Medical Marijuana: What the Research Shows. Part 1

Photo Credit:  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files (

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files (

Twenty years ago, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system, a system in the brain that responds to 60 chemicals found in marijuana. Since then, research has shown the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in various bodily functions, like those of the heart, and the endocrine, digestive, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Because of this, marijuana's ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system makes it a viable player in relieving various symptoms, like managing pain, reducing muscle spasms from MS, stimulating appetite, and even acting as a substitute for medications that treat brain disorders like schizophrenia or Tourette's syndrome. While there are various studies to back up these claims, it is important to note that many of the clinical trials were conducted at relatively small scales and weren't double-blinded placebo controlled studies, leaving more extensive research to be desired.

As supporting evidence showing cannabis does in fact contain therapeutic cannabinoids, there are three marijuana-based drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Marinol and Cesamet are two marijuana based pharmaceuticals that treat the nausea and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy and related to AIDs patients. Both drugs use man-made THC as a major component. Epidiolex was approved by the FDA in 2013, and while it's use is highly restricted, it is used to combat childhood epilepsy. Another cannabis-based drug is Sativex. It is currently undergoing clinical trials in the U.S. for the treatment of pain associated with breast cancer, but it has already been approved in over 20 countries for the treatment of muscle spasms in MS patients and cancer related pain.

This post is part of a two part series, and the information has been provided by Web MD and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.