Controversial Cannabis Oil — Treat Stress, Pain & Even Cancer

Cannabis oil - Dr. Axe

Cannabis is a naturally growing herb that has been used for thousands of years to treat health conditions. It’s also used in perfumes, soaps, candles and some foods. Cannabis is a very powerful oil, and only small amounts are needed for it to have a powerful effect on the body and mind.

The term cannabis (popularly known as marijuana) is used to describe a product of the cannabis sativa plant that is bred for its potent, sticky glands that are known as trichomes. These trichomes contain high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (called THC), which is the cannabinoid most known for its psychoactive properties.

Hemp oil — obtained by pressing benefit-rich hemp seeds — is slightly different than cannabis oil, although they both come from the same genus, cannabis, and the same species, cannabis sativa. The term hemp is used to describe a cannabis sativa plant that contains only trace amounts of THC. Hemp is a high-growing plant that’s commonly grown for industrial uses, such as oils and topical ointments, as well as fiber for clothing, construction, paper and more.

Concern about the dangers of marijuana abuse led to the banning of cannabinoids for medicinal use in the United States and many other countries in the 1930s and 1940s. It took decades until they came to be considered again as compounds of therapeutic value, and even now their uses are highly restricted.

Cannabis originated in Central Asia, but today it’s grown worldwide. In the United States, it’s a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule I agent, which means that it’s a drug with increased potential for abuse. The cannabis plant produces a resin-containing psychoactive compounds called cannabinoids.

According to a 2007 scientific review published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, scientists concur that despite the mild addiction to cannabis and the possible enhancement of addiction to other substances of abuse, when combined with cannabis, the therapeutic value of cannabinoids is too high to be put aside.

Numerous diseases — such as anorexia, emesis, pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, obesity and metabolic syndrome-related disorders — are being treated or have the potential to be treated by cannabis oils and other cannabinoid compounds. Although studies are limited due to strict government guidelines, a growing number of pediatric patients are also seeking symptom relief with cannabis or cannabinoid treatment.


Cannabis Components 

Cannabinoids are a group of 21-carbon–containing terpenophenolic compounds produced uniquely by cannabis species. These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids.

Although delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (known as THC) is the primary psychoactive ingredient, other known compounds with biologic activity are cannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabichromene, cannabigerol, tetrahydrocannabivarin and delta-8-THC. Cannabidiol is thought to have significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory activity without the psychoactive effect of delta-9-THC.

 

Guide to cannabis oil - Dr. Axe

 


7 Cannabis Oil Benefits

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Chronic stress can kill your quality of life, so stressed-out folks are always looking for proven ways to change this reality. Cannabis oil has the ability to both release pleasure hormones and relax the mind. It reduces stress and allows a calming and peaceful feeling to take over the body. Chemical components of cannabis, called cannabinoids, activate specific receptors found throughout the body to produce pharmacologic effects, particularly in the central nervous system and the immune system.

A 2013 study conducted at the University of Haifa in Israel found that cannabinoid treatment after a traumatic experience may regulate the emotional response to the trauma and prevent stress-induced impairment. Cannabinoid treatment minimized the stress receptors in the basolateral amygdala (the nuclei that receives that majority of sensory information) and hippocampus (the part of the brain that is thought to be the center of emotion).

Can’t sleep? Cannabis oil also works for people with insomnia. The calming effects of the oil help people to sleep calmly, relieving issues of anxiety and restlessness. A 2015 scientific review published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy found that cannabis treatment is effective for military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research suggests that cannabinoids, the psychoactive components of unrefined cannabis, regulates neurotransmitter release and produces a wide range of central nervous system effects, including increased pleasure and alteration of memory processes.

Cross-sectional studies have found a direct correlation between more severe PTSD symptomatology and increased motivation to use cannabis for coping purposes, especially among patients with difficulties in emotional regulation or stress tolerance. When using cannabis treatment, military veterans with PTSD reported reduced anxiety and insomnia and improved coping ability.

2. Alters Appetite

For people who are looking to gain weight, possibly after an illness or injury recovery, cannabis oil is known to increase appetite. The oil also induces hunger and stimulates the digestive system — this is possible because of the hormones that are triggered by cannabis inhalation and consumption.

