(NaturalHealth365) For aficionados of marijuana, “4:20” has long been a buzzword — a playful, coded reference to a customary time of day for lighting up. For those who live in states with the Compassionate Use law, the “4:20” ritual may be medically sanctioned, with cancer patients lighting up to seek relief from the nausea, poor appetite and vomiting caused by cancer treatments. Many patients also report that medical marijuana helps to alleviate neuropathic pain and ease the severe muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.
New research indicates the possibility of yet another medical boon from cannabis
In a groundbreaking study conducted by the University of East Anglia and published in the latest issue of Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers discovered that THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, has anti-cancer effects that work at the cellular level by way of previously undiscovered signaling platforms to slow the growth of tumors.
The team used human breast cancer cells to induce tumors in mice, then targeted the tumors with THC. A compound medically known as 9-delta-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is the “mind-altering” constituent in cannabis responsible for its mild hallucinogenic and mood-altering effects.
Scientists now seek to develop THC as a safe cancer therapy
Dr. Peter McCormick, a professor in UEA’s School of Pharmacy, reported that researchers already knew THC possessed anti-cancer properties; however, the mechanisms were not well understood and scientists did not know which cell receptors were responsible. The team was able to ascertain this, and identify the pair of cellular cannabinoid receptors as CB2 and GPR55.
McCormick, who called the study an “important step” towards the development of new cancer therapies, added that researchers are next looking to develop a synthetic version of THC with anti-cancer properties.
But, researchers have advice: don’t try this at home…
However, McCormick advised against cancer patients smoking marijuana to self-medicate, pointing out that the researchers obtained their results by using an isolated chemical compound in a highly specific concentration.
Recent study says that THC does help patients with pain
One of the compassionate uses of medical marijuana received scientific support with a recent University of Oxford study published in 2012 in the medical journal Pain. Researchers used brain imaging to show how THC in cannabis affects perception of pain, and found that although THC does not technically reduce pain, it makes patients perceive it as more bearable and less bothersome. While effects vary widely between individuals, some patients report effective pain relief from cannabis when other methods have failed.
Medical marijuana helps alleviate MS symptoms.
In a recent review by the American Academy of Neurology of scientific studies on medical marijuana, the authors noted that certain forms of medical marijuana can be helpful in alleviating the spasticity, burning sensations and numbness that can accompany multiple sclerosis. The review, published in the April, 2014 edition of Neurology, focused mainly on studies involving pill or oral spray forms of medical marijuana; a pair of studies in which the marijuana was smoked were found to be inconclusive.
The authors reported that there was not enough information to determine if medical marijuana is effective for treating symptoms of other conditions such as Huntingdon’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy, and called for more intensive, high-quality research to be conducted. It’s worth noting that medical marijuana experts like Dr. Dustin Sulak, never say that THC “cures” anything. But, if patients feel better – by using THC – and it’s not harmful, then they are more likely to engage in healthier lifestyle habits because they are so motivated by feeling better.
Doesn’t that make sense?
Guidance from a trusted healthcare provider is essential for success
Although medical marijuana appears to be helpful in many cases, some caveats accompany its usage – as with any therapy, the benefit must outweigh the potential harm. Researchers seem to agree that heavy marijuana smoking by young teens carries significant adverse effects; some have gone so far as to call marijuana “neurotoxic for the developing brain.” And, quite a few reputable studies have shown that cannabis use during pregnancy endangers fetal brain development. Like anything else, quality and quantity is everything.
It is vital to consult with your doctor or naturopathic physician in order to ascertain whether medical marijuana is right for you. If your doctor has no experience with medical marijuana – obviously, if you want to talk about this option, find a more experienced physician.
In any case, the discovery that THC can shrink tumors comes as a very welcome one. It is likely that medications derived from cannabis will play a vital role in treating the life-threatening disease of cancer in the future.