What is Medical Cannabis?

January 15, 2021

What is Medical Cannabis?

Do you have questions about medical cannabis, like what it is? Don't worry, everyone's asked this at some point. We've got all the info you need.

The debate over marijuana has been going on so long that some of us might have tuned it out ages ago. Don't worry too much if you've missed out on the developments in cannabis production and laws, but it's important to note that things are changing and it's good to know just how.

We're here to explain the fundamentals of medical cannabis to you, from the way it interacts with our bodies to the state of its legality and how you might be able to acquire it.

Let's take a look at the world of cannabis and the way it's impacting society at large.

The Ins and Outs of Medical Cannabis

Before we dig deep into the benefits and functions of cannabis, let's take a look at what it actually is.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, weed, pot, and thousands of other monikers, is a flowering plant that produces buds containing a few chemicals that uniquely interact with the human body and mind.

The most important of those chemicals, for the purposes of our discussion, are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system and produce the effects that are associated with marijuana.

The Importance of the Endocannabinoid System

In order to understand how medical cannabis interacts with the body in a medically-beneficial way, it's crucial that we have a little idea of what the endocannabinoid system is.

This system of the body was discovered only recently, so there's still a lot of research to be done. That said, we have a pretty good idea of its basic functions and how it works.

The endocannabinoid system has an impact on crucial functions of the body such as memory, appetite, internal body temperature, the experience of pain, sleep, and your immune system. Generally, it serves as a way to keep the various areas of your body in balance.

It's sort of like a moderator for the different essential functions. One example is the experience of pain.

Pain Moderation

Let's say that you're skateboarding and you fall. You skin your knee a little bit, and the immediate experience is one of intense pain. Your body's initial response is a necessary one because pain alerts us to immediate danger and tells us to address that danger.

Once the immediate pain happens, though, your central nervous system sends enzymes that produce endocannabinoids that work to reduce the pain and regulate your mood.

These endocannabinoids interact with the cells in our body in proportion to the experience we're having and produce the regulatory effects. The funny thing about this function is that scientists didn't know it existed until they started doing research on the effects of cannabis.

The initial research was done on how cannabinoids, the chemicals that come from cannabis, interacted with the body. It was only then that researchers realized that the body was producing similar chemicals and working them naturally. Those chemicals were titled "endocannabinoids."

Engaging Cannabinoid Receptors

Medical cannabis is thought to impact individuals in two dominant categories: mental or emotional and physical well-being.

It's important to note that not everyone experiences the same things when they use cannabis. For some, the experience of using THC produces difficult mental effects that aren't beneficial at all. Others claim that cannabis is one of the only things that can help them in certain areas.

That said, there are distinct mental and emotional effects that come from using cannabis. These two categories of effects are distinct, and they reflect the potential benefits and treatments that cannabis provides.

Researchers think that these effects occur because of the kinds of receptors that the endocannabinoid system engages with. There are two dominant receptors; CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.

CB1 receptors are most commonly found in the brain and spinal cord, although they are present throughout the body. The CB1 receptors present in the amygdala are active in the management of mood regulation and emotion.

CB2 receptors are more active in different processes of the physical body, dealing with organ function, physical movement, inflammation, and more.

There are more functions that the endocannabinoid system works with, but it's important to know the information above when you're interpreting information about how medical cannabis might benefit people.

Understanding Cannabis Basics

Just as there are two active receptors in the endocannabinoid system, there are two primary active cannabinoids in cannabis.

There are over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, and they all might play a small part. That said, the most significant factors in the makeup of any one strain are two cannabinoids called THC and CBD.

THC is the cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. So, the feeling of "highness" is a result of THC. THC interacts most with CB1 receptors, which have the most impact on one's cognitive experience, mood, and even physical functions to some degree.

Alternatively, CBD acts in a way that subdues those cognitive effects and allows the physical ones to shine through. It engages with both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

The important thing is that CBD engages with the CB1 receptor in a different position than THC does. It enters at a different point, and in doing so, limits THC's ability to act on that receptor.

That's all a fancy way of saying that CBD is more of a body experience, whereas THC acts more upon the mind.

Chemovar Profiles

The factors that contribute to the experience you get from certain strains are the cannabinoids and terpenes. Different levels of THC and CBD might be the indicators of how a strain is likely to affect a person, but the particular personality of the strain comes from the numerous other chemicals it contains.

The chemical composition of plants is called the chemovar profile. Cannabis has been bred in thousands of ways with different profiles to create unique and enjoyable strains for users.

This provides consumers with a wide variety of options that produce the effects most comfortable to them. As you start to explore your options, you'll be able to narrow down what works for you and how comfortable you are with varying chemovar profiles.

