By now, it’s well-known that marijuana is useful in fighting symptoms of a large number of diseases and conditions. But, can cannabis actually help prevent some of these conditions in the first place? A growing mass of evidence suggests that low doses of marijuana may be key to preventing some major health problems.
Using marijuana as preventative medicine
It’s important to note that many of marijuana’s preventative effects occur in lower doses, but the political situation surrounding the plant makes it difficult to figure out just what the appropriate doses are. Right now, individual consumers are left to test the health benefits of the plant through a process of trial and error. In an interview with Reset.me, UC Berkeley’s Dr. Amanda Reiman explains:
I look at [marijuana] like a vitamin or supplement. You don’t feel the effect of them immediately. It is more about long term wellness and prevention of disease. I would recommend that people look beyond the recreational, intoxicating side of cannabis to the prevention and wellness side.
Here’s why cannabis just might be the ultimate preventative medicine:
1. Protects your brain
Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning that they help maintain and regulate brain health. In a landmark study published in 2000, researchers from Maryland’s National Institute of Mental Health found that CBD and THC were extremely powerful antioxidants.
In the brain, the cannabinoids acting as antioxidants drastically reduced a phenomenon known as glutamate toxicity. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that signals nerve cells to fire. Too much glutamate in your brain can cause nerve cells to become overstimulated, ultimately leading to cell damage or death. Thus, cannabinoids help protect your brain cells from damage, keeping the organ healthy and functioning properly.
2. Prevents cancer
There’s been a lot of talk out there about cannabis curing cancer, but can it help prevent you from developing tumors before they even start? A 2012 study on colon cancer from the University of Naples suggests it does. In their research, scientists found non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) showed a chemopreventative effect in animal models. Rodents that were treated with CBD were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer after being induced with the disease in a laboratory.
This finding adds on to another two-year study that was published back in 1996. The study also used animal models and found that psychoactive THC decreased the incidence of both benign and hepatic adenoma tumors.
3. Fights age-related degenerative diseases
According to neuroscientist Dr. Michelle Ross, marijuana is “key to unlocking preventative medicine. It helps protect your DNA from being damaged, so it can actually slow down the aging process.”
As we age, the creation of new neurons in the brain slows down significantly. In order to maintain brain health and prevent degenerative diseases, new cells need to be continuously created. Back in 2008, researchers at Ohio State University found that low doses of THC-like cannabinoids encouraged the creation of new nerve cells in animal models, even in aging brains.
4. Keeps bones strong
Throughout your life, your bones are in a constant process of repairing and rebuilding themselves. Studies have shown that both THC and CBD facilitate the process of bone metabolism that is crucial to maintaining strong, healthy bones over time. This reduces the risk of age-related bone diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In both of those diseases, new bone and cartilage cells are no longer being created by the body. Compounds in marijuana help spur the process of new bone cell formation.
5. Aids digestion
Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the digestive tract. In fact, anandamide, the human body’s natural THC, is the trigger that stimulates the process of digestion. It makes sense then why THC triggers appetite and kicks your metabolism into overdrive.
But, that’s not all. THC has also been found to protect the gut from the harms of inflammation and injury in animal models. This makes the cannabinoid a natural medicine for flare-up prevention in those with gastrointestinal issues like IBS and Chron’s Disease.
6. Fights UV rays
It was mentioned earlier that cannabis has powerful antioxidant properties that protect the brain. When applied topically via a lotion or a balm, these same antioxidants work wonders on the skin. Nature’s own anti-aging serum, cannabis skin care products can repair wrinkle-causing damage from free radicals like UV rays and environmental pollutants.
7. Prevents stress-related damage
Chronic stress can wreak havoc on the body. It can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, causing to insomnia. This then leads to cell damage as your body is given less time to mend itself while you sleep. Stress can cause painful and debilitating migraine headaches, as well as trigger your body’s inflammatory response.
Taking a moment out of your busy day to enjoy a little cannabis reduces stress and gives you a little breather, helping your body mitigate some of the damage that chronic stress can cause over time.
8. Reduces systemic inflammation
Inflammation throughout the body and in the brain is linked to a wide variety of illnesses. Unnecessary inflammation is thought to play a major role in the development of conditions like Parkinson’s, autism, migraine, IBS, and many more. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating the body’s inflammatory response.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are potent anti-inflammatories. They engage with the endocannabinoid system throughout the body, helping to reduce inflammation systemically. This means that the plant has enormous therapeutic potential, as inflammation is the culprit in such a wide range of diseases.
9. Prevents heart disease
Compounds in marijuana act as vasodilators, opening up arteries and increasing blood flow to the heart. According to a recent study from the University of Nottingham, cannabinoids actually helped lower blood pressure and improve circulation in human tissue samples. Though other studies were completed in animal models, this was the first one to actually confirm these benefits in humans. More research is needed to prove these positive effects.
10. Potentially reduces risk of stroke
In 2014, researchers from the University of Maryland found that marijuana consumers were less likely to have a stroke. The study took place over the course of 16 years and found that 28.8% of stroke victims had used marijuana compared with 32.7% that hadn’t suffered from a stroke.
The researchers were quick to say that this doesn’t mean that marijuana prevents stroke per se. But, these findings do go hand-in-hand with University of Nottingham research published in 2013 which suggested that cannabis can help people recover after they’ve had a stroke. A University press release explains:
The research, announced at the annual UK Stroke Forum, indicates that all three classes of cannabinoid could be effective in shrinking the area of the brain affected by stroke and in recovering neurological function.
When it comes to marijuana research, the current political climate makes for a lot of unknowns. All of the studies presented in this article show signs of therapeutic promise for using cannabis as preventative medicine. Yet, there’s still a lot of debate about how much marijuana is healthy to consume, and what methods are going to actually help with disease prevention. Overall, however, there’s no doubt that cannabis has medical value.
Do you use cannabis as a preventative medicine? Do you feel it’s benefited your overall health? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Share your story with us on social media or in the comments section below.