By Sarena-Rae Santos, Contributing Writer
Cannabis is a plant with psychoactive properties that belong to three plants; Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. When the flowers of these three plants are harvested and dried, you receive what some people call a prevalent drug, while others call it one of the most versatile herbs with a wide array of medicinal purposes.
Although Cannabis is not legal worldwide or even nationwide, in some states where it is legal, it is prescribed and recommended by doctors for a range of medical conditions.
The cannabis plant comprises over 120 components, but only two of them are well understood in today’s society – cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the prominent psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the “high” most people associate with cannabis.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating, non-euphoric, psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it won’t get you ”high.” CBD is generally used to reduce inflammation, pain, nausea, migraines, seizures, and even anxiety.
I have used CBD to control chronic pain and epilepsy since 2019. CBD is heavily regulated where I live, and we just legalized medical marijuana. We also have recreation use being brought up now. I am content with my CBD options but would love a plant to make even more remedies. First, we will discuss how cannabis works with the body, hint: we have an endocannabinoid system, and then we will discuss the benefits.
The Endocannabinoid System
Our body naturally has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a complex cell-signaling system responsible for regulating a range of functions, including (1):
- Motor control
- Muscle formation
- Cardiovascular system
- Bone growth/remodeling
- Skin and nerves
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis (the compound that gets you high). This compound can interact with your ECS and bind to its receptors (CB1 and CB2), like endocannabinoids. This compound’s ability to interact with your ECS allows THC to have a range of effects on your mind and body, like reducing pain, reducing inflammation, and stimulating the appetite. Unfortunately, THC can cause paranoia, anxiety, and even anger for some.
That’s when cannabidiol (CBD) comes in. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t get you high, which typically doesn’t cause any adverse effects on the body. It’s all the fantastic benefits of THC without the psychoactive effect. Although CBD doesn’t bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors the way THC does, many believe it prevents endocannabinoids from breaking down. In contrast, others believe CBD binds to a receptor that hasn’t been discovered yet (2).
Some experts believe there is a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). This theory suggests low endocannabinoid levels can cause the ECS to be dysfunctional, contributing to the development of certain conditions. In an article published in 2016, they reviewed ten years of research and believe this is why some people develop migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. This would explain why these people successfully use THC and CBD for treatment (3).
Medicinal Uses for Cannabis
There are so many medicinal purposes for the cannabis plant. Many of these are discussed in Eartley’s guide, What You Need to Know About Cannabinoids (CBD).
May Treat Sleep Disorders
Cannabis can restore your natural sleep cycle, making it an effective treatment for those who have insomnia and other sleep disorders. It’s said that 70 million adults in the United States experience symptoms of a sleep disorder, and more than half of them experience insomnia, with another 10 to 15 percent being chronic (4). In one study, 84 percent of participants who took cannabis for sleep reported it as very beneficial, and 83 percent discontinued over-the-counter sleep aids (5).
May Treat Seizures
Cannabis can help treat some types of seizures and even prevent them. Researchers aren’t sure how or why, but they believe it’s thanks to our body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates bodily functions and immune system responses (6). Seizures are caused by a change in the brain’s electrical activity induced by several things. It’s said that about 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy and 65 million worldwide (7). Several studies have shown CBD is more effective at reducing seizure burden than the placebo (8). These studies led to the first-ever prescription of CBD being approved by the FDA in 2018 to treat seizures associated with two epilepsy syndromes; Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome (9).
May Help Manage Pain
Cannabis can help manage some forms of pain, including chronic pain. Cannabis can help manage pain because we have an endocannabinoid system responsible for regulating pain sensations. It’s estimated that about 50 million adults in the United States live in chronic pain, defined as living in pain every day or most days for the past six months (10). Studies have shown that Cannabis is an effective treatment option for pain management (11).
Types of pain that may benefit from cannabis:
- Chronic Pain
- Neuropathic Pain
- Arthritis Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis (12)
May Help Manage Anxiety
Cannabis can help manage anxiety due to how cannabis interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. There is growing scientific evidence from animal studies that cannabis is an effective treatment for anxiety in oil. One human study found that CBD oil reduced anxiety symptoms in people with social anxiety disorder after the participants had brain scans, revealing that CBD triggered changes in their blood flow to regions in the brain responsible for feelings of anxiety (13).
May Help Manage Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Cannabis can help manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some studies have successfully used cannabis immediately after the event, while others have successfully managed the long-term symptoms (14). It’s said that about 10% of people, myself included, will experience PTSD at some point (15).
May Help Manage Depression
Did you know cannabis can help manage symptoms associated with depression? For instance, cannabis has shown benefits for anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort before public speaking while having an antidepressant effect. It’s said that cannabis can positively affect the serotonin receptors in the brain, and low serotonin levels (the happy hormone) are likely connected with depression (16).
