“When I use medical marijuana,” begins Tracy, “I get to have a normal body.”
Tracy is a Multiple Sclerosis victim. At 52 years old, she made the unconventional choice to ease her MS with marijuana. As she speaks to her YouTube audience, her calm voice is laced with the wisdom gained only after coming to terms with years of discomfort.
“I get to have a normal body for a little while,” she explains again. “That’s a freedom you need. It’s essential. There’s something in your brain that makes you feel tight and rotten as you can possibly feel. BOOM. And that’s what happens every day.”
Tracy’s feelings about her body are feelings that hit far too close to home for many Multiple Sclerosis patients. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an immune disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. As the immune system continues to attack the brain, many patients lose control of their muscles, vision and other bodily functions.
Fortunately, marijuana and MS is giving hope to patients all over the world. Here’s how marijuana eases the pain and burden of Multiple Sclerosis:
How Marijuana Eases MS Symptoms
It Protects Your Brain
Multiple Sclerosis sufferers face one major villain: inflammation. MS symptoms start when something disrupts communication between immune cells in your brain. Your spine and optic nerve can also be affected. The result is painful swelling that damages nerve cells over time, as symptoms worsen.
Amazingly enough, the active components in weed, cannabinoids, help regulate and maintain cell-to-cell communication. One recent study shows that THC assists the immune cells in your brain. It does this by eliminating inflammation, and reducing the brain-degenerative effects of multiple sclerosis.
Marijuana is neuroprotective. As a powerful antioxidant, and it helps eliminate toxic compounds that destroy brain cells
It Eases Pain
Marijuana eases the pain of multiple sclerosis.
Inflammation is an immune response. It is also one of the most common sources of pain. As tissues in your body begin to swell up and become irritated, they deteriorate. The breakdown of these tissues is painful.
Weed eases inflammation because compounds like THC are immune mediators. Common immune cells have cannabinoid receptors on them. THC and other cannabinoids are shown to bind to these sites. This suggests that cannabinoids help with regulating immune responses.
As your immune system calms down, inflammation subsides. Without inflammation, pain signals from the distressed tissue stop. This gives fatigued MS patients some much needed time to relax, pain-free.
It’s also well-known that marijuana is a powerful analgesic. The pain-numbing effects can be felt when either applied topically or consumed. In a clinical trial by the University of California San Diego, researchers tested the effects of smoking marijuana on physical pain.
5 minutes after smoking? No difference.
45 minutes after smoking? Participants that smoked medium to high levels of weed showed significant reduction in pain levels.
It Stops Muscle Stiffness and Spasms
Sound too miraculous to be true?
Don’t worry. It’s solely a coincidence that this scientific miracle happened in one of the most holy countries in the world.
Researchers infected mice with a MS-like disease. They then injected them with CBD.
The mice, whose legs had been locked stiff with crippling muscle tightness, began to move again.
Here’s some more evidence:
A 2012 study conducted by the University of Plymouth found that weed was twice as effective at relieving MS muscle stiffness and spasms when compared to a placebo. After 12 weeks, participants that used cannabis showed a significant reduction in spasticity over their counterparts.
Around 20% of MS sufferers have issues with spasticity. That is, uncontrollable muscle stiffness and twitching. This loss of muscular control occurs when nerve cells responsible for movement are damaged. This damage is caused by inflammation.
Particularly, inflammation in the brain and spine. A 2013 study out of Tel Aviv University found that THC and CBD prevent inflammation of these areas. These findings led researchers to conclude that marijuana may do a little more than ease Multiple Sclerosis symptoms.
This simple little plant may help treat the disease itself.
It Helps Digestion
Gastrointestinal issues are all too common in MS patients. Constipation, problems with bowel control, and difficulty digesting can make day-to-day life miserable.
Marijuana can help.
Like immune cells, cells in your large and small intestine also have cannabinoid receptors. When compounds like THC or CBD connect with these receptors, they help modulate secretion of digestive hormones.
Cannabis helps your digestive system stay regular in the same way it helps your immune system. For a simple analogy, you can think of cannabinoids as traffic policeman. These simple compounds direct the flow of communication hormones in and out of cells like a traffic cop at a jammed intersection.
When they plug into the right place, THC and CBD act as tools to help your body stay regular and go with the flow.
Binding to cell receptors, cannabinoids have the ability to:
- quell nausea and vomiting
- relax muscles
- relieve diarrhea,
- reduce inflammation
It Helps You Sleep
When your body is out of your control, sleeping through the night can be a daunting challenge. If you need to catch up on some quality sleep, a heavy indica will put your body and mind to rest.
Marijuana helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. A 2013 study of male weed smokers found that they had an easier time falling asleep. They also fell asleep faster, and were more likely to have a sleep hangover the next day.
A “sleep hangover” may not be great on a busy workday. But, patients that need a little extra rest may find this enjoyable.
