Medicinal Marijuana or Medicinal cannabis not only serves to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy. The most recent studies suggest that it is an anticancer and useful against many other diseases.
The best-known indication for marijuana – which has been used medicinally for around 5,000 years – is to treat chemotherapy’s side effects: nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite. But recent research shows that therapeutic cannabis also works directly against diseased cells.
CANNABIS AGAINST CANCER
A clinical study led by Manuel Guzmán, a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid, with nine patients with aggressive brain tumors, showed that THC – delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the most characteristic active or cannabinoid principle in the plant – was able to do more slow growth of tumors. The study suggested that the effects were previously seen in vitro, and animals also occurred in sick people.
Guzmán, together with his collaborators Guillermo Velasco and Cristina Sánchez, explained in the journal Nature that cannabinoids could be useful in themselves. Moreover, cannabinoids also can enhance the action of the chemotherapy. In addition to brain cancer, it suggests that they are probably helpful to others, such as those of the pancreas, skin, and liver.
HOW THERAPEUTIC CANNABIS WORKS
If cannabis is capable of acting in the body, its cannabinoids resemble substances produced by the body. Being similar, the couple to the same cellular receptors. These endogenous substances are endocannabinoids, the most important of which is anandamide (Ananda means “rapture” or “happiness” in Sanskrit).
The difference is that while anandamide works only for a few moments, cannabinoids do it more intensely for several days because they accumulate in adipose tissue, from where they gradually pass to the liver and blood. Once inside the body, they act on cells equipped with the appropriate receptors, called CB1 and CB2, abundant in neurons.
The action of cannabinoids on different brain areas explains why they effectively treat chemotherapy’s side effects. When they act on the basal ganglia, they reduce tremors, spasms, and other movement disorders; in the hypothalamus, they whet the appetite; and the “nucleus of the solitary tract,” they control nausea and vomiting.
ITS BENEFITS FOR THE BRAIN
According to Mauro Maccarrone from the BioMedical University of Rome, endocannabinoids are crucial in the developing, communication, and regeneration of neurons. Research suggests that cannabis may reduce inflammation and oxidation of neurons and enhance the generation of new, healthy nerve cells.
At the same time, THC produces the symptoms that have caused its prohibition: laughter, slowing down, difficulties in following conversations. Besides, it increases creativity and sensory acuity.
All of these effects are moderate in plants rich in cannabinoid CBD. Furthermore, the toxicity is not significant, and the addictive effect is not greater than that of caffeine.
In any case, it is advisable to follow the treatment under the supervision of a doctor with knowledge of cannabis. Its use is not indicated in minors or people with cardiovascular conditions.
PROHIBITION AND PATENTS: OBSTACLES TO THE MEDICINAL USE OF CANNABIS
Cannabis research is encouraging, but it still has to overcome a lot of resistance. It doesn’t help that it’s a banned drug in most countries. The plant’s active ingredients are not patentable. Therefore, no industry has an interest in financing clinical studies with people.
Only synthetic cannabinoids can be prescribed and expensive in Spain, like Sativex, Marinol, and Cesamet. But synthetic cannabinoids do not achieve the same effects as leaves and flowers, containing more than one hundred cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids that work in synergy. In contrast, in the Netherlands or Uruguay, the production and prescription of natural cannabis are already legal.
Guzmán, who has spent 20 years studying cannabinoids, explains that by not having enough support from the industry, he is also not collecting all the experience of doctors, caregivers, and patients who use cannabis independently.
Surprisingly, only one plant on Earth is suitable for cancer patients’ needs. It is also useful in treating AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, irritable colon … However, doctors cannot prescribe the marijuana plant. Why and until when?