4 Tips for researching Medical Cannabis
There is so much in the news and on the web about medical cannabis and many of you are wondering how to separate hype from the facts. Well the internet is full of both hype and facts so do your due diligence and as you search I recommend that you stick to reputable sites. Here are some facts for you to ponder and to direct your search.
Tip #1: Start with the Endocannbinoid System
If you’re new to the medical cannabis world start with some searches on the endocannbinoid system. It’s a system of cellular protein receptors and bioactive lipids that already exist inside of you that helps to keep your body in balance. It helps to regulate the functioning of numerous systems of your body including your central nervous system, you immune system, your musculoskeletal system and your gastrointestinal system, just to name a few. The endocannabinoid system is one of the major reasons why when someone uses cannabis, they experience the psycho-active or mind altering effects or ‘high’ because some of the compounds in cannabis (referred to as cannabinoids) bind to receptors in your body to produce those effects. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the most notable chemical or cannabinoid that produces that ‘high’. Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, also known as photo-cannabinoids, works through the endocannbinoid system and are also the reason why cannabis can be used to treat pain, inflammation and neurodegenerative disorders, just to name a few.
Tip #2: Search for Cannabinoid Receptors – e.g., CB1 and CB2
The endocannabinoid system comprises of receptors present on cells (called cannabinoid receptors) and naturally occurring substances in your body (called endocannabinoids) that bind to the receptors and activate them. At a very basic level, when the systems in the body are out of balance the body will produce these endocannabinoids on demand. These endocannabinoids are called anandamide and 2 Arachidonylglycerol (2AG). As our body becomes stressed either due to illnesses, emotional or mental strain, or aging, the endocannbinoid system can become dysfunctional and when used appropriately, medical cannabis can help to get your body back into a state of homeostasis or balance because the Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, referred to as phytocannabinoids, can bind to your body’s internal receptors and activate the endocannabinoid system. So if you’re looking to start with the basics do a search on the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoid receptors and read to your hearts delight!
Tip #3: To get beyond the hype, consider searching for the Scientific Evidence.
If you want more scientific information you can search ‘scholarly articles on the endocannabinoid system” or ‘scholarly articles on cannabinoids’. That’s what I do to keep up with the scientific information and in the era of instantaneous information that can be quite a task! No one person knows all the scholarly information that has been published but there are tens of thousands of scholarly articles written on this subject that support the use of medical cannabis as anti-inflammatory, analgesic, neuro-protective and anti-oxidant agents. There is certainly no shortage of scholarly articles! For fellow physicians, I highly recommend that you do this because it can open your eyes to the ways in which patients can be helped if we translate what is known in the literature to the physiology of many disease processes. When you can do that, you will find that patients can often times benefit from medical cannabis with less harmful side effects and that they can reduce the number of medications that they take. Since the cannbinoid receptors are expressed throughout the body, (I will post more specifically on this later), the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids are extensive. Despite the fact that more research is needed, there is no reason that we, as physicians, cannot help patients as we translate the scientific evidence that does exist into clinical practice.
Tip #4: Search for patient information on medical cannabis.
There are numerous organizations, academic institutions, and commercial websites sites that provide patient information and attempt to translate the science to patient information. If you want to find information that is more user friendly and without a lot of complicated medical words then you can search “patient information on the endocannabinoid system” or ‘patient information and medical cannabis”. You’re smart! Use your discretion as you ‘weed’ through the sea of information that you have at your finger tips! Learn the difference between the facts based on scientific evidence and the hype. While there is a vast amount of knowledge that is lacking in the filed of medical cannabis, there is an equally vast amount of knowledge that we do know from pre-clinical, in-vitro and in-vivo animal studies as well as case studies and there is certainly no shortage of evidence to support the use of cannabis and the amazing compounds that are found in the plant, to treat many medical illnesses.
As always, let me know if you have any questions! This is meant to be just a super basic introduction to the endocannabinoid system so read some more as you google away because medical cannabis is more than just hype! It’s helping many people to improve their health AND their quality of life! If you think that this might be right for you, find a qualified physician nearby who truly understands the scientific and medical literature on cannabinoids so they can help determine if it is right for you! I see so many patients who are being helped with medical cannabis and it is my hope that through education, advocacy, research and innovation we can help even more individuals in this hurting world!
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