There are more than 60 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, cannabis.
The two most abundant elements in marijuana are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). For many centuries, marijuana has been smoked for its medicinal properties.
In the United States, cannabis was part of the Pharmacopoeia until it was made illegal following federal legislation in 1942.
Despite its widespread illegal status around the world, the potential health benefits of marijuana have sparked the interests of scientists, researchers, healthcare providers and patients alike.
Considerable research has been conducted on the benefits of medicinal marijuana over the last 20 years.
Quite recently, several studies have revealed promising new data on some of the positive aspects of medicinal marijuana.
Herein is a comprehensive account on some of these new benefits.
EFFECT ON ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
According to recent preliminary health studies by Salk Institute authored by Professor David Schubert, THC and several other compounds present in marijuana can aid the removal of amyloid beta through cellular means.
Amyloid beta is a toxic protein that has been associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects memory and can significantly hamper a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
It is one of the leading causes of dementia and death, and according to documentation by the National Institute of Health; it affects more than 5 million people in the United States alone.
Studies on this toxic protein have always shown that it builds up within the nerve cells of aging brains even before the signs of Alzheimer’s disease such as plaques begin to manifest.
In the Salk manuscript that was featured in June’s Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, researchers stated that they studied nerve cells that were modified to mimic those affected with Alzheimer’s.
They found that exposure to THC led to the reduction of the amyloid beta proteins and curbed inflammation in the cells thus enabling them to survive.
It is important to note that these studies at Salk were conducted on neurons that were grown in a laboratory.
Nonetheless, they do offer a new look into the functions of inflammation in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
This could provide the right foundation for researchers to discover novel treatment options for the neurological disorder.
Other studies have always found evidence of the neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids, particularly against Alzheimer’s symptoms.
However, the researchers at Salk Institute strongly believe that their study is among the first to show the effects of cannabinoids on inflammation as well as the accumulation of amyloid beta protein in the nerve cells.
Although Schubert reiterated that the use of THC for neurological therapy of Alzheimer’s would need clinical trial testing, this study should come as good news for medicinal marijuana advocates.
LOWER PRESCRIPTION DRUG USE
Medicinal marijuana has been legalized in 25 states around the United States in recent years.
While this aspect has faced significant obstacles, recent research points to unexpected benefits.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia was published in the Health Affairs July issue.
The study revealed that medicinal marijuana led to lower usage of prescription drugs in the states that had legalized it.
As a result, these states made considerable savings in Medicare estimated at $165 million.
The report speculated that savings in Medicare would have exceeded $460 million if all states had legalized medicinal marijuana. This study also reveals several other positive aspects.
First, it does show that people are actually using medical marijuana for the right reasons including treatment of chronic pain, glaucoma, anxiety or depression and not for recreational purposes as largely feared.
Secondly, it can help with the ongoing debate regarding the advantages and disadvantages of legalizing medical marijuana.
The researchers are definitely positive that widespread legalization of medical marijuana would ease Medicare costs and provide significant budget relief in the long term.
There are many other recent studies that add to the body of evidence of medicinal properties of marijuana such as antiemetic properties, effectiveness against cancer, pain relief, PTSD relief and treatment of other neurological disorders.
However, the complete implementation of marijuana into mainstream disease therapy still has a long way to go.
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