Marijuana, also referred to as cannabis sativa, is an herbaceous plant native to the central Asia which many people have used for medicinal purposes for over 3,000 years. The biological compound which aids in treating numerous ailments is called cannabinoids. Scientists discovered at least 66 cannabinoids in Marijuana, and the predominant cannabinoid is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These cannabinoids act by interacting with two types of receptors: the CB1 receptor present in the spinal cord and brain cells, and CB2 which is present in numerous immune cells. Some of the uses of medical marijuana are listed below.
Reduction of Vomiting and Nausea Associated with Chemotherapy
The endocannabinoid system is the primary modulator of multiple systems in the body including emesis, pain perception and reward pathway, among others. The parts of the human brain responsible for nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy are the higher limbic and cortical regions. These regions have high quantities of CB1 receptors; therefore, the cannabinoids combine with these receptors and reduce vomiting and nausea. Numerous studies involving synthetic cannabinoids and other active controls have proved that cannabinoid drugs are more efficient in the reduction of nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Although neither dronabinol nor nabilone have been approved as pain relievers by the FDA, numerous studies have confirmed that these drugs can help with pain management. A study conducted by University of California researchers on HIV patients with peripheral-neuropathy confirmed that patients using marijuana experienced pain reduction.
Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure within the eye, and can result in total blindness if untreated. The vasorelaxant properties of cannabinoids can lower the intraocular pressure by increasing the flow of blood in the ocular region. Studies conducted in 1971 demonstrated that marijuana smoking could reduce intraocular pressure, but the effect lasted for about four hours. Although this effect is temporary, it can also help lower the blood pressure in the eye.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition which is characterized by an episodic seizure. Epilepsy affects over 2.3 million people in the United States, and almost half of these people live with uncontrolled seizures. Clinical studies conducted by Reading University identified a specific particulate in marijuana which helped reduce these convulsions.
Cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have increase food consumption in humans and animals. A study of cancer patients showed that those taking the cannabinoid had an improved appetite and a better sense of taste. Even though these patients did not consume more calories, they felt more relaxed and slept well compared to patients on placebo. Another study conducted on HIV patients showed that a synthetic THC drug could help HIV patients increase their weight while improving their appetite.
Some animal-based and laboratory studies have proved that cannabinoids like THC have antitumor properties. Numerous studies confirmed that cannabinoids could prevent the growth of tumors in rodent xenografts and cultured brain cancer cells. Another study conducted on aggressive glioblastoma multiforme which are resistant to anticancer therapy confirmed that a combination of THC and anticancer treatment could be beneficial. Although no human studies have been conducted, the results obtained so far are promising that cannabis has antitumor properties.