Cannabis has been used as a homeopathic remedy for centuries, and with new technological advances in science, we are coming to realize the phenomenal power of this plant.
Now that legal restrictions are lifting, the cannabis plant is starting to be rigorously researched to explore it’s chemistry and implications for human health.
Cannabis And Pain Management
Much of the research surrounding marijuana concerns tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the cannabinoids of marijuana. THC is what makes people feel high, but it is also what provides the body with a variety of different health benefits (such as increased appetite for those with cancer).
The body actually creates its own natural version of cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, and studies show that the endocannabinoid system helps the body regulate to different stimuli (1). Endocannabinoid receptors are mostly concentrated in the brain, but are found all throughout the body. The cannabinoid THC will actively bind to these receptors once it enters the body, producing various effects, such as reducing pain and anxiety (and also the feeling of being high).
Another cannabinoid in marijuana (among the 85 of them) is cannabidiol (CBD), which isn’t psychoactive at all, and provides the body with pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. It is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis and some studies have shown that it may outperform traditional medication when treating inflammatory pain (2).
The mechanism by which CBD works to relieve pain is a complex one, but it basically works like this:
1. Peripheral nerves contain cannabinoid receptors.
2. Once CBD enters the bloodstream, it attaches to these receptors and blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.
Cannabinoids also have the ability to regulate the immune system to allow the body to heal on its own (3). Beta-caryophyllene (a non-psychoactive compound), is another cannabinoid that provides a dual approach to inflammation and neural pain reception.
There are also terpenes present in marijuana, another family of cannabinoid-like chemicals that have been utilized for their ability to reduce pain.
Safety of Cannabis
With over 30% of Americans suffering from chronic pain, finding ways of alternative pain management are important to help reduce unnecessary pill-popping.
In fact, utilizing medical cannabis to manage chronic pain has dramatically reduced the need for opioid painkillers:
“Patients using medical marijuana to control chronic pain reported a 64 percent reduction in their use of more traditional prescription pain medications…[patients] also reported fewer side effects from their medications and a 45-percent improvement in quality of life since using cannabis to manage pain…We are learning that the higher the dose of opioids people are taking, the higher the risk of death from overdose… patients in this study rated cannabis to be equally effective [as opioids] for those with different pain severity.” (4)
In the US alone, in the states that have legalized medical marijuana use, there has been a 25% reduction in the number of overdose deaths. In contrast, no one has ever died from an overdose of medical marijuana.
Dr. Leslie Iversen, a leading scientist at Oxford University’s department of pharmacology, states that cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious side effects (5). Medical cannabis will simply improve pain management, bodily function, quality of life and cognitive function.
Cannabis and Fibromyalgia
A multitude of studies have found the beneficial effects that medical marijuana has on patients suffering from fibromyalgia or other nerve-related pain issues like diabetic neuropathy and multiple sclerosis.
Most individuals with these conditions are treated with acetaminophen, prescription pain relievers, anti-depressants and anti-seizure medication, however, many patients have been self-medicating with medical marijuana, and the results have been promising (6). In a 2014 survey from the National Pain Foundation, they found that 62% of fibromyalgia patients ranked marijuana as very effective at treating pain and other symptoms – the other 33% found that it helped a little. In contrast, traditional drugs were rated as very effective only 8-10% of the time, with only 22-32% helping a little.
Small human trials of cannabis for diabetic neuropathy have also been found to be successful. One study found that in patients with diabetic neuropathy of the feet, marijuana successfully reduced pain symptoms in a dose-dependent manner (7).
The Cannabis Pain Patch
One company called Cannabis Science, has recently come out with a revolutionary new topical application of cannabis. It is essentially a cannabis-infused transdermal patch that you can put on your skin to allow it to deliver its powerful pain-fighting medicine.
It is being marketed for the treatment of fibromyalgia and neuropathy pain, however its application can be expanded to many other diagnoses (bad back, anyone?). It would be similar to a nicotine patch, except instead of nicotine being absorbed into the bloodstream, it’d be cannabis.
In a press release announcing the new pain patch, Cannabis Science SEO Raymond Dabney stated that “the development of these two new pharmaceutical medicinal applications are just the top of the iceberg for what we see as the future for Cannabis Science…the patch provides a controlled release of the medication into the patient, usually through either a porous membrane covering a reservoir of medication or through body heat melting thin layers of medication embedded in the adhesive, which will be containing high potency cannabinoid (CBD) extract that slowly enters into the bloodstream and then penetrates the central nervous system” (8).
Being CBD, the patch, when placed on the area of pain in the body, will simply provide pain relief, instead of getting you high. With no THC, the patch cannot get you high.
Cannabis Science isn’t the only company that has devised trans-dermal cannabis-infused pain patches. Mary’s Medicinals offers them too, for any medical cannabis patients in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Michigan, and Oregon.
Another company, Pure Ratios CBD, also offers a 96 hour transdermal CBD patch, with very great reviews.
Now we just need to wait until these patches get approved everywhere in the world, so everyone can benefit. Keep in mind that most inflammatory-related pain in the body is triggered by underlying causes. Changing your diet, stress levels, and lifestyle can greatly improve the way your body feels. Using cannabis while going through these changes can greatly improve your way of life, and provide you with a great support, naturally.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article. This is simply for educational purposes, and was not paid to mention these companies.