The medical benefits of marijuana are the talk of the town. Even as experts continue to investigate its therapeutic properties and clinical value, more than half of the states have green-lighted legalization. And, high-quality yet affordable cannabis-based remedies are also popping up in the market, giving rise to more anecdotes singing praises and vouching for its efficacy.
Despite the soaring popularity of weed, not everyone is aware of the full range of its curative powers. Aside from pain, depression, and anxiety, did you know that this controversial plant can also mitigate dozens of other conditions?
Here are 20 medical benefits of marijuana that you may not have heard about.
Top 20 Medical Benefits of Marijuana
The medicinal use of cannabis goes back to ancient times. Thanks to the overzealous activists, overwhelming anecdotes, and scientific research, more and more of its health-promoting benefits came to light. For sure, there are still others that are yet to be explored.
1. Eases Depression
An animal study showed that THC and other cannabinoids exhibited antidepressant-like effects, thus contributing to the mood-elevating properties of weed. Further research – in 2014, 2016, and 2019 – also showed the non-psychoactive CBD to exert the same activity.
2. Alleviates Anxiety
CBD may regulate compulsive behavior in animals. One trial showed that after 7 days of continuous administration, the anxiolytic effects of CBD remained while benzodiazepine diazepam disappeared. In studies involving humans, it also reduced generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD).
Numerous preclinical studies on animals and humans provide more than enough evidence supporting CBD as a possible treatment for these anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
While THC has relaxing properties, CBD-rich strains can induce calmness even when used recreationally.
3. Addresses PTSD Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an incapacitating mental illness that often afflicts war veterans. Research suggests that cannabis can help reduce and/or manage some of its symptoms, dramatically improving the quality of life. In particular, it may lower the risk of severe depression and suicidal ideation, as well as reduce or get rid of nightmares.
4. May Slow Down Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible brain disorder that worsens over time, resulting in impaired memory, thinking, and behavior. Trials involving synthetic cannabinoids showed positive results. For example, nabilone – used to control nausea and vomiting – reduced the severity of altered behavior and while also increasing body weight. Furthermore, evidence was found that it may decrease night-time agitation and behavioral disturbances.
THC, naturally found in cannabis, has been the contention for the prohibitions and criminalization over the last century. All that changed as more evidence of its medical use surface. For one, it can decrease dementia-related symptoms:
5. May Help with ADHD
Several individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) turning to cannabis to find symptom relief. Studies show that there is a basis backing up this practice.
Of note is a randomized placebo-controlled trial involving 30 adults with ADHD using Sativex Oromucosal Spray. The preliminary outcome showed improvements in:
- Cognitive measure of inhibition
The results indicate that there is a need to study further the role of the endocannabinoid system in ADHD. At any rate, it appears to validate patients choosing to self-medicate with cannabis.
6. Controls Epileptic Seizures
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes unpredictable and recurrent seizures. And according to experts, CBD may help manage these symptoms.
In a prospective study involving 132 patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy, CBD consistently lowered seizure frequency and severity over the two-year research period. Further trials also showed CBD reducing the monthly seizure frequency by as much as 50% during the treatment period.
Because of the testimonials on CBD’s ability to curb seizures or decrease its occurrence, many have opted to self-medicate. Some of the top choices are Carmen 2.0, CBD ACDC, and CBD Harlequin – all of which boasts of 13-20% CBD levels.
7. Relieves Chronic Pain
One of the touted benefits of using cannabis is alleviating chronic pains. Characterized by ongoing pain that lasts longer than six months, this condition can be debilitating, degrading the quality of life. Science has, thus far, identified some of the compounds responsible for the analgesic properties.
Numerous clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of Sativex – a whole-plant extract developed to treat the symptoms of moderate to severe spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) – has been positive. It led researchers to think that it may be suitable for treating central and peripheral neuropathic pain, as well as pains caused by rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
One of the social issues afflicting the United States is the sharp increase in the number of opioid addiction and deaths. Unfortunately, that is the only conventional treatment for severe pain. Cannabinoids are not only an alternative. Its analgesic property synergistically acts as opioid-sparing agents, resulting in a decreased dosage of opioids and fewer side effects.
8. Helps with Arthritis
Arthritis – or the inflammation of the joints – is an umbrella term for more than 200 conditions affecting the joints and its surrounding tissues. Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are among the most common types. Research shows cannabis could potentially target cannabinoid receptors found in the synovium to produce immunosuppression and analgesic activities.
The loss of articular cartilage is a central feature of OA. Although it remains inconclusive, early studies suggest that cannabis could prevent cartilage from breaking down.
9. May Encourage Bone Formation
A 2009 study found that cannabinoids – particularly THC – may stimulate bone formation and suppressing bone resorption (the breakdown of bone tissues) via its interaction with the CB2 receptor. Hence, cannabis may be able to help with bone remodeling and protect against age-related bone loss. The findings implicate its potential in combating osteoporosis – a condition that causes the bones to become brittle and weak.
