Medical Marijuana: The Top Benefits of Cannabis as Medicine

While the “medical marijuana industry” has only been around for two decades, cannabis has widely been considered a powerful plant medicine for physical and spiritual healing for centuries.

As science and technology have progressed, medical research has finally started to catch up to history. Over the years, a strong number of studies have been published about cannabis and its laundry list of benefits, serving as the grounds upon which many states have now legalized medical marijuana.

Hollister Cannabis Co was founded in the spirit of helping people. Our CEO, Carl Saling, was inspired to deliver relief to as many people as possible through cannabis products, after his son used cannabis and CBD to find comfort in the midst of his Crohn’s disease. That’s just one of the many chronic illnesses the cannabis plant has been known to aid and remedy.

Before we jump into more of the top recognized medicinal benefits of marijuana, let’s take a brief look at the history of cannabis use:

Throughout the Ages: Marijuana as Medicine

Ancient Asian cultures were discovered to have used cannabis for herbal medicine
, dating back to 5000 BC. Early Chinese pharmacopoeia reference cannabis as an anesthetic and one of the “50 fundamental herbs”, with accounts of surgeons giving a mixture of cannabis and wine to patients before performing surgery. (However, even in 4000 BC, doctors warned that excessive consumption could cause one to “see demons”).

In India, the “Devil’s Lettuce” might’ve been considered the same “burning bush” that helped Moses speak to God. Vedic scriptures referenced cannabis as sacred, being an integral part of Indian culture and religious practice. It was smoked during daily devotionals, used as a tool for worshipping deities. To this day, cannabis is still an essential ingredient in one of the country’s most popular drinks: bhang.

Cannabis’ non-psychoactive variation – hemp – was also a prominent and important agricultural crop. Even in ancient times, hemp was grown for just about everything we mass-produce it for today: clothes, paper, rope, food, and holistic remedies.

Cannabis and hemp spread from Central Asia through Africa and Europe (then to the Americas). During the Medieval era, cannabis became popular in the Middle East as a spiritual tool and the go-to treatment for epilepsy. In Africa, it was used to treat fever and malaria. In the 18th century, medical marijuana was introduced to America by William O’Shaughnessy – an Irish doctor who first researched cannabis in India, then began advocating for it through the west. During the 19th century, medical marijuana became ‘mainstream medicine’.

Global consumption had reached an all time high. The “war on drugs” left for take off in the early 20th century, with steps being taken to outlaw cannabis on a worldwide scale. The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was approved in 1961, restricting production and distribution to pharmacological research purposes. In America, a variety of factors quickly led to federal prohibition – with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 (which criminalized cannabis), and the Controlled Substances Act in 1970

The Modern Medical Marijuana Market

Marijuana was officially legalized for medicinal use by California, when our state passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996. More than half the United States has since followed suit. Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, barely ten years ago in 2012. Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, which has helped the overall North American cannabis industry rapidly balloon to $10 billion

With increasing legalization across the US (and the UK), the medical marijuana market alone is expected to exceed $44 billion by 2024. (To be extra clear, that’s not including the recreational market). CBD sales are escalating to a close second, projected to surpass $20 billion by 2024

Over 100 cannabinoids have so far been discovered, though we’re still barely scratching the surface of truly understanding them all. THC has been the most observed, with many of the benefits we’re about to discuss being attributable to this compound. That said, the government is planning to invest $3 million in medical marijuana research (specifically CBD), to bridge the gap between market demand and education and gain further insight into the full spectrum of what this plant can do for the well-being of humanity.

The Top 10 Benefits of Medical Marijuana

With deeper research being conducted on an ongoing basis, this list is far from exhaustive. However, these are the top benefits we believe are most widely accepted, acknowledged, and supported by studies to date.

Increased Appetite:

This may be an unwanted side effect to some, but to others who struggle to eat enough or gain weight due to disease or depression, the “munchies” can be a real God-send.

An increased ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been found to increase endocannabinoid signals in the body, overstimulating CB1 receptors and leading to increased caloric intake and fat storage. THC and CBN are the main cannabinoids that mimic this overstimulation and cause hunger.

(On the flip side, THCV is a cannabinoid known for suppressing appetite. Select strains, including Durban Poison and Doug’s Varin, are rich in THCV.)

Lower BMI: 

Despite increased appetite, interestingly, studies have shown that marijuana users tend to have a lower BMI and rate of obesity.

