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Exploring the Science Behind Medical Cannabis Applications

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The use of cannabis for medical purposes is growing rapidly. An increasing number of states have legalized medical marijuana in recent years, allowing doctors to prescribe it and pharmacies to dispense it for treating certain health conditions.  This article explores the scientifically proven medical applications of cannabis.

Reducing Pain

One of the most common reasons people use medical cannabis is to relieve chronic pain. Cannabis contains cannabinoids such as THC and CBD that can help reduce pain and inflammation. Studies show cannabis is effective at reducing chronic neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage from conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. The pain-relieving effects of cannabis may be comparable to traditional analgesics with fewer side effects.

Reducing Nausea and Vomiting

Cannabis has been shown to possess powerful anti-emetic properties that suppress nausea and vomiting. It has been used successfully for decades to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients. Inhaled or orally ingested cannabis can significantly reduce nausea, allowing patients to eat, take medications, and improve their quality of life. Clinical trials also indicate THC is more effective than conventional antiemetic drugs in controlling chemotherapy-related sickness.

Stimulating Appetite

Along with reducing nausea, cannabis can also stimulate appetite. This is very beneficial for AIDS and cancer patients suffering from cachexia, a wasting syndrome characterized by severe weight loss. Studies show that THC interacts with cells in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to spur hunger, especially for sweet and salty foods. For patients unable to eat due to nausea or lack of appetite, cannabis provides vital relief.

Managing Epileptic Seizures

In recent years, CBD-rich cannabis preparations have demonstrated astounding results in controlling seizures in patients with epilepsy. Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome are two rare pediatric epilepsy forms that are notoriously resistant to existing seizure medications. However, clinical trials with CBD extracts have led to a >50% reduction in seizures for many patients. Based on this compelling evidence, the FDA approved the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, for treating rare seizure disorders.

Improving Sleep

Difficulty sleeping affects millions of people suffering from conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea, and PTSD. Cannabis may provide an effective alternative to pharmaceutical sleep aids, which can have negative side effects. The indica strain of cannabis contains relaxing terpenes along with sedating cannabinoids that can induce sleep. For PTSD patients, cannabis alleviates nightmares and interrupts REM sleep disruptions. Correct dosage is critical as higher amounts of THC may increase sleep interruptions.

Reducing Anxious Feelings

While lower doses can be sedating, higher cannabis doses containing THC can exacerbate anxiety and paranoia in some people. However, recent studies indicate that CBD may have an anti-anxiety effect by changing the way the brain responds to serotonin. For PTSD patients, medical cannabis containing CBD can dampen learned fear and anxiety responses when administered shortly after traumatic events. And CBD also shows therapeutic potential for social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Slowing Alzheimer’s Progression

With Alzheimer’s disease on the rise, researchers are investigating the neuroprotective potential of cannabis. THC has been shown to slow the production of amyloid beta, the hallmark protein involved in Alzheimer’s onset. At the same time, cannabis protects brain cells from damage due to reduced inflammatory response and enhanced mitochondrial function. Early clinical trials indicate medical cannabis may slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. More research is urgently needed, given the lack of effective drug therapies.

Medical Cannabis Could Be Life-Changing

Medical cannabis has shown to have therapeutic value for many conditions, but more research is still needed. As legal access increases, open discussions with your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of cannabis for your health situation are recommended.  With responsible usage, medical cannabis can offer a life-changing increase in comfort and quality of life for patients managing diseases, pain, nausea, and neurological disorders.
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