Marijuana, A Gift From Above

The marijuana plant has been used since ancient times to treat many conditions and ailments. Recently, marijuana has been more in the news because of the number of states legalizing it for medicinal and recreational purposes. Both the medical community and society at large are divided as to whether the plant has any actual medicinal use. Medical science does recognize that the plant has some curative and palliative properties.

There are hundreds of cannabinoids in marijuana, but the two most often used for medical purposes are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC gives users that “high” feeling, it also has medicinal uses. CBD does not give a user that “high” but has several medicinal uses.

Historical Use of Marijuana

The history of medical marijuana is long. It has been used since ancient times. Its use possibly dates as far back as 2737 B.C., where, according to Chinese legend, Emperor Shen Neng prescribed marijuana to treat conditions such as gout, rheumatism, malaria and even poor memory. The first recorded physician to use cannabis as an anesthetic during surgery was also Chinese – Hua Tuo ground the plant into a powder and mixed it with wine for a patient prior to surgery. In fact, the Chinese word for anesthesia, “mázui,” literally means cannabis intoxication.

In the late 1700s, Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy recommended marijuana for the treatment of rheumatism and nausea, two conditions it is still used to treat today.

What Are the Benefits of Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is shown in a jar at The Joint Cooperative in Seattle, Washington January 27, 2012. Efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use are gaining momentum in Washington state and Colorado, despite fierce opposition from the federal government and a decades-long cultural battle over America's most commonly used illicit drug. Photo taken January 27, 2012 REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY) ORG XMIT: LOA03
What are some of the benefits of medicinal marijuana? Medical research indicates that vaporizing marijuana may cut down the number of seizures in people with epilepsy. People who suffer from multiple sclerosis also find relief from stiffness, spasms, and pain.

Another potential benefit of medical marijuana is that it may help reverse the carcinogenic effects of tobacco and increase lung capacity. This revelation comes from a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers tested the lung function of 5,115 people over 20 years. Tobacco smokers lost lung capacity while marijuana smokers gained capacity.

Additionally, a study also found that marijuana may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. THC has been found to slow the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that creates them. These are the plaques that kill brain cells in patients with the condition.

Cannabis Cures Cancer: A Myth or Reality?

Does cannabis actually cure cancer? Studies aren’t so clear on this one. However, research has discovered that CBD may help stop the spread of cancer. CBD can turn off a gene called Id-1. Cancer cells make more copies of this gene than non-cancer cells, helping the disease spread. There have also been studies performed in the U.S., Spain, and Israel that suggest some compounds found in marijuana might be able to kill cancer cells.

It is very important to note that currently only 6% of cannabis studies analyze its medicinal uses.

While the use of marijuana as a medicinal treatment is still hotly debated, it is clear that more research is needed. Recent studies clearly indicate that the compounds found in the plant do provide some medical benefit. However, just how much benefit and whether it outweighs the potential side-effects and risk is yet to be seen.
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