Please note: the use of CBD for medical or recreational purposes may be illegal in your country.
A lot of lip service is paid to the undeniable health benefits of cannabidiol, or CBD, the most prevalent non-psychoactive compound within cannabis. CBD is proving to have wide-ranging health effects, from helping those with epilepsy better manage their condition to reducing feelings of anxiety, improving sleep, mitigating chronic pain and more.
Because using CBD does not come with a mind-altering high, CBD is available over-the-counter almost everywhere to virtually anyone that wants to try this seeming miracle cure-all.
Yet, this begs the question: if CBD isn’t dangerous and doesn’t require a prescription, why do many with lifestyle-threatening medical conditions continue to seek medical marijuana licenses? Why don’t sufferers take advantage of CBD balms and capsules available at almost every drug store? Why does medical marijuana offer that CBD concentrates do not?
The answer is: THC. THC, the most dominant cannabinoid and the one responsible for marijuana’s famous psychoactive effects, does offer notable health benefits to users. Understanding these benefits requires understanding what THC is doing in the body and what kind of conditions are affected.
THC and the Endocannabinoid System
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinoid, or THC, starts as an acid located primarily in trichomes, or tiny, hair-like filaments that frost a female plant ready for fertilization. This cannabinoid and others likely protect the mature cannabis plant from outside threats, like mold, UV radiation and pests.
The human body cannot process the acidic form of THC or any cannabinoid. Thus, eating the leaves, stems or buds of marijuana might give a user a good dose of vitamins and fiber, but it won’t allow THC to enter the bloodstream. For that to happen, users must heat up their cannabis product, which forces THC to undergo decarboxylation. Only then can the cannabinoid interact with the endocannabinoid system.
Discovered in the early 1990s entirely thanks to scientific interest in THC, the endocannabinoid system is a natural system within the human body that facilitates messages from the brain and helps the body maintain internal balance. There are endocannabinoid receptors all around the body, and it is these receptors to which THC binds once it enters the bloodstream. Mimicking natural endocannabinoids, THC binds to receptors in the brain, digestive system, respiratory system and more. In fact, THC floods these receptors, causing certain overreactions in the brain and body that interrupt natural signals and create the typical feelings of being stoned.
That interruption of natural signals is exactly what makes THC so beneficial to so many different conditions. Sometimes, the body becomes accustomed to maintaining a state of discomfort or pain, which can be frustrating for sufferers and all but impossible to treat with typical medical interventions. By overwhelming and disrupting those typical messages, THC provides relaxation and comfort as well as euphoria. This is why medical marijuana is readily available even in conservative states like Oklahoma; THC is undeniably a beneficial treatment for sufferers of some chronic conditions.
Conditions Affected by THC
In general, more research on cannabinoids is necessary to better understand their exact effects on the human body — but there is some strong research that THC can be applied beneficially to the following health conditions:
- Alzheimer’s. Initial studies seem to show that THC helps the brain resist the destructive proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
- Wasting disease, eating disorders and chronic nausea. THC is well-known for causing “the munchies,” and as an appetite stimulant, it can help sufferers take in more calories and nutrients to build a healthier body.
- Chronic pain. Its ability to interrupt ongoing messages is what makes THC a powerful tool against chronic pain and conditions that often result in pain and discomfort, like HIV/AIDs, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, arthritis, fibromyalgia and more.
- Glaucoma. For an as-yet unknown reason, THC effectively reduces intraocular pressure, which is the dominant symptom of glaucoma.
Though it is all but impossible to overdose on THC, the cannabinoid does come with some dangers. Imbalance and lack of coordination can result in falls, and the altered mental state that results from THC use can cause paranoia and panic, which in turn can cause erratic and risky behavior. However, slow and steady acclimatization to the drug and experience can mitigate most of these threats, and for those suffering from serious health conditions, the benefits of THC often outweigh the risks.
It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for Western medicine to recognize the power of cannabis in healthcare. With more research and greater acceptance, marijuana in general and THC in particular could prove to be a significant boon to sufferers everywhere.