For thousands of years, people have turned to the cannabis plant to alleviate a variety of chronic and debilitating conditions. But only recently has mainstream medicine begun to investigate its therapeutic possibilities. Use this section as a primer for an informed conversation with your healthcare provider. Together you can decide if medical cannabis is right for you.
Every human body possesses a network of receptors and molecules called the endocannabinoid system or ECS. This network helps carry out the chemical and physical processes that maintain health—functions that range from regulating sleep and managing stress to fighting pain and curbing appetite.
There are two primary cannabinoid receptors, helpfully labeled CB1 and CB2, which can be found in our central nervous system, brain, and organs. These receptors receive and react to certain chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Naturally occurring cannabinoids are known as endocannabinoids, while cannabinoids found in plants are known as phytocannabinoids.
If the body is unable to produce enough endocannabinoids or regulate them properly, the endocannabinoid system may break down, which can alter how our memory, pain management, immune system, and other physiological processes function.
The cannabis plant consists of numerous naturally occurring cannabinoids, which can step in to revive the ECS. The two main ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is psychoactive (affecting the mind), and strains containing THC have been used for pain, nausea, sleep, and stress disorders. Strains that emphasize CBD may help alleviate pain, inflammation, and seizures associated with epilepsy.