Cannabinoid Chronicles

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Cannabinoid Chronicles

 

       Cannabinoids are chemicals found in the Cannabis plant, which is the source of hemp and marijuana. While scientists have identified at least 113 different chemicals in the plant, two have become popular for treating pain plus a wide variety of conditions and symptoms, including cancer, inflammation, and mental illnesses :

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that causes the “high” of marijuana
  • Cannabidiol (CBD), which is often derived from hemp and doesn’t cause a high


Can Cannabinoids Offer Any Benefits?


       Research has suggested myriad positive effects of marijuana and different preparations of THC and/or CBD. They’re currently used for several purposes and more possible uses are on the horizon.
 
Current Uses

Some of the current uses of cannabinoids include:
 

  • Alleviating pain and inflammation, especially chronic forms, from diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, glaucoma, neuropathy, and Crohn’s disease
  • Increasing appetite to prevent the extreme weight loss of AIDS
  • Improving muscle control/lessening spasticity in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease
  • Controlling epileptic seizures, especially in children
  • Treating mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and multiple anxiety disorders
  • Treating addiction, including smoking cessation

Possible Future Uses


Early studies suggest cannabinoids may be beneficial at fighting cancer by:

  • Helping kill some cancer cells
  • Reducing the size of some other cancers
  • Slowing the growth of cancer cells in one of the most serious types of brain tumor
  • Reducing nausea from chemotherapy
  • Increasing the effectiveness of radiation treatments

 

How They Work: The Endocannabinoid System


       Cannabinoids affect your body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). That system is named for substances your body naturally produces—and depends on—that are very like plant-based cannabinoids. The ECS has far-reaching effects on your body, and that’s why cannabinoids are believed to have so many different medicinal uses.

       A major job of the ECS is homeostasis, which regulates many of your body’s essential functions, including:

  • Hormone levels and fertility
  • Heart rate
  • Body temperature
  • Hunger and digestion
  • Immune function
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Memory and concentration
  • Pain
  • Motor control
  • Awareness of your senses

       Your endocannabinoids communicate with your nervous system to keep all these things within acceptable parameters. When you consider that, it makes sense that cannabinoids can treat numerous medical problems.

       An important difference between your endocannabinoids and cannabinoids from an outside source, however, is that yours work in precise coordination with only the system that needs correcting at that moment. When you inhale cannabinoids from, say, smoking marijuana, they flood through your whole body and make both desirable and undesirable changes at the same time.

Cannabinoids and the FDA


       So far, the FDA has approved two medications made from lab-created THC: Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone). It’s also approved Epidiolex, a purified formulation of CBD, for two forms of childhood epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

       With growing bodies of evidence for multiple beneficial medical effects, you might wonder why medical marijuana and cannabinoids aren’t FDA-approved. The issue is that research is still in its early stages, and the FDA requires large studies, including hundreds of participants, that evaluate both the effectiveness and the safety of those drugs for the specific group of people it’ll be used for.

Possible Side Effects


       Cannabinoids are considered to have fewer and milder side effects than many pharmaceutical drugs they may be able to replace. Don’t make the mistake, though, of thinking that “natural” products are side-effect free—most natural products, including cannabinoids, can cause side effects and may interact negatively with other drugs. The specific effects that you may experience depend on what cannabinoids you’re taking.

 

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