Cannabis has been used as medicine throughout history.
The following is shared by Susan Rutherford
A Note from Americans for Safe Access
Scientific Research Advances
Conventional Arthritis Medications
“One of marihuana’s greatest advantages as a medicine is its remarkable safety. It has little effect on major physiological functions. There is no known case of a lethal overdose; on the basis of animal models, the ratio of lethal to effective dose is estimated as 40,000 to 1. By comparison, the ratio is between 3 and 50 to 1 for secobarbital and between 4 and 10 to 1 for ethanol. Marihuana is also far less addictive and far less subject to abuse than many drugs now used as muscle relaxants, hypnotics, and analgesics. The chief legitimate concern is the effect of smoking on the lungs. Cannabis smoke carries even more tars and other particulate matter than tobacco smoke. But the amount smoked is much less, especially in medical use, and once marihuana is an openly recognized medicine, solutions may be found; ultimately a technology for the inhalation of cannabinoid vapors could be developed.”
Cannabis or Marinol?
The Experience of Doctors
Ethan Russo, M.D.
Arnold S. Leff, M.D.
Harvey L. Rose, M.D.
Does Marijuana Help Arthritis?
More than 31 million Americans suffer from arthritis. There are two common types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, but both affect the joints, causing pain and swelling, and limiting movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Instead of fighting off intruders such as bacteria or viruses, the body attacks the synovial membranes, which facilitate the movement of joints, eventually destroying cartilage and eroding bones. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common among the aged, whose immune systems are no longer as robust or efficient. Osteoarthritis, or arthritis of the bones, is also found primarily among the elderly, where cartilage has been worn away through many years of use. Arthritis may also manifest as chronic inflammation of the joints as the result of injuries.
The use of cannabis as a treatment for musclo-skeletal pain in western medicine dates to the 1700s. Evidence from recent research suggests that cannabis-based therapies are effective in the treatment of arthritis and the other rheumatic and degenerative hip, joint and connective tissue disorders. Since these are frequently extremely painful conditions, the well-documented analgesic properties of cannabis make it useful in treating the pain associated with arthritis, both on its own and as an adjunct therapy that enhances the efficacy of opioid painkillers.
But cannabis has also been shown to have powerful immune-modulation and anti-inflammatory properties,suggesting that it could play a role in treating arthritis, and not just in symptom management. In fact, one of the earliest records of medical use of cannabis, a Chinese text dating from ca. 2000 BC, notes that cannabis “undoes rheumatism,” suggesting its anti-inflammatory effects were known even then.
Modern research on cannabidiol (CBD), one of the non-psychoactive components of cannabis, has found that it suppresses the immune response in mice and rats that is responsible for a disease resembling arthritis, protecting them from severe damage to their joints and markedly improving their condition.
Human studies have shown cannabis to be an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, one of the many recognized conditions for which many states allow legal medical use. Cannabis has a demonstrated ability to improve mobility and reduce morning stiffness and inflammation. Research has also shown that patients are able to reduce their usage of potentially harmful Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) when using cannabis as an adjunct therapy.
Medical researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem found that when Cannabidiol is metabolized, one result is the creation of an acid with potent anti-inflammatory action comparable to the drug indomethacin, but without the considerable gastrointestinal side effects associated with that drug.
In addition, when the body metabolizes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of cannabis’ primary components, it produces a number of related chemicals. At least one of these metabolites has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. By modifying this metabolite, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center have produced a synthetic carboxylic acid known as CT-3 (also called DMH-11C, chemical name dimethylheptyl-THC-11 oic acid), which is more powerful than the natural metabolite itself, and thus can be given in smaller doses. Animal tests found CT-3 effective against both chronic and acute inflammation, and it also prevented destruction of joint tissue from chronic inflammation. The long safety record of marijuana – no one has ever died of an overdose – and the fact that a metabolite with the desired anti-inflammatory effect is produced in the body when marijuana is used, strongly suggest that safe and effective anti-inflammatory drugs may be developed from cannabinoids.
