Interest in medical cannabis has been increasing for decades now. More and more research suggests the variety of ways medical marijuana may be incorporated into effective treatments for people with a range of different conditions. New studies explore the effects of cannabis use on people with other conditions as well.
What are the possible medical effects of cannabis? If you’re wondering if you should incorporate medical marijuana into your treatment plan, you’ll want to know what it does.
The Science of Cannabis
The first thing to understand is how medical marijuana affects the human body. Cannabis contains substances called cannabinoids. These substances bind to receptor sites in the human body through what’s called the endocannabinoid system. Human beings naturally produce substances very similar to the cannabinoids in medical marijuana.
When cannabinoids bind to these receptor sites, the medical effects of cannabis are produced. These effects are wide-ranging, as the endocannabinoid system in the body is extensive. Cannabis may affect both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the mind, and more.
The Physical Effects
The possible medical effects of cannabis work on the nervous system of the human body. The most studied effect is the reduction of pain. When cannabinoids bind to receptor sites, they may be able to calm nerves. Those nerves may then stop sending pain signals to the brain.
Patients report they’ve found relief from chronic pain, nerve pain, and even migraines. Researchers and patients suggest the effects also extend to shakes and tremors, such as those associated with Parkinson’s disease. The nerves are told to stop sending signals to the brain, which then calms the involuntary motion.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
The possible medical effects of cannabis extend to what’s known as the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the heart rate, intestinal activity, and gland activity. It’s sometimes known as the “rest and digest system,” since it conserves energy.
One of the potential medical effects of cannabis is the relaxation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This slows the heart rate and helps people achieve a state of relaxation. This is one of the most commonly reported effects of medical marijuana. It may help those struggling with mental health conditions such as PTSD and anxiety. It may also promote sleep, which may be useful for patients suffering from insomnia.
Effects on the Mind
Cannabinoids can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which is part of the reason they’re associated with altered mental states.
The potential medical effects of cannabis on the brain are extensive and include everything from promoting sleep to heightening awareness and improving focus. These substances may also trigger hunger responses in the brain or influence certain structures in the brain relating to concepts of time. The visual centre of the brain may also be stimulated to cause hallucinations or altered perceptions of reality.
The most common effect reported by patients is a state of peacefulness and relaxation. Many people say they feel calm when cannabinoids are working in their systems.
What about Side Effects?
The most common “side effects” of medical marijuana are benign. Cannabinoids may promote sleep, drowsiness, and hunger. In some patients, these can be desirable. In fact, cannabinoids may be used to suppress or increase appetite in those who need to maintain their weight. It may also be effective in increasing the appetite of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Other side effects include reddened eyes and potential impairment, which means people shouldn’t operate heavy machinery or drive a car. In very rare cases, medical cannabis can trigger more negative side effects, such as unpleasant hallucinations or paranoia, but these are less frequently reported.
As you can see, the possible medical effects of cannabis are wide-ranging. The substances may affect almost every system of the body, producing effects that might help any number of people with any number of conditions. However, more research is required.