Aspirin for a headache? Maybe a few drops of cannabis oil would be better. Late night snacking? Try an organic oat cluster with cannabis compounds for a great night’s sleep. Kale in your smoothie? Might as well add a couple of cannabis leaves for those anti-inflammatory properties.
Sound good? Welcome to the future of one of the world’s safest recreational drugs.
Not Just a Joint: What’s in Cannabis?
Ok, so you’re going to need some new vocabulary to get to grips with the latest findings on cannabis. Here’s your cheat sheet:
- There are 483 different chemical compounds in weed, around a hundred are called cannabinoids (which communicate with cannabinoid receptors in our brains).
- Only one of those, THC, makes you high.
- We produce our own types of cannabinoids naturally in our bodies, and these are important for regulating things like mood, pain control, sleep, and immune response.
- When the body doesn’t produce enough of these internal cannabinoids, you get health consequences. What many scientists now believe is that the compounds in cannabis, which are very similar to the ones we produce, can “fill in the gap”, topping up what the body needs.
The New Smoothie Superfood?
One compound researchers are really interested in is THCa, the unheated or “fresh” version of THC that can be found in the leaves (hello “raw cannabis juice”) and looks promising as an anti-inflammatory, pain reducer, and for slowing down the spread of cancer cells.
In any case, cannabis is technically a vegetable, with lots of the same nutrients – like fibre, iron, and calcium – as other leafy greens, so if you’re lucky enough to get a pile of fresh leaves or buds, go ahead and throw ‘em in the blender!
Real Results: What Does Science Say?
Most research in the past has been focused on THC, the compound prescribed for medical marijuana use, but let’s take a look at what we know:
- Last year, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a really comprehensive report on the current “state of evidence” for the health impacts of cannabis and cannabinoids. It looked at over 10,000 medical studies and found that yes, marijuana (used correctly and at the right dosage), can lead to pain reduction, cure nausea, and can have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Other studies around the world have found the cannabis helps treat PTSD, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy and Glaucoma.
- Preclinical and animal trials have demonstrated that cannabis compounds may treat cancer in a number of different ways, including blocking a tumour’s ability to create blood vessels, essentially starving the cancer. It also decreased metastasis, which is when tumour cells travel to other parts of the body and the cancer spreads. To top it all off, cannabis compounds have been shown to stop the growth of tumour cells and trigger these diseased cells to self-destruct.
- Studies like these have found that cannabinoids interact with the brain’s dopamine management systems, and seems to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine, just like the prescription drug Ritalin does. It’s been found that this helps those with attention deficit concentrate and levels out mood swings. So could this mean that in the future we might be adding a few drops to a cup of tea for an afternoon pick-me-up and increased productivity? Well, many do and say it’s a game-changer, but only the future will tell if the hype stands up to the research.
An All-natural Depression Fighter
You can ask almost anyone on prescription meds for depression and they’ll tell you they work… but the side effects – dry mouth, low libido, and constipation to name just a few – suck. However, a McGill University study says that cannabis in the right dose seems to reduce stress, enhance depression sufferer’s moods, provide energy and focus, relieve anxiety, and combat insomnia, without the common side effects of drugs like Prozac and Zoloft (but curious users should go easy – they also warned of the “double-edged sword”, finding that high doses of THC can worsen depression symptoms).
High but Healthy – What Consumers Say
The scientific community has yet to give it’s official stamp to many of the claims, but do a quick search and you’ll find thousands of consumers who all agree that both smoking and snacking on cannabis have helped with anxiety, insomnia, migraines, PMS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and even acne! Oh, and just for the record, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that people who regularly use marijuana have significantly more sex than abstainers 😲
Another possible benefit to add to the mix – although the stereotype of stoners is crazy snacking when “the munchies” hit – cannabis users have actually been shown to be slimmer, on average, than non-users. That’s because cannabis helps the body regulate insulin production, and manage caloric intake more efficiently. Imagine what the right dose and regular vinyasa classes could do!
Just a Health Buzz Please: What’s CBD?
For those curious about the wellness benefits, but not into the idea of getting high as a kite along the way, cannabidiol, or CBD, seems to be the answer. One of those cannabinoids mentioned earlier, it’s becoming clear that CBD – dubbed a ‘miraculous molecule’ – offers a host of health benefits, without any psychoactive effects. Researchers are still looking into how it works, but so far it may be linked to everything from mood and memory to pleasure and metabolism. Thanks to the lack of a mind-altering buzz, pharmaceutical companies are introducing CBD-based medicines, chefs are using CBD-infused honey and olive oil, and makers of cosmetics are adding it to skin creams and lip balm!
All that said, it would be remiss of us not to mention that cannabis does have its disadvantages too and that the strain of plant, dosage, and the individual experience of each consumer can all affect the outcome of smoking or snacking on weed.
What we do know, however, is that with more and more research now being carried out on this promising plant, we may just be replacing our prescription bottles with cannabis seedlings in the not-too-distant future.