The cannabis plant may just be the most misunderstood plant in the world. Its benefits range from the growing list of health treatments—ten of which are listed below, to hemp products like rope, paper and clothing.
Yet cannabis is illegal in many westernized countries and lumped in with drugs that are actually harmful, like heroin or cocaine. Ironically, alcohol has been proven to be far more harmful to one's health with no real benefit, yet is legal in most countries.
The pendulum of tolerance and acceptance is changing as marijuana is finally getting legalized in one form or another in many U.S. states and other countries around the world. Dipping a toe in the legalization pool usually starts with legalizing medical marijuana only, or only a certain kind of oil.
Some states like Colorado, Alaska, Washington and Oregon jumped right in with full recreational legalization and are attracting attention for medical products available to people suffering. We take a look at some of the top health benefits from marijuana, but the list doesn't stop there.
New discoveries and research are leading to new solutions, such as treating HIV with cannabis. These are just a few of the disorders that can be treated with cannabis:
10. ADD / ADHD
A study led by Dr. Claudia Jensen at the University of Southern California might seem like a counterintuitive treatment for ADHD as marijuana is famous for leaving smokers with a less than stellar attention span. Looking at marijuana as a treatment has two main points, according to Dr. Jensen.
First, Ritalin has been the drug du jour for parents in the fight against ADHD. As is often the case, there are unsavory side effects such as anxiety, loss of sleep, depression and OCD. With marijuana, those side effects are not only not side effects, but they are also minimized by marijuana (or eliminated altogether).
Second, it's important to understand how ADHD affects individuals. Many times the symptoms include hyperactivity, disruptive behavior and social problems. Marijuana's calming effects are a natural remedy to counteract those symptoms.
According to Dr. Jensen, "They don't have to get stoned – it's dose-related. But they (kids with ADD) do get the benefit of being able to focus, pay attention, not be impulsive, not be angry, be peaceful and relaxed and pay attention in school, which helps them get better grades." – Dr. Claudia Jensen
Premenstrual Syndrome, not much unlike Irritable Bowel Syndrome give the sufferer painful cramps and discomfort. Back in the 19th Century, Queen Victoria's royal physicians used to prescribe a marijuana remedy for her menstrual pain. The idea of using cannabis as part of the monthly cycle fell out of favor, but it's coming back with the growing legalization efforts. For example, in the state of California, women can get a medical marijuana card just for menstrual pain.
Doctors believe marijuana can relieve some pain and/or headaches associated with PMS, and can decrease anxiety or nausea. There's still more research needing to be done, but the medical marijuana industry is looking specifically how to better use marijuana to make women's lives more comfortable.
8. Crohn's Disease
Marijuana has shown it can help with reducing symptoms from chronic diseases where nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. According to Dr. Adi Lahat MD from the Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases in Israel stated the following in a 2012 article, "In the present preliminary prospective study, we have found that treatment with inhaled cannabis improves quality of life in patients with long-standing CD [Crohn's disease] and UC [ulcerative colitis].
Treatment was also shown to cause a statistically significant rise in patients' weight after 3 months of treatment, and improvement in clinical disease activity index in patients with CD… Moreover, the data demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in almost all aspects of patient's' daily life.
After 3 months' treatment with inhaled cannabis, patients stated an improvement in their health status, their ability to perform daily activities and their ability to maintain social life. Patients reported a statistically significant physical pain reduction during treatment, as well as improvement in mental distress… None of our patients complained of any side effect that disturbed their working ability. In fact, as was shown in the results, there was a statistically significant improvement in patient's' ability to work after treatment."
A preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana, can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer's.
The study, published in August of 2014 is among others to support the effectiveness of THC in prohibiting the growth of toxic amyloid plagues.
Co-author of the study, Neel Nabar, cautions against drawing quick conclusions from their study saying:
"It's important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn't mean it can be safely used by anyone. However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease."
6. Multiple Sclerosis
On a personal note, the founder of WeedHorn has a parent suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, which led in part to the founding of the site. We've been trying a number of products in California to treat various symptoms of the disease. According to WebMD, "You've had multiple sclerosis for a while now and tried a bunch of things to ease your pain or control those muscle spasms. But you're just not getting the relief you need. Is it time, you wonder, to pay attention to all the talk about medical marijuana? Could it be an option for you?
It's giving some relief to people like Zach, who asked to keep his full name confidential. He lives in Phoenix, AZ, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2010.
Zach deals with tingling in his hands and feet, balance problems, and pain in the top of his head and spine. He also has "phantom sensations," like tasting root beer when his mouth is empty, smelling ammonia suddenly, or hearing a train that isn't there.
'When people started talking to me about medical marijuana after my diagnosis, it was daunting,' he says. 'I'm the biggest square you'll ever meet. I've never even been drunk before. So I was on the fence about using it.'"
One of the most well documented medical uses for marijuana is the treatment of Glaucoma. The American Glaucoma Society
reports, "One of the commonly discussed alternatives for the treatment of glaucoma by lowering IOP is the smoking of marijuana. It has been definitively demonstrated, and widely appreciated, that smoking marijuana lowers IOP in both normal individuals and in those with glaucoma, and therefore might be a treatment for glaucoma4,5. Less often appreciated is marijuana's short duration of action (only 3-4 hours), meaning that to lower the IOP around the clock it would have to be smoked every three hours..."
That last sentence is important when considering marijuana as a remedy. That's why the industry is paying attention to the possibility of eye drops or other vehicles for delivering THC to lower IOP without some of the mood effects from smoking marijuana.
Medical marijuana was legalized twenty years ago in California, and in that time California doctors report treating more than 300,000 cases of migraines with marijuana where conventional medicine didn't help. In general, marijuana can relieve pain, and in some cases prevent them from happening in the first place. We hand picked 5 strains that are useful for migraines.
3. Tourette's Syndrome
Tourette's syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by uncontrollable facial grimaces, tics, and involuntary grunts, snorts and shouts.
Dr. Kirsten Mueller-Vahl of the Hanover Medical College in Germany led a team that investigated the effects of chemicals called cannabinols in 12 adult Tourette's patients. A single dose of the cannabinol produced a significant reduction in symptoms for several hours compared to placebo, the researchers reported.
The Nixon administration stumbled upon marijuana's ability to inhibit tumor growth in lab animal tests, and in some cases caused cancer cells to 'commit suicide'. We covered the findings in a
recent story about what the U.S. government has known in the past, and why it's been kept a secret all these years. The Obama administration is the first administration to leak information publicly about the groundbreaking 1974 discovery. Further, the Obama administration is removing roadblocks standing in the way of medical marijuana research.
The cannabis industry is stopping short from claiming a cure for cancer, but the findings are very encouraging to see how nature may have already given us the compound(s) needed to put a serious dent in the disease.
Cancer.gov has a fairly updated Q&A section about this important finding.
Every movement needs a catalyst. Marijuana legalization efforts in the U.S. may have found an unlikely agent of change in 8-year old Charlotte Figi, the little girl who inspired the creation of
Charlotte's Web marijuana strain. Since her story reached a national audience, other parents of children suffering from seizures have flocked to states where they can get cannabis oils high in CBD with little to no "high".
Medical marijuana is getting approval almost weekly in various states around the country as more parents lobby their governors and senators to push legislation through that will help children.
One of our favorite stories is about Amelia Weber, who suffered from Dravet Syndrome. Before starting a cannabis oil treatment, Amelia suffered from 80-100 seizures a day. Almost overnight Amelia's seizure dropped to zero or just a few a week. WeedHorn has covered cannabis and seizures, and will continue to share stories of people who are finding relief.