Pot, weed, ganja, the Devil’s lettuce; although a plant of many names, marijuana stems from the cannabis plant and can be smoked, vaped, brewed in tea, or ingested through food.
As states trip over themselves to legalize the use of marijuana now that the health benefits are becoming more widely known, it may be interesting to learn that the plant has been used as a herbal medicine for centuries, likely dating back to 500 BC and originating in Asia.
Traditionally used in various ritual and/or religious activities all over the world, marijuana is on the verge of a reputational overhaul, with states like California and Colorado blazing the trail for the use of legal weed for medical and recreational purposes respectively.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine carried out over 10,000 scientific studies that researched the medical benefits of marijuana, with interesting findings.
Chronic pain affects over 25 million adults in America. It is one of the most common causes of disability and it can present itself in many ways and numerous conditions.
Marijuana can have major health benefits for those suffering from chronic pain, as research has shown it to be effective at relieving the symptoms of pain due to the active ingredient cannabinoids, which it contains in high quantities.
These work to alter the pain perception pathways in your brain in order to alleviate your pain, which has been beneficial in treating conditions like arthritis, endometriosis, and migraines.
Marijuana can also have health benefits if you’re struggling to get enough sleep at night, for example, if you’re suffering from a sleep disorder such as insomnia. Weed has a naturally relaxing effect that promotes improved sleep, as well as helping you drift off in the first place.
Another reason for improved sleep could be if the health benefits of marijuana have alleviated the adverse symptoms of another health condition, such as chronic pain.
Mental Health Conditions
Mental illness is a broad spectrum, but while marijuana is not a treatment that should be prescribed for all types of mental health conditions, research has shown that there are health benefits associated with using it to treat patients with depression, PTSD, and social anxiety.
Studies indicate that marijuana can alleviate the symptoms of these conditions, although it can have adverse effects if abused through excessive use, such as increased social anxiety.
Marijuana should never be used as a treatment for conditions such as bipolar disorder or phsycosis.
In addition to THC, marijuana also contains CBD which is believed to reduce inflammation. There are a number of conditions that could benefit from this, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.
Cannabinoids can also play a useful role in regulating the body’s immune system, which in turn can suppress inflammatory reactions and helps to reduce inflammation overall.
The two active ingredients in marijuana, THC and CBD, are the same ingredients used in Sativex, a drug that is often prescribed to people with multiple sclerosis to alleviate muscle spasms and any subsequent pain.
Marijuana has been found to have similar effects in the short-term, but as a long-term treatment to reduce symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the health benefits are fairly minimal.
Cancer is another medical area where cannabis can have notable health benefits.
When smoked, some studies have shown that marijuana can be helpful in relieving symptoms after chemotherapy treatment, such as nausea and vomiting.
Some research has pointed towards marijuana being able to slow the growth rate of or even effectively eliminate certain cancers, but while the cannabinoids have no adverse effects and can be used to treat symptoms, marijuana is not a successful treatment for curing cancer.
The Adverse Effects of Marijuana
Approximately 4.5% of the world’s population now admit to using marijuana, a percentage that is only set to increase as more and more countries are looking at legalizing it for medical use, if not also for recreational use.
As with anything, however, although there are a number of health benefits associated with marijuana, there are also adverse effects that can be experienced if you use it excessively.
In the worst-case scenario, extreme marijuana use can result in an increased risk of developing psychosis, which includes mental health conditions like schizophrenia.
It can also be a trigger that exacerbates symptoms of bipolar disorder in people who are already displaying signs of this condition, although there is little to no evidence to suggest that marijuana use can be linked to the onset of bipolar disorder.