A recent study on mice revealed cannabis may improve memory later in life because of its protective effect on the brain. The research showed that the key active ingredient found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could be used to reverse the decline in cognitive function, which typically comes with old age.
This latest health benefit associated with medical marijuana adds to a long list of curative properties, which have been amply described in numerous studies.
Unsurprisingly, cannabis seems to be beneficial even to our pets, from those plagued by cancer or arthritis to those suffering from seizures, according to an article published last year on the PETA website. The article details how medical marijuana has proved effective in pain management for our beloved animal companions.
Legalizing Marijuana For Medical Use
Even though smoking cannabis for recreational purposes remains controversial and has been known to affect health — it was recently linked to stroke and heart failure, and is also behind a mysterious illness called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome — the drug's medicinal properties are undeniable.
Researchers have weighed the pros and cons of medical marijuana use and believe the drug should be legalized for medicinal purposes in the United States — not only to ensure its accessibility to the patients that need it, but also to simplify the process through which studies are conducted.
So far, marijuana has been legalized for medical use in 29 American states, but only 6 percent of cannabis studies focus on the drug's benefits.
This is because marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and LSD, making it difficult to study its medical properties.
Federal backing, either through funding clinical trials or granting money for drug development and patient care, would allow more research to be conducted, expanding the knowledge of how marijuana affects the human body.
"We've conducted the studies, but I think an ordinary researcher without the support of the state would be hard pressed to do it. It's just a difficult and cumbersome process," said Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California in San Diego.
Cannabis Medicinal Properties
Researchers believe they can explore further medicinal applications for at least two active chemicals in marijuana: THC, which studies showed has multiple properties, including an analgesic effect; and cannabidiol (CBD), which seems to impact the brain without inducing the drug's famous high.
Up to now, studies have documented a variety of health benefits associated with these two substances, pertaining to multiple areas of medicine.
Marijuana has even been officially confirmed to help relieve pain. Its analgesic properties were also described in an essay published by the Washington Post at the beginning of the year. In the article, a mother shares her experience unveiling how cannabis helped her autistic son ease his pain and violent rage.
Also in January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Washington released the most comprehensive report on this subject — a 400-page analysis of more than 10,000 scientific studies that offers conclusive evidence for a number of the drug's health uses.
5 Health Benefits Of Marijuana
Prevents and treats glaucoma
Researchers have been studying the link between glaucoma and marijuana ever since the 1970s. Studies revealed that smoking marijuana can have the effect of lowering eye pressure, according to the National Eye Institute.
This counteracts the manifestation of the disease, which typically increases pressure in the eyeball, damaging the optic nerve and causing loss of vision. The drug could be used to slow the progression of glaucoma and prevent blindness.
Slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease
Cannabis can help cure Alzheimer's disease and has also been used to help dementia patients. In the case of Alzheimer's disease, a study published the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics in 2006 showed that THC slows the formation of toxic amyloid plaques that kill brain cells and cause the disease, by effectively blocking the enzyme that produces them.
Reduces Parkinson's disease tremors and pain
Smoking cannabis seems to decrease tremors and pain while also improving sleep for patients with Parkinson's disease, according to researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel. Their study, published in 2013, attests that cannabis combats the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain.
The result: lessened tremors and pain, better sleep quality, and improved fine motor skills. In addition, marijuana has been found to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, thanks to its antioxidant qualities.
Protects the brain after a stroke
Research conducted at the University of Nottingham in the UK suggests cannabinoids can "shrink" the damaged area of the brain after a stroke. The study, published three years ago, suggests cannabis can be used as a neuroprotective treatment for stroke victims.
In a separate study, the plant was shown to protect the brain after other types of traumatic events, such as concussions.
Helps patients undergoing chemo
One of the most well-known medical uses of marijuana is for people going through chemotherapy. THC helps curb chemo's side effects, easing pain, decreasing nausea, and helping patients regain their appetite.
The American Cancer Society says the drug is beneficial not only to chemo patients, but also to people suffering from a chronic illness or disease. This is because it can lower pain, reduce inflammation, and calm anxiety. Furthermore, the institution documents cannabinoids can inhibit tumor growth.