The human body has an innate endocannabinoid system which contains an array of receptorsvirtually situated every tissue in the body. These receptors are grouped into two categories, CB1 and CB2, based on their major biological actions in the body.
The type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1) is located mainly in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Binding of endogenous cannabinoids to these receptors is responsible for various biological processes such as learning and memory development, the sensation of pain, appetite regulation, response to alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine. Activation of these receptors by exogenous cannabinoids such as THC derived from cannabis produces the classical psychoactive effects of marijuana.
The cannabinoid receptor type 2(CB2) is found in most tissues in the body. Its chief physiological functions include induction of immune responses, negative regulation of inflammatory responses by inhibiting mast cell activation and preventing leukocyte chemotaxis. Binding of either CBD or THC to CB2 receptors, therefore, has the potential to elicit an anti-inflammatory response which is the main aim in the management of chronic inflammatory disorders.
Inflammatory diseases are a group of either acquired or genetic diseases which result when there is immune system dysregulation. Normally, the human immune system has the ability to distinguish self-molecules and proteins from foreign molecules such as proteins and sugars derived from bacteria. However, in some inflammatory disorders such as gastritis, arthritis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis etc, the ability to distinguish self from foreign antigens is aberrant. As a result, the immune system attacks and destroys normal cells in the body, producing pain and other symptoms.
Arthritis is a common disease affecting millions of people worldwide. It is a chronic disease with no definitive cure at the moment. This disease which is characterized by intense joint pains and swelling is caused by a faulty immune system which produces antibodies that attack and damage joint and bone tissues.
Currently, the drugs of choice in the treatment of arthritis are aspirin and other NSAIDs which all have side effects. However, marijuana has proved to be an effective analgesic in the management of arthritic pain. It also reduces inflammation by inhibiting the activities of various components of the immune system. The two main cannabinoids found in marijuana; THC and CBD, both have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, marijuana reduces the joint stiffness produced by arthritis thereby improving limb function and quality of life.
This is an immune-mediated inflammatory disorder, characterized by immune destruction of neurons of the central nervous system. The disease presents with pain, sensory loss, spasticity, visual loss etc. studies have shown marijuana to be effective in alleviating the pain of multiple sclerosis. One particular study which was in 2007 shown THC to be more effective than both CBD and dronabinol (a synthetic THC) in reducing the pain of multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, marijuana improves the quality of sleep and reduces depression in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.
In addition to curbing inflammation, the main aetiology behind multiple sclerosis, marijuana cannabinoids especially CBD have proven to be effective spasmolytic agents for the treatment of the severe and crippling muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis. CBD also improves vision in patients with multiple sclerosis by inhibiting the inflammation and destruction of optic nerves (optic neuritis).
The superiority of marijuana in the management of multiple sclerosis can be attributed to its excellent side effect profile, unlike the current pharmaceutical agents which have a ton of side effects including nausea, chest pains, mood disorders, elevated heart rates etc. It is currently the holy grail amongst multiple sclerosis patients, and maybe, had it been discovered earlier, the famous physicist Prof Stephen Hawking could still be alive.
Gastritis refers to an inflammatory disease affecting the inner lining of the stomach. It is caused by several agents including Helicobacter pylori, stress and alcohol. Untreated gastritis can progress to cancer of the stomach. Loss of the inner mucous lining of the stomach causes pain, nausea, indigestion and weight loss.
Luckily, the human stomach lining has numerous cannabinoid receptors which can bind to both endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. These cannabis-derived cannabinoids can inhibit the inflammatory process responsible for gastritis, especially in autoimmune gastritis. Additionally, both THC and CBD are efficacious in the management of nausea of gastritis. In fact, marijuana is being utilized currently to control nausea of various origins including cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Appetite loss and depression are other complications of gastritis that can be addressed by medicinal marijuana. Some strains of marijuana such as Metanuska Tundra are excellent enhancers of appetite while the THC and CBD can induce euphoria and elevate one’s mood thereby curing the depression caused by gastritis. Currently, marijuana edibles are the best in the treatment of gastritis since the cannabinoids in them interact directly with cannabinoid receptors on the stomach wall.
Fibromyalgia is an incurable neurosensory disorder characterized by widespread severe pain, stiffness, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and cognitive impairment. It occurs in association with other inflammatory disorders such rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and hypothyroidism. Its treated currently with analgesics such as opioids (e.g. tramadol), skeletal muscle relaxants (e.g. cyclobenzaprine) and anti-depressants such as amitriptyline and duloxetine, all which have numerous deleterious side effects.
However, recent studies have yielded results proving marijuana, especially CBD, to be an excellent analgesic without side effects. The Quay Pharmaceuticals has developed a marijuana-infused gum known as MedChewRX specifically for treatment of fibromyalgia. This drug is still on trial but studies so far have shown it to more superior in the management of symptoms of fibromyalgia than most drugs being used currently.
This is an inflammatory dermatological condition characterized by scaly and cracking of skin, itchiness, nail changes, and persistent rashes. The disease is treated with mainly topical corticosteroids. However, with time, resistance to these corticosteroids develops. The corticosteroids also have numerous side effects such as lack of sleep, indigestion, joint pains, excessive hair growth in females, and cataracts.
Several strains of marijuana such as Harlequin, Mango Kush, Cannatonic, and White Widow have high levels of CBD which possess both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects both of which are beneficial in the treatment of psoriasis. CBD is also effective in controlling the sleep disturbance and stress associated with psoriasis.
Most immune-mediated inflammatory diseases have proved to be incurable most of the times. Whereas the drugs currently being utilized to treat disorders have numerous side effects, marijuana provide a better option. Medicinal marijuana possesses both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and at the same time, it has a clean side effect profile.