Marijuana, or cannabis, has been used for at least 5,000 years and has an extensive history of traditional uses as an industrial material and a botanical medicine all throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and America.1
Read on to learn more about medical marijuana's healing benefits how it has gotten its bad rap and why you'd want your own state to approve its use, too.
What Is Medical Marijuana?
The term "medical marijuana" refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant and its pure extracts to treat a disease or improve a symptom.2 It must be sourced from a medicinal-grade cannabis plant that has been meticulously grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
Marijuana's incredible healing properties come from its high cannabidiol (CBD) content and critical levels of medical terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains some tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule that gives the psychoactive effects that most recreational users are after. Through traditional plant breeding techniques and seed exchanges, growers have started producing cannabis plants that have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC for medical use.
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved medical marijuana,3 more and more physicians are starting to reverse their stand on the issue and swear by its effectiveness and health benefits.
In a 2015 CBS interview, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy acknowledged that marijuana may be useful for certain medical conditions, saying: "We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful."4
Likewise, CNN's chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta also made a highly publicized reversal on his marijuana stance after the production of his two-part series "Weed." In a commentary published on CNN's website, he said:5
"There is now promising research into the use of marijuana that could impact tens of thousands of children and adults, including treatment for cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer's, to name just a few.
With regard to pain alone, marijuana could greatly reduce the demand for narcotics and simultaneously decrease the number of accidental painkiller overdoses, which are the greatest cause of preventable death in this country."
How Does Medical Marijuana Work and What Diseases Can It Be Used For?
Historically, marijuana has been used as a botanical medicine since the 19th and 20th centuries.6 Today, marijuana's claim as a potential panacea is backed up by countless studies crediting its healing potential to its cannabidiol content.
There is actually an endocannabinoid system in the human body. This ancient biological system, which also exists in other mammals, was first described in the journal Science in 1992,7 and is said to be responsible for releasing human cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors found in virtually all your tissues, embedded in your cell membranes.
Cannabinoid receptors can be found in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and immune system. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.8
There's still ongoing research as to how far they impact your health, but to date, it's known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth and immune function.9 Overall, it's said that cannabinoids bring balance to your tissues and biological systems.
Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California who has successfully treated patients with medical marijuana for more than a decade, has personally seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day. Other common ailments that may benefit from medical marijuana use include:
Arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis10
Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia11
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)14
Epilepsy and seizures15