- Medical use of cannabis is legal in 37 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.
- Medicinal cannabis is not legal on a federal level, but a handful of medications containing cannabinoids are
- Cannabis can help reduce or prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, anorexia, epilepsy, glaucoma, PTSD, and cachexia, among other conditions
- Medical cannabis is also used to prevent nausea and vomiting and relieve pain and muscle spasms associated with a variety of conditions
It may have become a buzzword, but what do most people really know about medical marijuana? Many people know it can help patients with seizures, but what other serious conditions does medical marijuana help? The answer is a whole lot of diseases, from brain tumors to chronic pain, Chron’s disease, and many more. The marijuana plant is a source of potent compounds that can reportedly inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, prevent aging, and relieve pain.
Ready to learn about the medical uses of cannabis? This guide features a list of some of the conditions most frequently treated with medicinal cannabis, including links to relevant scientific evidence. As a bonus, it will also clear your doubts about marijuana legalization and FDA approval.
In This Article
What is Medical Marijuana?
The history of marijuana dates back thousands of years. The plant was used for medicinal purposes in ancient Egypt and ancient China. Female healers administered it in the form of teas and ointments on the eve of civilization. Through a series of complex historical events, the plant came to be forbidden for centuries until it was recently re-discovered as the miraculous herb it has always been.
Is Medical Cannabis Legal?
In the U.S. medicinal marijuana use for qualified patients is legalized under state medical cannabis laws in several states. Though cannabis is yet to be legalized on a federal level, 37 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of medical marijuana and have some form of medical marijuana program.
Usually to be able to legally use weed for a medical purpose you’ll need to be registered as a patient in the medical marijuana registry of your state. For this, you can make an appointment with your local medical marijuana doctor who will evaluate your medical condition and verify that you will benefit from medical cannabis use. This will allow you to purchase medical cannabis products from your local dispensaries.
Has the FDA Approved Medical Marijuana?
The FDA is a little behind when comparing what has been federally legalized with what medical marijuana is actually used for in legal states. As of early 2023, the FDA is yet to approve any medical cannabis product aside from four medications: Epidiolex, “which contains a purified form of the drug substance cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older,” and three synthetic cannabis-related drug products: Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet.
The agency is reportedly working on developing a framework to facilitate the approval of more medicinal cannabis products.
What Can Medical Cannabis Be Prescribed for?
This can be different depending on your local medical marijuana laws and medical cannabis program. While it is impossible to offer a comprehensive answer to that question, since new qualifying medical conditions are constantly being approved, the following list will give you an idea of just how much cannabis can do for human health.
It has been reported that cannabis may help treat behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer like agitation and aggression. Research also indicates that CBD “might be useful to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s Disease because CBD components could suppress its main causal factors.”
Among the medical uses for weed, cancer-fighting is one of the most promising. Several studies have reported that cannabinoids may slow the growth of tumors, including the most aggressive kind of brain tumor.
Considering its beneficial effects on several aspects of the digestive system, scientists have tried to answer the question, can the medical uses of cannabis help Chron’s disease patients? The answer is yes. A number of studies have shown improved quality of life and diminished symptoms in patients with Chron’s disease treated with CBD.
Diseases Affecting the Immune System, Like HIV/AIDS
Many HIV-positive patients use medical cannabis regularly. Cannabis has been reported as being “beneficial for a number of common symptoms and complications in HIV infections.”
The use of medical marijuana in the treatment of epilepsy is a global phenomenon. Thousands of patients in the U.S. take CBD to prevent epileptic seizures.
Multiple clinical studies have found that cannabinoids reduce intraocular pressure, which can be greatly beneficial for glaucoma patients.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many studies indicate that CBD can be beneficial for schizophrenic patients, reducing psychotic symptoms and improving cognitive performance. In the case of PTSD patients, cannabis can help reduce overall symptoms and improve quality of life.
Medical marijuana is used to treat various forms of pain, but how can it help with muscle spasms? Well, it turns out it can help a lot. Several studies, beginning in the early 1980s, have consistently reported that marijuana can help reduce muscle spasticity. Doctors often recommend it to prevent muscle spasms in patients with MS and spinal cord injuries.
According to the MS Society, one in five MS patients surveyed in 2014 reported “they’d used cannabis to help with their symptoms. They said it can help with muscle spasms or stiffness (spasticity) and pain.”
According to researchers, “cannabidiol (CBD) suppresses nausea and vomiting within a limited dose range.” Cancer patients often resort to CBD to prevent chemotherapy-induced nausea.
Research has shown cannabis can help relieve chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and pain caused by multiple conditions. Patients often report their quality of life has greatly improved after switching from other pain medications to CBD products.
Seizures were the first condition for which the FDA approved CBD for a reason. Researchers have found that cannabidiol blocks signals from lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI), a molecule that promotes seizures. Treatment with cannabis medications has become standard for the prevention of seizures caused by various conditions.
Wasting Syndrome (Cachexia)
Studies have shown that marijuana’s, and especially THC’s ability to increase appetite can help patients suffering from cachexia.
Medical Marijuana & The Endocannabinoid System
Marijuana contains a group of compounds called phytocannabinoids, which can interact with the human endocannabinoid system. The most well-known phytocannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use. Another important phytocannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which does not produce a “high” but has been found to have various potential therapeutic benefits.
When THC enters the body, it binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, which can produce a range of effects, including altered perception, mood changes, and increased appetite. THC can also interact with CB2 receptors found in other parts of the body, such as the immune system, which may explain some of its potential medicinal properties.
CBD, on the other hand, does not directly bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors but can modulate their activity. CBD may also interact with other receptors and pathways in the body, such as the serotonin and opioid receptors, which may contribute to its therapeutic effects.
This interaction of cannabinoids with the ESC is the key to understanding the full potential of the medical use of marijuana for a variety of symptoms and conditions.
Is Medical Marijuana Safe?
Medical marijuana is typically low-THC, so it has no psychoactive effects, and its side effects are generally negligible. To be on the safe side, consult with a cannabis doctor before starting treatment with medical cannabis.
Heather Wilson is a passionate cannabis enthusiast who has dedicated over four years of her life to working as a budtender. With a deep understanding of the difference between marijuana strains, cannabinoids, terpenes, and their effects, she has helped countless customers find the perfect product for their needs.
In addition to her work as a budtender, Heather is also an enthusiastic cook who loves to try new recipes incorporating cannabis. Whether she's whipping up a batch of infused cookies or cooking a delicious meal with cannabis-infused oil, Heather is always eager to explore the culinary possibilities of this versatile plant.
For Heather, cannabis is more than just a recreational substance. She uses it for her health and is an advocate for safe and responsible use. With a strong desire to spread awareness about the benefits of cannabis and fight the stigma that still surrounds marijuana, Heather is a true champion of this misunderstood plant.
Through her work and cooking, Heather is helping to change the conversation around marijuana and show the world that this plant has a lot to offer, both medically and recreationally. Heather joined with Brian to found Concept420 in 2022.