What Happens to Your Body When You Use Medical Marijuana?

By Dr. Mercola on Monday August 27th, 2018

Image: Unknown

The Healing Benefits of Cannabis

Marijuana, or cannabis, has been used for at least 5,000 years and has an extensive history of traditional uses as an industrial material and a botanical medicine all throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and America.1

Read on to learn more about medical marijuana’s healing benefits and how it has gotten its bad rap.

What is Medical Marijuana?

The term ‘medical marijuana’ refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant and its pure extracts to treat a disease or improve a symptom.2 It must be sourced from a medicinal-grade cannabis plant that has been meticulously grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

Marijuana’s incredible healing properties come from its high cannabidiol (CBD) content and critical levels of medical terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains some tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule that gives the psychoactive effects that most recreational users are after. Through traditional plant breeding techniques and seed exchanges, growers have started producing cannabis plants that have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC for medical use.

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved medical marijuana,3 more and more physicians are starting to reverse their stand on the issue and swear by its effectiveness and health benefits.

CBD contentMarijuana’s healing properties come from its high cannabidiol (CBD) content.

In a 2015 CBS interview, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy acknowledged that marijuana may be useful for certain medical conditions, saying:

We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful.4

Likewise, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta also made a highly publicized reversal on his marijuana stance after the production of his two-part series ‘Weed.’ In a commentary published on CNN’s website, he said:5

There is now promising research into the use of marijuana that could impact tens of thousands of children and adults, including treatment for cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, to name just a few. With regard to pain alone, marijuana could greatly reduce the demand for narcotics and simultaneously decrease the number of accidental painkiller overdoses, which are the greatest cause of preventable death in this country.

How Does Medical Marijuana Work and What Diseases Can it Be Used For?

Historically, marijuana has been used as a botanical medicine since the 19th and 20th centuries.6Today, marijuana’s claim as a potential panacea is backed up by countless studies crediting its healing potential to its cannabidiol content.

There is actually an endocannabinoid system in the human body. This ancient biological system, which also exists in other mammals, was first described in the journal Science in 1992,7 and is said to be responsible for releasing human cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors found in virtually all your tissues, embedded in your cell membranes.

History of medicinal useMarijuana has been used as a botanical medicine since the 19th and 20th centuries.

Cannabinoid receptors can be found in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and immune system. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.8

There’s still ongoing research as to how far they impact your health, but to date, it’s known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth and immune function.9 Overall, it’s said that cannabinoids bring balance to your tissues and biological systems.

Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California who has successfully treated patients with medical marijuana for more than a decade, has personally seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day. Other common ailments that may benefit from medical marijuana use include:

  • Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia11
  • Arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis10
  • Multiple sclerosis12
  • Parkinson’s disease13
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)14
  • Epilepsy and seizures15

CBD also works as an excellent painkiller and works well in treating anxiety issues.16 Cannabis oil, on the other hand, when applied topically may help heal sunburn overnight.

Cannabinoids balance your bodyCannabinoids bring balance to your tissues and biological systems.

How to Obtain and Use Medical Marijuana

At present, medical cannabis is now legal in 30 U.S. states. Most of these areas permit its use under certain medical circumstances only, and some allow CBD oils or pills only. In eight states, it’s legal to be used recreationally.17,18

In states where medical marijuana is legal like California, Colorado, Vermont and New York, you can join a collective, or a legal entity consisting of a group of patients that can grow and share cannabis medicines with each other. By signing up as a member, you gain the right to grow and share your medicine.

Frankel notes that a patient of 18 can secure a medical cannabis card recommendation letter if their attending physician or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) advises or agrees to it. With your medical cannabis card, you now have the liberty to choose the collective you want to belong to. Medical marijuana can be administered to patients using one of the following methods:19,20

