Cannabis as Medicine

After all, the only real side effect of cannabis as medicine is an empty fridge!
cannabis as medicine

The use of cannabis has a lot of negative connotations. The word cannabis often conjures up images of illicit or illegal activities. However, it is also a sort of miracle medicine that can be broadly applicable to nearly any condition, disorder, or disease. So if you actually have something that cannabis as medicine can treat there is no reason to be afraid to try it. We no longer live in the 1930s “Reefer Madness” society, and therefore we should no longer give in to hysteria fueled by outdated propaganda. This article will show you where that hysteria comes from, how other people have used pot for centuries to treat various medical conditions, and how you can effectively use it yourself as medicine. After all, the only real side effect of cannabis as medicine is an empty fridge!

Cannabis comes to the USA

During the 1920s, Mexican immigrants who came to the U.S. after the Mexican Revolution created an increase in recreational cannabis as medicine use. In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was formed, (The agency eventually became the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA) and in 1936 the famous propaganda movie called Reefer Madness was released. In case you’ve never seen it, the movie basically states that if you smoke pot you’ll go insane and have very violent tendencies.

This created a sort of weed hysteria all through the land with the uneducated masses actually believing that you could get so high that it would make you want to jump out of a window thinking you could fly. The propaganda and hysteria led the way for the introduction of Federal sentences for possession of pot in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the effects of cannabis as medicine were studied and it was found to be safe, so by the ’70s the government passed laws that differentiated it from harmful drugs and also decriminalized it. But then Ronald Reagan started his “War on Drugs” campaign in 1986, returning maximum Federal sentences.

cannabis as medicine

Historic Origins

The Western Hemisphere wasn’t even introduced to cannabis as medicine until the mid-1800s, which as you’ll see was fairly late compared to other countries. An Irish doctor named William Brook O’Shaughnessy went on a trip to India and saw weed being used medicinally. So, he studied it while he was there and found out what it can do. He brought it back with him to England and showed people how to use it to treat muscle spasms, pain, epilepsy, and rheumatism. People in the West started calling it “the new drug” and it quickly spread to America. As a matter of fact, cannabis as medicine was completely acceptable to use as a medical treatment in the U.S. for a long time.

Pot was an ingredient in lots of over-the-counter medications in the 1890s. It was actually listed in the United States Pharmacopeia, or USP, from 1851 until 1941. It was a widely used ingredient in medicines during the late 1800s. In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, which made it more expensive and therefore more difficult to prescribe, so it fell out of favor. It was then removed from the USP in 1942, never returning due to both its price and legal ramifications at the time. So as you can see, America has had a complex relationship with cannabis as medicine considering it safe and legal at some points during our history, while at other points it was dangerous and illegal.

Using cannabis as medicine is nothing new. The first people to use pot to treat cancerous tumors were the Egyptians. They wrote about it on what is known as the Fayyum Medical Papyrus, during 2 B.C.E. This is the first known record of cannabis being used as a cancer treatment and, they must’ve been on to something as there is still a lot of interest in using cannabis as medicine to treat cancer today. The ancient Greeks use weed to treat a lot of things they used it for ear pain, inflammation, and more.

A Wide Range of Uses

They even used it to dress the wounds on their battle- wounded horses. They’re thought to have introduced it to Arabic countries, as well. The first time that weed was recorded to have been used cannabis as medicine was in China, around 2737 B.C.E. Emperor Shennong was also a pharmacologist who wrote a book that suggested using cannabis to treat various conditions. Among these conditions were gout, absent-mindedness, constipation, and rheumatism. How did he know it worked? He smoked the chronic himself. He was pretty well-known for trying out herbs himself, having tested hundreds to see what they did and if they worked before prescribing them.

cannabis as medicine

The term “medical cannabis” generally refers to either the whole plant or certain chemicals within it, like CBD, that is used to treat symptoms of whichever disease or ailment that the patient was prescribed to use it for. It can be used to treat a variety of disorders including, but not limited to: Crohn’s disease, appetite loss, nausea, eating disorders, cancer, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, muscle spasms, mental health conditions, epilepsy, pain, menstrual cramps and female reproductive problems, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. As you can see from this list, cannabis affects a lot of different systems in the body. This is mostly due to the chemicals that are within it and how our bodies react to them and process them.

The Science Behind it

Cannabis contains over 100 different chemicals, like CBD, that are known as cannabinoids. More specifically because they’re coming from a plant, they are phytocannabinoids, as “phyto” means plant. Our bodies also create cannabinoids and have an entire endocannabinoid system that is designed to make, process, and utilize cannabinoids when they’re introduced to it. When phytocannabinoids are introduced to the endocannabinoid system, they bind to receptors in the system to help with bodily functions. Two of the most widely known cannabinoids are CBD and THC. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects and the high that is associated with cannabis as medicine use, while CBD produces a body high and helps with pain by binding to pain receptors in your body and blocking it.

