New York legalized marijuana for recreational use in March 2021 for anyone above 21, joining 14 other states. While that made the headlines, medical marijuana has been legal since 2016.
Deep inside the new law were changes to the existing medical cannabis rules. Besides improving affordability and accessibility, the new law expanded on the list of qualifying conditions. Here are some of the health benefits of medical marijuana.
What gives marijuana its health benefits?
Marijuana contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that causes a high. Alternatively, you can extract Cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp, the component in marijuana that has minimal intoxicating properties.
Chemists can mix CBD and THC to make formulations of medical marijuana, all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All you have to do is apply for a New York medical card to reap the benefits of medical marijuana.
Some of the widespread uses of medical marijuana (MMJ) include:
- Numbing pain
One of the more common medical uses of marijuana is pain-numbing, a practice that has been ongoing for centuries.
Marijuana contains CBD that alters pain perception pathways in your brain, reducing pain. Contrary to popular belief, MMJ may not be a powerful solution to resolving chronic cancer pain.
The best way to consume marijuana for pain relief is smoking. It raises CBD levels in the blood much faster than other means, often peaking within three minutes while achieving the pain-relieving effects in seven minutes.
Nabiximols (Sativex), which combines CBD and THC, has found great success in reducing neuropathic pain accompanying multiple sclerosis.
Other variations of CBD can help treat:
- Nausea and vomiting
Medical cannabis has proved effective in combating nausea and vomiting faced by cancer patients caused by chemotherapy sessions (CINV). What’s more, it causes fewer side effects because of the use of natural ingredients.
Studies show MMJ is more effective in managing CINV than conventional medications such as promethazine and prochlorperazine, which also cause side effects such as hallucinations, dizziness, and dysphoria.
Most of the medications used under this category are THC-based. The FDA has approved the following medications:
- Nabilone (Cesamet);
- Dronabinol (Marinol).
Although a 2016 Cochrane review found MMJ could effectively treat CINV in children, it causes more side effects such as altered moods, drowsiness, and dizziness. Therefore, it is not recommended for kids.
Similarly, long-term use of cannabis will cause cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), that is, vomiting and nausea.
- Neurological conditions
One CBD extract produces Epidolex, a liquid medication that has proven effective in treating severe epilepsies affecting children known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
MMJ affects the limbic system, and doctors will at times prescribe medical cannabis in case other forms of medication fail in treating the following conditions:
- multiple sclerosis;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- reducing the tics in Tourette syndrome.
Cannabis extracts taken orally can reduce spasticity, with patients not having to face abuse, addiction, or tolerance issues.
- Reduced inflammation
The theory holds that the CBD in marijuana can help minimize inflammation as it has potent anti-inflammatory agents that can reduce cell proliferation. Further, it can induce apoptosis or death of harmful cells and stimulate the production of T-regulatory cells (Tregs) that aid controlled immune response.
Once your body is injured or infected, immune system cells rush to the spot, but MMJ stops the reaction, thereby eliminating inflammation.
Consequently, this can help manage inflammatory conditions, including:
- Crohn’s diseaser;
- rheumatoid arthritis;
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Regulate insulin
According to a 2016 study, CBD increased insulin production and reduced blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
A 2017 study found a link between cannabis use and lowered insulin, whether a person has diabetes or not. That means cannabis can improve blood circulation and help lower or stabilize blood sugar whatever your diabetes status.
Since MMJ can aid insulin regulation and insulin can aid in the efficient intake of calories, it, therefore, means medical cannabis can assist in the healthy management of weight.