A brief history of Medicinal Cannabis
The endocannabinoid system and the human body
The Chinese referenced Cannabis for Medicinal use in its literature documenting the plant as having anti-inflammatory properties and positive effects on rheumatism.
Cannabis is included in the United States Pharmacopeia as being useful for ailments such as neuralgia (nerve pain), gout and convulsive (seizure) disorders.
The US Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, equivalent to heroine and LSD in its addictiveness and propensity for abuse.
Scientists discovered an endogenous (internal) cannabinoid receptor, CB1, in the human body. A few years later they found CB2. These discoveries led to an understanding of our internally regulated cannabinoid system, the endocannabinoid system.
California became the first state in the US to permit legal access to botanical cannabis for medicinal purposes under physician supervision also known as the Compassionate Use Act.
The New Zealand Government passes legislation intended to improve access to medicinal cannabis. Under the legislation the Medicianal Cannabis Scheme allows domestic cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products under licence, and sets quality standards for products and all stages of production. From April 2020, New Zealand GP’s can prescribe medicinal cannabis.
Marijuana is legal in 33 US states and the district of Colombia however at the federal level the Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies marijuana as a class 1 drug.
The human body comprises a number of systems. You have no doubt heard about the nervous system, the reproductive system, the digestive system and the respiratory system but you may be unaware of the endocannabinoid system. The main endocannabinoid system's function is the regulation of body homeostasis.
This system modulates your body’s desire to stay balanced and stable, known as homeostasis, and plays an important role in neuronal and immune cell function, both of which are important parts of pain perception.
There are three parts of the endocannabinoid system:
cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2
endogenous cannabinoids (the cannabinoids that your body produces)
enzymes that facilitate the breakdown and use of cannabinoids
Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout your body and help determine how cannabinoids affect you.
CB1 receptors are found predominantly in your central nervous system (the CNS includes the nerves of your spinal cord and brain) and affect a person’s pain experience. CB1 receptors also play a role in the signaling of pain to the brain via the spinal cord. On a physiological level, CB1 receptors can affect your emotions, memory, executive functioning, and reward. CB1 is the receptor predominantly responsible for the psychotropic effects of cannabis.
CB2 receptors play an important role in pain via their role in the body’s immune response, mainly due to their anti-inflammatory effect, although they also have analgesic or pain-relieving properties. These receptors are expressed in both immune cells, peripheral (outer) tissues, and in the central nervous system – but in much lower levels than CB1 receptors.
Marijuana contains exogenous or external cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. THC acts directly on both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, although not with the same precision as our internal endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol).
While most of the medicinal qualities of marijuana are attributed to these cannabinoids, other plant properties are involved as well.
Endocannabinoids are chemical messengers that instruct your body how to react to pain, inflammation, mood and feeling.
Scientists now believe our bodies endocannabinoid system can become deficient and need to be supplemented, just as you would supplement an iron or vitamin deficiency. Scientists now believe the molecules in cannabis can interact with the ECS system to provide a range of physical and psychological health benefits.
Health and wellness benefits of Cannabinoids
Hundreds of clinical studies from across the world have shown a vast range of potential benefits from this natural product. Research is reporting success in testing medicinal cannabis and cbd for managing the following conditions:
Auto immune and inflammatori disorders
Bi-polar affective disorder
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Pains typically treated with opioids
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Treatment resistant epilepsy
As society slowly rediscovers some of the benefits of medicinal cannabis and CBD attitudes and legislation are changing around the world.
Medicinal cannabis is for many a new product and as a result there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Some of the questions we get asked most often are answered below.