Marijuana lowers insulin levels, which may promote and aid in weight loss. A 2018 report explains how rapid and long-lasting downregulation (decrease) of CB1 receptors following cannabis consumption reduces energy storage and increases metabolic rates; thus reversing the impact on BMI of elevated omega-6/omega-3 ratios.

Marijuana users also tend to work out more often than the average American, which may also play a role in lower BMI and obesity rates.

  • Aids in Digestion:

Research suggests the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a role in gut health. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, have all been found to be managed and moderated by cannabis.

THC is similar in structure to the endocannabinoid anandamide (an essential omega-6 fatty acid), which tends to be higher in healthy gut tissue. Anandamide is also somewhat prevalent in cocoa, which makes dark chocolate edibles a potential solution for your upset stomach.

Relieves Nausea & Vomiting:

Chemotherapy patients who struggle with nausea and vomiting may find relief from cannabis, similar to other stomach issues.

The dorsal vagal complex (DVC) in the brainstem regulates emesis (nausea/vomiting). The DVC and gastrointestinal tract both have endocannabinoid receptors that have been shown to exhibit anti-emetic responses when activated by THC

CBD has been found to help relieve nausea in some patients, though it has not been proven as effective as THC.

  • Neuroprotective: 

Research has shown that low doses of THC can block some degenerative enzymes in the brain, as well as protect the brain against traumatic injuries like concussions. Chronic micro-dosing has also been linked to improved memory and behavior

Just like muscles in the body are initially damaged with exercise, THC causes minor damage to the brain. Through this practice, the brain grows stronger; building resistance and protective responses in the face of more severe injury and degeneration.

Also like working out, you shouldn’t jump into using high levels of THC and expect your brain or body to be able to handle it. The low dosage of THC is critical to the process, without causing too much initial damage. An increased tolerance over time may be expected, but it’s important to “start low and go slow”.

  • Relieves Stress & Anxiety: 

In low doses (5-10mg)
, THC has been known to reduce stress and improve social anxiety. However, in higher doses (12mg+) or sativa-dominant strains, THC can often exacerbate anxiety and cause paranoia. The effects of THC on anxiety are complex and highly individualized.

CBD has been shown to lower stress and reduce anxiety, and is the best option for most people due to its lack of psychoactivity. However, unlike THC, high doses of CBD (300mg+) may be required by some people to experience any relief.

For anxiety, the best type of product to try is one with a high CBD:THC ratio. Anything above 10:1 in concentration minimizes the chances of feeling high, while providing just enough THC to fully activate the CBD.

Improves Inflammation & Arthritis:

Per Merriam-Webster definition
, inflammation is “a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.”

Cannabis has oxidative properties and works to fight inflammation by suppressing cytokines and chemokines – two aggravating proteins that are released into local areas of the body by white blood cells. Whether in the GI tract or elsewhere, these triggering responses are controlled and muted by cannabinoids (mainly, CBD).

CBD can be smoked, ingested or applied topically, with many skin-creams now including it in their formulas. CBD has been observed to be helpful for eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and other dermatological conditions related to the immune system.

  • Relieves Chronic Pain: 

Pain from inflammation is called nociceptive pain. Most chronic pain tends to be nociceptive. Right off the bat, reducing inflammation tends to have a huge, positive impact.

For pain that isn’t necessarily due to an inflammatory response (either neuropathic or central pain), THC and CBD bind to nerve receptors to further limit or block pain. An overstimulation of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS can sometimes be less effective and even magnify the pain, so finding the right balance between THC and CBD is critical for long-term relief.

Slows Cancer Progression:

Cannabis has been shown to slow the growth of cancerous cells within the body

CBC and CBG are other cannabinoids that have been discovered to have anti-tumor properties, and may actually kill gastrointestinal cancer cells. CBC (cannabichromene) and CBG (cannabigerol) are non-psychoactive, which make them a promising choice for patients who don’t want the effects of THC. 

So far, CBC has been found to be the second most potent cannabinoid for inhibiting the growth of new cancer cells. CBG is the most potent, especially for colorectal cancers.

Helps With Epilepsy & Parkinson’s: 

CBD made news headlines in 2014 after drastically reducing 3-year-old Charlotte Figi’s severe seizures
. (We now know the CBD-rich strain that helped her as Charlotte’s Web).

CBD is the cannabinoid that has been proven most effective in helping people with seizures. CBD has a balancing effect on the ECS, calming motor symptoms. This explains why cannabis can also help people suffering from Parkinson’s and improve their tremors.

To conclude, here’s a video from a few years ago, showing the magic of marijuana on Parkinson’s in action: