Printed in Sweat Equity Magazine November 2017
Mary Jane. Ganga. Reefer. Grass. Weed. Dope. Bud. Herb. Cannabis. These are but a few of the many, many slang words and street terms for the more commonly referenced “pot,” or marijuana.
Cannabis is the plant species from which the flowering bud grows and is used for its recreational, medicinal, spiritual, and therapeutic properties. Its use dates back thousands of years to approximately the third millennium, BC, and although prohibited and classified as a Level 1 narcotic until fairly recently, it is verifiably the most widely used illegal drug in the world. Globally, between 128 and 232 million people between the ages of 15 and 65 have reported using cannabis.
The 1970s saw a tremendous upsurge in the number of people smoking pot recreationally, which went hand in hand with the freedom of choice and uninhibited personal expression that marked the hippie movement. Recent science, however, has focused on the impact of different strains of the cannabis sativa plant on various health conditions, widely ranging from anorexia and insomnia to muscular dystrophy and even cancer. The vast amount of anecdotal evidence encouraged most states in the US to decriminalize the use of pot for medicinal purposes, and the inauguration of our prime minister in 2015 has seen Canada recently following suit. Canadians are expecting to legally grow, commercially purchase, and freely use marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes as soon as 2018.
Of greatest interest to health seekers, however, is not the drug’s capacity to invoke feelings of euphoria, or being “stoned,” but its ability to draw people away from a pharmaceutical reliance towards a holistic approach to wellness (with arguably few or no side effects, unlike the products of Big Pharma).
Medical marijuana has been legal since 2000. The following are just a few conditions for which doctors are prescribing cannabis to their patients:
• Headaches and migraines
• Parkinson’s disease
• AIrritable bowel syndrome
• Muscle spasm
(For a more exhaustive list, go to medicalmarijuana.ca.)
So how does a single plant treat such a vast array of health conditions, each with their own distinct symptomatology? The mechanism for the positive effect is fascinating. THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid (another word for ‘chemical’) in marijuana. Remarkably, the human body produces a natural version of this compound, called endocannabinoids, which helps the body to regulate various stimuli, specifically aiding in the secretion of hormones related to reproduction and stress. These chemicals are found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, the connective tissue, glands, organs, immune cells, and so on, and are particularly prominent in the brain. The THC in marijuana attaches to these receptor sites, creating a chemical response—what is experienced as a therapeutic effect. It is this extensive endocannabinoid system dispersed throughout the body that makes the THC in marijuana so efficient and successful. Various strains of the plant are said to produce different results, and although these aren’t yet precisely defined, extensive research is currently being carried out to this end.
Whether you endorse or oppose the use of this ancient herb for medicinal purposes, it appears to be here for the long haul.