10. Helps Treat Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Several studies support the therapeutic use of weed in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD).
In 2011, researchers interviewed nearly 300 patients with UC and CD regarding cannabis use. Data indicated that they mainly used the plant to relieve IBD-related symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and poor appetite. Reviews published in 2016 and 2017 agreed that cannabis could help alleviate specific symptoms of IBD.
11. May Help with Liver Conditions
CBD could induce apoptosis or the death of activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). This activity has been implicated in the treatment and prevention of liver fibrosis. Hence, it suggests that CBD could be a potential therapeutic agent for this disease.
12. May Prevent Nausea and Vomiting
Many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (chemo) suffer from nausea and vomiting. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that cannabis could relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV).
A review of animal experiments and human clinical trials found that cannabinoids may help suppress the symptoms of nausea and anticipatory nausea in chemotherapy patients, who often do not respond well to conventional medications. Such possibility thus calls for more trials aimed at developing new endocannabinoid-based anti-nausea and anti-emetic therapies.
13. May Stimulate Appetite and Food Intake
Both anecdotes and scientific studies attest to the ability of THC to increase appetite and food intake (or the munchies), making it useful for patients suffering from appetite and weight loss as side effects of certain conditions.
A cross-sectional questionnaire study found that the majority of HIV-positive individuals self-medicating with cannabis experienced improved appetite. In another study, THC demonstrated the ability to significantly increase food intake and enhance food enjoyment in advanced cancer patients with impaired taste and/or smell.
14. May Promote Weight Loss
Studies suggest that CBD exerts benefits that could with losing weight. For example, studies conducted in 2012 and 2018 observed the anti-obesity activity of this compound – reducing appetite and food intake.
By promoting the browning of fat cells, CBD facilitates the burning of calories. It also aided in lipid metabolism. These effects make it a potential therapeutic agent for the prevention of obesity.
15. May Help Patients with Asthma
Bronchodilators are a type of medication that relaxes the muscles in the lungs to widen or dilate the bronchi (airways) and make breathing easier. It is often used to relieve asthma – a long-term disease of the lung airways.
Even as early as the 1970s, researchers have already noted that THC may act as a bronchodilator, making it useful for the management of asthma symptoms. One study, for example, found THC remarkably improving ventilatory function. In another, researchers noted that smoking cannabis can cause bronchodilatation in asthmatic patients, preventing clinically-induced bronchospasm.
16. May Bring Down the Blood Pressure
In some estimates, up to a third of hypertensive people are not aware they have high blood pressure. If unmitigated, it may lead to severe conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Although THC increases the heart rate initially, it subsequently decreases systolic, diastolic, and intraocular pressure substantially.
17. May Treat Glaucoma
Glaucoma occurs when there is increased pressure within the eyes – also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). If left untreated, it could lead to irreversible blindness.
As one study shows, cannabinoids have vasorelaxant properties. It acts as an ocular hypotensive agent that could effectively lower IOP. Even without a scientific basis, though, many people have attested to strains such as Green Crack and Blue Dream.
18. May Lower the Risk of Diabetes
In a 2011 cross-sectional study involving nearly 11,000 adults, researchers found that cannabis users were associated with a lower prevalence of diabetes mellitus. While correlation does not necessarily mean causation, such findings are encouraging and warrant further exploration.
19. May Help with Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries start hardening and narrowing due to the buildup of plaque. Left unaddressed, it could disrupt the blood blow around the body, eventually triggering stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.
In a study involving a murine model of atherosclerosis, researchers found that the oral treatment of low dose THC significantly inhibited the progression of the disease. The CB2 receptor also appeared to be a valuable target in the treatment of atherosclerosis.
Researchers also proposed that non-inhalation drug routes could help prevent the development of atherosclerosis, which appears to strengthen the previous findings. In contrast, cannabis inhalation has been associated with acute coronary syndromes.
20. May Help Treat Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is an age-related condition that occurs when one or more of the intervertebral discs found in the spine break down. It could cause severe and persistent pain.
In one animal study, researchers found that CBD significantly reduced the effects of disc injury in rats without any side effects. The results indicate that the compound could be useful in the treatment of DDD.
Mounting Evidence, Fewer Anecdotes
One of the reasons why little is known on the medicinal effects of cannabis is the undue persecution. By classifying it as a dangerous drug, the federal government has practically eliminated the possibility of conducting research and clinical trials. It explains why there is a lack of studies during the war on drugs.
The change came, though, as many states have decriminalized or legalized medical use. As the access to cannabis is easier than ever, and without the risk of prosecution, the reasonable expectation is to see a spike in the number of clinical trials on the different medicinal properties of marijuana. Add to that vested commercial interests, it should not take long to gain a full understanding of the mechanisms involved – and subsequent development of new therapies using THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.