In addition, CT3 has demonstrated analgesic effects in animals. In some cases the dose-dependent effect of THC was equivalent to morphine, but with a much greater duration of action.
In contrast to the NSAIDs commonly prescribed arthritis sufferers, CT3 did not cause ulcers at therapeutically relevant doses. Moreover, it does not depress respiration, exhibit dependence, induce body weight loss or cause mutations. Studies on its mechanism of action are currently underway, with cytokine synthesis one of the pathways being studied.
Cannabis may also help combat rheumatoid arthritis through its well-recognized immune-modulation properties. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by dysregulation of the immune system in response to an initial infection or trauma. Over-activity of the immune system’s B-cells causes antibodies to attack and destroy the synovial tissues located in the joint.
The immuno-modulatory properties of a group of fats found in cannabis known as sterols and sterolins have been used as natural alternatives to conventional rheumatoid arthritis treatments, which employ highly toxic drugs to either suppress the entire immune response of the body or to palliate pain and the inflammatory process without correcting the underlying immune dysfunction.
Cytokines play a role in either fueling or suppressing the inflammation that causes damage in rheumatoid arthritis and some other diseases. The release of selected cytokines is impaired by cannabis, but the findings differ by cell type, experimental conditions, and especially the concentration of the cannabinoids examined. A sterol/sterolin combination has been experimentally demonstrated to reduce the secretion of the pro-inflammatory cytokines controlled by the TH2 helper cells and to increase the number of TH helper cells that regulate the secretion of antibodies from the B cells. This selective activation and inhibition of the immune system results is an effective control of the dysfunctional auto-immune response.
Similarly, ajulemic acid (another non-psychoactive cannabinoid) has been found by UMass Medical Center researchers to reduce joint tissue damage in rats with adjuvant arthritis. Tests on human tissue done in vitro showed a 50% suppression of one of the body’s chemicals (interleukin-1beta) central to the progression of inflammation and joint tissue injury in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Conventional Arthritis Medications
Nearly 100 medications are listed by the Arthritis Foundation website for use with arthritis or other related conditions, such as fibromyalgia, psoriasis, osteoporosis and gout. These medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen and other oral and topical analgesics that dull pain. The most commonly used analgesic, acetaminophen (aspirin-free Anacin, Excedrin, Panadol, Tylenol) is usually not associated with side effects, though long-term use of acetaminophen is thought to be one of the common causes of end-stage renal disease.. To effectively control arthritis, aspirinmust be taken in large, continuous doses (1000-5400 mg daily), which can cause stomach pain or damage; it is believed to cause more than 1,000 deaths annually in the United States. For that reason, some doctors prescribe one of several chemical variations referred to asnonacetylated salicylates, such as CMT, Tricosal, and Trilisate, which can cause deafness or ringing in the ears in large doses.
Much stronger analgesics are also prescribed for arthritis, sometimes along with acetaminophen. These are: codeine (Dolacet, Hydrocet, Lorcet, Lortab); morphine (Avinza, Oramorph); oxycodone (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Roxicodone); propoxyphene (Percocet, Darvon, Darvocet) and tramadol (Ultram, Ultracet). These medicines can cause psychological and physical dependence, as well as constipation, dizziness, lightheadedness, mood changes, nausea, sedation, shortness of breath and vomiting. Taking high doses or mixing with alcohol can slow down breathing, a potentially fatal condition.
Analgesics don’t treat the inflammation that can cause severe arthritis pain. For inflammation, steroids, NSAIDs and newer COX-2 inhibitors are prescribed. Corticosteroids (Cortisone), prednisone and related medications can cause bruising, cataracts, elevated blood sugar, hypertension, increased appetite, disease.. To effectively control arthritis, aspirin restlessness, osteoporosis, susceptibility to infection and thin skin.