May Help Manage Stress
Cannabis can help manage stress, which results from cannabis’ ability to positively affect the serotonin receptors in the brain and low levels of serotonin (the happy hormone), which plays an essential role in mental health (17). According to one study, a single dose of CBD positively influences measures of stress in dogs during separation and car travel (18).
May Help Manage Headaches & Migraines
Cannabis can help manage headaches and migraines because cannabis can ease pain due to its effects on receptors in the brain, which all fall back on the body’s endocannabinoid system. Research has linked cannabis with reducing and relieving migraine and headache symptoms such as pain, nausea, and inflammation, as well as treatment for the migraine itself (19).
May Reduce Drug Cravings During Addiction Recovery
Cannabis can help reduce drug cravings and anxiety in patients undergoing addiction recovery. Studies have found great success in patients recovering from heroin, other drugs, and alcohol addiction (20).
Unfortunately, opioid use and abuse have spiked drastically in the past decade and have been the cause of over 300,000 deaths here in the United States. Methadone and buprenorphine are the two most commonly prescribed medications. They are often underutilized and hard to access, leading to a treatment gap for those who need them but are often misused or diverted. Cannabis is considered a safe and non-addictive option and treatment for opioid use disorders (21).
May Help Suppress Muscle Spasms
Cannabis can help suppress muscle spasms. A study was explicitly conducted on Muscle Dystrophy patients and found that cannabis reduced muscle spasms in 75 percent of participants. One study of 276 people found that CBD reduced muscle spasms in 75% of MS patients experiencing muscle spasticity resistant to medications (22).
May Help Relieve Inflammation
Cannabis can help relieve inflammation. A study conducted explicitly on mice found that cannabis significantly reduced sciatica nerve pain and inflammation. The mouse study discovered that non-psychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an orally effective therapeutic agent in chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain (23).
May Help Reduce Symptoms Of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Cannabis can help reduce obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms, which is said to be due to how cannabis helps manage anxiety, which is often associated with OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by a persistent intrusion of thoughts (usually of things going wrong) along with constant urges and compulsions like washing hands or checking locks. It is often associated with anxiety disorders (24). Cannabis is said to help manage anxiety, which in turn may be a potential alternative treatment for managing symptoms of OCD (25).
May Help Reduce Symptoms Of Asthma
Cannabis can help reduce symptoms of asthma. It’s said that cannabis decreases the hyperresponsiveness in your airways, making you less sensitive to asthmatic triggers. One study found that the anti-inflammation response of cannabis helped reduce inflammation of the airways, leading to a potentially effective treatment for allergy-induced asthma. (26).
May Help Relieve Nausea
Cannabis can help relieve nausea due to how cannabis interacts with the serotonin receptors and eases nausea in those undergoing chemotherapy and potentially morning sickness. Animal studies suggest that cannabis interacts with the serotonin receptors, a hormone that influences feelings. A human study found that a combination of CBD and THC may relieve this symptom in chemotherapy patients, which has led others to believe it helps with morning sickness as well (27).
May Help Manage Symptoms Of Lupus
Cannabis can help manage lupus symptoms as it is said to alleviate inflammation, which involves considerable inflammation.
“A 2018 study published in Cellular Immunology found that CBD may alter T-cell activity after spinal cord injury. Abnormal activity of T-cells (which are part of the immune system) are believed to be involved in lupus (28).”
May Help Manage Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Cannabis can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms due to cannabis’ ability to activate the serotonin receptors that play a role in pain perception, maintaining body temperature, and reducing inflammation. According to recent studies, cannabis also helps ease symptoms of depression and potentially prevent symptoms of psychosis, making cannabis an appealing alternative treatment for fibromyalgia patients (29).
May Help Manage Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Cannabis can help manage symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which is said to be due to its effects on muscle pain, stiffness, muscle spasms, and pain relief. In studies, cannabis had a 29 percent success rate in patients with stiffness and found they also had relief from muscle spasms and pain (30).
That may not seem like a huge percentage. Still, as someone with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome who has had nearly a dozen surgeries and procedures before adapting to a healthier lifestyle and natural alternatives, including CBD, I can tell you I am one of the success stories.
May Help Manage Symptoms Of Dementia
Cannabis can help manage symptoms of dementia. More specifically, studies suggest cannabis may help address some behavioral signs of dementia-like aggression and agitation (31).
May Help Manage Digestive Issues
Cannabis can help manage digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and gastritis, which is said to be due to how cannabis supports the body’s endocannabinoid system and rebalances the body.
Cannabis can help treat symptoms of many digestive disorders, including:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Constipation (32)
May Help Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Cannabis may help reduce blood sugar levels. Cannabis was effective at lowering blood sugar levels in animal studies. In a mouse study, they found CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56% (33).
