There’s no doubting that the stigma relating to cannabis products created from the failing ‘war on drugs’ campaign, that labelled cannabis as a ‘gateway drug’ and cannabis users as ‘lazy’, is slowly but surely being turned around with current breakthroughs in clinical studies and scientific research, as well as a change of its portrayal in the media.
There’s also no doubting the market boom of cannabidiol (CBD) products in the past two years has gone a long way to changing peoples’ perceptions of cannabis overall as we have seen legal cannabis products command a place in the health supplement market. Research has shown that the cannabis/hemp health supplement market value is now worth nearly double that for vitamin C.
However, in the UK cannabis buds are still illegal, or at least the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) component of them is because it’s the main psychotropic component of cannabis that ‘alters’ the users perception of reality and our government has deemed it dangerous, although multiple studies have shown it is no more of a danger to society than the legal drug, alcohol. In spite of this, research has shown that THC as much as the other cannabinoids present in cannabis has medicinal value to humans.
So, it stands to perfect reasoning that consuming cannabis buds, whatever the legal status, can hold health benefits to humans. We shall look into what these benefits may be and what the science do we have that backs this up.
Medicinal cannabis in the western world
In the UK, cannabis was legalized for medicinal purposes in 2018 which saw patients of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis able to access pharmaceutical cannabis derivatives such as Sativex and Epidiolex. This was 17 years behind Canada however, who legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2001 and way behind some American states such as California who legalized medical cannabis in 1996, where patients could access cannabis with the infamous ‘green card’.
Patients in Canada could access cannabis for any medical reason laid out under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) which cited pain, nausea, arthritis, epilepsy and anxiety as some of the many reasons you can access cannabis. However, to access cannabis patients would have to seek medical advice from a doctor who would then prescribe them cannabis based upon their needs, discussing topics such as THC content and frequency of use.
Positive health and well-being is routed in a healthy mind and a body free from aches and pains. So prescribing cannabis for general pain and for anxiety provides evidence that frequent use of cannabis can be good for the mind and the body on a general level, even without the doctor’s say so.
Cannabis & mental health
Depending upon the source of information on the internet, you will see a range of different conclusions to how cannabis affects mental health. Some cite negatives such as ‘use of cannabis from an early age can lead to the onset of psychosis’ whereas others talk about positives such as ‘veterans using cannabis to help cure the symptoms of PTSD’. The information is vast and the speculation is high.
So, in the midst of this debate, it is important to be aware that emotions elicited from cannabis use is a personal thing. In the same way that some people love certain foods and others detest them, everybody is unique and this also pertains to how cannabis makes people feel.
With that considered, a recent study from Washington State University released guidelines of how different strains were reported to affect users stress, anxiety and depression and used statistical data to rank over 12,000 different strains. Lead author of the study, Carrie Cutler said, “Currently, medical and recreational cannabis users rely on the advice of bud tenders whose recommendations are based off of anecdotal not scientific evidence.”
The research of this study also concluded that strains that were high in both THC and CBD seemed to have more positive effects for well-being than other strains, with CBD acting as a buffer, augmenting the effects of THC whilst counteractive THC’s heavy psychotropic effects.
Cannabis & general health
So although cannabis use has been linked and even prescribed for a vast range of medical conditions, a lot of these are lacking in concrete evidence from clinical studies that fully support the claims made. However, Blair Gibbs, a UK expert in medical cannabis from the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) talked about CBD, stating that “anecdotally it’s a different story. It wouldn’t have got the level of 1.3 million regular users if people weren’t buying it, spending £25 a month or more if they weren’t receiving some benefit themselves.”
The main reason for cannabis being cited with helping with a vast range of medical conditions and being seen as this new medical powerhouse is almost purely attributed to the fact that cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties, much the same as commonly seen pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories such as Naproxen or Ibuprofen.
Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have consistently shown in multiple studies that they have anti-inflammatory properties, and suppression of the inflammatory response has been strongly linked with reducing the symptoms of multiple different autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, colitis and hepatitis, as well as also being linked with inhibiting tumour growth.
Anti-inflammatories are also associated with reduction of soreness and stiffness associated with overexertion through exercise. Muscle pain, joint pain and pain within the nervous system are all shown to be reduced through the use of anti-inflammatory medication, and cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory.
As previously mentioned, everybody is different and what works for some may not work for others. However, the evidence is stacking up that shows that use of cannabis not only has multiple medical benefits, but can also be used generally everyday by people as a way to generally improve overall health and well-being.
If somebody doesn’t respond necessarily all that well to cannabis that has high THC content, it may be worth their while looking for a low THC – high CBD strain to see if that yields different results.