The Potential Benefits of Cannabis

Many people have used cannabis to treat medical issues in their own lives. There is still research to be done as to the definite impact of cannabis on certain issues, but what we know so far suggests that there are a number of clear medical treatments that cannabis may be used for. That fact lies in opposition to the legality of the plant in many countries around the world.

Cannabis is largely illegal for recreational use in The United States and The United Kingdom, for example.

Medical cannabis use is mostly legal in those countries, though. A number of states in The United States have moved to legalize recreational cannabis, and there are movements all over the world pushing for that goal as well, so things should shape up in the future.

While some think the main reason people want to legalize cannabis is that it's a fun substance to use, the real reason is that a lot of people might use cannabis to treat some of the following issues.

Pain Management

Unless you're dealing with major surgery or a broken bone, cannabis may help you treat the physical pain you're experiencing. This is an incredible fact considering that the most common forms of pain management are opioids and can be dangerous to some patients

Opioids can be addictive and have lead to overdoses causing the deaths of millions of individuals around the world.

Cannabis, on the other hand, holds no potential for overdose and isn't considered addictive. This makes it a possible alternative to pharmaceuticals. Additionally, many people aren't able to take NSAID medications like Tylenol and Advil due to kidney problems.

This is a massive help to individuals who experience chronic pain. Those who use opiates to treat chronic pain might experience a fogginess or haziness as they go through their treatment. While opiates effectively treat pain, they put individuals into a state of mind that can be damaging and may lead to addiction.

Some of the chronic pain-based conditions that marijuana might help with are epilepsy Parkinson's, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia. More conditions like treatment-resistant epilepsy might be treated in part with cannabis as well.

Mental Health Benefits

We mentioned earlier that not all individuals will have success while using marijuana to treat mental health issues. It's important to note that using cannabis to treat issues like depression, anxiety, or PTSD should be done in a methodical and physician-assisted way.

Some people might use marijuana and experience unusual and intense mental spaces. These can contribute to more anxiety or make things more difficult to manage. That's why it's important to talk with a physician about using cannabis to medicate.

At the same time, there's a world full of people who claim that cannabis has helped them with depression and anxiety.

Further, research has been done to suggest that cannabis might help individuals coming home from war with their experience of PTSD. There's also scientific research to support the idea that most individuals who use cannabis to treat depression experience some benefits.

Acquiring Medical Marijuana

Unless you live in a region where marijuana is legal recreationally, you'll have to consult with your physician if you'd like to explore your medical options. Even if you do live in a legalized area, it's wise to talk with your doctor so that you can get a better idea of what to look for.

In all cases, you'll need to have a legitimate medical issue that warrants the use of medical cannabis. These can deal with chronic pain, temporary pain, mental illness concerns, diseases, and a whole lot more.

It's unwise to explore your medical cannabis options without the help of a physician or professional who's versed in these matters, though. The variety of products on the market is wide and varies significantly in intensity and purpose.

It would also be unadvisable to consume some strains of medical cannabis and attempt to go to work, for example! On the other end of things, there are a lot of mild cannabis-based treatments that don't have strong psychological effects and work just as well.

For example, CBD products don't produce a high but might be used to effectively treat chronic pain. Additionally, most CBD products are legal wherever you go, and there are a lot of options for you to explore.

You can ingest, smoke, or topically apply many CBD products of varying intensities.

Addressing Any Doubts You May Have

Marijuana has been demonized for about the past one hundred years, so it's natural for a lot of people in most societies to have some reservations about the plant in general.

That said, cannabis has consistently proven to be a safe alternative option to explore. You won't have a hard time finding advocates for cannabis use, and the research suggests that it's safe, even though it won't necessarily work to treat all of the issues that people claim it will.

There's still a lot of research to be done on what cannabis can do medicinally. If you're curious about whether it's a good option for you to explore, do a little research on your medical issue and see what the research says.  

Weigh those factors with the potential consequences of other treatments that you're considering. If, after your thinking, you find that you're not comfortable consuming cannabis, think about exploring your CBD options.

Again, CBD doesn't produce any of the psychological effects that are associated with cannabis. Instead, you're left purely with potential pain relief and relaxation.

Cannabis in its pure form is natural and doesn't contain any artificial chemical compounds or threatening products. If you're still on the fence about whether to try it, reach out to your medical professional and see what they have to say!

Interested in Learning More About Cannabis?

Medical cannabis is a blossoming field with a lot of information to consume. We're here to help you get all of the insight you need to fully understand cannabis and how it can impact people for the better.

Contact us for more ideas and options to move forward with your relationship to cannabis.

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