Medical Cannabis and the Diseases It Can Treat

Treating Certain Diseases and Medical Conditions with Medical Cannabis.

Medical cannabis was known as hemp when it made its way into North America back in the 16th century. The Jamestown settlers are believed to be the first exporters of hemp fibres to various parts of the world. In 1762, hemp had become such a popular medicinal herb that subsidies were awarded to those farmers who produced hemp while penalties were charged to those who did not. Ever since medical cannabis made its way into the North American continent, it was believed that it possessed certain medicinal properties that could cure many health conditions; from rheumatism to depression. In the book titled ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’, medical cannabis was described as an ideal drug for those battling with depression.

Cannabis sativa is the Latin name used for medical cannabis in botany. It is the parent plant from which 460 different kinds of chemical compounds are derived; out which most of them are cannabinoids.

The psychoactive agent in medical cannabis is recognized as delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol that influences the brain when smoked. This article touches upon some of the diseases that medical cannabis has the power to cure.

lung xray astma treating with medical cannabis

Asthma and Other Respiratory Disorders

According to a peer reviewed scientific journal called Nature, an article entitled ‘Bidirectional Control of Airway Responsiveness’ in 2000 reflected a positive view on medical cannabis smoking as treatment for asthma. It suggested that the main active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol could dilate the blocked airways in humans. However, many patients did not respond well to the THC present in medical cannabis that was administered to them and resulted in a bronchospasm of the lungs.

The reason behind the anomaly is still not found. The conclusion of the study was focused on the dual effects of endogenous cannabinoid anandamide, which affected the bronchial response in rodents. The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide could prevent cough and bronchospasm caused by capsaicin in the medical cannabis plant but also caused bronchospasm with the removal of the Vagus nerve responsible for creating a constricting tone.

Another positive effect of cannabinoids was brought to the forefront by Professor of Pharmacology at The University of Irvine, Daniel Pomelli in 2000 when he told Reuters that severe coughs associated with asthma and other respiratory diseases could be controlled effectively if the cannabinoid receptors were targeted to the upper airways. He stated that this could be a major improvement in the medicine created for such diseases for they are currently only targeting the cough centers in the brain rather than targeting the upper airways straight away.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a life threatening disease that affects the liver. It is caused by the inflammation of the liver due to the HCV virus. When undetected, the HCV virus starts progressing aggressively and causes scarring of the liver called cirrhosis because many patients do not exhibit any symptoms pointing towards the disease.

The only way to determine if a person is infected is through a blood test in which the HCV virus becomes apparent. Some of the commonly known symptoms of hepatitis C are jaundice, dark colored urine, fever, fatigue, low appetite, Ascites, clay coloured stools and bleeding Varices. An article was published in October 2006 entitled ‘Cannabis Use Improves Retention and Virological Outcomes in Patients Treated for Hepatitis C’ in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The author of the article was Diane L. Sylvestre, M.D. who was the Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The content of the article shed light on the positive effect of cannabis use in patients diagnosed with Hepatitis C. The publication stated that use of medical cannabis (cannabis) in controlled quantities offered virological and symptomatic advantage to patients who were undergoing treatment for HCV by easing the symptoms; in turn making the entire treatment plan somewhat bearable.

Another article with a supportive view on medical cannabis usage was published in 2006 by Benedikt Fischer, the Director of Illicit Drugs, Public Health and Policy Unit at the University of Victoria entitled ‘Treatment for Hepatitis C Virus and Cannabis Use in Illicit Drug User Patients: Questions and Implications’. In this article, due focus was made on the fact that there was substantial evidence through which the use of medical cannabis could be considered beneficial in treating the symptoms experienced by patients under HCV treatment such as nausea, vomiting and depression.

