People have been using marijuana for millennia to help take the edge off, relax, and commune with deeper spiritual truths than are usually accessible in a normal state of mind. In fact, there are writings and archaeological findings connecting cannabis use with religious ceremonies for as far back as we can find. But it is just in the more recent past that we have started learning what the specific health benefits of marijuana are, and how we can use this incredible health to beat disease and become our healthiest versions of ourselves.
One of the biggest, most exciting uses for medical marijuana is for cancer treatment. It seems that cannabis has natural tumors fighting properties, and it has been used extremely effectively to treat cancers that have been determined to be otherwise inoperable or untreatable.
Cancer treatments are also the things that people tend to be most excited about, which is why it heads the list. Marijuana has been shown to be effective at treating many different conditions, but patients who experience cancer-related health benefits are most likely to report it with the greatest enthusiasm. This might be because of how terrifying a disease cancer is, and it might also be because of the benefits cannabis provides to one’s mental health.
In lab settings, cannabis has been definitively shown to kill cancer cells. This is a huge deal, because it gives people a potential treatment for their cancer which does not have the awful side effects of chemotherapy, and which in fact makes them feel better while they are being treated.
Marijuana kills cancer cells. However, before any treatment can be approved for humans, it has to be thoroughly tested in randomized trials, and these trials have not been completed. Therefore the FDA has not approved cannabis as a treatment for cancer, causing massive amounts of confusion and frustration on the part of those who want to have access to natural remedies to this terrible and terrifying disease. The good news is that cannabis is approved as a treatment for the nausea and pain that often go with conventional cancer treatments, so a patient in need (who happens to also live in a medical marijuana state) may be able to access marijuana anyway.
Another health issue for which marijuana is getting a lot of press is epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. It may be severe or mild, and people who suffer from epilepsy may have one seizure every few months or even years, or they have multiple seizures a day. Many patients still experience seizures when they are on the regular FDA approved drugs for epilepsy, and find relief from the seizures only when they are able to use medical marijuana. Other patients report that they feel they have been given their life back, and that marijuana not only helps with their seizures but also makes them happy.
If patients can control their seizures with marijuana and not deal with side effects of nausea or headaches, and especially if they feel happier and at peace with the world while they are doing it, how could we do anything but encourage them and try to make medical marijuana more easily available for everyone?
Medical marijuana has even been shown to be effective at treating PTSD, for example in soldiers who come back from war areas. Raphael Mechoulam is an Israeli scientist who has worked with memory formation in rats. In normal rats (and, presumably, in humans too), there is a system in place called memory extinction. If a stimulus and response do not go together for a while, the brain forgets that they were connected. In rats, this means that if the hear a sound and then receive a shock, and then for several days they hear the sound without receiving the shock, after a while the will stop reacting to the sound with fear. However, in rats where the cannabioid system is blocked, they never forget the traumatic memory and they react with fear to the stimulus forever. In rats, memory extinction is reinstated by introducing cannabis to the rats as a treatment.
In humans, it has similarly been shown that cannabis can help with the emotional problems that stem from PTSD. While cannabis does not make you forget what happened, it does help to remove the painful connection that causes deep distress in people who suffer from PTSD.
Depression and anxiety
The fact that cannabis can treat depression and anxiety should come as a surprise to pretty much no one. The plant has been used for millennia to help people relax and feel good. Many people also report feeling happier and less anxious when they are using medical marijuana.