According to the International Weekly Journal of Science, cannabis prompts the release of hunger-promoting hormones. Nerve cells play a key role in this process, as the neurons in the brain release a hunger-suppressing hormone and one that promotes appetite.

Depending on which hormone is stimulated, cannabis can boost or suppress appetite. For this reason, cannabis oil can help patients with eating disorders or be a natural way to treat obesity. This manipulation of the cannabinoid system is becoming popular, and more research is being done to determine its efficacy for patients with weight concerns.

3. Promotes Eye Health

Research shows that cannabis oil helps to naturally treat macular degeneration and glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve that can result in vision loss and blindness. It’s caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye that puts pressure on the optic nerve, retina and lens. The pressure can permanently damage the eye if not treated. Although many factors contribute to the optic nerve damage in glaucoma patients, it has been established that the level of intraocular pressure (known as IOP) definitively is related.

According to the American Glaucoma Society, cannabis has demonstrated the ability to lower IOP in both normal individuals and in those with glaucoma, and therefore might be a natural glaucoma treatment. One cautionary fact about cannabis’ ability to lower IOP is that it only works for a short time, so patients would have to use cannabis about every three hours.

Most studies done on this cannabis benefit are testing the effects of smoking marijuana, which has side effects such as lung damage. More research is needed that tests cannabis oil and supplement treatments.

4. Reduces Pain

Cannabis has been used for millennia as a pain-relieving substance. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways. The oil has the ability to relieve chronic pain and inflammation, which is why cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often turn to cannabis oil for relief. It’s also why it can be a part of natural fibromyalgia treatment.

A 2010 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that cannabis can help patients with chronic pain. In this study, 23 adults with post-traumatic or post-surgical neuropathic pain were randomly assigned to receive cannabis at four potencies over four 14-day periods in a crossover trial.

Daily average pain intensity was measured using an 11-point numeric rating scale, and the results indicate that a single inhalation of tetrahydrocannabinol herbal cannabis three times daily for five days reduced the intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well-tolerated.

5. Boosts Heart Health

The antioxidant properties in cannabis oil benefit the heart and prevent cardiovascular disease. Animal studies suggest that cannabis treatment may prevent a range of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis and heart attacks.

In 2014, for the first time, the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham conducted a study suggesting that cannabinoids affect blood vessels by causing them to relax and widen. By relaxing blood vessels, cannabis presents a natural way to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Because this is the first human study evaluating the efficacy of cannabis in treating conditions of the heart, there is still more research to be done to prove that this is a safe method of treatment.

6. Protects Skin

Applying cannabis oil to the skin stimulates the shredding of dead skin cells and promotes a fresh and glowing appearance. Cannabinoids are responsible for lipid production, so they can help with regulating conditions such as dry skin or acne — and may be added to your home remedies for acne.

Cell damage formed by oxidation speeds up the aging process and can lead to dark spots, wrinkles and other signs of aging. Because of its high antioxidant properties, cannabis oil helps to fight free radical damage. Also, cannabis inhalation or consumption minimizes feelings of stress, and stress can lead to acne, eczema and rosacea.

7. Prevents Cancer

Although the science is still unclear on the subject, cannabis oil is being considered as a natural cancer treatment as well as cancer preventer option because it may decrease the size of tumors and alleviate nausea, pain, lack of appetite and weakness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition, but research shows that it has some anticancer properties.

A 2013 case report conducted in Canada evaluated the beneficial effects of cannabis oil on a 14-year-old female patient diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as ALL. For this particular patient, a standard bone marrow transplant, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy were revoked, with treatment being deemed a failure after 34 months. She was extremely ill and severely underweight at this time.

Without any other solutions provided by conventional approaches, the family began administering cannabinoid extracts orally to the young girl.

According to the case report, it was charted by the girl’s oncologist that the patient “suffers from terminal malignant disease. She has been treated to the limits of available therapy … no further active intervention will be undertaken.” She was then placed in a palliative home care and told to prepare for her disease to overwhelm her body. She was expected to suffer a stroke within the next two months.

After this devastating news, the family researched cannabinoids and found that they have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in culture and in animal models by modulating key cell-signaling pathways. Her family read that cannabinoids are usually well-tolerated and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional chemotherapies. The family found promise in an organization that treated several cancers with cannabis oil.

