As a Cannabis Consultant that is quite vocal about the medicinal use of cannabinoids and what it has done for me and others, I do get a lot of email. It may not be possible to respond to every one, but I do read them all. I also get pretty much every manner of question from doctors, patients, and family members looking to help a patient. Sadly, people like me are usually the last ones to be contacted for help when in fact, we probably should be the first. But trust me, the doctors in Canada are slowly learning.
Most recently I was asked a very simple question by a patient with Multiple Sclerosis. It only makes sense to share it and my response with you.
So how does cannabis help you?
To understand how cannabis can help you, you first have to have a little understanding of the plant itself. The medicinal compounds in cannabis are in a group called cannabinoids. These would be THC, CB1,CB2, and different turpenes found in plants. The different strains of Cannabis Sativa are the result of breeding to achieve differing levels of active cannabinoids and turpenes. All strains can have a slightly different effect.
While the governments' (mainly US), contend that there are no medicinal benefits to cannabis, the US Department of Health applied for and received a patent for Cannabinoids to be used as an Anti-oxidant and a Neuro-Protectant in 2003.
Because the human body produces the same cannabinoids naturally, the body has receptors specifically designed to process the active ingredients. For the most part, these receptors are only used for cannabinoids. Because the body produces it naturally, it is not filtered through the renal system such as chemical pharmaceuticals or opiates. The highest concentrations of THC found in humans is in women during pregnancy in the breast milk. This has long been speculated to be an immune system boost to the newborn with it's first feeding.
When you use it for the first time, the effect has a lot to do with the mode of use in how the side effects effect you. Inhalation either by smoking or vaporizing is by far the fastest route, with a maximum of side effects, but not very efficient due to the lung expelling 2/3rds of anything inhaled not being absorbed by the body.
Ingesting with the right preparation is by far the most effective way as it allows virtually all of the medicinal ingredients to be used. Humans are not designed to digest plant matter in the way that grazing animals are, therefore just eating dried plant could end up being more detrimental than good. Therefore, since 2003 a grey area has existed in the Canadian legal system in regards to the Medical use of Cannabis in Canada where the Supreme and Appellate courts in Ont found that the Criminal Code in regards to Cannabis is of no force or effect when dealing with medicinal use. The part of the law that does come into effect is Trafficking.
Essentially the many benefits of cannabis are still being found but regardless the condition, the cannabinoids are doing multiple jobs at the same time.
Ignoring side effects as with a proper dosing schedule, a patients may only feel relief and no other side effects, the active compounds start to work within minutes.
The first noticeable sign may be a slight increase in heartbeat, by approximately 10 to 15 bpm. This is normal and proving to be very therapeutic as the cannabinoids also act as a vasodilator improving blood flow through veins and vessels. This acts as a flushing system for the body. Unlike pharmaceutical blood thinners such as those used in stented angioplasty patients, cannabinoids do very little to the actual blood or vein walls. Instead it acts as a vasodilator by relaxing the muscles surrounding the vein making it very effective as well as very safe with red eyes. The red eyes really is a good thing.
The vasodilation effect that relaxes the muscles for the veins is the same effect that relaxes spasticity, tremor, and muscle spasms in patients with neurological disorders. This of course also helps with pain. But the mechanisms of cannabis for relieving pain do not work like any other compound.
Narcotic drugs such as opiates do very little to control pain. In fact, they are designed to do nothing for pain. Narcotics work by triggering pleasure sensors in the brain in order to trick the patient into thinking they are no longer in pain. If you ask the patient, they will freely admit that they still feel pain, but because they are high, they can deal with it.
Cannabinoids actually help to shut off the pain sensors neurologically. This works very well for chronic pain, which is the pain that most patients can't describe. Acute pain will still be felt. This is important, as acute pain is designed to be a warning that a part of the body is undergoing trauma and needs attention. The importance of acute pain is most evident in patients with Leprosy. The leprosy damage is done to the nerves. The deformities to limbs are the result of not feeling pain. A stubbed to really hurts enough to help prevent you from stubbing it again until you have no feeling.
Those are the best and most documented effects that can be felt. What cannot be felt is usually more important.
Once in your system in a large enough quantity, cannabinoids, work even harder behind the scenes. Cannabis has been proven to destroy cancer cells. Not in the same was as radiation by going in and destroying both healthy and damaged cells, but instead by making the cancer cell destroy itself, while repairing the damaged cells around it.
It has also been found to be very effective in controlling blood sugar, hormones, the digestive system, anxiety, and a host of other maladies. It will raise or lower blood pressure to normal values in many patients, while also helping to keep cholesterol levels in check. It is also used to help prevent nausea and increase appetite in patients undergoing cancer treatments.
Topically, it has been very useful for removing warts including plantar's, as well as removing cancerous tumors. Application of a pure concentrate to a cut or burn usually results in much less pain or scarring with a faster healing time. The plant properties designed to protect itself in nature also prove beneficial to humans with the anti-bacterial and UV radiation protection properties.
Because of Government stupidity fueled by greed, the most effective medicine known to man that has been used longer than any other medicine remains illegal. Meaning everything you have just read is medically considered anecdotal at best and only furthers the need for more studies.
Except... Anecdotal or not, I am alive because of it and so are many, many others. The only way for anyone to know for sure is to try it themselves. And with the truth, they can try it themselves safely knowing that not one death in over 5000 years has been contributed to cannabis.