  • Inhalation—Allows the patient to titrate the dosage. It has an instantaneous effect as the medication is rapidly taken into the lungs and quickly absorbed through the capillaries into the bloodstream. The effects of inhaled cannabis will last approximately four hours.
  • Smoking—Can be done using a joint or the cigarette form (hand-or machine-rolled), a pipe, or bong (water pipe). Smoking medical marijuana by joint is believed to be inefficient, though, as the medication goes with the smoke as the cigarette burns. Smoking small amounts using a water pipe is more advisable because the cool smoke is less irritating to the airway. This method is not recommended to anyone with lung damage.
  •  Vaporization—Like a nebulizer treatment, cannabis can be heated to a temperature that will release the medication in vapors to be inhaled by the patient.
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) or oramucosal (in the oral cavity) delivery—Made possible using oils or tinctures, it is readily delivered into the bloodstream and provides a rapid effect. Tinctures can be administered through a dropper under the tongue or sprayed in the mouth to be absorbed in the oral cavity. This is highly recommended for non-smoking patients.
  • Oral ingestion—Non-smokers can also take medical marijuana through pills or mandibles, which are edible cannabis products in the form of teas, cookies or brownies.
    The primary drawback of this approach is that because cannabinoids are fat-soluble, there may be issues when it comes to absorption, depending on the patient’s metabolism. A good workaround for this problem is using cannabis butter, which fat-soluble cannabinoids blend well with.
  • Topical application—Cannabis can be applied as an ointment, lotion or poultice for treating skin inflammations, arthritis and muscle pain. It is unclear how cannabinoids are absorbed transdermally, although its credit should also go to the more soluble terpenoids and flavonoids that also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Legality in the U.S.Medical cannabis is now legal in 30 U.S. states.

Potential Side Effects of Medical Cannabis

Keep in mind: Make sure that your medicine has been sourced from a medicinal-grade cannabis plant without the threat of chemical residues, which may cause further harm. It’s also important to find a knowledgeable cannabis physician who can help you determine the correct amount you need, as proper dosing is crucial when using medical cannabis.

Dr. Margaret Gedde, a Stanford-trained pathologist and award-winning researcher who specializes in the therapeutic use of cannabis, says the only concern you’ll have to worry about medical marijuana is the psychoactivity of THC or its ability to make you feel ‘high.’ Too high a dose of THC can also trigger anxiety. You can avoid this side effect by specifically looking for high CBD and low THC marijuana formulations. Gedde explains:

THC can induce anxiety if the dose is wrong or the strain is not compatible with that person. [Still], many use THC to relieve anxiety. Because we have hundreds of different strains of marijuana and cannabis, each of which is slightly different, there is a huge potential to customize [the drug] for each person.

She also notes that CBD and THC actually work very well in combination. She notes that CBD actually helps temper the psychoactivity of the THC. What’s more, when the plant is unheated or used raw, it actually does not contain THC, but rather THC acid (THCA). So if you eat it raw, you get the THCA, which is responsible for relieving pain and spasms. THCA acts as a synergizing agent, yet it doesn’t deliver the psychoactivity associated with THC. Hence, consuming marijuana raw will let you reap the benefits without the adverse effects.

Be careful of dosagesBe aware of the psychoactivity of THC or its ability to make you feel ‘high.’

Beware of Synthetic Marijuana

The risk brought by different versions of synthetic marijuana should also be considered. Imported from Asian countries under the guise of potpourri, herbal incense and even plant food, the synthetic powder is mixed in a lab and shipped to the U.S., where retailers spray it onto a leaf—often a herb or a spice—that can be smoked, just like pot.

It not only binds to cannabis receptors in your body up to 1,000 times more strongly than standard marijuana, but also produces gripping effects on serotonin and other receptors in your brain. You can’t overdose on real pot, but you CAN overdose on synthetic versions—and it doesn’t take very much.

Most people don’t realize how dangerous synthetic marijuana can be. Unlike medical marijuana, synthetic marijuana not only is void of any healing component, but also may put you at risk of serious side effects, including:21,22

  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Cardiac problem
  • Brain damage
  • Kidney problem
  • Acute psychosis
  • Tachycardia (an abnormally rapid heart rate)
  • Hypokalemia (a deficiency of potassium in the bloodstream)
Illicit drugMarijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the U.S.

If Marijuana is so Beneficial, Why is it a Schedule 1 Drug?

I highly recommend asking your physician or D.O. about reputable medicinal-grade marijuana plant growers or credible apothecaries near your area that sell natural cannabis products for medicinal purposes.

