How does it feel?
Effects vary largely between people, and this is partially due to the phytochemical composition of the plant. For example a THC rich plant will cause stronger psychoactive effects. Common effects include feeling happy, giggly, sleepy however some people can feel paranoid and anxious.
What can I use it for?
Cannabis’s use and potential spans across many different illnesses because it works directly with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system acts as a “homeostatic warden” across the nervous system and immune system, which is why research shows the plant can have efficacy in illnesses ranging from mental health issues, inflammation, epilepsy and cancer.
Many people use it for pain management, and it is often particularly favoured as an alternative to drugs like morphine for cancer patients. This is because of its favourable safety profile, as well as the fact that people remain mostly coherent, and appetite is increased.
Cannabis is also used to help people with sleep as it has hypnotic effects. Commonly people use it for anxiety, however the plant also has a biphasic effect which means it can exacerbate symptoms if the dosage is wrong.
Cannabis has also been shown to have remarkable effect on Parkinson’s disease. This is because THC works on the basal ganglia area of the brain, inhibiting motor neurons and stopping the tremors that can severely effect people’s quality of life.
Into the heart of Cannabis
Cannabis use dates back 8000 years, however it was only in 1928 due to its psychoactive effects.
Now legislation is easing worldwide for both medical and recreational use. There has been massive scientific interest because the endocannabinoid was only discovered in 1992, which is only relatively recent in science terms. The endocannabinoid mediates both the nervous system which is responsible for our thoughts, movement and emotions as well as the immune system. Cannabis binds directly to our endocannabinoid receptors, which is why it is so efficacious and hosts such a vast range of exciting medical potential.
Cannabis has been used across cultures for thousands of years. The first solid evidence of cannabis being used in India is about 10th century AD, according to Jan Meulenbeld who is a true scholar of Ayurvedic history.
In Chinese medicine it is known as one of the 50 fundamental herbs and it is used for over 100 ailments, including gout and rheumatism. It was also used in ancient Greece, and has been cited in texts by Galen and Dioscorides.
Western herbal actions are
What practitioners say
There is some controversy amongst practitioners about the use of medical cannabis, and given its legal history and potential side effects this debate is to be expected. However, there are many doctors, specialists and scientists who are ardently for the use of this plant especially for conditions where quality of life can be significantly improved or where there are limited pharmaceutical treatments.
Now there are medical cannabis clinics in the UK, particularly for issues such as pain and insomnia. Globally there has been a huge shift in the legislation (as well as the cultural perceptions) of this plant and it is more freely available for all sorts of conditions, as well as recreational use.
Sleep: Research was conducted on 147 subjects from 2 cannabis clinics in Southern California. 116 of these patients reported difficulty sleeping, and 31 reported no issues with sleep. Sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) was recorded, as well as sleep quality and dreams. Subjects fell asleep significantly faster, and 79% reported increased sleep quality.
Epilepsy: A review was conducted of 4 trials, focusing on the use of CBD (one of the main active compounds in cannabis) for Lennox–Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS). Seizure frequency decreased by at least 50% for 37.2% of patients. There are various potential mechanisms of action for CBD and epilepsy, including blocking the breaking down of anandamide, targeting abnormal sodium channels and activation of transient receptor potential of vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1).
Appetite: Two trials showed that oral THC found in cannabis can stimulate the appetite and may slow down weight loss in people with advanced cancer. It is thought that the endogenous cannabinoid system regulates feeding behaviour, for example it has been shown that anandamide (an endocannabinoid) in mice leads to increased appetite. CB1 receptors which are part of the endocannabinoid system are present in the hypothalamus where food intake is controlled.
Pain: A trial was conducted with 176 who suffered with chronic pain, and were treatment resistant to opioids and other drugs. Factors such as pain severity, opioid consumption, and physical, social and emotional wellbeing were measured. Overall results show that there was a significant improvement in pain and functional outcomes and a significant reduction in opioid use.
Did you know?
Queen Victoria was known to use cannabis for menstrual pain. Also the endocannabinoid receptor that THC (the psychoactive molecule in cannabis) is called anandamide which comes from the Sanskrit word ananda meaning bliss.
There are various risks associated with cannabis, for example some people feel confused, anxious and paranoid when using cannabis.
There are also more serious potential implications as regular users have a higher risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. Risk is especially high with people who; have underlying mental health conditions such as psychosis and schizophrenia, start smoking at a young age, smoke regularly, use it for a long time, and smoke stronger types such as skunk. Additionally, if there is a family history of schizophrenia then risk is increased.
Cannabis is still illegal to grow or use in the UK, unless prescribed by a specialist.
Dosage varies massively depending on an individual, what is being treated and method of administration. For example cannabis can be smoked, applied topically, eaten or used in a spray.
Cannabis like all plants has a plethora of compounds that work in synergy together and compounds range from cannabinoids to volatile oils, terpenes and alkaloids. This phenomena has helped many scientists shift from the perspective of having one “saviour” compound to acknowledging that complex multi-molecule extracts very often work with better efficacy and safety. Research has also shown us the individual uses of each molecule which we have summarised below. Please note that some of these studies were conducted on animals and individual compounds may not work the same in humans. Nonetheless cannabis has been used clinically for all of these different conditions.
- CBD (cannabidiol) – anxiety, inflammation, seizures
- THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – parkinson’s, psychoactive, pain, appetite
- CBG (cannabigerol) – huntingtons, parkinsons, multiple sclerosis, IBS, antibacterial
- Linalool – pain, anti-inflammatory
- Myrcene – pain, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
- Pinene – cancer, anxiety
- B-Caryophyllene – alzheimers, inflammation, wound healing, inflammation