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by Nadia Kumentas February 27, 2016

A large part of the Affect | ED blog is meant to be a place of reliable information and education.  One of our newest stockists happens to be a medicinal cannabis dispensary (opening very soon) downtown Toronto called POTLUCK  Apothecary and Dispensary.  In light of this exciting news I thought it was important to start shedding some #realtalk on the often highly stigmatized MARY JANE.  

I even felt a bit risky when I was gearing up to write this post - but it's then I thought: IT'S  2016 PEOPLE. The fact is, as a naturopathic doctor from a medicinal standpoint cannabis is a heavyweight champion for a multitude of ailments and it's important that there is reliable and accessible information to those seeking it.   

So let's get to it, here are the coles notes! 

Get Familiar With Key Terms: 

  • Cannabis: The correct botanical term; A genus of flowering plants that includes a number of species including  Cannabis Sativaand Cannabis Indica. There is actually no plant named ‘marijuana’. 

 

  • Marijuana: A term used to describe the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant.

 

  • Terpenes:These are the pungent aromatic oils found on the flower (yes the buds are flowers) that give it its distinct smell and flavour profile, ranging from citrus to pine or from berry to mint.  Terpenes also modulate the effects of cannabinoids, and these too have their own set of medicinal effects. 

 

  • Cannabinoids: The chemical compounds that are the active constituents of marijuana. When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptors found in the brain and body.  
    • There are at least 85 types of known cannabinoids, many of which have documented medical value.  The one you may be most familiar with is THC which binds to receptors found in our brain and has a more psychoactive effect as well as a stronger "munchie effect" (yes that's the scientific term).
    • Also gaining positive recognition is CBD which binds to receptors in our body and has no psychoactive effects.  

 

A great video to help you visualize/understand THC and CBD: 

Medicinal Effects

We now have a wide body of research that has shown the various therapeutic effects of cannabis.  

While more research is still necessary to understand the value and limitations on cannabis we now have a growing body of research that has shown the various therapeutic effects of medicinal cannabis including:

Strongest evidence:

  • Chronic Pain
    • Cannabinoids have been found helpful in the relief of chronic pain especially the nerve pain associated with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis ( 1 , 2 )
    • In palliative care, cannabinoid use appears to be safer than opioids for reducing chronic pain. ( 3 )
  • Motor Control:
    • A combination of THC and CBD have shown the ability to reduce spasticity in patients suffering from motor control disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Parkinson's Disease
    • Another study showed that cannabis was effective in reducing pain and sleep disturbance in patients with multiple sclerosis ( 4 )
  • Nausea and vomiting:
    • Cannabis has been found to be effective in some patients to help reduce chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). ( 5 )
    • Some studies have found cannabinoids to be more effective than some conventional antiemetics such as prochlorperazine, promethazine, and metoclopramide in controlling CINV but use is cautioned due to side effects such as dizziness, dysphoria, and hallucinations. ( 6 )

 

Continued future research could prove promising results in additional areas such as:

  • Crohn's Disease
  • Cancer treatment in slowing or halting the growth of certain cancer cells
  • Mental health such as anxiety disorders and depression
  • Improving appetite in AIDS/HIV patients

Strains of Cannabis

There are three major classifications of cannabis:
  1. Indica: typically more sedating and better for pain relief
  2. Sativa: more stimulating and mood enhancing
  3. Hybrid: often thought of as a “balance” of effects, offering a little bit of what both Indica and Sativa have to offer 
This awesome diagram from  Leafly can help show you how the three different categories of cannabis affect different disorders. 
  • Purple: Indica
  • Red: Sativa
  • Green: Hybrid
Choosing which strain is right for you depends on what your medical condition calls for and what your desired effects are.  Different strains (often hilariously named things like Pineapple Express, Bubba Kush, Blue Dream, etc.) all contain different combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes which all produce different medicinal outcomes and flavour experiences.  Often you will see a breakdown of the THC : CBD amounts on descriptors of strains which helps to give you an idea of the type of response you will have. 