Twenty NSAIDs are available with a doctor’s prescription, with three of those also available over the counter. They are diclofenac (Arthrotec, Cataflam, Voltaren); diflunisal (Dolobid);etodolac (Lodine); fenoprofen calcium
(Nalfon); flurbiprofen (Ansaid); ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Nuprin); indomethacin (Indocin); ketoprofen (Orudis); meclofenamatesodium
(Meclomen); mefenamic acid (Ponstel); meloxicam (Mobic);nabumetone(Relafen); naproxen (Naprosyn, Naprelan); naproxen sodium (Anaprox, Aleve);oxaprozin (Daypro); piroxicam (Feldene);sulindac (Clinoril); and olmetin sodium (Tolectin).
Side effects of NSAIDs include abdominal or stomach cramps, edema (swelling of the feet), pain or discomfort, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness or lightheadedness, headache, heartburn or indigestion, nausea or vomiting, gastric ulcers, stomach irritation, bleeding, fluid retention, and decreased kidney function. This is because NSAIDs act on arthritis by inhibiting prostaglandins, which protect the stomach lining, promote clotting of the blood, regulate salt and fluid balance, and maintain blood flow to the kidneys. The gastrointestinal complications of NSAIDS are the most commonly reported serious adverse drug reaction, though NSAIDs are reported to cause more than 10,000 deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations annually.
The newer group of arthritis drugs is known as cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors (COX-2), which include Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx. These medications have the same side effects as NSAIDS, except they are less likely to cause bleeding stomach ulcers and increase susceptibility to bruising or bleeding.
Non-selective NSAIDS have been associated with an increased risk of congestive heart failure. Less is known or has been concluded about the cardiovascular effects of COX-2 inhibitors, though a retrospective analysis of the risk of hospital admission for heart failure done by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, Canada suggests some may have serious side effects. The study of 130,000 older patients found that those using Vioxx had an 80% increased risk of hospital admission for congestive heart failure. Those using non-selective NSAIDS had a 40% increased risk, and those using Celebrex had the same rate of heart failure as people who had never used NSAIDS.
Antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects of NSAIDs can mask the signs and symptoms of infection. Their use can interfere with the pharmacologic control of hypertension and cardiac failure in patients who take beta-adrenergic antagonists, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, or diuretics. Long-term use may damage chondrocyte (cartilage) function.
About 60% of patients will respond to any single NSAID. Approximately 10% of rheumatoid arthritis patients will not respond to any NSAID. Biologic response modifiers such as adalimumab (Humira); etanercept (Enbrel); infliximab (Remicade), and anakinra (Kineret)) are prescribed to either inhibit or the supplement the immune system components called cytokines.
Rare reports of lupus (with such symptoms as rash, fever and pleurisy) have been linked to treatment with adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab. Lupus symptoms resolve when the medication is stopped.
Multiple sclerosis has rarely developed in patients receiving biologic response modifiers. Seizures have been reported with etanercept.
Cannabis: By comparison, the side effects associated with cannabis are typically mild and are classified as “low risk.” Euphoric mood changes are among the most frequent side effects. Cannabinoids can exacerbate schizophrenic psychosis in predisposed persons. Cannabinoids impede cognitive and psychomotor performance, resulting in temporary impairment. Chronic use can lead to the development of tolerance. Tachycardia and hypotension are frequently documented as adverse events in the cardiovascular system. A few cases of myocardial ischemia have been reported in young and previously healthy patients. Inhaling the smoke of cannabis cigarettes induces side effects on the respiratory system. Cannabinoids are contraindicated for patients with a history of cardiac ischemia. In summary, a low risk profile is evident from the literature available. Serious complications are very rare and are not usually reported during the use of cannabinoids for medical indications.
Source: Americans for Safe Access
We spend a lot of time discussing the latest in scientific research when it comes to all healing plants, and of late the natural health world has had a lot to say about cannabis. New studies are indicating the plant and its constituents are useful in treating a myriad of conditions, all without the side effects of conventional medicines. But these studies only go so far in bringing home the true power of the plant. Real-life stories, where marijuana was used to treat someone who had no other hope, are testaments to just how important it is that we keep marijuana reform momentum moving.
