Cannabinoids are one of the most highly studied compounds in the world today. That includes both endocannabinoids — those produced naturally by our own bodies — and phytocannabinoids — those produced in medical marijuana and phytocannabinoid-rich hemp. What are those studies telling us?
The variety of claims being made about the medicinal benefits of marijuana and the role of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) in human health runs deep and wide. Not only do proponents claim that phytocannabinoids have powerful effects on our ECS such as the regulation of mood and pain, there are also claims that it has effects which are entirely independent of the ECS, such as that it can act as an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory agent, an antioxidant, a neuroprotectant, and more. It seems the only thing that proponents aren’t claiming is that cannabinoids can be used to clean the kitchen sink.
Is this possible? Does medical marijuana produce this wide range of effects on the human body? Or is all this talk to be considered “snake oil” marketing? Should we file these medical claims under the heading “too good to be true”? And if most of these claims are, indeed, true, what physiological mechanisms might account for the cornucopia of medicinal effects provided by phytocannabinoids?
The Research Behind Medical Marijuana
If there were only a small handful of studies on the medical benefits of phytocannabinoids, these claims could be easily dismissed. However, there are more than just a few studies which suggest that phytocannabinoids do, indeed, provide this wide range of health benefits.
It’s important to understand that researchers do not undertake lab or clinical studies to determine the effects of compounds such as phytocannabinoids randomly. For a study to be funded, researchers must provide a reasonable hypothesis and sufficient evidence to convince various institutions that it will be well worth investing money into funding these research studies. And not just a few of these studies get funded. Scores of studies have been undertaken, and scores more are underway to determine the medicinal benefits of phytocannabinoids as well as other compounds found in medical marijuana.
Not only do well-respected scientists and medical professionals from clinics, hospitals, research centers and universities all over the world believe that the medicinal benefits of marijuana and its derivatives are very real, a majority of state lawmakers, too, have looked at the evidence and made the decision that the evidence is powerful enough that entire regulatory systems should be implemented to allow the use of medical marijuana by patients in their states. And many federal lawmakers, too, are coming to the same conclusion.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains a database of deaths attributed to the use of pharmaceuticals. As testimony to the safety of medical marijuana, a report published by the group entitled, “The Drug Awareness Warning Network Annual Report,” claims that there are no records of death attributable to its use in medicine.
The Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Non-profit medical cannabis information source ProjectCBD.org maintains a comprehensive list of research studies into the efficacy of medical marijuana. Some of these studies are done on lab animals. Some are done on cell lines in Petri dishes and test tubes. Some are done with human subjects. And some present data gathered in polls and surveys of medical cannabis users.
Below is a sampling of some select research papers which suggest that medical marijuana shows promise as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments.
Medical Marijuana Reduces Inflammation
Cannabinoids are widely known to help reduce a variety of forms of inflammation which are indicated in a wide range of conditions including the most common causes of death such atherosclerosis, heart disease, angina, arthritis, kidney disease, and liver disease.
Medical Marijuana Reduces Epilepsy, Seizures, Spasms
Numerous forms of epilepsy, as well as disorders involving involuntary movements such as Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and Tourette Syndrome, are successfully being treated with medical marijuana and CBD oil.
Crohn's disease, colitis, IBS, ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea are just some of the digestion-related conditions which are known to respond well to treatment with medical marijuana and CBD oil.
Although this benefit is more controversial than others, research done on cancerous cell lines as well as studies performed on animals suggest that cannabinoids found in medical marijuana and cannabinoid-rich hemp can induce a process known as apoptosis, which forces cancerous cells to “commit suicide.”
Is the wide range of medical benefits of marijuana and hemp “too good to be true,” simply the result of greedy con artists hoping to take advantage of medical patients for their own financial gain, or ‘potheads’ just trying to find ways to get marijuana legalized? As you can see, thousands of research scientists, medical and healthcare professionals, lawmakers, and patient advocates will tell you, “no,” it’s not too good to be true. The medical benefits of marijuana, while not a miracle cure, are both good and true.