them with cannabidiol.
The outcome was rather positive, the cells had decreased Id-1 expression, and were less aggressive spreaders. In fact, the American Association for Cancer Research has found that marijuana actually works to slow down tumor growth in brain, breast, and lungs considerately.
10. Improve symptoms of Lupus, an autoimmune disorder.
Medical marijuana is used to treat the autoimmune disorder called Systemic Lupus Ertyhematosus, which is when the body starts attacking itself for unknown reasons. It is believed that some chemicals present in cannabis is responsible to calm the immune system, which maybe the reason to help deal with symptoms of Lupus. The rest of the positive impact of the marijuana is probably from the effects of the pain and nausea.
11. Protect brain after a stroke.
Research (done on rats, mice, and monkeys) from University of Nottingham shows that cannabis may help protect the brain from damage caused by a stroke by reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke. This isn’t the only research that has shown neuroprotective effects from cannabis. Some research shows that the plant may help protect the brain after other traumatic events like concussions.
12. Control other types of muscle spasms
Other types of muscle spasms respond to marijuana too. Dr. Gupta’s patient, Chaz, has a condition called myoclonus diaphragmatic flutter (also known as Leeuwenhoek’s Disease). This causes non stop spasming in the abdominal muscles which are not only painful, but interfere with breathing and speaking.
Chaz has been using medical marijuana to treat this disease because other very strong medications were unable to treat him properly. Smoking marijuana is able to calm to calm the attacks almost immediately, relaxing the muscles of the diaphragm also.
13. Help eliminate nightmares
This is a bit complicated because it involves both positive and negative effects. Marijuana may disturb the sleep cycle by interrupting the later stages of REM sleep. However, people who suffer from serious nightmares, especially patients with PTSD, this can be helpful. Nightmares and other dreams occur during those same stages of sleep.
By interrupting REM sleep, many of those dreams may not occur. Research using a synthetic cannabinoid, like THC, showed a decrease in the number of nightmares in patients with PTSD. Marijuana maybe a better sleep aid than some other medications or even alcohol because the latter two may potentially have worse effects on sleep, though more research is needed on the topic.
14. Protect the brain from concussion and trauma
A recent study in the journal Cerebral Cortex showed possibilities that marijuana can help heal the brain after a concussion, or other traumatic injury.
In the journal it was said that the experiments were done on mice, and that marijuana lessened the bruising of the brain, and helped with healing mechanisms after a traumatic injury.
Harvard professor emeritus of psychiatry and marijuana advocate Lester Grinspoon recently wrote an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall, saying that NFL should stop testing players for marijuana, and instead should fund for research on marijuana plant’s ability to protect the brain.
15. Prevent Alzheimer’s
THC, the active ingredient present in marijuana slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a 2006 study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute found out. THC slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques kill the brain cells, and potentially lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
16. Soothe tremors for people with Parkinson’s disease
Recent studies from Israel shows that smoking marijuana remarkably reduces pains and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients. What was impressive about the research was the improvement of the fine motor skills among patients.
Israel has made medical marijuana legal, and a lot of research into the medical uses of weed is done there, supported by the Israeli Government.