Medical Cannabis & the Benefits of CBD Oil
Cannabis – what an incredibly useful plant! We use it to make medicines, foods, houses, fuels, drugs, fibres, textiles, paper, plastics, paints, varnishes, detergents, inks, and lubricating oils. It grows quickly in most climates and on most arable land throughout the world, requiring only moderate amounts of water and fertilizer, and no pesticides or herbicides.
Recently we're seeing lots of attention being given to the medicinal applications of the cannabis plant. It's among the most studied therapeutic substances in history, with the scientific literature relating to it consisting of over 20,000 published studies and reviewsi. The consensus is that cannabis is one of the safest, least toxic, and most effective therapeutic agents on Earth, with no risk of overdose and minimal potential for addiction.
This isn't something we've newly discovered – cannabis was in fact the third most commonly prescribed therapeutic agent in the USA until the advent of its demonisation and prohibition in the 1920s and 30s. Prominent prohibitionist Harry Anslinger (who incidentally had close ties to the synthetic textile manufacturing industry) wrote at the time that:
“[T]he deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms.... Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him....”
I'm not sure what Anslinger was smoking, but thankfully modern politicians are slowly beginning to find their way out of this hysterical haze. Although the 'War on Drugs' continues its irrational and directionless march, we are at last beginning to see more and more reform of laws pertaining to the use of cannabis for medical and even recreational purposes.
Evidence indicates that cannabis can be effective in the treatment of AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, mood and anxiety disorders, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy (especially severe forms of childhood epilepsy), fibromyalgia, glaucoma, sleep disorders, PTSD, diabetes, anorexia and pharmaceutically induced anorexia, nausea and pharmaceutically induced nausea, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, MS and spinal cord injury, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and more.
What is it about this extraordinary plant that makes it so effective as a medicine? The answer lies in molecules named cannabinoids and their interaction with the body's endocannabinoid system. This is the largest system of receptors in the human body, it affects a wide range of biological processes and is thought to be involved in homeostasis, ie: the maintenance of steady or balanced internal conditions.ii
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, particularly in the brain and immune system but also in the peripheral nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, and gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. Our bodies naturally produce compounds that interact with these receptors that are called endocannabinoids – they're such an important feature of our physiology that mothers supply them to their infants through breastmilk. It's estimated that the endocannabinoid system evolved into being more than 500 million years ago and thus is not unique to humans – even slugs have these receptors in their bodies!
So back to the humble weed in question - there are also at least 100 active cannabinoids that have been identified as occurring in various strains of the cannabis/hemp plant. The two most well studied cannabinoids found in cannabis are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC binds to CB1 receptors and is responsible for the psychoactive effects or 'high' associated with cannabis. CBD binds to CB2 receptors and produces no notable psychoactive effects.
Through the use of selective breeding techniques, growers have recently begun producing strains that are specifically low in THC and high in CBD. As a result it's now possible to obtain CBD oil derived from industrial hemp that does not produce any psychoactive side effects. When derived from industrial hemp, rather than the Cannabis plant , it falls under different legislation to Medicinal Marijuana which may contain the psychoactive cannabinoid THC..
Evidence exists for CBD having a number of specific actions on the body, including:iii
Analgesic (pain killer)
Anti-emetic (reduces nausea/vomiting)
Anticonvulsant (suppresses seizure activity)
Antioxidant (combats neurodegenerative disorders as well as oxidation-associated diseases like Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, gastric ulcers or CNS disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease)
Anti-tumoral / Anti-cancer (though some types of cancer respond better to THC)
Anxiolytic / Antidepressant
Neuroprotective (protects brain cells and reduces the risk of ischemic damage from stroke)
In many countries around the world, CBD/cannabidiol oil can be safely consumed by children and adults as a dietary supplement, with very few if any side-effects. Unlike “cannabis oil” (which generally means an extraction that is high in THC), CBD oil is not intoxicating. Australia and New Zealand are the only places in the world where many hemp products are not considered fit for human consumption, however industrial hemp is used in many products for topical application.
A 2011 review concluded that CBD “does not interfere with several psychomotor and psychological functions”iv and suggested that even high doses of CBD are “well tolerated and safe”.
You may have already seen in the news some of the heartbreaking cases of very small children suffering from Dravet syndrome which causes a very high frequency of debilitating seizures. In many cases parents have found remarkable success after turning to the use of CBD oil to treat their kids after having exhausted all pharmaceutical options.
It's no wonder a people's movement has grown up around the cultivation, processing and use of this extraordinary plant medicine. However cannabis containing THC is still illegal despite its massive usefulness in treating a variety of serious illnesses. Let's hope that politicians and medical professionals will soon see sense and overcome the entrenched irrational views that exist around cannabis, botanical medicines, and the failed 'war on drugs'!
NB: This information has been made available for educational purposes only and does not intend to prescribe or suggest treatment for any form of illness. We invite no reliance on this information and encourage readers to ensure that they conduct their own independent research and to consult a healthcare professional before undertaking treatment for any health condition.
Readers should note that the strength and constituents of CBD oil will differ according to the particular strain of cannabis from which it was extracted, and according to which extraction method was used.
Some readers may also find it interesting to read that CBD appears to act to reduce a range of the effects of THC such as memory impairment, paranoia, and sleepiness.