Exploring the Role of Medical Marijuana in Natural Healing
The Anti-Inflammatory Power of Cannabis
Inflammation – this natural defense mechanism is considered among the most important bodily responses to an internal or external injury. While the ultimate purpose of inflammation is to prevent infection, this essential function can become detrimental – and even deadly – if it isn’t mediated in a timely fashion(1). Because there are literally hundreds of diseases, disorders and injuries which result in inflammation, modern pharmacological treatments tend to treat this symptom on a broad basis. Unfortunately, these treatments fail to isolate and inhibit the various inflammatory enzymes.
Throughout the past several decades, cannabis has shown itself to effectively treat a wide array of biological ailments. However, one of its most promising qualities is its ability to block inflammation at the cellular level. In the quest for inflammation relief, is cannabis the solution millions have waited for? To make this determination, we must first explore the roots of inflammation itself.
A Deeper Understanding of Inflammation
In order to grasp how cannabis fights against inflammation, let’s take a quick look at how this biological response is activated.
When tissues are damaged – either through external trauma or via internal diseases – a complex series of events must take place. The heart of inflammation rests in the production of lipids known as prostaglandins. The release of these compounds plays a direct role in the severity of inflammation and are responsible for common physical symptoms; redness, heat, swelling and pain(2). These lipids are broken down into two enzymes:
- COX-1 | Found in almost all cells and is primarily responsible for the release of prostanoids needed to maintain balance, or homeostasis, within the body.
- COX-2 | Created as a direct response from inflammatory stimuli and is responsible for releasing specific prostanoids that cause inflammation due to tissue injury and even the development of certain diseases, such as cancer(2).
While both COX-1 and COX-2 contribute to the release of enzymes responsible for maintaining balance within the human body, they both play a distinct role in the development of inflammation. In the most generalized sense, if you can inhibit the proliferation of these enzymes, you can effectively reduce localized and generalized inflammation. This is where cannabis and its healing cannabinoids come into play.
Cannabis and Inflammation – A Delicate Dance
Inside the human body is a complex network of receptor sites; officially referred to as the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The discovery of this unique system has dramatically enhanced the understanding of how not only our bodies respond to certain stimuli, but also how cannabis influences human health and balance.
Although researchers have isolated over 100 cannabinoids from marijuana, within the realm of inflammation cannabidiol, or CBD, is particularly potent(3). Unlike THC, which binds to specific receptor sites throughout the ECS, cannabidiol supports the concentration of endogenous cannabinoids. This is intriguing as it allows the human body to self-heal and mediate certain diseases and symptoms without relying on synthetic – or foreign – medications. When dealing with inflammation, it appears CBD regulates the production of inflammation-causing enzymes by stimulating the activatioin of CB-1 and CB-2 endocannabinoid receptor sties throughout the body(4).
In a study outlined in the March 2004 edition of Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s Archives of Pharmacology, researchers found the oral administration of CBD significantly reduced the concentration of two inflammatory-causing enzymes: COX-2 and PGE2(5). By inhibiting the release of such compounds, not only are symptoms of inflammation reduced, but actual inflamed tissues are treated(6).
Activating Relief on the Cellular Level
Although our understanding of the human endocannabinoid system and its role in healing is still relatively unknown, what has been discovered is literally changing the way the medical community views cannabis. While further research is needed to draw a complete picture, the lines which have already been drawn are bold and filled with promise.