In one of my interviews with Frankel, he explained how people have forgotten cannabis was once a botanical medicine, and how it became known as a notorious form of illegal drug:

What happened in the ’60s and ’70s was that due to desires for psychedelia, the changes in the war in Vietnam, and the war on drugs with Nixon, the types of strains that were available and the demand for psychedelia changed. Before we knew it, CBD—due to a lack of ‘stoniness’—was bred out of the plant.

As a result of growers breeding out the all-important CBD, marijuana became known primarily as a plant that gets you high. Its original medicinal properties and uses largely fell by the wayside.

Currently in the U.S., marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, a category reserved specifically for the most dangerous illicit drugs, such as heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and ecstasy.23 Based on the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, drugs from this group:24

  • Have a high potential for abuse
  • Have no accepted medical use in the United States
  • Have lack of accepted safety under medical supervision

Personally, I find it disheartening that something as promising as marijuana is being demonized due to inappropriate use.

Replacement for synthetic drugsMedicinal marijuana is slow to be accepted by the political community.

It’s such a shame, too, that the federal government seemed so careless in approving the recreational use of marijuana (which made the ongoing cycle of substance abuse and addiction in our country even worse), but played it tough when it comes to approving medical cannabis, which could potentially benefit countless of people by improving many conditions and taking the place of a number of synthetic drugs. Who would not want that? Well, clearly, not those whose bottom line would be affected.

Stay Informed on Medical Marijuana and Other Homeopathic Treatments

Homeopathic remedies have always been under assault, and the case with medical cannabis is a clear example. Despite its outstanding health potential if used in medicinally appropriate methods, it’s still shunned by federal agencies and demonized to be ‘dangerous’—even though there’s no risk of overdose or death from cannabis, which is something that cannot be said for other conventional remedies like opioids.

It really all boils down to freedom of choice. I believe that if a homeopathic is working for you, then you should be allowed to use it, especially considering the other things you’re allowed to use but expose you to significant, if not extreme risks, like alcohol, cigarettes or opioids and certain over-the-counter medications.

I advise you to read my other articles on medical marijuana and watch my interview with Gedde, who also runs a Colorado-based alternative medical practice that specializes in cannabis use. Meanwhile, my interview with Todd Harrison, an attorney who specializes in food and drug law, expands on the current legal status of CBD oil and other homeopathic treatments. You can also read about the history of cannabis in this article ‘Cannabis: A Lost History,’ which includes other helpful resources about the medical benefits of this plant.

Words By Dr. Mercola

Originally posted on Mercola




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43 Responses to What Happens to Your Body When You Use Medical Marijuana?

  1. I can’t say anything against marijuana for medical purposes, but people who currently use pure spectrum cbd oil claim that CBD helps to feel calm and relaxed – and thus even helps to cope with everyday life problems. In addition, the CBD is believed to stimulate the endocannabinoid system if it is depleted or if your body’s overall funictionalization is impaired.

  2. I recently had a question – are cigarettes or marijuana more harmful to the body? Of course, everyone knows about the harm of cigarettes, but it does not prevent you from smoking more. Especially for avid smokers. This question interests me because I smoke both periodically. I’ve studied a lot of different information on this subject. And I found more detailed answers to all my questions in this https://dr-weedy.com/marijuana-vs-cigarettes-what-is-better-for-you/ article. I think it’s safer with marijuana after all. Naturally, within reason.

  3. It’s good to know that a lot of physicians have recognized the effectiveness and health benefits that we could get from consuming medical marijuana. I was told by my friend that it can help with my mild anxiety and she is the living proof, but I’m a bit hesitant at first. It might be better to consult a medical expert first before consuming medical marijuana.

  4. While uses medical marijuana, always take advice and guidance from a doctor. It is the safest way to take medical marijuana. The basic rule for dosing medical marijuana is to start with a low dose. Many patients are more comfortable with oral administration of medical marijuana.Need to take extra care for those. Consult the advice of your physician if you are a long-term user of medical marijuana and intend to stop using it. Marijuana Rehab- http://www.addictionrehabcenters.com

  5. Very interesting and useful article. But you must get a medical marijuana card before using it. By having a Medical Marijuana Card you can get a better experience of cannabis rather than the cannabis of recreational shops. You can get medical marijuana card from online very easily!

  6. What a great article Pal! You explain it it very well indeed and it will be helpful to people who are thinking using it but scared about its effects on the body. Thanks for sharing such a great knowledge.

