The medical benefits of marijuana have been known for generations, and taking cannabis for medical purposes has seen a surge in popularity over recent years. There has been plenty of recent research to show that it is indeed a legitimate choice for treating a host of illnesses and diseases. Doctors are also now prescribing it to help relieve the symptoms of conditions as diverse as anxiety, anorexia and epilepsy.
Marijuana has at least two compounds which have medical applications – CBD (cannabidiol) which is non-psychoactive, and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which causes marijuana’s famous high but which can also relieve pain. It is also believed that many of its other cannabinoids may also have medicinal properties that could be beneficial.
Here are some of the best supported medical uses for marijuana currently known:
People who suffer from a number of chronic pain conditions including arthritis and rheumatism can benefit from using marijuana to relieve their symptoms. This is currently the most common reason for people to use the drug.
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Studies have revealed plenty of evidence to show that medicinal cannabis can help patients who suffer from muscle spasms from conditions such as multiple sclerosis. By relaxing the muscles, patients can find relief without any of the side effects associated with traditional medications.
The eye condition glaucoma, which is potentially very serious and can result in blindness, can also be treated using marijuana. Glaucoma increases the pressure inside the eye eventually damaging the optic nerve resulting in a loss of sight. Medical Marijuana decreases the intraocular pressure thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties helping to relieve the pain of glaucoma and reduce its damaging effects.
Several studies carried out on the use of CBD, one of marijuana’s active compounds, have shown it can help those who have epilepsy and who are resistant to the current pharmaceutical medications. Cannabis has been shown to succeed where all other known drugs have failed in controlling their seizures.
Although the only studies carried out for this purpose have been in laboratories or in animals, this preliminary research has shown that CBD and THC can either slow down the growth or even shrink tumours. It has been demonstrated to kill cancer cells and to prevent their spread to neighbouring tissues.
In low doses, medicinal cannabis has been shown to be highly effective in treating patients with anxiety, including PTSD. Marijuana can help to release the feelgood chemicals in the brain and help the sufferer to relax, thus reducing stress.
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A study carried out in 2006 has shown that the progression of the degenerative neurological condition Alzheimer’s Disease can be slowed down when medical marijuana is used. THC can slow down the formation of amyloid plaques since it blocks the enzyme which created them. It is these plaques which kill the brain cells to result in Alzheimer’s.
MS has many painful symptoms which cause misery for sufferers including strong muscle contractions. While some patients are resistant to existing treatments, medical cannabis has been shown to effectively reduce their pain since the THC binds to nerve receptors.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are painful bowel conditions, however, the cannabinoids in medical marijuana interact with the body’s cells which have a key role to play in the function of the gut and immune responses. As a result, the cells of the intestines bond more closely together to become less permeable, thus reducing the pain associated with these conditions.
The tremors which are linked to Parkinson’s Disease can be greatly reduced when the sufferer uses medical marijuana. Fine motor skills are hugely improved and pain is reduced.
Protects the Brain
Patients who have had a stroke, or who have suffered a concussion or some other trauma can protect their brain by using medical cannabis. Studies have revealed that patients who have had brain injuries are less likely to die if they use marijuana.
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Reducing Nausea And Pain
Patients who are going through chemotherapy can find that nausea and pain that they experience while undergoing this treatment can be greatly reduced if they use medical cannabis. Chemo patients often vomit and have a poor appetite, which can result in additional health problems. However, medical marijuana reduces the side effects linked to chemo and stimulates the appetite to help patients to improve their diet.
People who are trying to quit excessive alcohol consumption can find that medical marijuana represents the ideal solution. Considerably less addictive than alcohol it causes a lot less physical damage and has no withdrawal symptoms.
People who have certain disorders of the liver such as liver fibrosis can benefit from using medicinal marijuana. CBD can kill the hepatic stellate cells which contribute to the scarring of the liver, and thus reduce its extent. A study carried out in 2002 also showed that patients who had cholestatic liver disease, when treated using THC, had improved symptoms including less insomnia, depression and itchiness.
This condition causes extreme pain and a heightened response to pain in the sufferer, and around 5 million people in just the USA alone are current sufferers. At the present time, there are limited treatments available to alleviate their pain, however medical cannabis has been shown in surveys to be more effective in reducing the painful symptoms than any of the drugs which have been approved by the FDA for treating fibromyalgia.
These are just some of the many medical conditions which have been proven in studies to be treated by medicinal cannabis. Patients who use the drug have found that their quality of life has been greatly improved, their pain has been drastically reduced, and other unwanted symptoms have cleared, helping them to feel better without suffering. Doctors are now recognizing the medical benefits of marijuana, and are prescribing it to patients with a host of different problems to help them to get relief and live a life that is free from pain and discomfort.
Photo: Carlos Gracia