May Prevent Cancer Growth
Cannabis may prevent cancer growth. Some studies have found cannabis to have anticancer properties, while others have found it to inhibit the spread of cancer. A mouse study found that CBD inhibited the spread of aggressive breast cancer (34). At the same time, another study showed that CBD might have anticancer properties (35).
May Improve Symptoms Of Autism
Cannabis may improve symptoms of autism. For instance, cannabis can alleviate aggression outbursts and other conditions often associated with autism. For example, Rett syndrome is often associated with autism and helps improve cognitive and behavioral problems (36).
May Help Improve Symptoms of Bruxism & TMJ
Cannabis may improve symptoms of bruxism. Research suggests cannabis can relieve most, if not all, symptoms associated with bruxism, such as grinding the teeth and jaw clenching (37). It’s even said that cannabis can alleviate a common complication of bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
May Help Improve Immunity
Cannabis may improve immunity. More explicitly, those with autoimmune diseases can benefit from cannabis, but healthy people may have the opposite effect and can suppress immunity (38).
May Help Improve Appetite Loss
Cannabis may improve appetite loss. More specifically, cannabis is linked to the endocannabinoid system’s appetite control function. In the past decade, cannabis has been widely studied, and they’ve found cannabidiol receptors can improve therapies for those struggling with eating disorders, body weight disorders, and reduced appetite (39).
Cannabis/CBD & Children
Not to anyone’s surprise, the CDC recommends against all CBD products, claiming they are all unsafe unless it’s the FDA-approved pharmaceutical drug, Epidiolex, approved for patients one year of age or older (40). Epidiolex is not a pure CBD oil; its inactive ingredients include dehydrated alcohol, sesame seed oil, strawberry flavor, and sucralose (41). Additionally, Epidiolex oral liquid (100 mg/mL) costs around $982 for a supply of 60 milliliters (42), compared to roughly $60 for a reputable, high-quality brand of CBD.
Regarding children, CBD can’t “officially” be recommended for kids. Researchers find it unethical to test the safety of CBD on the more vulnerable. But, many families safely use it with their children for various reasons.
For instance, one study found that cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy resulted in fewer reported seizures and more favorable side effects than pharmaceutical drugs (43).
Another study found oral cannabis extracts for treating refractory epilepsy in children had a positive outcome on seizures and improved behavior, alertness, language, and motor skills (44).
With that said, I would recommend Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (formula C or P) or Earthley’s Pain Relief Rub, which are all safe for children.
Cannabis & Pregnancy/Breastfeeding
Most people hesitate to use CBD, not because studies have deemed them unsafe, but because of the lack of studies. It’s important to understand that at this time, there are virtually no indications that CBD is unsafe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Cannabinoids have a long history of safe use in humans, are not psychoactive, and will not get you or your baby high. Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system, which regulates nausea and vomiting and can assist an expecting mother with morning sickness symptoms (45).
Cannabinoids are also found in breast milk naturally (46)! CBD can even be transmitted to an infant via breastmilk to aid in excessive crying, aggravation, and inflammatory conditions the infant may be suffering from (47).
Although I do not suggest rolling up a blunt and smoking while pregnant or breastfeeding, I do recommend using high-quality, full-spectrum CBD oil like Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (formula P), which is formulated with 600 mg of pure-spectrum CBD for the full medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high.
Cannabis & Pets
Believe it or not, cannabis is safe for cats (48) and dogs (49), especially those with anxiety, pain, and seizure disorders.
Cannabis may help and support with:
- GI tract
- Joints and mobility
- Immune system
- Comfort and care (50)
Studies have found that CBD can reduce overall inflammation in dogs (51), as well as pain and joint inflammation in dogs with osteoarthritis (52) and in dogs with epilepsy (53).
Although cannabis is safe for cats and dogs, it’s best to avoid high-THC cannabis oils, which can lead to toxicity. A full-spectrum CBD oil like Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (formula P) would be ideal, with less than 0.3% THC.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.
CBD Product Recommendations
Since I can’t recommend a cannabis brand, considering it’s not even legal where I live, I’ll give the second best thing; CBD products I recommend.
- Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (Formula P) is a CBD oil formulated with 600 mg of pure-spectrum CBD in a hemp seed oil base for the full medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high.
- Earthley’s Anxiety Calm Oil (Formula C) is a CBD oil formulated with 600 mg of pure-spectrum CBD in a hemp seed oil base while also being infused with organic herbs (lavender, lemon balm, holy basil) to provide a rich blend of cannabinoids and terpenes, to create the most synergistic benefits.
- Earthley’s Pain Relief Rub is a synergistic cream combining natural pain-relieving herbs like St. John’s Wort and yarrow with 100 mg of full-spectrum CBD.