Benefits of Marijuana (THC, CBD, and forms of consumption)
Marijuana or hemp are some of the names used to refer to different varieties of Cannabis Sativa. This plant, cultivated by multiple societies for thousands of years, has been a source of food, textile fiber, mystical experiences, and medicines.
Its great peculiarity is the contribution of molecules called cannabinoids, which act on the endocannabinoid system present in all mammals. This system is involved in many physiological processes and is regulated by different receptors.
Our body produces its own cannabinoids, but also responds to external cannabinoids, such as those of marijuana. These compounds modulate aspects as varied as appetite, memory, pain or nausea, hence the diversity of effects of this plant.
Cannabis has dozens of cannabinoids, but two have been studied mainly:
- THC: is the main psychoactive component of cannabis, causing the buzz. It is the most fun, but also the most dangerous.
- CBD: regulates the effects of THC, enhancing the good and mitigating the bad. In fact, CBD is antipsychotic.
The effect of each strain of marijuana will, therefore, depend on its contribution to these cannabinoids, and it seems that the demand as a recreational drug has favoured variants increasingly rich in THC and poorer in CBD, increasing its potency but reducing its benefits.
There are synergies between the different compounds of medical marijuana, being interesting to study the entire plant. However, their legal status makes these investigations difficult, and we will focus on the impact of each of their cannabinoids.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is primarily responsible for the effects we associate with marijuana: euphoria, loss of coordination, reduced memory and, in most cases, hunger.
Do you gain weight from marijuana? It is a complicated relationship.
This study concludes that in places where marijuana is legalized, obesity is reduced. Many other studies find less metabolic and overweight problems among consumers of this plant.
But before concluding that marijuana is a fat-burning supplement, remember that correlation does not imply causation, and there is probably another explanation.
According to this study, marijuana tends to reduce alcohol consumption, which generally fulfils the same recreational function but with many more calories. In addition, your risk of addiction is lower.
Beyond these confounding factors typical of observational studies, clinical trials confirm that marijuana increases caloric intake. In a world flooded with ultra-processed, this is bad, but not in all cases, and for example, THC has been used successfully in diseases that cause dangerous weight loss, such as anorexia, AIDS or cancer.
Similarly, a generally detrimental impact of THC, such as memory inhibition, could become the desired effect in the case of people with post-traumatic stress, where forgetting could help.
Perhaps the best-known benefit of THC has to do with glaucoma improvement, by reducing intraocular pressure. It achieves this effect by dilating the eye capillaries, explaining another known symptom among its consumers: red eyes.
In summary, THC has therapeutic potential but in very specific cases, and the associated risks mean that it should be used with care.
For these reasons, I am more interested in CBD, with wider applications and minimal risk.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a complex molecule that interacts with our body through multiple mechanisms, not fully known. It acts as an adaptogen and modulator of different processes, hence the diversity of its effects.
There are references on the use of cannabis against pain since 2,900 a. C. and recent studies demonstrate its effect:
Several studies in rats conclude that CBD can reduce pain after an operation.
A legal drug in Spain (Sativex), with CBD and THC extract, reduces pain and other negative symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
CBD is also being studied to treat migraines.
CBD is much safer than opioid drugs and, as we will see shortly, it could help reduce its abuse.
TREAT ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Traditional antidepressants have doubtful efficacy in the medium term and many side effects, hence the importance of evaluating alternatives such as CBD.
Animal studies show positive effects, and although evidence in humans is scarce, it could help reduce anxiety disorders and social phobia.
The effect of marijuana on different neurological disorders is being investigated, and the results are promising in some cases:
It reduces the frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures in children.
It could improve the quality of life in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Animal studies indicate that the benefits are mediated by a reduction in brain inflammation and a stimulatory effect of neurogenesis.
By not producing psychoactive effects, CBD is not addictive, and in fact, could help fight drug or alcohol addiction.
The first studies were conducted in rats, which when taking CBD showed less interest in drugs.
A study in smokers found that the group treated with CBD subsequently smoked 40% less than the group given a placebo.
One of the causes of mortality that is currently growing is the overdose by opioid analgesics, and the legalization of marijuana could combat this pest.
Cannabis seems to mitigate the symptoms associated with chemotherapy, reducing nausea, vomiting, and pain.
In addition, it seems to enhance the efficacy of different drugs and cancer treatments, but studies are still preliminary and in animal models.
FORMS OF CONSUMPTION
There are multiple ways to take CBD, but three stand out:
Inhalation. Using, for example, a vaporizer. The effect comes fast but leaves soon. Although it is much less dangerous than tobacco, some doubt it is harmless to the lungs.
Sublingual. Placing drops of CBD oil under the tongue. The oral mucosa is rich in capillaries that will produce rapid absorption.
Intakes. Including CBD in different recipes. The effect is slower but more lasting.
The studies use very variable doses, from 20 to 2000 mg, although it is not recommended to exceed 600 mg. If you want to experiment, start with small doses.