4 Things to Know about Medical Cannabis and Inflammatory Diseases

Research into medical cannabis is booming. A number of studies are investigating cannabinoids’ role in treating many different health conditions. Some areas of emerging research right now include epilepsy treatment, the treatment of chronic pain, and many more.

There are only a handful of completed studies in most of these areas, and the evidence supporting cannabis as a treatment for most conditions is currently low quality. As more studies are completed, a more complete picture about the role cannabinoids can play in human health will emerge.

Another area where medical marijuana and other cannabinoid products have shown some promise is in the treatment of inflammatory diseases. These diseases include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Researchers are actively investigating the role medical cannabis could eventually play in helping treat these conditions.

1. THC and CBD Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

A review published in the journal Pharmacological Research suggested several different mechanisms for cannabinoids act on the endocannabinoid system in the human body.

Since cannabinoids and endocannabinoids produced naturally by the human body are so similar, cannabinoids can act on this system within the human body. There are several different ways cannabinoids could affect any number of functions in a human being, including the immune system.

The review indicates both CBD and THC, which are the best-known and most medically significant cannabinoids, could act on immune functioning to trigger an anti-inflammatory response. Another review from the University of South Carolina indicated the immunological effects of cannabinoids were caused by the substances acting on cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 in the body, which induced a number of changes and led to lower levels of inflammation.

2. It Could Reduce the Intensity of Joint Pain

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicated arthritis patients reported decreased pain intensity when they were treated with medical cannabis.

The study randomly assigned patients to a group scheduled to receive medical cannabis treatment in one of four potencies. The trial was conducted over four two-week periods. Each two-week period was followed by a nine-day “washout,” meaning the patients did not use cannabis. Patients were asked to rate the intensity of their pain on an 11-point scale before, during, and after the study.

The results indicated a single inhalation of 25 mg of 9.4 percent THC cannabis, three times daily for five days, decreased patients’ self-reported pain intensity.

3. It May Improve Sleep

The same study in CMAJ also indicated the same dosage with 9.4 percent THC cannabis helped improve the sleep of these arthritis patients. This coincides with other studies indicating medical cannabis could be useful in the treatment of various sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.

Obviously, a single study looking at self-reported sleep quality and pain intensity is not enough to establish cannabis as an effective treatment. Nonetheless, it does seem to indicate medical cannabis could play a role in helping patients with inflammatory diseases obtain a better night’s rest.

4. It Could Reduce Inflammatory Symptoms

Additional research is needed to verify almost all results, but preliminary studies show cannabis seems to have great promise as a potential treatment for inflammatory diseases. Some research has demonstrated CBD to be effective in reducing joint inflammation and swelling. THC has been implicated in the treatment of atherosclerosis.

It’s also worth noting cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 are widely distributed in the digestive tract. If cannabis does have anti-inflammatory properties that work by acting on these receptors, it could mean it could play a role in controlling and treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Time will tell just what role cannabis will play in future treatments for all kinds of inflammatory diseases.