 

Epilepsy

Epilepsy can be defined as a brain disorder that causes the brain to function abnormally. One of the most common symptoms of epilepsy is seizures. In most cases, the underlying cause of epilepsy in most patients remains undiscovered. It is estimated that almost 0.6% of Canadian citizens have been diagnosed with epilepsy.
When it comes to finding literature on treating epilepsy with the use of medical grade medical cannabis, one of the articles published in “Reviews in Neurological Diseases” entitled ‘medical cannabis: An Effective Antiepileptic Treatment in Partial Epilepsy, A Case Report and Review of the Literature’ in 2007 was found to be quite informative.
The author of the study, Katherine Morarti stated that even though there was not enough data to scientifically prove the effectiveness of medical cannabis usage for treating epilepsy in humans, many studies carried out on animals and clinical experience support the view that active constituents found in medical cannabis are useful in treating partial epilepsy.
The study focused on one of the anecdotal cases in which a 45 year old man was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. With the frequent use of medicated medical cannabis, a drastic change was noticed in his behavior; making medical grade medical cannabis a great alternative treatment for epilepsy patients.
Another study in 1990 conducted by Professor John Brust (Clinical Neurology at the University of Columbia) was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology entitled ‘Illicit Drug Use and the Risk of New Onset Seizures’. The study suggested that medical cannabis played a protective role by preventing seizures in men. The reason behind this was the cannabinoid compounds that have both convulsant as well as anti convulsant properties that were discovered in the fifteenth century.
Also, the study recognized the growing use of heroin as a risk factor that promoted the likelihood of seizures in frequent users while medical cannabis provided due protection.

Migraine

A hard throbbing headache that is accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to bright lights and loud sounds is categorized as migraine. The pain experienced by an individual during a migraine episode is somewhat similar to an intense pulsing or a throbbing sensation that becomes too intense when the tension builds up. However, the pain affects a certain part of the head only.
medical cannabis strains have been recognized for their healing properties that could possibly treat migraines by Philip Denney in the article entitled ‘Migraine Sufferer Finds Relief from medical cannabis’. Denney who was the cofounder of a medical cannabis evaluation practice stated that one of the most effective medicines for treating migraines was medical cannabis. The article stated that smoking medical cannabis could possibly damage the lungs but it was very effective and it offered rapid pain relief.
A pro medical cannabis activist and author, Jack Herer also supported the use of medical cannabis for keeping migraines under control in his book called ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes’ in 2000. He suggested that the vascular changes that occurred in the covering of the brain when using medical cannabis made the migraine disappear. This is because primarily migraine is caused by the over relaxation of the veins that in turn cause artery spasms.

HIV/AIDS Wasting Syndrome

AIDS is an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome that weakens the immune system of the body; making it susceptible to even the mildest of infections. Patients suffering from AIDS usually undergo the wasting syndrome in which they experience rapid weight loss due to acute loss of appetite. This is known as the AIDS wasting syndrome or cachexia.
The report on medical cannabis usage in HIV/AIDS patients entitled ‘medical cannabis and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base’ published by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 suggested that the cannabinoids found in medical cannabis could considerably improve the condition of AIDS patients by reducing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, pain and low appetite.
It also pointed towards the fact that even though medical cannabis offered many great benefits to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS wasting syndrome, it would still not qualify as an appropriate drug for treating such symptoms due to the side effects caused by smoking medical cannabis in the long run.

 

Sources:

Burton, Robert. The anatomy of melancholy. JW Moore, 1857.
Calignano, A., et al. “Bidirectional control of airway responsiveness by endogenous cannabinoids.” Nature 408.6808 (2000): 96-101.
Piomelli, Daniele. “The molecular logic of endocannabinoid signalling.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 4.11 (2003): 873-884.
Sylvestre, Diana L., Barry J. Clements, and Yvonne Malibu. “Cannabis use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients treated for hepatitis C.”European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology 18.10 (2006): 1057-1063.
Fischer, Benedikt, et al. “Treatment for hepatitis C virus and cannabis use in illicit drug user patients: implications and questions.” European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology 18.10 (2006): 1039-1042.
Mortati, K., B. Dworetzky, and O. Devinsky. “medical cannabis: an effective antiepileptic treatment in partial epilepsy? A case report and review of the literature.” Reviews in neurological diseases 4.2 (2006): 103-106.
NG, STEPHEN KC, et al. “Illicit drug use and the risk of new-onset seizures.”American journal of epidemiology 132.1 (1990): 47-57.
EI‐Mallakh, Rif S. “medical cannabis and migraine.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 27.8 (1987): 442-443.
Herer, Jack. The emperor wears no clothes. Ed. Leslie Cabarga. Ah Ha Pub., 1998.
Joy, Janet E., Stanley J. Watson Jr, and John A. Benson Jr, eds. medical cannabis and Medicine:: Assessing the Science Base. National Academies Press, 1999.

 

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