The first thing that pops into most people’s mind is the adverse health effects associated with smoking pot. However, this perception is quickly changing owing to the numerous scientific studies which show that marijuana has some medicinal properties. It turns out that there are some amazing health benefits of marijuana. The findings of these studies have also significantly contributed to the legalization of medical marijuana in several countries around the world.
In particular, researchers have pointed out two active chemicals in marijuana; cannabidiol (CBD), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which they say have medicinal applications. THC has pain relieving properties whereas CBD seems to have a positive impact on the brain without making someone high. Nevertheless, a lot of research still needs to be done in terms of analyzing marijuana’s medical properties.
Caution should also be taken at all times when using this drug since abuse or overuse can quickly lead to addiction.
Health Benefits of Marijuana
Below are a few of the health benefits associated with marijuana.
1. Controls Epileptic Seizures
A 2003 study; by Robert J. DeLorenzo, of Virginia Commonwealth University, showed that epileptic seizures can be prevented by marijuana use.
Dr. DeLorenzo and his team injected epileptic rats with marijuana extract and synthetic marijuana, and for about 10 hours these drugs eliminated the rats’ seizures. The study revealed that cannabinoids in marijuana control seizures by binding to the cells in the brain responsible for regulating relaxation and controlling excitability.
2. Treats Glaucoma
Marijuana can be used to prevent and treat glaucoma, an eye disease that increases pressure in the eyeball, impairing the optic nerve and eventually causing loss of vision.
According to the National Eye Institute; some derivatives of marijuana lowers the pressure inside the eye. As a result, these effects of the drug can slow down the progression of glaucoma, preventing blindness.
3. Slows Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
THC, an active chemical in marijuana, can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease as was demonstrated by a 2006 study led by Kim Janda; a research scientist affiliated with the Scripps Research Institute. The study found that THC slows the formation of amyloid plaques; responsible for killing brain cells and potentially causing Alzheimer’s, by blocking the enzyme in the brain that generates them.
4. Stops Cancer from Spreading
In 2007, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center based in San Francisco reported that CBD found in marijuana may prevent cancer from spreading. According to their study, cannabidiol can stop cancer by “turning off” the gene called Id-1. Cancer cells make more copies of the Id-1 gene than non-cancerous cells, which helps them spread through the body.
In a lab, the research scientists experimented on breast cancer cells that had high expression levels of Id-1 gene, which they treated with cannabidiol. Positive results were recorded; the cancer cells had decreased Id-1 expression and were also less aggressive spreaders.
5. Relieves Arthritis Discomfort
“Medical marijuana alleviates pain and inflammation and also promotes sleep, which may in turn help relieve the pain and discomfort for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis,” this is according to a report released by researchers in 2011.
In the study researchers from rheumatology units at various hospitals gave their patients a cannabinoid-based, pain-relieving medicine referred to as Sativex. After a period of two weeks, the patients on Sativex reported a significant reduction in pain and their sleep quality had improved too, compared to placebo users.
6. Decreases Anxiety
Research done at the Harvard Medical School in 2010, suggests that some of the marijuana’s health benefits may actually be, reduced anxiety. In low doses, it seems to act as a sedative improving the smoker’s mood. However, it’s essential to note that higher doses of this drug may instead lead to increased anxiety, making you paranoid.
7. Relieves the Pain of Multiple Sclerosis
Marijuana may also help to ease the painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom and her team of researchers studied thirty patients with multiple sclerosis, who were experiencing painful contractions in their muscles. They noted that these patients did not respond to other forms of treatment. However, after smoking pot for a few days, the patients reported that they were in less pain. The THC ingredient found in marijuana binds to receptors in the muscles and nerves to relieve pain.
8. Treats Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Studies also suggest that patients with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease could greatly benefit from medical marijuana use. Researchers from the University of Nottingham, found in 2010 that chemicals in marijuana, including cannabidiol and THC, interact with body cells that play an important role in immune responses and gut function. THC-like compounds generated by the body increase the permeability of the intestines hence allowing bacteria in. These body-cannabinoids are blocked by the plant-derived cannabinoids in weed, thus preventing this permeability and making the intestinal cells bond tighter.
9. Reduces Severe Pain and Nausea from Chemotherapy and Stimulates Appetite
This is probably the most common medical use of marijuana that is well-known.
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy tend to suffer from painful nausea, vomiting, as well as loss of appetite, which can lead to additional health complications. In such cases, medical marijuana is used to help reduce these side effects by alleviating pain, reducing nausea, and stimulating the patient’s appetite. Also, there are many FDA-approved cannabinoid drugs that use the THC chemical present in marijuana, for similar purposes.
10. Soothes Tremors for People with Parkinson’s Disease
Recent studies carried out in Israel show that smoking weed can significantly reduce tremors and pains, and also improves the sleep quality of patients with the Parkinson’s disease. Another particularly impressive effect of this drug was the improved fine motor skills among the patients.
In Israel, medical marijuana is legalized for multiple conditions. Also, a lot of research into the medical uses of this drug is carried out in that country with the support of the Israeli government.
11. Improves the Symptoms of Lupus – An Autoimmune Disorder
Medical marijuana is also used to treat Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disorder whereby the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and mistakenly attacks normal, healthy tissue for unknown reasons. Some chemicals present in marijuana have a calming effect on the body’s immune system. This is, therefore, believed to be the manner in which this drug helps deal with symptoms of the Lupus disease.
12. Can Improve Lung Health
A study published in 2012, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that marijuana can increase lung capacity and does not impair lung function. Over a period of 20 years, researchers carrying out studies on the risk factors for heart disease tested the lung function of about 5,115 young adults. They found out that, while tobacco smokers lost their lung function over time, the lung capacity of the pot users showed an actual increase. It’s possible that the increase in lung capacity is not caused by therapeutic chemicals in the drug, but may be as a result of the deep breaths taken while inhaling marijuana.
These are only a few health benefits of Marijuana, there are a lot more and hopefully, even more, will be discovered in future studies.