Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic,1 and is now legal in 30 U.S. states,2,3 the majority of which allow limited use of medical marijuana under certain medical circumstances. The medicinal qualities of marijuana are primarily due to high amounts (about 10 to 20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes and flavonoids.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel “stoned,” but it too has valuable medical benefits, so depending on your problem, you may want higher or lower levels of THC. Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.
There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system and more. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates these cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabis Has Long History of Use for Pain, Seizures and More
The U.S. government, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), actually holds a patent on CBD as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant — an ironic and paradoxical situation considering the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which by definition has no accepted medical use.
This federal classification also makes it very difficult, time consuming and expensive to study the health effects of marijuana. Labs have to jump through a lot of legal hoops before being granted permission to study Schedule 1 drugs. Despite such difficulties, a number of studies have found a wide range of uses for the herb. For example, The Journal of Pain,4 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
Cannabis also has been used for over 80 years for drug-resistant seizure disorders. In January 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy statement on marijuana,5 acknowledging that cannabinoids “may currently be an option for … children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,