More than half U.S. states have already legalized medical marijuana. Moreover, the whole world is reconsidering its perception of cannabis: even countries where the attitude to recreational marijuana is still strictly negative, start creating the legislative basis for its medical use. What are the main benefits of cannabis medicine and how to choose it properly? Read along to get the answers.
What is a medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana is any kind of cannabis or cannabis-based product that contain cannabinoids and are used for therapeutic purpose. In fact, the same product might belong to both recreational or medical marijuana. The difference is only how it suits the needs of each separate individual.
The attitude to medical marijuana has changed with the time. In 1970s, cannabis was considered a drug with no therapeutic value. After the legalization, the public opinion has turned to the opposite side, and marijuana medicine (especially CBD-based one) was trusted to be a panacea of almost all known diseases. Even though there is still not enough clinical research on all medical effects of marijuana, most investigations prove cannabis to be highly potent medicine that should be taken with caution because of its potentially negative drug effects.
How do you take marijuana medicine?
Considering the broad meaning of the term «medical marijuana», it is possible to state that all kinds of cannabis products can be useful for medical needs. It includes the flower marijuana, solventless concentrates and potent extracts, edibles and topicals. However, there are products that have been designed specifically for therapeutic purpose, and those are tinctures for sublingual absorption and capsules.
They are created by dissolving marijuana either in alcohol or in vegetable glycerin. Tinctures are taken in an oral way: the necessary amount gets placed under the tongue. This way of absorption is called sublingual and is valued for the quick onset, which allows people to get instant relief from pain or to have other desirable outcomes quickly.
They are considered a kind of edible products, since cannabinoids get to the blood through the digestive system of the body. Capsules might contain either a plant cannabis or the oil matter, and the protective shell is used for easy transportation to stomach. Unlike tinctures, capsules are not quick to act since digestion and metabolizing takes time. The results might come in 1 to 3 hours after a consumption. This kind of medication is recommended for those patients who need a prolonged effect.
Basic ingredients of cannabis medicine
The most common ingredient of marijuana medical products is cannabis oil. It is important to understand that different brands produce this main ingredient in entirely different ways. Check what you need to know about your cannabis oil before you buy a medicine on its basis:
- the cannabinoid amount: what cannabinoids are present in the oil and what is the ratio if there is more than one.
- the way of extraction: alcohol extraction, CO2 extraction, butane- or propane-based (undesirable for oral medicine since the oil might contain residual solvents).
- presence of quality certificates using which you can control the presence / absence of pesticides, cannabinoid and terpenoid amounts, etc.
CBD vs THC
What exactly is the difference between these prominent cannabinoid types and why they have such a different effect on human body?
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are both types of cannabinoids found in a marijuana flower. They are not the only ones: there are currently more than a hundred recognized cannabinoid types, the properties of which are being studied. Most medical products are either CBD-based, THC-based, or have a mixed cannabinoid ratio. The amount of a definite cannabinoid in a product determines its therapeutic value and effects on brain.
CBD is well-known for its therapeutic properties. 2018 was claimed the year of CBD since market got full of CBD-containing products for various purposes. It is used to treat pain, inflammation, anxiety disorders, digestive problems, to fight fungus and bacteria and for a number of other reasons. The main benefit of CBD for medical users is that it is nor psychoactive. Consumers might take CBD-based medicine and still continue living the normal life: driving, taking care of children, going to work.
THC is very much alike in structure to CBD. Its only difference is that it activates different type of body receptors (see more about that below). The consumption of THC-based products results in intoxicating effects which involve the brain operation as well. Being high, the user does not properly perceive the reality and might have the clouded consciousness, so his operations are limited. While getting high is the desirable effect for many recreational users, for medical patients it is not always welcome. At the same time, THC has many other values. It has even high anti-pain potential than a cannabidiol, so most painkillers are created on its ground.
A good chance to get health benefits of THC without psychotropic high is to choose THCa-based medicine. THC acid is the raw form of THC that has not been decarboxylated and thus does not influence the brain operation.
How medical cannabis works
Cannabinoids produce their effects by binding to definite receptors in a human body. Endocannabinoid system of our body is a set of receptors that are responsible for performing vital functions. There are two cannabinoid receptors that follow this purpose: CB1 and CB2. The way natural endocannabinoids interact with them is the same as plant cannabinoids do.
CB1 group of receptors are responsible for emotions, memory and coordination.
CB2 perform the immunoregulative functions.
To understand why CBD and THC produce different effects on human body, it is enough to learn which receptors each cannabinoid type bind to. THC interacts directly with CB1 receptors that is why «high» is produced. Both THC and CBD bind to CB2 receptor.
Moreover, the presence of CBD might influence the interaction between THC and CB1 receptors, partly neutralizing the intoxicating effects. That is why CBD medicine is used as a treatment for THC overintoxication or THC addiction.
Indications for use
How can cannabis medicine benefit you? It is a recommended therapy for a number of diseases and non-illness conditions.
