With cannabis’ meteoric rise to become the wellness ingredient du jour of recently, the biggest question raised among doctors, researchers, policymakers and the public is what exactly are the cannabis health benefits and effects of cannabis on the body?
As a plant-based medicine with a high safety profile and molecular complexity, cannabis has achieved a well-deserved reputation, with therapeutic applications ranging from easing muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis to the treatment of nausea associated with chemotherapy, among others.
The cannabis plant has at least two active chemicals that have medicinal applications. While tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the famous psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant that catapults users’ “high” and has pain-relieving properties, Cannabidiol or CBD is its lesser-known nonpsychoactive sibling. CBD rose from obscurity as a shining star for having multiple health benefits without the mind-altering potentials of THC.
Both cannabis Sativa plants: hemp and marijuana, contain up to 40%CBD. However, while hemp is selectively bred to contain less than 0.3 percent THC, it’s more popular counterpart–marijuana–contains up to 30% of the psychoactive cannabinoid. In addition to CBD and THC, there are another 400 chemical compounds in cannabis plants, of which 60 are cannabinoids and could have medical uses, but there is still no research to prove that.
Cannabis Health Benefits: 7 Effects of Cannabis on the Body
1. It Can Help Anxiety and Stress Relief
Stress relief and anxiety are, in fact, the most common medical/wellness reasons that people turn to cannabis. More than 40% of cannabis users have taken it to reduce anxiety, according to a survey of 8,000 people, conducted by Oasis Intelligence, a cannabis market research firm. Sleep Issue Treatment and Depression Relief follow behind.
A man is taking a dose of hemp oil, recognised by users for its numerous health benefits such as pain relief for arthritis and migraines.
Neuroinflammation is usually the leading cause of depression and anxiety. CBD has been proven to soothe the nervous system by reducing inflammation of the nervous tissue in the brain. What’s more, CBD oil can increase the natural serotonin levels by mirroring the same effects of antidepressants. CBD can also improve the health of the hippocampus region of the brain, which has a big role in learning and memory. In many cases, the poor condition of the hippocampus has been closely associated with anxiety and depression.
Moreover, a study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that CBD seemed to reduce cognitive impairment and nervousness in people with social anxiety.
2. It Helps Pain Management
One of the most common cannabis health benefits is its extraordinary ability to reduce chronic pain, which has been described as ‘the silent epidemic’ by the British Pain Society. Figures point out that two fifths of UK population has been affected by chronic pain or pain that has lasted for three months or longer. While both marijuana and hemp are not strong enough to treat severe pain (broken bone or post-surgical pain), they are quite useful for relieving chronic pain.
Some studies suggest that cannabis users who use cannabis to treat their pain experienced about 30% decrease in their pain level. Cannabinoids ease pain by adjusting pain perception pathways in the brain. CBD, in particular, has anti-inflammatory properties which help in the process of reducing chronic pain. Marijuana is also proven to be a great muscle relaxer and users swear by its ability to lessen muscle tension and body discomfort.
Part of its allure is that cannabis is a safer alternative to opiates.
3. Cannabis Health Benefits Include Improving Sleep
Sleep disorders can be caused by many reasons, including anxiety and chronic pain. Almost a third of the UK population is experiencing insomnia, according to the NHS. Those who struggle to get a shut-eye and are usually up in the wee hours of the night may find cannabis as a promising sleep aid.
Cannabis has been proven effective in treating sleep disorders like insomnia and thanks to its relaxing effects, it can also improve the quality of sleep. Some preliminary research suggests cannabinoids such as dronabinol and nabilone have short-term benefits for sleep apnea. CBD holds promises for REM sleep disorders and daytime drowsiness.
4. It Can Also Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients
One of the most surprising benefits from cannabis use has been found in patients diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)–the autoimmune, neurological disease of the central nervous system that causes disability.
A survey conducted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the US has shown that up to 66% of MS patients are using cannabis and its therapeutic benefits to treat MS symptoms. MS patients experience various symptoms that differ depending on the extent of the nerve damage, but they include numbness, weakness, muscle spasms, vision problems, spasticity, pain, fatigue and difficulty moving or walking.
Seemingly, cannabis helps MS patients to deal with neuroinflammation, one of the most significant issues caused by lifelong diseases. As a powerful anti-inflammatory, cannabinoids are incredibly useful in treating the majority of MS-associated symptoms.
5. Effects of Cannabis on the Body Help Crohn’s Disease Patients
Crohn’s disease (CD) is a debilitating and painful condition that affects about 1 in every 650 person in the United Kingdom. It is one of two types of inflammatory bowel disease that involves chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
Clinical research is growing by the day, describing the full cannabis health benefits and effects of cannabis on the body
CD symptoms usually include bloody diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and fever. Recent Israeli research suggests cannabis oil may provide relief for CD symptoms. The placebo-controlled study shows that more than half of CD patients using cannabis as a treatment achieved clinical remission after eight weeks.
6. It's Beneficial for Patients with Arthritis
A recent study titled ‘Joints for Joints – cannabinoids in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis’ cautiously concludes that cannabis could be a suitable treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
While scientists dwell on the further investigation of cannabinoids, outside the ivory tower, millions are already relying on cannabis to heal aching muscles and joints. As an effective pain relief agent cannabis helps arthritis sufferers ease chronic joint and muscle pain.
CBD’s ability to decrease joint inflammation and protect the nerves could also prevent joint neuropathy and osteoarthritis pain, according to a study published in the journal Pain in December 2017.
7. Cannabis for Fighting Cancer
Last but not least, the effects of cannabis on the body are comforting for those also suffering from cancer. In the decade-long discussion on whether cannabis helps in preventing and/or curing cancer, the unequivocal answer, according to veteran cannabis researchers is: it helps with several symptoms but don’t bet your life on it.
While a limited number of lab studies with animals show cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce the spread of cancer cells, there is still no evidence that the effects of cannabis on the body can entirely help treat cancer. However, cannabis does show promise for the management of cancer-related symptoms, including pain, appetite loss, sleep and anxiety.
Another batch of studies has found that it can also help treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy as well as it’s a helpful treatment of neuropathic pain.
More medical research is pending to help us understand the effects of cannabis on the body in greater detail. But as you already might be familiar with yourself, the benefits from this plant are helping millions around the world. The health gains of consuming cannabis is what prompts governments around the world to legalize medical and recreational use of marijuana, which in turn also boosts the growth of the cannabis industry.