Since ancient times, Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes by humans. Ancient cultures cultivated the plants not for the ‘euphoric’ side effects but as a herbal medicine which was practiced as part of medicine for thousands of years and was still considered a part of mainstream medicine into the 19th century. Its medicinal use declined during the 20th century when the plant was declared illegal across majority of the world.
The fast-growing hemp plant or Cannabis was also used to make paper, clothing, sails and rope. The whole plant was used, even the seeds which are seen to aid with digestion among other benefits. Early hemp plants had low levels of Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical compound responsible for the “high” or psychoactive effects that a person gets from consuming Cannabis.
First discovered in the 1940’s, Cannabidiol (CBD), is one of the most abundant compounds found in Cannabis Sativa plant along with hundreds of other important compounds such as the well-known Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabigerol (CBG)
CBD can act as a neurotransmitter. It is also found to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Outside of the Cannabis species, certain household plants and foods have been found to contain phytocannabinoids such as clove, black pepper, Echinacea, broccoli, ginseng, and carrots.
Research and clinical data has shown that there are therapeutic benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids for multiple medical conditions, however, there is still insufficient scientific evidence for cannabis to be licensed as a therapy. As such, it is still considered as an experimental medicinal product and all prescriptions still require approval by the regulator agency.
1. Chronic Pain
The interest in the use of cannabinoids as a supplemental therapy for pain management has increased in the last few decades along with research on Cannabis and cannabinoids which has increased dramatically over the years. By far, relief from chronic pain is the most common condition cited by patients for the use of medical Cannabis. Some individuals have been reported to have replaced their long-term conventional pain medications, such as opiates, with Cannabis.
Conclusions across all reviews were largely consistent in suggesting that cannabinoids demonstrate a modest effect on other pain conditions in humans most probably due to different mechanisms of pain. Nevertheless, experts have determined that using CBD helps to reduce the intensity of pain along particularly due to its strong anti-inflammatory effects.
A number of small studies have shown that cannabis is beneficial in alleviating nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy among cancer patients. Recent research indicates that introducing cannabinoids such as THC and CBD could potentially slow the growth and eliminate certain types of cancer cells.
University of Newcastle researchers found that modified versions of medicinal cannabis can potentially inhibit or destroy cancer cells without effect on normal cells. The research comes after a three-year collaboration between biotech company Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG) and Dr. Matt Dun.
During their research, the team tested THC-rich cannabis against varieties with higher levels of CBD. They found that those rich in CBD are far more effective in potentially destroying cancer cells in conditions such as leukaemia and paediatric brainstem glioma, than THC-rich varieties. Ultimately, they concluded that high CBD varieties tend to be more effective, have lower toxicity and fear side effects which would make it an ideal complementary therapy for other anti-cancer compounds.
3. Anxiety and Depression
Serotonin is a “hormone of happiness” and experts determined that anxiety and depression levels were on the high side when there is a low level of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is an essential neurotransmitter of the serotonergic system that affects the function of many other neurotransmitters.
Serotonin also regulates the central nervous system as well as the digestive system where 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut. It also regulates diverse functions of the body and behaviours such as: learning, appetite, aggression, consciousness and reward-seeking behaviour.
Depression and anxiety can be present alongside each other. It is not uncommon for people who have one of the two will also have the other. There is still limited and insufficient scientific evidence to support claims that CBD is an effective treatment for depression and/or anxiety, it does not automatically mean that it is not beneficial. However, there is still a need for further controlled clinical trials to fully support that CBD is effective in treating anxiety or depression.
4. Promotes Bone Health
The central nervous consists of the brain, spinal cord and nerve cells. It plays a vital role in the control of most bodily functions and in taking control when regulating bone metabolism in humans. Peak bone production occurs up to around the age of 35 and gradually declines as we age. Some issues can occur when our bones weaken which can also affect important functional movements such as sitting and walking.
CBD has been found to have a positive effect on the skeletal system and helps improve bone density and reduce symptoms related to various bone diseases. Accordingly, CBD assists in helping the body continuously undergo a process of renewal and repair called “bone remodelling”, which is the process of replacing old bone material with new ones. This in turn, helps in assuring that bone diseases such as the likes of osteoporosis does not impact the CBD user even in old age. It was also found that cannabis users tend to recover faster overall.
Additionally, CBD also helps in stimulating the mitochondria in our bodies and expedite the secretion of glutamate. This positively impacts those suffering from severe bone diseases and CBD is advantageous for these cases.
5. Epilepsy and Seizure
Recent research suggests that CBD can help people with epilepsy. Epidiolex is a synthetic CBD-based epileptic medication which was initially approved under the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use with children over the age of 2 which was later increased in 2020 to also include children under this age to treat with cannabidiol therapy.
Epidiolex was also approved for use to treat tuberous sclerosis complex, another rare seizure condition.
Due to the fact that these conditions are typically diagnosing children and teenagers, the drug is usually prescribed for children with epilepsy. Note however that Epidiolex is a pharmaceutical product and may not necessarily be the same as using artisanal CBD.
