Cannabis is an herb that has been used as a natural treatment for thousands of years, and can be used in various ways outside of just smoking. However, when considering it as a natural treatment it is important to remember that there are many different strains and only some of them are safe enough to treat and alleviate symptoms (even in children), while others can be used more recreationally.
How Cannabis Works
The leaves, flowers, and buds are harvested to create products with recreational or medicinal properties. Cannabis can be smoked, applied on the skin, cooked in food, and brewed into tea. People use this herb to relax or treat chronic pain. (8)
Cannabis is made up of compounds called cannabinoids, with the primary compounds being THC and CBD. THC, also called Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is psychoactive, whereas CBD, also called cannabidiol, is found in medical cannabis. (4) These compounds move from your stomach or lungs into your bloodstream, through which they reach the brain and act on specific brain receptors that release dopamine and make you feel relaxed. (1)
The main difference between the two compounds is how they bind to CB1 receptors in the brain. TCH can bind perfectly to the receptors, which causes feelings of euphoria, but CBD doesn’t bind as well and is less likely to activate the receptors. TCH, therefore, stimulates the receptors, but CBD suppresses THC’s negative effects. (7)
Research shows that strains containing a high percentage of THC and low percentage of CBD can be dangerous to your mental health as THC can cause psychosis, paranoia, and impair your cognitive abilities. (4) CBD, however, inhibits the harmful effects of THC. In a study, participants received CBD or a placebo orally, and after 3.5 hours, they received THC intravenously. The group that received CBD was less likely to exhibit psychotic symptoms and poor memory than the placebo group.
All cannabis strains have more THC than CBD, but the levels of CBD don’t need to be higher than those of THC to block its effects. High THC strains usually have more than 20% of THC, whereas high CBD strains have more than 4% of CBD. Some THC-high strains include Girl Scout Cookies, Kosher Kush, and Bruce Banner, (10) whereas some of the CBD strains are Charlotte’s Web, Harlequin, and Sour Tsunami. (2) Cannabis products usually include the THC and CBD volume on the package, so be sure to look for that information to get the appropriate strain for you.
Research shows that CBD has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and it can protect the central nervous system. People use CBD to treat pain in HIV and multiple sclerosis patients, chronic pain, glaucoma, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea after chemotherapy. CBD has also been used to treat seizures for centuries, but modern medicine is not entirely convinced of its effects on epilepsy due to lack of research. (3)
Despite insufficient research, it’s worth noting the case of Charlotte Figi, a girl who started having constant seizures when she was 3 months old and was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, which caused her to have up to 1,200 seizures per month. Her seizures were significantly reduced when her parents decided to treat her with medical cannabis oil and today she’s almost seizure-free.