The Medical Uses Of Marijuana
Marijuana is an emotive topic. Some people consider it a harmless pleasure; others associate the word with pot heads and dope fiends. Or perhaps, like Bill Clinton, they experimented with it in their youth but now respect its illegal status. But controversy aside, the fact is that marijuana is a herb and like most such plants offers many medicinal benefits. Here’s a look at the properties of this drug and the many medical uses of marijuana.
Firstly, let’s look at what marijuana is, exactly.
Marijuana refers to the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis plant. Other names include ganja or hemp. When compiled into a resin, it’s known as hashish or hash. Marijuana is mainly known as a psychoactive, recreational drug.
The main active component of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When inhaled or ingested, THC attaches to certain parts of the brain known as cannabinoid receptors. The result is the euphoria experienced by users of the drug.
As a herb it also possesses a number of medicinal properties. In fact, marijuana contains over 300 compounds, 60 of which are cannabinoids which are responsible for the plant’s medicinal properties. The main properties of cannabinoids for therapeutic purposes are analgesic (pain relieving), anti-emetic (nausea and vomiting relieving), and as an appetite stimulant.
In fact, before marijuana was branded an illegal drug, it had a long tradition of medical use. It first appears in print in a 2nd century Chinese medical tome and was used in the United States in the 18th century to treat insomnia, labour pains and as an appetite booster. And today, marijuana is still used therapeutically today in the Middle East and parts of Asia.
In countries such as the United States, it has been used in the treatment of chronic pain in conditions such as multiple sclerosis and the emergence of HIV/AIDS led to an increase in its therapeutic use. HIV sufferers can control the progress of the disease with anti viral drugs but tend to experience an array of unpleasant symptoms which marijuana is well equipped to alleviate. These symptoms include nausea and reduced appetite both from the disease itself as well as side effects of powerful anti-virals. People with HIV could use marijuana to stimulate appetite and to reduce nausea which can halt the progress to AIDS wasting, a serious stage in which the body tissue wastes away.
Marijuana can also relieve pain caused by peripheral neuropathy which causes burning and numbness in the hands and feet. And it may be useful to manage the anxiety and depression that accompanies a serious medical condition such as HIV/AIDS.
But all this doesn’t mean that marijuana is a safe substance. For all its medical benefits, marijuana does have its downside. It’s dangerous for pregnant or nursing mothers and those suffering from hepatitis C or with histories of heart disease or stroke. Marijuana has also been though to precipitate psychotic symptoms in people with a family history of mental problems.
Anyone considering the use of marijuana for medical purposes has to consider both legal and medical factors. The fact remains that in most countries it remains a controlled substance with harsh penalties for possession and use with certain exceptions. For example, in the UK, it’s legal to buy greenhouse seeds as souvenirs. It’s legal to buy seeds but not to germinate them. These green house seeds can be bought online and delivered by post. And of course certain liberal countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark do allow possession and consumption in limited amounts in a controlled environment.
Cannabis for recreational use is illegal in most parts of the world. However its use as a medicine is now legal in certain territories including the UK Canada, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Italy, Finland, and Portugal, and parts of the United States. Such use is strictly controlled however. For example, in those American states where it’s legal, users need to get a Medical Marijuana Card.
Laws governing the possession and use of marijuana are in a state of flux and meanwhile medical research continues. One exciting recent research has shown that marijuana may be effective against tumours such as lung cancer. The fact is that marijuana can improve the quality of life for sick people and so the authorities need to maintain an equitable balance between controlling the recreational use of this drug while maintaining research and use for medicinal purposes.