Patients in pain also sleep better with cannabis. At least, according to a study conducted by British GW pharmaceuticals. GW Pharma tested the effects of CBD and THC on 2000 patients experiencing pain. The study found that participants got markedly better sleep and experienced less pain.
Cannabis also helps you sleep more deeply. Consuming THC before bed causes you to spend a little more time in deep sleep. During deep sleep, your body takes the time it needs to repair itself. This is when your body rebuilds bones and muscles. The immune system is also repaired during this sleep phase.
It Takes Away The Blues
It’s a well-known fact that weed has a way of lifting your spirits. It’s not surprising, then, to find that marijuana also eases rates of stress-related depression.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo have found that rats under chronic stress produce less cannabinoids. After finding rats with low levels of natural cannabinoids, researchers injected them with some from the weed plant.
Guess what happened? The surge of cannabinoids from marijuana increased the cannabinoids in their brain. This alleviated depression symptoms in the rats.
Chronic stress is one of the primary causes of depression in adults. Unfortunately for MS victims, there’s rarely a shortage of it. Weed helps by easing away the blues, flooding your brain with the endocannabinoids it needs to eliminate symptoms.
It Protects Your Eyes
If you have MS, then you know it’s not uncommon for the disease to blur your vision. Some patients even go blind temporarily or have uncontrolled eye movements.
Once again, inflammation is the culprit. In some cases, MS causes inflammation of the optic nerve. This causes you to lose some or all of your ability to see until the swelling subsides.
Weed may help reduce the disorienting effects of MS on your vision. In this case, cannabis reduces the inflammation of the optic nerve. Over time, this inflammation is degenerative.
Cannabis has been pinpointed as a potential treatment for many degenerative eye problems. Common ailments like glaucoma and retinal degeneration are thought to be neurological in nature. Marijuana’s neuroprotective qualities are thought to mitigate the damage of these diseases.
What Does This Tell Us About Our Bodies?
The cannabis plant is miraculous, but perhaps what’s even more miraculous is what this plant teaches us about ourselves. THC is a puzzle piece that stimulates systems in our bodies into action and helps them stay regular.
The systems affected by THC help regulate your appetite, your memory, your ability to sleep, and even certain aspects of your immune system. All of these small systems are a part of a much larger endocannabinoid system. These vital functions are controlled and affected by the same chemicals and hormones: cannabinoids. Cannabinoids occur naturally in bodies, as well as on the marijuana plant.
Regardless of the illness or ailment, most cannabinoids function in the same basic way. By connecting with cells in your brain and your body, they change the ways that your cells communicate with one another. That is, they change the way cells give each other specific instructions. The same thing happens when our own natural cannabinoids, like anandamide, connect to the same receptors on our cells–though with different outcomes.
How Does This Relate To MS?
THC works as such a broad sweeping treatment for MS because it taps into a natural system that’s gone bunk and helps return it to regularity. By cutting in, THC slows down the autoimmune reaction, stopping inflammation, and eliminating the painful effects of MS.
In fact, studying how THC affects MS patients has taught us a lot about how the disease works. Because of THC, we now know what cell receptors and pathways seem to be the ones triggering some of the most debilitating symptoms in patients. (For reference, it’s the CB1 receptor.)
These findings have spurred pharmaceutical companies like GW Pharma to use THC in prescription MS drugs. Sativex has been on the market in the United Kingdom for twelve years, and it’s used to treat MS-related muscle spasms and pain. While the drug has spurred many headlines around the world, Sativex is more or less a fancy, pharmaceutical grade marijuana extract that has equal parts of activated THC and CBD; a 1:1 ratio.
While Sativex is currently available outside the U.S. for treatment of MS symptoms, inside the U.S. the drug is in Phase III testing for cancer pain. So far, the company hasn’t submitted an application to use Sativex as a treatment for MS muscle spasms.
We’ve come a long way in cannabis science. Researchers around the world are making major headway on understanding cannabis as a treatment for MS. A cannabis-based MS drug is already on pharmacy shelves. Over 20 US states legally allow medical cannabis treatment for muscle spasticity. Overall, things are looking up.
Yet, the biggest challenges to marijuana research still lay ahead. Though many patients now have access to medical cannabis programs, marijuana research is still restricted. Until cannabis research is supported politically, the true power of this herb is kept under wraps.
Let’s keep fighting for change.
Do you relate to Tracy, the MS patient that began our story? Do you have a loved one that can relate? Help support MS patients by sharing your experience below, or commenting on social media.
Feature Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Latest posts by Anna Wilcox (see all)
- 5 Reasons Why Cannabis Affects Everyone Differently - July 27, 2016
- CBD: Everything You Need To Know About Cannabidiol - July 26, 2016
- All In The Mind #6: All About Cannabis & Schizophrenia - July 26, 2016
Do you have a story you'd like to see on HERB? Send us your idea!SHARE