Medicinal Marijuana! Is it real?
There are many prejudices around marijuana and that is why confusion about its medicinal use is common. When medical cannabis is mentioned, reference is made to the Cannabis Sativa plant, which has been used to treat different diseases in traditional medicine in many cultures.
Cannabis Sativa contains more than 70 different substances, substances called cannabinoids, which are in different proportions depending on the specific strain of the plant. That is why it is important to choose well depending on the specific needs of each person.
What cannabinoids are desirable for medicinal use?
One of the best known is 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly defined as THC, for its psychoactive effects. In the recreational use of marijuana, the strains with higher THC content are looked for, and since it is what has the greatest demand, the commercialized seeds are usually of these varieties.
THC is responsible for the use of cannabis for getting high, but also has different proven medicinal effects: stimulates appetite, reduces nausea and vomiting, is useful to mitigate tremors and spasms and is anti-inflammatory.
All plants, however, contain other active compounds that do not have such psychoactive effects as CBD, CBC and CBG. These components are very desirable in medical marijuana, but nevertheless they appear in smaller proportion. In particular, CBD or cannabidiol produces effects that counteract those of THC, but also causes a sedative effect in most people, inhibits the transmission of nerve signals associated with pain and reduces the growth of cancer cells in certain types of cancer such as breast cancer, without affecting non-cancer cells. In most varieties, the percentage of CBD is between 0.6% and 1%. Some purely medicinal varieties can reach 6%, they are not very common although they can be found.
It is very interesting the synergy that occurs between THC and CBD, since together they enhance their analgesic effects and the effects of CBD counteract the alterations that THC causes in the senses, allowing patients who use therapeutic marijuana to function normally.
Can these products be purchased safely?
There are different laboratories whose products are approved by health agencies, although clandestine artisanal production is very common. Although commercial products are more expensive, they also offer more guarantees about quality and different preparations depending on the use that is going to be given to them. The most well-known preparation is oil, although other preparations are also found such as milk, tincture, butter, ointments, tablets or even prepared in the form of food.
For what diseases is effective and how does cannabis work?
It is a chronic disease in which, during an attack, the bronchi contract and the air flow to the lungs is interrupted. The most interesting effects are bronchodilator and antispasmodic (decreases the involuntary contractions of the muscle surrounding the bronchi), because it allows the bronchi to relax and the air to circulate again in a normal way. In addition, asthma sufferers usually have a certain level of inflammation even between episodes of the disease and recent studies show that viral or bacterial infections can also be influenced, with cannabis acting as an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.
On the other hand, its analgesic effect diminishes the chest pains that are frequent in asthma attacks.
The most suitable form of administration is the oral one with prescribed doses to avoid the overdosage alternated with the inhalation with a vaporizer if acute attacks occur, thus diminishing the irritation of the mucous membranes.
Patients with multiple sclerosis suffer a permanent muscle contraction known as spasticity. Cannabinoids interact with receptors, proteins located in the membranes of neural and immune tissue cells, called CB1 and CB2. These interactions produce interesting effects that improve the symptoms of sclerosis:
Reduces spasticity and pain.
It stimulates the mechanisms of elimination of glutamate, a substance that damages neurons.
Decreases the inflammatory response.
It lowers the immune response that produces toxic substances that damage neuronal tissue.
Highly incapacitating disease of which the exact origin is still not well known. People who suffer from it have chronic pain, stiff muscles especially in the mornings and generally suffer from anxiety and depression. It is thought that it has a neuropathic origin, that is to say, that it is caused by an alteration in the nervous system. On the one hand, dysregulation of the neurotransmission, dopamine and serotonin systems is suspected mainly, and on the other, stress-regulating mechanisms (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). In the neural tissue there are receptors (known as CB1) for both endogenous cannabinoids (those produced by our own body) and exogenous cannabinoids, and the cannabinoid system is involved in physiological functions that affect the regulation of dopamine and serotonin, as well as the regulation of the physiological stress response. The application of medical marijuana can substantially improve the subjective feeling of pain: the pain cause would not disappear, but the person would be less sensitive to it.
On the other hand, the immune system has other receptors, the CB2, and there are studies that point to immune alterations as a probable concomitant cause in fibromyalgia.
This disease associated with an increase in intraocular pressure, producing damage to the optic nerve and a gradual loss of nerve fibers in the retina. Progressively the patient loses vision and the damage is irreparable if it is not treated in time, being able to reach complete blindness.
Marijuana consumed in the form of a cigarette or ingested as food, reduces intraocular pressure by 25%, in addition to the well-known anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that are very important in some variants of the disease.
The effects, however, last between 3 and 4 hours, and applied topically is not as effective, so some lines of research have focused on the formulation of an eye drop from cannabis that allows a direct application on the eye.
They appear in the form of a throbbing headache accompanied by nausea, vomiting and hypersensitivity to noise and light, disabling the sufferer to perform any task for hours or even days. The use of medicinal cannabis helps to improve the life of these people by alleviating the symptoms by their analgesic effect, decreasing nausea and vomiting or even eliminating them completely, and not less important is its sedative effect, which allows to improve the states of stress and anxiety attacks.
In addition, they are an alternative for those in whom other treatments have not worked or for which the side effects of those medications and the time they take to take effect are not an option.
Although the mechanisms by which migraines appear are not entirely clear, they seem to be related to the production of serotonin and the sensitization of the vascular trigeminal nerves. Cannabinoids interfere with the production of serotonin and inhibit the pain responses of these nerves.
Recent studies have shown that THC is effective in the death of tumor cells thanks to the mechanism of "cell recycling" or autophagy. Studies of this process by which the cell degrades and recycles components has earned its discoverer, Yoshinori Ohsumi the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2016.
It seems that THC is one of the factors that determines the activation of autophagy that leads to the death of tumor cells, not affecting healthy cells.
So far, the studies have been done in vitro or in animals, but scientists are very optimistic in view of the results obtained in the destruction of tumor tissue by these new therapies.
But cancer patients also have to deal with the effects of the aggressive antitumor therapies that produce within 24 hours after treatment: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and discomfort in the mouth. On many occasions, the hospital's own smell already makes them feel this discomfort by association, and the success of medicinal cannabis is amply demonstrated to improve these symptoms. In addition to that patients feel better, have more appetite and decreases their anxiety, which significantly improves their quality of life and their mood to face the disease.
The human body has receptors for cannabinoids, which makes the medicinal uses of cannabis offer a wide field of study for the following generations. Although at the moment there is no scientific evidence on the healing properties of cannabis, it has been possible to verify the palliative effects on the symptoms of many of them. Due to the illegality in which the plant has been maintained in most of the world, research on its medicinal use has been held back for years. However, at present the medicinal use of marijuana has been legalized in many countries (and also recreational use in some of them) which has given a necessary boost for the study and application of cannabis derivatives in the health field, as well as the development of safe and quality products.