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A Doctor’s Perspective – How and Why Does Cannabis Treat Inflammation?

Dr. Frank D’Ambrosio, an orthopaedic surgeon with over 30 years experience in the field, discusses cannabis and its potential in the treatment of inflammation.

Cannabis treats inflammation because it contains a number of cannabinoids that can treat the symptom. Now, inflammation is often a normal response by the body’s immune system to disease and injury, but it can also be an unfortunate side-effect of chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, atherosclerosis, long-term post-surgery inflammation and consistent impact injuries from work & sports.

Now, there is a lot of misinformation out there, stating that it is exclusively cannabidiol (CBD) that has anti-inflammatory and medicinal applications. This is not true. All cannabinoids work on two of the receptors that constitute the Endocannabinoid System (ECS): CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are located mostly in the brain but occur in immune system cells as well, whilst CB2 receptors are primarily found in in immune system cells. Cannabinoids that affect CB1 receptors are the ones that are said to be “psychoactive”.

This suggests that the ECS helps regulate immune responses, as well as other homeostatic functions. Cannabis – and in particular unprocessed marijuana flowers and whole plant extracts – can help those suffering from a variety of conditions maintain and regulate the ECS.

Below is a list of the major cannabinoids and terpenoids in cannabis that can help treat inflammation…

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – Pain relief by blocking pain signals to the brain (analgesic); decreases stress; alleviates nausea and vomiting (antiemetic); improves breathing; relieves pressure in head & eyes; aids sleep.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – As with THC above (the two often work in tandem); stops/suppresses seizures (anticonvulsant); antipsychotic; anti-oxidant; anti-tumoral/-cancer; anti-epileptic.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCa) – Non-decarboxylated THC. Prevents colon inflammation; anti-proliferative (prevents cancer cell growth).
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) – Helps regulate blood-sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance (anti-diabetic); curbs anxiety; helps control tremors; stimulates bone growth; can be used as an appetite suppressant; works in tandem with THC.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) – Fights bacteria and fungi (anti bacterial & anti-fungicidal); anti-inflammatory; relieves pain; useful for battling depression & anxiety; stimulates brain growth; increases THC potency.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) – Decreases anxiety and muscle tension; relieves eye pressure; may reduce bowel inflammation; works in tandem with CBD and can combat the “high” of THC.
  • Cannabinol (CBN) – Has analgesic properties; aids sleep; anti-bacterial.

 

  • Myrcene – Analgesic; anti-diabetic; reduces muscle tension; anti-inflammatory; anti-spasmodic; anti-psychotic; sleep aid; anti-bacterial.
  • Pinene – Anti-inflammatory; anti-proliferative; aids breathing (bronchodilator); antibiotic; increases alertness and counteracts some effects of THC; can decrease oil secretion from the skin.
  • Caryophyllene – Analgesic; antibacterial; antidepressant; anti-inflammatory; antioxidant; anti-anxiety; neuroprotective.
  • Bisabolol – Antioxidant; anti-fungicidal; anti-inflammatory.
  • Limonene – Aids digestion; antioxidant; anti-inflammatory; anti-proliferative; anti-anxiety.
  • Linalool – Anti-epileptic; analgesic; sedative; anti-anxiety; antidepressant; anti-inflammatory; antipsychotic.

There are various degrees of evidence for the anti-inflammatory properties of the cannabinoids and terpenoids listed above. Some have strong evidence for their efficacy, some promising evidence that requires more study and some studies have positive outcomes but needs to be properly tested on humans and/or needs a larger sample size.

In general, though, it can definitely be said that cannabis treats inflammation. The question really is what types and causes of inflammation does cannabis treat most effectively? Alas, this is where more research needs to be done, and hopefully the continuing legalization of medical marijuana will help provide this.

If you have any questions for Dr. Frank D’Ambrosio, leave them in the comments section below.

Dr. Frank D'Ambrosio

Frank D'Ambrosio M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon with over 30 years of experience, host of the cannabis advocacy radio show Elevate the Conversation and published author.

After seeing patients walk in and out of surgery in extreme pain and often becoming addicted to opiate- and opioid- based painkillers, he knew a change in practice was needed.

Then came along cannabis, and the increasing number of scientific studies proving its efficacy for a number of conditions. Dr. Frank would become fascinated by the science behind cannabis, and in it saw a potential way to end the prescription painkiller crisis throughout the US and the world today.

By 2011, Dr. Frank set up a practice dedicated to helping patients through medical marijuana. He now runs a practice in Los Angeles, and wants to bring a change in the way the scientific establishment, policy makers and the general public sees marijuana.

For more about Dr. Frank, check out his website doctorfrank.com.

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