  7. I never knew that there is an endocannabinoid system in the body that plays an important role in body processes. My mother has had a lot of joint pain in her knees and knuckles and needs to have some type of pain relief. This guide will be helpful when I consult a professional if and when she will need medicinal marijuana.

    • Glad you got some insights from the article Vivian 🙂 We highly recommend furthering your research however, as this is just like you say – a guide only.

      Blessings to you and your mother,
      Team UPLIFT

  8. I thought that it was interesting when you said that cannabis has been proven to play a part in making sure that your body processes such as metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, and anxiety are functioning well due to the cannabinoid receptors in your body. I have been trying to find a solution to the stress and anxiety that I experiene while at school and at work but I haven’t been able to resolve this issue yet. I will be sure to consider trying cannabis, after talking to my doctor, in order to hopefully receive help in recovering from my anxiety.

  9. Indeed, cannabis has plenty of health benefits. My dad and I used it now to manage our rheumatic arthritis. It runs in the family. It’s a good thing we have discovered it.

  10. I like how the article explains the different ways you can use medical marijuana. I never knew there could be so many ways to take medical marijuana. Thank you for informing me of how I can use medical marijuana.

  11. My cousins always rave about cannabis, so I wanted to get some new info on it! I didn’t know cannabis oil when applied to your sunburn, could help it heal overnight. That’s something that would really help my husband since he’s outside all day for his job, so I’ll look more into cannabis stores that are convenient for my family!

  12. I thought it was interesting how you said that cannabinoid receptors are found in your brain, lungs, and immune system. My sister has been struggling with anxiety and depression for the entirety of her adult life. It might be a good idea for her to try out medical marijuana to see if it helps her with her issues.

  13. I didn’t know that there was an endocannabinoid system already in the human body that are embedded in virtually all of our tissues. My family suffers a lot with arthritis and a few of the other diseases mentioned below! I’ll definitely have to look more into medical marijuana.

  14. I had no idea that marijuana could help with epilepsy and seizures. One of my friends has a lot of medical problems, so I think she might benefit from learning more about marijuana and it’s medical benefits. Thanks for all the great information on the benefits of medical marijuana.

  15. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 3 years ago at the age of 59. For several months I had noticed tremors in my right hand and the shaking of my right foot when I was sitting. My normally beautiful cursive writing was now small cramped printing. And I tended to lose my balance. Neurologist had me walk down the hall and said I didn’t swing my right arm. I had never noticed! I was in denial for a while as there is no history in my family of parents and five older siblings, but now accept I have classic symptoms. I am taking totalcureherbsfoundation.com herbal treatment  and am about to start physical therapy to strengthen muscles.this herbal treatment has full get rid of my PD after 15 weeks of usage and it has reversed all symptoms.

  16. Nice article…”Cannabinoid receptors can be found in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and immune system. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.8″ Great post!

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  18. I appreciate how you mentioned that medical marijuana can help with metabolic regulation. I had no idea! My sister is noticing that she’s keeping on the weight of everything she eats, and even though she exercises, she can’t seem to lose the extra weight. I’m sure she’d really benefit from talking to her doctor about medical cannabis so she can potentially get the metabolic regulation she’s been needing to get back to a healthy body weight. Thanks for the tips.

  19. It is interesting that medical cannabis was not illegal until the Vietnam war. Calling it a schedule one drug because of its abuse probably hurts the people that need it most. I’ll be interested what happens in the future since it is now being legalized.

  20. I never knew that the effectiveness of medical marijuana can be changed by the metabolism in your stomach. My wife told me that she has been experiencing some chronic pain, and she is concerned that she won’t be able to handle the pain with her new job. I will be sure to recommend to her that she talks with her doctor about her metabolism to find out if marijuana would help her!

  21. Medical marijuana is not being used in homeopathic remedies, as far as I know. Way too often the term homeopathy is used when referring to anything that is considered natural. Please do your research and make sure you are using proper terms.

  22. You makes this sound like if there would not be any problems at all using this. Makes me very upset since I have completely different experiences from my professional life where i meet people with problems due to using marijuana.
    I have been following Uplift for a long time and I now really don’t feel like doing it any more..

    • Dear Cecilia, thank you for your feedback. This article discusses medical marijuana which is non psychoactive, most likely your clients have been using psychoactive marijuana.

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