To deal with the bitter taste and viscous nature of the hemp oil, it was mixed with honey, a known natural digestive aid, and then administered to the patient in daily doses. The objective was to quickly increase the frequency and amount of the dose and to hopefully build up the patient’s tolerance to cannabis oil. In the beginning stages of cannabis treatment, the girl experienced periods of panic, increased appetite and fatigue.

The cannabis oil was given initially once per day, and by day 15, the treatment was given three times per day. As a result of the cannabis oil treatment, the girl decreased her morphine use for pain, showed an increase in euphoria symptoms, had disoriented memory and an increase in alertness (all consistent with cannabis usage).

The patient continued to use cannabis oil for 65 days. The family changed strains of the oil repeatedly, and some were more effective in increasing appetite and alleviating pain than others. The author of the case report suggests that cannabis oil needs to be explored further because there is potential that cannabinoids might show selectivity when attacking cancer cells, thereby reducing the widespread cytotoxic effects of conventional chemotherapeutic agents. Sadly, the young girl with ALL passed away due to gastrointestinal bleeding and a bowel perforation.

The case study notes that advanced chemotherapeutic agents had failed to control the blast counts (cells in the blood and bone marrow) in the patient and had devastating side effects that ultimately resulted in death. The cannabinoid therapy, on the other hand, had no toxic side effects and only psychosomatic properties, with an increase in the patient’s vitality.

It’s also noted that the possibility of bypassing the psychoactive properties of cannabis oil exists; this can be done by administering nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, that have demonstrated antiproliferative properties.


Cannabis Oil History & Interesting Facts

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, cannabis use for medicinal purposes dates back at least 3,000 years. It was introduced into Western medicine in the 1840s by W.B. O’Shaughnessy, a surgeon who learned of its medicinal properties while working in India for the British East Indies Co. It became useful because of its analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and anticonvulsant effects.

In 1937, the U.S. Treasury Department introduced the Marihuana Tax Act, which imposed a levy of $1 per ounce for medicinal use of cannabis and $100 per ounce for recreational use. This was opposed by physicians who were not required to pay a special tax for prescribing cannabis, use special order forms to obtain it and keep records detailing its professional use. The American Medical Association believed that evidence of cannabis’ harmful effects was limited and the act would prevent further research into its medicinal worth.

By 1942, cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia because of persistent concerns about its potential to cause harm. In 1951, Congress passed the Boggs Act, which included cannabis with narcotic drugs for the first time. In 1970, with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis was classified as a Schedule I drug, giving it no accepted medicinal use.

Under the Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug program, established in 1978, cannabis distribution was distributed to patients on a case-by-case basis, but this program ended in 1992. Now (see below), it’s legal to obtain for medical usage in 25 states as well as the District of Columbia.


How to Obtain and Use Cannabis

People who use cannabis oil as a means of treatment ingest it with an oral syringe or by adding it to a liquid that masks its potency. The dose measurement and frequency depend of the condition being treated and the patient’s cannabis tolerance. Most patients start with a very small amount and increase treatment doses over a long period of time.

It’s not possible to buy cannabis oil online or at a local store. Some states offer cannabis for medical conditions, and this may require a medical note or proof of injury and illness. You can also join a collective, which is a group of patients who grow and share medical cannabis with each other. If you are using cannabis oil, make sure it’s purchased through a reputable company that sells pure and lab-tested oils.

The following states allow the use of cannabis for medical conditions:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Possible Side Effects & Interactions

Cannabis oil use may cause a decrease in concentration, memory, and the ability to learn and think. It is not safe to mix cannabis oil with other medications — such as antidepressants, anxiety medications, pain relievers, seizure medications and muscle relaxers — because it may cause drowsiness and fatigue.

Do not use cannabis oil, or any cannabis product, if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. There is some evidence that women who use cannabis during the time of conception or while pregnant may increase the risk of their child being born with birth defects or at a very low weight. Also, do not use cannabis if you are breastfeeding.

There are many strains of cannabis, and they are not all equal. If you are using cannabis oil, make sure it is purchased through a reputable and lab-tested company. Go through the legal and safe means of obtaining cannabis oil in order to ensure its health benefits and limited side effects.

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