Last week in Part I of Cannabis: Gateway Drug or the Future of Medicine we discussed the largely untold history of Cannabis in the US and the fact that its medicinal properties have been recognized for thousands of years. But while the US government declared war on Cannabis and poured resources into other medicinal sources with easier profit potential, Israel’s Dr. Michoulam was discovering the amazing potential of Cannabis to revolutionize the future of medicine.
In the mid 90’s Dr. Michoulam discovered what is now called the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. This system, present in all humans and in many animals as well, holds the key to why Cannabis has the potential to be quite literally a miracle drug. Rick Pfrommer writes in his article, The Beginner’s Guide to the Endocannabinoid System–The Reason Our Bodies Easily Process Cannabis, “This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)…Dr. Mechoulam’s world-changing research discovered two main receptors, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2), that are keyed to both the endocannabinoids that our body naturally produces and phytocannabinoids (plant-based) like THC and CBD.”
Put in simple terms: Our bodies respond so well to Cannabinoids because our bodies already produce them naturally. We produce these endocannabinoids in the same way our bodies produce endorphins, and our bodies are equipped with special receptors made to recognize just them.
Of course the pharmaceutical industry is hard at work to make synthetic cannabinoids so that they can profit, but these synthetic cannabinoids (so far) have not been shown to work as efficiently as the natural ones.
So let’s cut to the chase. What can Cannabis do? Well, scientists have been able to isolate more than 60 cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant (there may well be upwards of 100 by some estimations) and they all have massive potential to heal or at least relieve the symptoms of a staggering spectrum of ailments.
Let’s take just THC for instance- it moderates pain. However, unlike many narcotics, the receptors that it binds to are not present in the part of the brain that regulate heart rate and respiration. This means that there is no lethal dosage threshold for THC! An individual could take as much as needed to control pain. Also, Cannabis and narcotics are what is called co-agonists. This means that when they are used in combination they each magnify the effect of the other, which would allow patients to get a greater effect from a lower dose of narcotic.
THC is also a highly effective anti-nausea and vomiting compound. In 1995, Dr. Michoulam performed a clinical trial with Professor Aya Avramov ( head of the dept. of pediatric oncology in Jerusalem). He had found that Cannabis lowers the horrific side effects of anti-cancer drugs. The trial was initially meant to be a double blind trial, meaning that some of the children would receive THC oil under their tongues for nausea and vomiting and some would only receive olive oil. Avramov would not know which oil each child received. However, Avramov called off the double blind trial after a week because the results were so dramatic that she knew exactly which children were receiving the THC and which were not. They changed the trial to an open study and treated all the children with THC. The results were a complete block of nausea and vomiting with such a small dosage that no psychoactive side effects of the THC (THC is the psychoactive compound of Cannabis) occurred. The study was published, but completely ignored by the medical community. Since this trial, Cannabis has also been found to be extremely effective in relieving pain related side effects of anti-cancer treatments and could replace 5 separate medications prescribed to cancer patients that are aimed at combating the side effects of the anti-cancer treatment.
Are you diabetic or know someone that is? Dr. David Allen, a retired cardiac surgeon who is now an endocannabinoid system researcher, has some shocking research results. In his studies, he has found that if an individual uses Cannabis for 20 years or more, they reduce their risk of diabetes by a whopping 66%. Dr. Allen then puts that in perspective by noting that currently, your doctor cannot prescribe anything that will even reduce the incidence of diabetes by 2%.
This article, Can Cannabis Treat Epileptic Seizures, for Scientific American notes that new scientific research provides evidence that CBD (a non-psychoactive compound of Cannabis) could be an effective treatment for the nearly 1/3 of patients who have a treatment resistant form of epilepsy. Testimonials like the one in the video below from a woman who was on 14 different prescriptions for her epileptic seizures yet still had an average of 12 seizures a day should not be ignored. She consumes butter with marijuana in it on toast daily and is now seizure free.
Prakash Nagarkatti, professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of South Carolina, and his team made a potentially world changing discovery when they found that a cannabinoid key could seek out cancerous cells in the immune system and literally instruct them to self destruct. Could Cannabis actually be a cancer cure? Who knows, but Professor Nagarkatti’s findings are amazing. His experimental drug was able to kill almost all cancer in test tubes. When tested on mice, 25-30% of mice rejected their cancerous tumors and were completely cured. The tumors in the remaining mice were decreased significantly. Nagarkatti has already begun clinical trials in leukemia patients.
This article, 5 Ways Cannabis Could Be Helping Alzheimer’s Patients, details very encouraging studies for this heartbreaking disease. THC has been found to slow the build up of plaques more effectively than any currently approved drugs. (Amyloid plaques are a characteristic pathological marker of Alzheimer’s.) Cannabis has also been found to be a powerful anti-inflammatory which would inhibit the formation of these plaques. Not only has CBD been found to prevent cell death which could delay the neurological degeneration that occurs in Alzheimer’s sufferers, but it also promotes cell growth- indicating a possible reversal of the neurological degeneration. Cannabis could also improve the overall quality of an Alzheimer’s patient’s life by treating some of the most notorious symptoms. Cannabis can stimulate appetite, control weight, improve motor function, and reduce agitation.
Cannabis may also be revolutionary for sufferers of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes according to this article, 5 Autoimmune Disorders That Have Met Their Match. CBD has been shown to not only support the immune system, but to enable the immune system to recognize the difference between “normal anatomy and a foreign body”. CBD is known to regulate inflammation and immune cell activity. 50% of lab mice at Hebrew University with Rheumatoid Arthritis experienced an increase in joint health in response to CBD. A Care By Design survey reported that 100% of the fibromyalgia sufferers polled had reduced pain with CBD use for 30 days. For type 2 diabetes sufferers, CBD has been shown to improve metabolism and support insulin activity.
This article, No Bones About It: How Cannabis May Combat Bone Disease, highlights some fascinating findings when it comes to the endocannabinoid system and bone health. 2015 research from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University found that CBD helps to heal broken bones! Using the cannabinoid recepters, researchers were able to trigger bone formation as well as strengthen the bridge that connects broken bones. This led to research focusing on the effects of CBD on osteoperosis and osteoarthritis. They found that there is strong evidence to indicate the endocannabinoid system can be used to prevent age related bone disease.
I could literally go on and on and on. Medical Cannabis has promising research for the treatment of Hepatitis C, Tourette’s, Hypertention, Sleep Apnea, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Incontinence… Honestly, the list of what it CAN’T do may be shorter. When you take into consideration the fact that the bulk of this excitingly promising research revolves around only two compounds (THC and CBD) of the Cannabis plant and there are at minimum 60 compounds total- the medicinal potential is literally mind boggling. Add to this the fact that very few researchers are actually working with Cannabis at all because of the bureaucratic red tape involved with getting access to Cannabis (and now that they own a patent- a license from the government) due to the fact that it’s still illegal in most states. If medical Cannabis were legalized, many more brilliant scientific minds would be able to study this phenomenal plant. For the millions of people who stand to benefit from Cannabis, ignoring its well evidenced potential is nothing short of criminal. When it comes to the future of Cannabis, I guess you could say: where there’s smoke there’s fire.
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