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The top 6 health benefits of Marijuana – and the science to prove it

Medical usage of Marijuana is gradually gaining credibility across the US, but many are still unaware of the full range of health benefits that such our beloved herb can bring to patients of unpleasant, even potentially lethal medical conditions.

In this article we’ll take a look at the top 6 health benefits of Marijuana usage, along with the science behind them!

Originally posted on 21st January 2015, Updated on the 28th of January 2019

1) Marijuana can help the fight against cancer

The usage of Marijuana has frequently been said to have a therapeutic effect on those suffering the debilitating effects of both cancer and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

When used in the right quantities, marijuana has been shown to reduce the sensations of pain and nausea in those undergoing cancer treatment; effectively diminishing the two most unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. This study is just one that has shown this. Some studies have also shown evidence that cancer itself can be fought through exposure to cannabis, though there is considerably less clinical evidence to prove this particular hypothesis.

The cannabinoid compounds found within cannabis provide an effective antiemetic effect, comparable to many dedicated synthetic pharmacological alternatives; stabilising a vast proportion of the negative physical symptoms of chemotherapy. The proportion of these cannabinoids present in a given cannabis plant varies from strain to strain; so the cultivation of specific crops is required to optimise this effect.

2) Crohn’s disease and other digestive disorders can be soothed with the use of cannabis

A variety of unpleasant bowel conditions, which are characterised by an inflammation of the bowels, including Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease, can have their symptoms diminished through the use of cannabis. This study, is just one that has already proven that.

These different forms of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are characterised by a patient’s immune system attacking their own digestive system; some of the cannabinoid molecules found in cannabis are thought to interact with receptors in the digestive tract of humans, stimulating healing and reducing inflammation. This, in theory, would allow sufferers of IBD to control the symptoms of this condition; allowing for a better quality of life.

3) Marijuana can help control seizures, and minimise the symptoms of Dravet’s Syndrome

A number of studies also link the usage of marijuana to having a positive effect on the management of seizures, with particular benefit to those trying to manage medical conditions such as epilepsy, and Dravet’s syndrome. This study takes an in-depth look at the effects of cannabis on these conditions, as does this study.

To emphasise, marijuana usage does not serve as a cure to these conditions, but can allow patients to control the symptoms; maintaining a quality of life which would normally be unobtainable to sufferers.

The chemical cannabidiol is the key when it comes to marijunana’s treatment of seizure causing conditions. This particular chemical has been shown to reduce the number of seizures that a patient must endure on a daily basis; even in cases of paediatric epilepsy which have proven resistant to other medication.

The added advantage with the use of medical marijuana to combat seizure causing conditions is that the marijuana bred for this purpose is required to be high in cannabidiol, and low in THC, vastly reducing the hallucinogenic and easy to abuse elements commonly found in ‘normal’ cannabis. This means that use of this particular strain carries far fewer risks to those required to maintain concentration (when driving, for example), or children.

4) Mental disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease and PTSD can be controlled through the use of Marijuana

This may be one of the less surprising connections between a medical condition and treatment with marijuana, given the long-running link between cannabis and exploration of the mind, but it’s also thought that there’s a link between marijuana usage and a lessening of severity in a number of mental health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and PTSD. This study focused on the effects of cannabis on PTSD, while this study looked at the correlation between medical marijuana and dementia.

The way in which marijuana usage can treat conditions like PTSD is similar to the manner in which it can be utilised in treating other neurological based diseases; the method primarily relies on the interaction between cannabinoids present in marijuana, and the endocannabinoid system of the brain. Links have been found between the endocannabinoid system and the destruction of memories; a natural process which PTSD is believed to interfere with, particularly in regards to the traumatic memories around which the condition revolves. It is thought that marijuana use can break some of the links between traumatic memories and present stimuli; reducing the occurrence and severity of PTSD attacks.

In regards to Alzheimer’s disease, the THC found in marijuana is thought to hold the key to effective treatment; specifically when used in low concentrations. It is thought that exposing the brain to low levels of THC helps prevent the degeneration of memory holding tissue, while also avoiding the memory loss symptomatic with long-term exposure to ‘abuse-levels’ of THC.

5) Cannabis can help to protect the brain from injury

On the subject of the well-being of your brain, a number of studies have suggested that cannabis may be able to act as a preventative measure against brain injury; buffering the brain and minimising damage. It's believed that this protection can help to mitigate potential damage from concussions, head trauma and strokes.

The science behind this is understandably complex, though the principle mechanism at work seems to be the interaction between cannabinoids, and the brain and nervous system. In particular, the cannabinoids released into the body through the use of marijuana are thought to reduce the build-up of neurotransmitters called glutamates, the body’s production of which is expedited by head injuries. If allowed to build up in sufficient quantities, glutamates can lead to the degeneration of important neural tissue and systems.

Marijuana’s ability to aid in the faster recovery from, and active prevention of strokes is also tied into the same ideas; in essence, the cannabinoids present in marijuana can counteract some of the negative neural effects that occur as a result of strokes. Taking this further, some research also indicates that the endocannabinoid system in the body may be a key element in the body’s natural defence against strokes; the cannabinoid management enabled by marijuana consumption has been hypothesised as helping to maintain this stroke deterrent.

6) Marijuana can help to maintain your eyesight, by combating glaucoma

The smoking of marijuana has also been linked to the relief of the symptoms associated with sufferers of glaucoma; in particular the build-up of ocular pressure that is a common element of glaucoma’s pathology. Indeed, one of the central treatment paths for glaucoma is to regularly relieve the pressure that has built up behind the eye, in order to reduce ongoing damage to the ocular nerve. This is of particular importance, as untreated glaucoma will eventually irreparably damage the optic nerve; ultimately leading to complete blindness.

While there are also many prescription drugs available to combat the insidious effects of glaucoma, generally either reducing the amount of pressure building aqueous humour fluid present in the eye, or allowing the amount contained within to drain in larger amounts; marijuana has been found to produce a similar effect. Specifically, a range of the cannabinoids found in marijuana have been clinically shown in this study and others to reduce the intraocular pressure that characterises cases of glaucoma; in much the same way that marijuana use reduces blood pressure around the body. One thing to bear in mind is that marijuana is required to be smoked in high quantities to have the required, continued effect.

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