Health Impact and Usage Guide: Medical Cannabis, THC, Cannabidiol, and Hemp Part 2
Cannabis’ Cousin: Hemp
Similar to Medical Cannabis, hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is low in THC and contains CBD. Both marijuana and hemp stem from the same cannabis origin and share a scientific classification of Cannabis sativa. Hemp can be thought of as a so-called “cousin” to the marijuana plant, as they are actually two different types of cannabis plants. However, hemp is low in THC, and there is very little possibility of it producing THC after pollination.
Production of hemp seeds has more than tripled around the world since the 1990s . Because the United States specifically has grouped hemp into the same category as pot since the ‘70s with the passing of the Controlled Substances Act, it can be confusing to understand that it is not dangerous. In fact, hemp is one of the most holistic products available today and throughout history. Because of this law, the U.S. does not cultivate or grow hemp. However, that does not mean it is not used or sold here; the U.S. actually is the leading consumer of products made from hemp. Hemp has recently been allowed to be grown in certain states for the sake of research, and more than 25 states are interested in pursuing production of hemp. Thirty-nine states have introduced hemp-supporting bills into their state legislature.
Hemp can be used to produce oil and hemp seeds for consumption, CBD, and to create fiber to be used for items such as wood, cotton, and plastic alternative.
In ancient China, hemp seeds were given to the poor to be used for growing and food. Hemp seeds provide numerous minerals, unsaturated fats, and protein. When the seeds are shelled, soft and nutritious hemp hearts are exposed. Hemp seeds are a great source of essential fats like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical to sustaining health. Nutrition & Metabolism published research that stated hemp seeds contains an ideal proportion of linoleic acid (omega-6s or LA) and a-linoleic acid (omega-3s or ALA) for a wholesome diet.
Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) is also prevalent in hemp seeds, which supports healthy organs, nerves, muscles, cell function and growth. GLA offsets some of the side effects of the prolactin hormone, which can worsen unpleasant side effects of PMS and menopause. The only raw food source of GLA is hemp.
It is important to note that these unsaturated fatty acids do not provide a source of energy to the body, but rather are the building blocks for cells and biosynthesis. Skin conditions may arise when the body has inadequate levels of fatty acids. Because of the fatty acid concentration in hemp products, it can prevent things like eczema and inflammation. Hemp seeds contain about 30 percent healthy and essential fats, in addition to protein and other nutrients.
Hemp seeds are also a fantastic source of protein, comparable to beef. This can be especially important in a diet that lacks meat from animal sources, such as for vegetarians and vegans. For every couple of tablespoons of this nutritious food, it supplies around 10 grams of protein. The amino acid composition of hemp is similar to egg whites and soy. Hemp is also easily digested, which is rare for a high-protein plant food.
Hemp seeds support a healthy heart by way of the amino acid L-arginine, which gives way to nitric oxide, and increases the flow of blood and supports healthy blood pressure. The nitric oxide element is important because it assists in the dilation of blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily through the body and heart. Risk for coronary artery conditions rises when nitric oxide levels are low or insufficient. Hemp seeds have been found to decrease blood pressure and blood clot risk, and improve the recovery of the heart after a heart attack according to research.
Fiber is extremely important to overall digestive, skin, and heart health. Some research even shows that fiber may play a role in weight regulation and the management of blood sugar. Intact hemp seeds provide a high concentration of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber breaks down in the intestines, slowing digestion and allowing the body to go longer periods without food. This is beneficial for weight management. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve as readily in the tract, allowing for optimal digestive movement and elimination. A diet high in fiber can also lower cholesterol.
Additionally, the dietary consumption of hemp seeds and oil have anti-inflammatory properties and increase brain function, improve energy levels, and decrease stroke risk. Research has shown that hemp consumption can help with vomiting and nausea, cancer cells and tumors, degenerative neurological disorders, seizures, psychotic disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Cannabis: The Pros and Cons
Medical cannabis has been found to be an effective medicine for many health problems and symptoms, and it does so in a more natural and less hazardous way, compared to pharmaceutics. States that have approved the use of medical marijuana have seen a 25% drop in overdoses due to prescription pain medicine. Marijuana also boasts extremely low toxicity levels and can be an alternative to prescription drugs taken for similar nagging symptoms. Medical cannabis used for chemotherapy, instead of traditional methods, is much less toxic and may produce better results.
