Medical Marijuana: The endocannabinoid system explains how it all works

Here's what's going on nationally with marijuana

Here’s what’s going on nationally with MMJ

Boy howdy, but haven’t we done a complete 180 on marijuana? Terms like potheads, dope fiends and Reefer Madness come to mind and are still being used to describe marijuana usage. It is still classified as a Substance I drug, alongside heroin, LSD, peyote and Ecstasy. Yeah. That makes a whole lot of sense. Not. Millions of non-violent drug users, caught with very small amounts of marijuana have received severe prison sentences similar to that of murderers and terrorists.

And yet, I am seeing more and more articles that suggest that not only is marijuana a “wonder drug” with few or no side effects for those with severe illnesses, but that it is being recognized as a kind of preventative medicine, capable of keeping its users free from disease. Woo hoo! Best news ever…so my brain not only will not turn to smegma, but I will actually be healthier than if I hadn’t used marijuana…not that I am admitting to having used it…because it is still illegal in Illinois.

Marijuana is an incredibly complicated plant containing over 400 compounds, of which 80 are known as cannabinoids. They relieve symptoms of illness by attaching to receptors in the brain and in the immune system. More on that later.

The 5 major cannabinoids that have been discovered to have great medicinal qualities and consist of the following alphabet soup:

THC which stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol and probably the most recognized since that is the compound that “gets you high.” However, it has many other medicinal properties; anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, stimulates appetite and lowers blood pressure.

CBD stands for cannabidiol which reduces the psychological effects of medical marijuana, so a strain high in THC and CBDs will provide more physical effects such as; reduces pain, reduces anxiety, reduces nausea, anti-convulsive, anti-schizophrenic and has sedative results.

CBN stands for cannabinol which is similar to THC but with fewer psychological effects. It is produced as THC breaks down within the plant. Higher levels of THC makes CBN effects stronger and is helpful for lowering pressure in the eye (such as with glaucoma), analgesic, anti-seizure.

CBC stands for cannabichromene. Its main job is to enhance the effects of THC, making the strain more potent and acting as a: sedative, analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

CBG stands for cannabigerol. It has no psychological effects by itself, is thought to be the “parent” to the other cannabinoids and has anti-microbial properties as well as; lowering pressure in the eye, anti-inflammatory, sedation, and sleep assistance.

As Aristotle said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This is definitely true with these 5 compounds…put them together and you get amazing results.

At this point, you are probably asking “so why does cannabis work so well in the human body to provide relief/cure for so many different illnesses?” It’s all to do with the endocannabinoid system and how the body uses the cannabinoids to maintain homeostasis…that is the key word, here. Homeostasis is defined as the tendency of the body to seek and maintain a condition of balance within its internal environment, even when faced with external changes. When you have an illness, you no longer have homeostasis, so the cannabinoids do what is necessary to rid the body of the cells that are preventing homeostasis…causing them to “commit suicide.”

The body already produces cannabis-like chemicals call endocannabinoids which act as messengers between the cells of the body. In the brain, endocannabinoids attach to CB1 receptors and in the immune system to CB2 receptors located on neurons which communicate with each other. There are enzymes that create the endocannabinoid messengers as needed and other enzymes that break them down when they are no longer needed. It is an amazingly smart system. Click here to read much more about it and to watch videos about how cannabinoids cause cancer cells to “commit suicide.”

Encannabinoid system Courtesy of The Human Solution

Encannabinoid system
Courtesy of The Human Solution

As they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Here’s a picture of how the system works.

And the $64,000 question is: can cannabis go beyond treating symptoms and curing diseases…can it help us prevent disease and promote health by stimulating the endocannabinoid system that is hard-wired into all of us, already? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. Research indicates that small doses of cannabinoids produced by using cannabis can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors which leads to maintenance of homeostasis and good health.

How do you view marijuana…wonder drug or dangerous substance with no medicinal value? Do you use it medicinally? Do you know people who use it and no longer use pharmaceuticals with nasty side effects? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

I’ve written a series of posts about medical marijuana. If you want to read more you can click on the “Medical Marijuana” tag at the top of my page.

If you want to get more involved in helping Illinois move forward…and boy, do we need help, here…there are resources and links to groups on the Americans for Safe Acess-Illinois page that are doing just that. Americans for Safe Access is a national program, so if you are not an Illinoisian, check out a chapter in your state.

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