Did you know that Cannabis was used as a medicine for more than 4000 years? It was only about 75 years ago that it was removed from the modern pharmacopoeia. It was used effectively and safely for pain control, as an anti-inflammatory and anti-infective and even to control epileptic seizures.
Contrary to popular belief, the actual healing benefit only comes from the female Cannabis plant, not the male Hemp plant, though hemp is a wonderful produce used for many textiles, industrial uses, fuel, food and even cosmetics. It is also important which genetic strains of Cannabis is used for medicinal purposes, (the most commonly used are the C. indica and C. sativa strains) They also don’t even use the entire plant when extracting oils, simply the crystals on a matured plant, called trichomes. These crystals are then turned into the medical oils.
Why does it work?
Scientists found that our bodies have natural endogenous cannabinoids in every nerve cell. There are 84 kinds in our bodies, and miraculously 84 kinds of exogenous cannabinoids in nature. These chemicals mediate appetite, pain-sensation, stress response, immune function, reproduction, pain, sleep, mood and memory and their receptor sites are where exogenous (or medicinal) cannabinoids work. Cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant include THC, CBD, cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). These have all been shown to have slightly different benefits in different illnesses as shown in the diagram below
What are the medicinal uses?
I was blown away to discover how many chronic diseases can actually be treated, if not completely cured by medical marijuana. Some of the stories I’ve encountered are nothing short of miraculous. Diabetes cured in 5 weeks, seizures halted immediately, paediatric epilepsy cured, insomnia cured overnight, people getting off antidepressants with a month, and off morphine in a day, and of course the one we’ve all heard of, cancer being cured without ever having chemo or radio therapy. The sad part is that due to it being illegal there are very few studies around to prove that these work better than placebo but so far there have been no recorded deaths from using cannabis oil medicinally. That’s more than I can say for ibuprofen, or even Panado, and certainly more than I can say for chemotherapy!
Recreational marijuana vs medical cannabis – whats the difference?
It is important to understand that the health benefits are only beneficial when used as a purified Cannabinoid extract. Firstly it is only really the THC component that gets you high, CBD’s do not have the same effect. Also the medicinal version is much purer and its genetic strain is usually known, whereas smoking weed from a dealer can usually come from anywhere. There is no question that lighting the plant and inhaling it has damaging effects on the lungs, including increasing the risk of lung cancer in certain individuals. Most doses of medicinal cannabis oil does not make one high at all, though in severe illness like cancer the doses are high enough to make the patient feel quite goofed at first. Though most cannabis smokers would disagree with the fact that being high has an adverse effect on daily functioning, there are studies to prove that it hampers cognitive function both short and long-term, as well as having the potential to cause adverse psycho-social effects.
Methods of administration
Most people believe that smoking is the primary delivery method for cannabis, though it does still have healing properties like this, its effect is usually very short and the product is tainted with dangerous chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. There is also the problem that much of the THC is gone up in smoke before it can enter the blood stream. Cannabis can also be inhaled via a vaporiser or nebuliser but again much of the product is lost into the atmosphere.
One of the most effective methods of delivery is the oil under the tongue. It has the best absorption there as well as rapid onset. There are also tincture spray forms which are even more well absorbed.
Uncommonly Cannabis is also available in pill or capsule form. This has the drawback of being limited by the ability of the gut to absorb it and its onset is very slow. It also has to pass through the liver this way, making it effect a little more unpredictable. It does however last longer than other routes. Another long-lasting route is giving it as a suppository, which is a commonly used route in medicine.
Lastly there are a number of topical salves or lotions to treat skin, muscle or joint disorders. They are absorbed directly through the skin into the site of pain or inflammation.
Who should stay away from it?
There is no question that marijuana use in any form can unveil schizophrenia in patients who are genetically predisposed, a positive or personal family history is enough to be a contraindication. There are also certain drugs that cannot be taken with Cannabis, these include but are not limited to opioids like morphine and sleeping tablets. People with low blood pressure and ischemic heart disease should also be careful before using Cannabis in any form.
There are countries in the world where medical and recreational marijuana are completely legal, but so far South Africa is showing no signs of budging. Legalising it would have large scale implications for the powers that be including putting drug lords out of business and seriously challenging big pharma profits. As of 2016, SA has a zero tolerance policy on the use or sale of marijuana in any form, despite the fact that every oncology unit in every big hospital in the country recommends its use! There are countless activists petitioning and campaigning to make Marijuana legal and their only chance is if we stand up in numbers to provide support.