Dangers of Cannabis
However, there can also be negative side effects while using this drug. When marijuana is discontinued abruptly, withdrawal can manifest as symptoms similar to nicotine withdrawal, depression, insomnia, and more. The use of medical cannabis can lead to memory problems, coordination and balance issues, a weakened immune system, abnormal hormone levels and reproductive function, an increased risk of heart conditions, adrenal fatigue, irregular or rapid heartbeat and increased risk of heart attack, higher risk for cancer of the lung, cough, and more. Research has shown that regular use of marijuana leads to reduced cognitive abilities as well.
THC in medical cannabis also increases cortisol levels, which is critical knowledge to those suffering from adrenal fatigue. Cadmium found in the leaves of marijuana can actually accumulate in the body, which could lead to increased blood pressure, illness, and breakdown of the kidneys.
Marijuana addiction is a gray area due to the classification of dependence versus addiction. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that about 30% of people who use cannabis show some level of marijuana use disorder. This disorder is associated with withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not used, such as headaches, changes in mood, sleep, and appetite. Those who use cannabis before they are 18 years old are more likely (by 4 to 7 times) to acquire a marijuana use disorder than adults. NIDA claims that around nine percent of medical cannabis users will become addicted.
How Medical Cannabis, THC, and CBD Affect the Body
Cannabis, THC, and CBD affect many areas of the body in important ways. Here is some of the current research:
Hormones – THC raises cortisol levels, and in rat studies, it reduced levels of thyroxine (thyroid hormone) by 90% in some subjects. However, CBD was found to reduce levels of cortisol. THC also lowers prolactin, which is made in the pituitary gland and manages the development of breasts and breast milk.
Central nervous system – THC promotes a large release of dopamine, which represents the feeling of “high.” Judgment and memory can become impaired with THC use. THC negatively affects basal ganglia and the cerebellum, which function in coordination, reflexes, and balance. THC can also promote hallucinations and could lead to schizophrenic episodes for those who are predisposed to this condition. Medical cannabis can function to eliminate pain, inflammation, and seizures. Fetal brain development is highly affected when the mother uses this drug during pregnancy, which can put them at risk for problems with concentration, memory, and problem solving. THC is still being assessed for its ability to correct glaucoma, as it can decrease pressure in the eyes.
Endocrine system – CBD can shield against excess stress since it can prevent activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. THC delays male puberty, inhibits the release of eggs from ovaries, disrupts menstrual cycles, and negatively affects sperm.
Liver – CBD and THC reduce levels of fat in the liver. Cannabis was once believed to cause cirrhosis or fibrosis of the liver, but this was later found to be inaccurate. However, plant material and possible toxins could cause damage to this organ.
Metabolism – THC can increase blood sugar, while CBD can decrease insulin levels. Medical cannabis users have fewer cases of type 2 diabetes and obesity than those who do not use the drug. CBD and THC increase metabolism and decrease cholesterol in the blood. These two components of cannabis were also found to increase insulin sensitivity, protect insulin-producing cells, boost metabolic rate, and cause appetite suppression in rodents.
Inflammation – CBD is proven to lessen acute as well as chronic inflammation, surpassing other well-known inflammation fighters like antioxidants and vitamin C. Gut, colon, and joint inflammation are some examples of conditions CBD can help with.
Sleep – The CBD in cannabis can fight insomnia and improve sleep. Although cannabis has been found to prevent sleep with dreams (REM sleep), it improves deep and overall sleep. People who discontinue cannabis use report problems with disruption of sleep.
Anxiety – Cannabis high in THC and low in CBD can actually increase stress and anxiety. A well-balanced type or types high in CBD, on the other hand, lower stress levels and anxiety.