Now more than ever, citizens across the nation and the world have begun to ponder the potential benefits of marijuana. As the drug has been classified as a schedule 1 within the United States, research surrounding any potential benefits had been slowed. With a growing interest in the proposed benefits of the plant-based drug, this research has begun a new round of exploration into the compound’s application into the ever-evolving world of medicine.
Some of the proposed medicinal benefits of marijuana have included treatment of glaucoma, an improvement in lung health, control over epileptic seizures, and more. There is one proposition regarding the drug’s health benefits that may not be as widely known though. This includes marijuana's ability to lower inflammation in the body.
Research suggests that this is thanks to a chemical compound within the “sticky green” that is naturally produced from foods like eggs, meat, and fish. A previous study had suggested that cannabis has a potential for curing Type 2 diabetes, as it is capable of treating inflammation, a primary roadblock in the production of the body’s insulin content. This alone could serve as an eye-opening opportunity for medical professionals hoping to explore marijuana's uses, but there were still more ideas surrounding the drug’s correlation between the reduction of inflammation.
A primary insight suggested by recent research shows that food’s chemical reaction including omega-3 fatty acids brings about the body’s natural development of cannabinoids. Aditis Das, lead author at the University of Illinois suggests, “Our team discovered an enzymatic pathway that converts omega-3-derived endocannabinoids into more potent anti-inflammatory molecules that predominantly bind to the receptors found in the immune system.” The research unveils the process by which omega-3 fatty acids have the capability of developing similar medicinal qualities found in marijuana, yet absent of the “high” commonly felt after the consumption of the drug.
The discoveries made as a result of the study mentioned above originated from experimentation with tissue found in animals. Various reactions were found that enabled some cannabinoids to bind with a set of receptors found in the body. The receptors included one within the nervous system and another in the immune system. A select amount of cannabinoids, namely tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana or endocannabinoids, have the ability to connect with these aforementioned receptors and produce anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving results.
The link to the chemicals within marijuana and omega-3 fatty acids proves to be important in today’s day in age, due to omega-3’s apparent health benefits. The fatty acid is commonly found within foods full of healthy fats, an option that is highly recommended for patients with diabetes to ultimately fulfill a low-carb intake diet. Some examples of foods containing this specific fatty acid consist of avocado, fish, eggs, nuts, bananas, and nuts. Two crucial types of fats within omega-3 include what is known as DHA and EPA (both of which are primarily found in fish). These types of fats bring with them a plethora of health benefits. These can include help towards lowering the fat found in blood (high amounts of blood fats can put a patient at risk for developing heart disease), reducing stiffness and joint pain (as seen in rheumatoid arthritis), a boost in the effects of antidepressants, as well as a solid foundation for healthy visual and brain development in growing children.
With the wide variety of benefits seen in omega-3 fatty acids aside, the above study placed their focuses on the fact that the development of cannabinoids from the omega-3 fatty acids has the opportunity to make a significant impact on treatment for patients suffering from all ranges of inflammation. As touched on earlier, this can cross over into other conditions where inflammation and joint pain are common. These can include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other pain-related conditions. Although a wide variety of solutions to various pain-related symptoms have been proposed by previous research, the direct link to a benefit in humans has yet to be proven.
Common causes of inflammation
First off, inflammation is described as the body’s “defense mechanism” of sorts, as the body attempts to remove harmful stimuli, which can include a variety of factors. These factors may include cells that have been damaged, irritants, as well as pathogens. Ultimately, the body’s natural response of inflammation is supposed to begin and complete a process of healing. The inflammation has to do with the immune system (as the immune system contributes in fighting off threats to the body’s health). Although the cause of inflammation does not necessarily indicate that an infection is present, an infection very well can lead to inflammation. Various other causes can serve as catalysts towards inflammation, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
The first stage of inflammation is known as irritation, which progresses into its namesake, inflammation. Inflammation is the immediate healing process that follows irritation, and as mentioned before, is the body’s way of defending itself. What follows is what is known as suppuration, where psu is subsequently discharged. The granulation stage often comes after, which is essentially the stage at which new tissue develops in the affected area during the healing process. Although inflammation serves the purpose of defending the body, it can also have its problems. The ultimate downside to this biological process is in the case of the body’s failure to complete the process to the point of a fully healed region of the body, wherein the inflammation does not go away.
Inflammation can be classified by two categories: chronic and acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation pertains to conditions where the inflammation lasts for long periods of time, whereas acute inflammation begins at a rapid rate, and quickly becomes severe. Chronic inflammations includes conditions such as asthma, chronic peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, chronic sinusitis, and chronic active hepatitis. Acute inflammation however, includes acute bronchitis, infected ingrown toenails, sore throat from a cold or flu, a cut on the skin, acute appendicitis, acute dermatitis, acute tonsillitis, acute infective meningitis, as well as acute sinusitis. With this wider range of classifications for inflammation it is not difficult to see why the researches mentioned above have the desire to harness the potential of the chemicals within marijuana and omega-3 fatty acids, with the ultimate goal of reducing the pain associated with inflammation.
The future of marijuana for use in the medical field
Although marijuana has continued to see resistance from a variety of citizens and lawmakers, the drug will continue to be researched in terms of its medical potential. Researchers, such as those mentioned above, look to better understand the effect the drug has on the body’s neurons and what it can do for chronic conditions. In the case of this article, the primary goal was to determine whether the chemicals found in marijuana aided in the reduction of inflammation among patients suffering from similar symptoms. With the continuation of research, opportunities will open up to expose potential that may not have otherwise been seen, as the drug carries with it a wide variety of positive and negative viewpoints. No matter the political stance, or legal classification, medical professionals will continue their pursuit to better the health of those suffering from painful conditions.