Methods of Consumption  

There are varying methods of consumption from:

  • smoking (bong, joint, pipe, etc)
  • vaporizer
  • edibles and tinctures
  • topical creams or ointments 
Different methods tend to have differing results. Edibles often take a longer time to kick in and have a longer lasting and stronger effect, where as smoking or vaporizing will have a more immediate effect that has a shorter duration.  In general healthier options that could help reduce any potential negative effects (see below) are using a vaporizer or enjoying edibles. 

 

BUT WAIT: What about lung damage and/or cancer?

This is a great question and largely comes down to frequency of use and method of use.  

The CARDIA study tested the lung function of 5115 young adults over the course of 20 years, starting in 1985 when they were aged 18 to 30.  They found the average user who smoked 2-3x/month was not associated with reduced lung function.  They do caution that heavier smoking (>20x/mo) may result in a reduction of lung function, but still nothing comparable the damage seen with tobacco smoke.  

In regards to cancer, Donald Tashkent,  an American pulmonologist  and professor of medicine at the University of California has researched the topic extensively and commented that:

“...the THC in marijuana has well-defined anti-tumoral effects that have been shown to inhibit the growth of a variety of cancers in animal models and tissue culture systems, thus counteracting the potentially tumorigenic effects of the procarcinogens in marijuana smoke.”

Furthermore he states, " Although marijuana smoke contains a number of carcinogens and cocarcinogens, findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use, although evidence is mixed concerning possible carcinogenic risks of heavy, long-term use."

So, as with everything the bottom line is moderation.   If you are a regular user it's a good idea to look towards healthier alternatives to smoking such as edibles, tinctures, or using a vaporizer to help negate any harmful long term effects.  

If you experience any of the conditions mentioned above and feel you could benefit from using cannabis I encourage you to speak to your doctor to learn if a prescription is right for you.  I hope you've learned something and even if you don't use medicinal cannabis, knowledge is power!  Getting to know the amazing healing properties of cannabis is another step towards reversing the negative association most people have around cannabis use. 

Make sure you check out  POTLUCK's awesome apothecary and dispensary if you are in the hood and of course to stock up on your favourite Affect Health products!  

 

nadia kumentas affect health

 

 

Questions? Comments? Collaboration ideas?  Let's chat!

 

 

References:

 

  1. Martín-Sánchez, Eva, Toshiaki A. Furukawa, Julian Taylor, and Jose Luis R. Martin. "Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cannabis Treatment for Chronic Pain." Pain Med Pain Medicine 10.8 (2009): 1353-368. Web.
  2. Lynch, Mary E., and Fiona Campbell. "Cannabinoids for Treatment of Chronic Non-cancer Pain; a Systematic Review of Randomized Trials." British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 72.5 (2011): 735-44. Web.
  3. Carter, G. T., A. M. Flanagan, M. Earleywine, D. I. Abrams, S. K. Aggarwal, and L. Grinspoon. "Cannabis in Palliative Medicine: Improving Care and Reducing Opioid-Related Morbidity." American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine 28.5 (2011): 297-303. Web.
  4. Rog, D. J., T. J. Nurmikko, T. Friede, and C. A. Young. "Randomized, Controlled Trial of Cannabis-based Medicine in Central Pain in Multiple Sclerosis." Neurology 65.6 (2005): 812-19. Web.
  5. Borgelt, Laura M., Kari L. Franson, Abraham M. Nussbaum, and George S. Wang. "The Pharmacologic and Clinical Effects of Medical Cannabis." Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy 33.2 (2013): 195-209. Web.
  6. Bowles, Daniel W., Cindy L. O’Bryant, D. Ross Camidge, and Antonio Jimeno. "The Intersection between Cannabis and Cancer in the United States." Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 83.1 (2012): 1-10. Web.

 

Nadia Kumentas
Nadia Kumentas

Naturopathic doctor, tea drinker, yoga doer, animal lover, and plant enthusiast. Nadia is also the co-founder of two kick-ass start-ups: Affect Health a medicinal tea company, and Mingo a UTI defence drink mix.



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