A study reports the greatly reduced number of seizures among children who received cannabidiol-based treatment (EPIDIOLEX). This medicine is recognized in many countries around the globe.
Cannabidiol is a good alternative to traditional medicine. Due to its immunoregulating properties, it can be effectively used for any kind of inflammation diseases including arthritis.
THC functions as the most effective painkiller. At the same time, THC-containing medicine is not too popular among medical users because of its psychedelic effect. That is why many brands create products with high THC to low CBD ratio. It allows to reduce intoxicating effects at the same time saving the increased painkilling opportunities.
Nausea, which frequently leads to diarrhea and vomiting, can be the result of food intoxication or a side effect for a number of diseases. Nausea can be dangerous for human health because it often results in body dehydration. Cannabis medicine is successfully used for fighting nausea as well as the traditional treatment.
One of the myths about cannabis medicine is that it cures people from cancer. Actually, it is not the truth, but cannabis is useful when treating the adverse effects in cancer patients. It helps to kill pain, treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and fight depression. That is why cannabis medicine is recommended for cancer patients but only as the auxiliary treatment.
Cannabis can also be used for non-illness conditions to gain therapeutic benefits:
To get calmed.
Cannabidiol is the effective treatment for anxiety disorders. It helps to prevent or fight depressions, and to reduce a stress level. CBD-based medicine can be used at working time to stay calm in nerve-racking circumstances.
To fight insomnia.
Cannabis medicine is proven to treat insomnia better than the ordinary sleep pills. It does not only let the person fall asleep faster but also treats sleep apnea, stabilizes respiration, and suppresses rapid eye movement. Though, there is the side effect: cannabis insomnia treatment causes a kind of addiction — after its withdrawal, users experience increased difficulties with falling asleep and strange dreams.
To regulate appetite.
Cannabis is definitely able to regulate appetite, though the exact mechanisms are still not studied enough. It is known that THC and CBN (cannabinol) help to increase the appetite, while the action of CBD is contradictory. There is an opinion that CBD suppresses hunger, but that is just a myth with no scientific ground. What CBD does is preventing «nervous eating», so it can stimulate the weight loss, but not directly.
Despite all the benefits of cannabis-based treatment, it still has the dark side. The greatest danger, though, is in the unknown. Too little time has passed after the legalization of medical cannabis, so it is impossible to evaluate the long-term effects of its consumption. As for the other risks, they are the following:
Numerous studies prove that despite a public opinion, marijuana is addictive. Consuming it on the regular basis for a long period of time makes users either unable to stop despite their wish or experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Consumers that experience marijuana dependence require special medical treatment.
Causing harm to oneself or other people.
This mostly refers to THC-rich marijuana forms, which cause intoxication and clouded consciousness. A person in this state cannot always control own behavior and might inflict injury on herself / himself or the other people.
Driving under the effect of marijuana.
Marijuana legalization has led to the increased number of driving accidents. Similar to the alcohol consumption, the use of marijuana before driving is strictly prohibited. Psychoactive cannabis has an influence on body reactions and brain operations so its consumption must be limited to home environment.
Low energy and self-esteem.
Taking a CBD pill is the easy way to get calm and reduce stress. People who get used to this kind of treatment are frequently unable to stay balanced without a dose of cannabis medicine. Low energy level is among the top reasons of marijuana withdrawal.
Numerous users complain on memory impairment caused scientists pay the increased attention to the correlation between marijuana and thinking processes. It appeared that marijuana negatively influence the short-term memory, so it consumers frequently find themselves forgetting the information they have just read.
FAQ on medical cannabis
Is marijuana considered medicine?
Marijuana is legal in many states and it is the effective treatment of a number of health problems and conditions. However, it has not received the status of being medicine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not recognized and approved it yet.
Which is better for me: tinctures or capsules?
It depends on your purpose of use. If you look for the immediate relief from pain or any other problem, select tinctures. If you are taking cannabis medicine on a regular basis and need a prolonged action, capsules would be the best choice.
Will I fail the drug test if I am taking marijuana medicine?
Yes. Cannabis is very likely to be detected in urine and blood. The only form of cannabis that does not show up in drug tests are on-skin topicals like balms, creams and lotions infused with cannabis. Marijuana can be traced after 1-3 weeks after its consumption depending on your metabolism.
Isolate or a whole plant: which one to choose?
Isolated cannabinoids are definitely very powerful. The cannabinoid amount in these products are from 90 to 100 percent. Despite this fact, whole plant products are more recommended because they provide greater therapeutic outcomes. It is called the «entourage effect»: marijuana compounds (cannabinoids, terpenes) work most effectively when the synergy between them is not disturbed.
How to determine a dosage?
A dosage of marijuana tinctures and capsules depends on the sort of problem and personal characteristics of the individual (age, weight, gender). For most effective treatment, it is recommended to consult a therapist to get the correct prescription.