The relationship between cannabis and humans goes back thousands of years. Cannabis is a plant with many benefits, ranging from utilitarian to therapeutic purposes. Cannabis fiber is very strong and can be used to create rope and for weaving. Cannabis seeds are highly nutritious and provide protein and fatty acids. When it comes to medical, peer reviewed research on cannabis and human health, there is not a lot of material due to restrictions on research. The prohibition of cannabis in the modern era is ending in several places in the United States and elsewhere; this allows for scientific research into the health benefits of cannabis. While the exact medical benefits of cannabis are yet to be determined, there have been many studies demonstrating that cannabis holds therapeutic potential across a variety of ailments and conditions.
All humans have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is composed of CB1 and CB2 receptors embedded within the central nervous system and peripheral tissues. These receptors bind with cannabinoids, or compounds found in cannabis, and produce an effect. These effects can range from psychoactive effects to anti-inflammatory effects. While research is underway in understanding the exact mechanisms of cannabinoids within the ECS, here are some potential health benefits of the cannabinoids found in cannabis:
Tetrahydrocannabinol: Also known as THC, there is evidence supporting the effectiveness of the cannabis extracts in treating certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis, spasticity, pain, and nausea. It can also help improve appetite in persons with HIV/AIDS.
Cannabidiol: CBD is another cannabinoid that is already utilized in prescription medicines. It canin multiple ways, including smoke or vapor inhalation, and oral ingestion. CBD does not have the same psychoactivity as THC but may change the effects of THC on the body if both compounds are present. A pharmacological version of CBD is currently used in the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin: Commonly known as THCV, this lesser known cannabinoid has gained attention due to its appetite suppressing properties. It is currently being evaluated for potential in treating type 2 diabetes.
From a health benefit perspective, another important component of cannabis are terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that provide cannabis with its unique smell. Here are some common terpenes and associated potential health benefits:
Limonene Limonene is the major component in the oil of citrus fruit peels. It is thought to improve mood and relieve stress.
Myrcene is a terpene that has a scent best described as earthy and musky. It is believed to reduce inflammation and chronic pain.
Caryophyllene is a terpene with spicy and peppery notes. It may help relieve inflammation and anxiety.
Alpha-pinene -is a terpene with pine notes. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and is thought to be a bronchodilator.
Research on the health benefits of cannabis is ongoing, with new cannabinoids being discovered.