Cannabis as medicine?

As states legalize marijuana, the debate continues as to whether or not cannabis should be legalized on a national level. In May 2016, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act went into effect. This law allows marijuana to be given to people with terminal illness or with at least one of 17 medical conditions. As of May 2018, anyone in opioid-withdrawal treatment qualifies for state-regulated cannabis use. A patient must be under the ongoing care of a physician licensed to certify that he/she will benefit from cannabis use.

Recent studies show that cannabis has a multitude of benefits that can help treat many illnesses and conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression/anxiety, irritable bowel disease and diabetes.

Marijuana is a psychotropic drug that can be consumed in pill form, by smoking, vaping or through edible consumption. There are over a thousand strains that are separated into three categories: indicas, sativas and hybrids.

An indica strain causes amplification of physical sensations. Indicas are typically used for overall relaxation. They contain more cannabinoids (CBD) than THC. Sativas, on the other hand, tend to give a more energized experience and contain more THC than CBD. Hybrids can give you the effects of both, depending on what is more dominant. Indicas can help alleviate symptoms of chronic pain, depression/anxiety, arthritis, etc., while sativas can help alleviate chronic pain, nausea, headaches and migraines.

The THC-to-CBD ratio varies between the different strains and types. CBD is a chemical in marijuana that provides significant medical benefits and does not get the user high. It can be found in the cannabis flower, oils, topicals, edibles and some hemp products. In fact, the human body produces naturally occurring cannabinoids with sufficient amounts of omega-3.

THC is the chemical in marijuana that acts on the central nervous system, which alters the senses, changes a person’s mood and can help reduce pain. CBD helps with inflammation, seizures, pain and relaxation. Although CBD and THC have individual benefits, they work together as a unit. For example, along with THC, CBD can reduce some of the anxiety that THC causes, as well as provide relief for different types of pain than THC can. Each strain has different variations of CBD and THC. More medical research will determine which strains work better for specific conditions.

In Philadelphia, Jefferson University Hospital recently opened The Lambert Center, making it the first major health-science university to research cannabis and hemp in medicine. Other schools may follow their lead. With time, growing research can lead to understanding the benefits of cannabis use in various populations. 

Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer through her business, Vigor Vida Fitness & Wellness. She is an energetic and positive person who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness. She trains her clients out of Optimal Sports Club and offers in-home training in Philadelphia and on the Main Line.