While there are numerous real-life stories out there—many of which that will tug at your heart strings—here are just 4 of our favorites:
- 1. Cashy Hyde – Cashy Hyde was only two years old when he was diagnosed with a deadly stage 4 brain tumor. Going through conventional chemotherapy treatment and stem cell therapy, he began wasting away. He stopped eating, would vomit throughout the day, and his parents were told he would die. It was only after they began adding cannabis oil to his feeding tube that he began eating again and restored some quality to his short life. While Cashy ultimately died from the invasive brain tumor, his parents credit cannabis with keeping him alive as long as he was and for giving him a reason to smile in his final days.
- 2. Cheryl Shuman – Celebrity Cheryl Shuman was a cancer patient taking 27 different pharmaceutical drugs each day. She used a morphine pump and, at her worst, a colostomy bag. She described herself as a “vegetable” in those days. After only 90 days of cannabis use, she was healed and back to work full time. Now, Shuman operates the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and has been featured on the talk show circuit, spreading the word about the healing powers of marijuana.
- 3. Charlotte Figi – We first featured Charlotte earlier this year when her name became synonymous with the miraculous powers of cannabis. Suffering from a seizure disorder that could not be cured, doctors wanted to put her in a medical coma. Many of the hundreds of seizures she experienced each week of her little life nearly killed her. At age 5, she was given the opportunity to use cannabis oil under Colorado’s medical marijuana laws. Her seizures stopped immediately. Now, she is a completely different child.
- 4. Kristen Courtney – With numerous diagnoses including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, Kristen Courtney was on a cocktail of 40 different medications. She was bedridden for four years for her various medical problems, and her family believed she would certainly die. After a little over a month of juicing raw cannabis, her pain disappeared and she began to heal.
There are countless other stories like this out there, stories where the vilified marijuana has worked to preserve people’s quality of life and even save their lives. As long as the plant remains illegal, we are depriving the sickest among us from a chance at life.
Auto-immune disorders occur when the body’s immune system turns on itself, attacking healthy cells as if they were dangerous invaders. These conditions are usually chronic and can significantly impact the quality of life for people who suffer with them. So what’s a solution? One recent study indicates tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component in marijuana, could provide groundbreaking results in the treatment of these auto-immune disorders.
THC and other compounds found within marijuana have been hot topics in the world of medicine of late, as laws are changing and people are becoming more amenable to this natural herb. It’s been identified as a useful treatment in pain disorders, anxiety and depression, digestive problems, seizures, cancer, and even HIV.
MicroRNAs, or MiRNAs, have a significant impact on the immune system. They act as “brakes that target more than 60% of all gene expression.” In injecting mice with THC and analyzing their RNA, the researchers found 13 miRNAs that were highly altered by the THC.
While it’s believed the MiRNA regulation of gene expression is crucial in a wide range of biological processes, their use in the regulating the “development, differentiation and function of a variety of immune cells including myeloid cells” is of particular interest.
THC impacts the expression of one miRNA in particular, miRNA-690. When greatly over-expressed, as it is in the presence of THC, miRNA targets a protein called C/EBPα, which triggers cells that suppress inflammation.
Lead author Dr. Venkatesh Hegde says these effects could be a “double-edged sword” and that, of course, more research is needed. He says that while the ability of THC to suppress inflammation could provide treatment options for inflammatory disease, it could also make the body vulnerable to other diseases.
Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at USC’s School of Medicine says,
“MicroRNA therapeutics is an important, rapidly growing area with major pharmaceutical companies getting into this discovery and development. While our study identifies the molecular mechanism of immune-altering effects of marijuana, select microRNA identified here could serve as important molecular targets to manipulate MDSC activity in cancer and inflammatory diseases.”