Chronic pain is one of the common criteria that qualify patients for medical marijuana prescriptions (in states where the plant is available for medical use, of course). The internet is full of testimonials about how marijuana, or one or more of its constituent components, has helped reduce otherwise-debilitating pain and allowed users to lead more normal lives.Cannabis, which encompasses both marijuana and hemp, contains chemical compounds called phytocannabinoids that mimic similar compounds called endocannabinoids, which are naturally occurring in the human body. Endcannabinoids and the various receptor sites that they bind to are known as the endocannabinoid system, which mediates interactions between cells. Because of their similarity to these compounds, phytocannabinoids are able to interact with our endocannabinoid systems by binding to various receptor sites in the brain and in the body.The two most prominent cannabinoids in cannabis are called cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both of these compounds are anti-inflammatories as well as analgesics, which make them excellent choices for relieving both neuropathic (caused by damage to or dysfunction in the nervous system) and other types of chronic pain arising from a variety of health conditions—naturally, without resorting to potentially dangerous pharmaceutical remedies.
CBD is found, in some measure, in all cannabis, but it is most prevalent in hemp. Some strains of marijuana have also been specially cultivated to contain high levels of CBD, typically with a concomitantly lower level of THC. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, so it does not induce the mental and/or physical debilitation that is commonly associated with marijuana use. Though CBD has been legally available in the United States for some time, it (like hemp) has been overshadowed by marijuana politics and cannabis enthusiasts’ preference for high THC content; many strains contain very low levels of CBD because they have been specifically bred to produce higher levels of the more psychoactive cannabinoid.Currently, CBD is known to affect vanilloid receptors, which play a role in modulating pain. CBD may also work to block fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) by affecting proteins that bind to it, thereby also affecting the sensation of pain in users. However, the exact dynamic and effect are not yet fully understood.
THC also produces pain-reducing effects in its users. It works best when its pain-fighting properties are combined with those of CBD (which has the added benefit of mitigating the anxiety attacks that often accompany consumption of too much THC). However, marijuana cultivators have consistently emphasized THC content to CBD, so the presence of the latter can sometimes be minimal in designer varieties of the plant. Nonetheless, since CBD’s health benefits have become more widely recognized, many growers have actively sought to raise the levels of CBD in plants so that users can reap the benefits provided by it as well as by THC.
Terpenes are molecules that produce the sensation of flavor when consumed orally. They are found in anything that has any kind of taste at all, and that includes marijuana. The plant’s flavor differs from strain to strain because each different type has its own characteristic set of terpenes. These combinations result in various distinctive flavors and aromas.Some of the terpenes found in cannabis are powerful analgesics, just like the cannabinoids CBD and THC. They perform this function by acting on receptor sites and on neurotransmitters, affecting their function and output.
Unlike extracts, whole marijuana flowers contain a plethora of cannabinoids and terpenes. There are over 80 cannabinoids known to naturally occur in cannabis, and many of them have been preliminarily documented to have healthful benefits. Because they are so numerous and affect the entire body, researchers are still hard at work trying to understand, comprehensively, their effects on human physiology. It is believed that whole marijuana provides the greatest benefits to users thanks to the entourage effect: presumably, all of the different phytochemicals present in the plant’s flowers synergize to produce greater beneficial effects.
Methods of Ingestion and Application
Because of the abundance of compounds in marijuana and their cooperative interaction with one another when consumed, using whole flowers is considered the best way to enjoy the plant’s health benefits. In addition to smoking, ground flowers can be used as an ingredient in cooking. For users looking for very targeted treatments (such as pain relief without the fuzziness of a THC high), extracts and concentrations of phytocannabinoids are available in the form of tinctures (which are absorbed directly into the blood stream), oils for food preparation or vaporizing and as topical creams and ointments that can be applied directly to the affected site.Thanks to the 2014 Federal Farm Act, under which hemp is now being grown in pilot programs by state universities and departments of agriculture, as well as the ongoing national push to decriminalize marijuana, CBD and THC (along with their accompanying terpenes) are becoming much more widely available, particularly for medical use. If you experience chronic pain, medical marijuana and its extracts might be the natural remedy that you’ve been looking for. While CBD is widely available, THC is still federally regulated and may not be legally available in your area. It is important to know the laws of your state before seeking treatment with medical marijuana, and if it is available, you should consult your doctor for a prescription.