The type of cannabis you use, the strain, and the method of delivery all affect what sort of relief you get from it. Most strains of cannabis as medicine tend to have more CBD in them than THC, while the reverse is usually true of weed that you buy from a dealer. Interestingly, medical edibles are usually more potent than recreational ones, so that’s something to keep in mind. (Who knew that scientists could make stronger pot brownies than stoners?) In general, there are two strains of cannabis: Indica and Sativa. Indica produces a body high that makes you feel heavy because it contains more CBD, while Sativa produces a head high that affects your mind and produces a state of euphoria because it contains more THC. So, if you’re looking to treat body pain you should look for an Indica strain with a high dose of CBD and a low dose of THC. But, if you’re looking to treat a mental health condition, you may want a Sativa with more THC.

cannabis as medicine

Get the Best High

When medicating with cannabis, the goal is to utilize a combination of CBD and THC. It often takes some experimentation to find the doors that are right for you. So, remember to “start low and go slow”. If you’re eating edibles, remember that they can take 30 to 45 minutes to kick again and that when they do, they’re pretty potent. You don’t want to eat more even if you are feeling it yet or you risk the chance of getting that “too high” feeling, becoming uncomfortable, paranoid and possibly even experiencing panic attacks. And, if you’re smoking or vaping it, the high kicks and really fast, so it’s best to take a hit or two and then wait to see how it hits you. Don’t get discouraged if you try cannabis and it doesn’t make you feel fantastic the first time. That happens, and you’re probably going to need to play around with the dosage to find one that fits your specific needs.

The reason that you get an intense high from edibles is that your liver converts Delta-9-THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. There are a ton of endocannabinoid receptors in your digestive tract. So not only is there a more intense type of THC produced, your body is really receptive to it. This may sound scary, but once you get the dosage right, edibles are actually a great treatment option for digestive issues. If you think about it, putting the medicine right where you are experiencing pain is vastly more effective than other pain management options for digestive issues. I have Crohn’s disease and all manner of other digestive issues, so I frequently have painful ulcers in both my stomach and intestines, along with diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, pain all through my digestive tract, and a general lack of appetite.

cannabis as medicine

I can tell you from personal experience that having a digestive disorder often makes me not want to eat. But even in my worst pain and even when I’m at my sickest, I’ll gladly eat a pot brownie because I know it’ll make the pain go away and then I’ll be able to eat something else. And it isn’t just psychosomatic. Swiss doctors recently and performed a study in and found that cannabis treats nausea better than any other nausea medication that they had been prescribing to their chemotherapy patients. So if it works for chemotherapy-related nausea, which is notoriously hard to treat, it’ll work for any other digestive concern you may have.

Mental Health

When it comes to treating mental health disorders, or any sort of pain in the head,  I recommend smoking cannabis instead of eating it. You may not want to get high, but you need the psychoactive benefits that you get from smoking it. Cannabis is a great treatment for things like depression and anxiety, but it’s mostly because of THC which produces a euphoric effect on the brain. A lot of the euphoria comes from an endocannabinoid called anandamide, which is named after the Sanskrit word for joy or bliss, so you can pretty much guess what that does. Scientists have discovered that people who create less Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) were generally happier due to the fact that FAAH breaks down anandamide and given the fact that these people didn’t have enough FAAH, they had more anandamide in their systems.

Part of the reason that we get high when we smoke a joint is that THC binds to anandamide and then to our endocannabinoid receptors, taking us from bliss to euphoria. I also recommend smoking weed for headaches and migraines. In my experience migraines cause a lot of nausea, meaning that edibles are not a good option. However, every time I’ve smoked a joint and had a migraine, not only did the pain go away nausea did as well. This is because there are a lot of endocannabinoid receptors in your head and your brain, too, and to weed binds to the receptors and blocks pain in your head. So the next time that you feel depressed or get a headache to pick up a joint and you’ll feel better.

Summing up Cannabis as Medicine

With all of the things that cannabis can treat, I really struggle to understand why it is illegal in so many places. It seems inhumane for anyone to not have the chance to at least try it as a treatment for their illnesses. Luckily, there is enough scientific research being done on the effects of cannabis in the body that if you do choose to use cannabis to treat your ailments and someone criticizes you for it, you can easily throw some of these facts at them. Or, you can simply tell them to go screw themselves, which is what I tend to do.

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