Also known as Marijuana (or the hemp plant called cannabis sativa and cannabis indica), for many years it has been used as a recreational drug. Hemp has also been used to make rope, fabric, carpet, matting, amongst other uses. As a recreational drug the leaves are dried, crushed and smoked or ingested. Users describe feelings of relaxation, improved mood, peacefulness, creativity, anxiety and fear.
THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical which produces the ‘feelings’ (psychoactive ingredient). The THC travels to our brains via our blood stream and activates the cannabinoid receptors in our brains, which control pain and stress. Various parts of the brain have cannabinoid receptors, one of these being the hippocampus which is responsible for short term memory. So, it is interesting to note that one of the most well-known side effects of marijuana is difficulties forming memories.
Marijuana also builds up in other areas of our bodies; spleen, kidneys, liver, testes, and for women who are pregnant, can marijuana can build in the placenta and travel to the foetus.
Cannabis is slowly being legalised in a number of countries; Canada, the US and very recently Great Britain (in highly specialised circumstances). With legalisation, demand has grown, and people’s expectations could be unrealistically high.
A research project by the University of Colorado has been carrying out a trial to see how Cannabis was being dispensed for symptom relief or as a cure. Cannabis has been legal in the US State of Colorado since 2014, and in other states has been used for 20 years. Therefore, their results, including contra-indications and resources are a very useful guide for it’s future use in the UK.
During the Colorado study, an example of a conversation a researcher had with one dispenser was ‘after eight weeks of pregnancy, everything should be good with consuming alcohol and weed’, another answer ‘edible marijuana would not hurt the child’. 277 dispensaries were questioned about whether their products could be used to help reduce morning sickness. Three quarters of those questioned said yes and then went on to sell a product containing THC.
Where medical cannabis has been linked to reducing nausea associated with morning sickness, the BMJ has recently published an article stating that there is a risk that the widespread use of medical cannabis could lead to a public health crisis on the same level as the thalidomide disaster. In other words, if there is a risk of causing foetal mutation, we all need to be cautious with its use and future. And, it demonstrates the potency of this plant.
Cannabis has been linked to birth defects such as anencephaly (large part of the brain is missing), gastroschisis (intestines appear outside the body). Also, breast-feeding mothers who use marijuana, are not always aware that the drug becomes concentrated in the breast milk. There is also a fear that where studies have found memory loss issues associated with marijuana, that there will be an increase of children with learning issues and older adults with memory issues. These are just a few examples of what could go wrong with the mis-use of cannabis oil/supplements.
There is growing concern amongst health professionals that public demand is driving illegal production and selling of cannabis oil as a food supplement to bypass the pharmaceutical legislation. This means people are at risk of self-dispensing and creating other health conditions and risks as a result of this. As the Colorado researchers are finding, there are also plenty of unscrupulous vendors marketing products.
Like coconut oil, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, and the many other products, giving promises of cures and symptoms relief. Cannabis oil is still in its infancy. It will take baby steps to move it through the various legal requirements for it to reach popular status in our medical arenas.
In the meantime, buyer beware and never take a ‘drug’ without professional advice. Always inform your health professionals if you decide to self-medicate.
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