Medical Cannabis is effective in the treatment of epilepsy due to the presence of CBD. However, a 2018 meta-analysis measured the effects of CBD-rich Cannabis extracts with pure CBD on treatment-resistant epilepsy. The analysis concluded that CBD-rich Cannabis extracts were found to be more effective at reducing seizures than pure CBD.
6. Regulates the Wellness of the Heart
The heart being one of our most important organs pumps blood to different parts of our body. However, health issues will be faced when too much pressure is on it. With increased pressure, the risks related to conditions such as heart attacks also increase.
The presence of inflammation is one indicative factor that determines the presence of diseases, this includes coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. There is a lot of evidence and research that indicates CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and has the potential to help in this area.
Though most studies are often based on findings in lab animals, we still cannot be fully confident that CBD will benefit the human heart. However, research is ongoing into the use of purer forms of CBD for various conditions including heart and circulatory diseases, particularly diseases associated with the heart muscle.
Note however, that a detailed clinical research to fully claim that CBD as a treatment for heart issues is warranted.
Insomnia is a sleeping disorder where the individual has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and overall having a good quality of sleep. It can be a short-term problem arising from high stress or it can also be a chronic issue that is impacted by the amount of cortisol in the body.
Cortisol is a hormone best known for its primary role in stress response. Under stressful conditions, the body’s hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis spurs the release of cortisol. Our cells are studded with cortisol receptors, so this release can instantaneously trigger our threat responses such as: sharpened senses, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, and a spike in blood sugar.
But that’s not all what cortisol does. This hormone can also affect your mood, help your immune system function in response to injury or illness, and influence your metabolism and digestion.
So, what does cortisol have to do with sleep? Both stress response and sleep share the same pathway: the HPA axis. When something disrupts its function, sleep cycles can be disrupted as well.
Elevated cortisol levels during night time may be the cause of people with insomnia. CBD may be able to help control cortisol levels. A 2019 study on CBD’s effects on sleep and anxiety found that people dosing between 300 to 600 mg of CBD oil had lower cortisol levels. This means that CBD may function as a form of sedative that affects cortisol release.
8. Lowers High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol is a condition that can potentially double a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease with only one caveat, detecting high cholesterol (without a lipid panel blood test) is problematic since it is symptomless. You might be clueless that you already have the condition.
There are two categories or types of cholesterol: High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) often described as ‘good’ cholesterol and Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol. HDL functions by removing LDL deposits and limits the build-up of plaque that may lead to heart attacks and strokes. High LDL causes plaque accumulation in blood vessels causing it to harden and become narrower or blocked. Heart attack or strokes are caused by blocked arteries that prevent blood from reaching vital organs and tissues.
CBD oil products help by stimulating the production of HDL. Apart from stimulation, another effect that CBD has for cholesterol regulation is that it can also be used for decreasing levels of LDL, this effectively means it assists with HDL’s work.
9. Improves Various Skin Conditions
We already mentioned that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, therefore it can be beneficial in alleviating or treating such dermatological conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema.
In cases such as eczema, a chronic condition with no cure, a patient is often stuck with lotions, steroid creams along with the ingestion of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory pills, both of which can wreak havoc on the renal system over time.
Cannabinoids including CBD treat inflammation effectively. That goes whether the condition is a symptom of an underlying disease or is itself the condition. What this simply means is that CBD oil can help mitigate the effects of severe inflammation.
Cannabinoids also have antipruritic and antimicrobial benefits. Along with anti-inflammatory benefits, topical forms of CBD can alleviate itchiness. Cannabinoids and CBD activate CB2 receptors on the peripheral sensory fibers thus inhibiting itching signals and soothes itchy skin.
10. MS and Spasticity
Evidence suggests that easing multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms can be helped by the use of CBD for some patients. Anecdotal reports also suggest that cannabinoids relieve the symptoms of MS significantly. This led some MS patients to self-medicate with cannabis, suggested to be beneficial in controlling symptoms such as: fatigue, anxiety, pain, tremor, spasticity, and bladder dysfunction.
An important factor to note is that your own body naturally produces its own Cannabinoids called endocannabinoids and we naturally have receptors for these mainly found within our nervous system and immune system cells.
In an episode of MS, the central nervous system (CNS) comes under attack by the immune system. It is believed that CBD interacts with CNS receptors that help mitigate how our body responds to various stimuli.
Accordingly, spasticity in MS occurs due to issues with the CNS, not in the muscles. So if the pathways in the brain and spinal cord are altered by the use of CBD, the resulting effect is the alteration of the pathways to the muscle as well. These changes in pathways may then result in the reduction of spasticity which in turn help the patient increase their mobility.
Want to know more?
For patients who would want to learn more about the therapeutic effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids in treating or even alleviate symptoms you might have, we have to state that Cannabis and Cannabinoids are not in themselves cure all substances. These are primarily used to relieve symptoms brought about by symptoms of their condition or help ease side effects brought about by their treatments.
For more information, it is prudent to seek the assistance of your healthcare provider or your GP. Do check out our education, resource page, and patients page. If you need assistance in finding doctors or clinics that can help you with more information how Cannabis and Cannabinoids may work for you, feel free to get in touch with us.