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Cannabis in the form of low THC industrial hemp cultivars and high THC strains that offer a plethora of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients are believed to provide medicinal value. While many places worldwide have enforced draconian laws pertaining to this plant for years, the tides are beginning to shift. Today, many countries provide access to cannabis for medicinal purposes. Let’s take a closer look at cannabis as a medicine throughout history and the medical conditions that may be treated by cannabis.

 

History of Cannabis as a Medicine

Some believe that Australia was first colonized to cultivate cannabis. Since this time, the plant has been utilized by many Australians to address a wide range of medical ailments and conditions. It’s estimated that over 100,000 Australians using illicit cannabis for medicinal purposes[1]. Like other countries, officials prohibited the plant in the late 1920s, but it has since been legalized for medicinal purposes. Here are some key dates throughout history regarding cannabis as a medicine.

  • 2900 BC – Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi quoted referencing cannabis as a popular medicine that “possessed both yin and yang.” 1450 BC – Holy Anointing Oil – Book of Exodus
  • 1213 BC – Inflammation and Glaucoma – Egypt
  • 1000BC – Bhang India – Treatment of Many Ailments
  • 1 AD, Chinese Text Recommended Cannabis for More Than 100 Different Conditions, Diseases, And Ailments.
  • 1851 – Added to the U.S Pharmacopoeia / Removed In 1942
  • February 2016 – Passing of Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act in Australia cannabis legalised growing for medicinal and scientific purposes
  • November 2016 – Cannabis federally legalised for medicinal purposes, states and territories began to legalise and set regulations
  • December 2017 – Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) releases Clinical Guidance Documentsfor healthcare professionals

A wide range of studies have explored the efficiency of cannabinoid therapies for a number of different conditions and symptoms, including but not limited to pain, cancer, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and epilepsy. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Chronic Pain

In 2018, a study titled Cannabis in a Mouse Neuropathic Pain Model concluded that a 1:1 combination of THC and CBD offered a synergistically higher reduction in neuropathic pain than initially predicted. The study also found that when administered in conjunction with pain treatments such as duloxetine and gabapentin, cannabis offered an increased efficacy in the pain-relieving effects of these pharmaceuticals. Many other research articles, as well as anecdotal claims, support these findings.

 

Cancer

In collaboration with the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, Royal North Shore Hospital, and the Kolling Institute, research from the University of Sydney regarding cannabinoid therapies for cancer have offered great insight and hope for cannabis as a treatment for cancer. The research thus far has focused on mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer.

A 2019 study published on the NCBIconcluded that cannabinoids could effectively modulate tumor growth in various in vitro and in vivo cancer models. The study also noted that the efficacy depended much on the cancer type and the concentration of cannabinoids utilized in treatment. There are many other studies that support these findings published here.

 

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety is a condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide each year. According to beyondblue.org.au, in any one year, roughly 2 million adults in Australia suffer from anxiety. A studypublished on the NCBI in 2015 concluded that CBD offers substantial efficacy in “reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects.” This study, along with many others that have similar findings, warrants further study of cannabinoid therapies in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

 

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is the most frequent chronic neurological condition in childhood, with approximately 1 in 150 children being diagnosed with a form of epilepsy during the first 10 years of life [2].

In June 2018, based on the positive results from several randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a pharmaceutical formulation of plant-derived cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of DS and LGS [3].

In epilepsy, it is believed that glutamate contributes to a state of chronic, dyssynchronous network activity which results in excessive neuronal firing and pathological alterations in signal transmission9. This simple model underpins the potential for modulation of seizure activity through the use of cannabinoids [4].

 

As you can see, the potential conditions in which cannabis can offer relief are as diverse as the plant itself and those that support it. However, this is only the beginning when it comes to the medical conditions treated by cannabis.

To learn more about the clinical evidence THC and CBD may be effective for, visit our patient services pagefor more information. The Therapeutics Goods Administration has also published medicinal cannabis guidance documents which can be found here.

 

[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-07/father-faces-jail-for-medicating-daughters-with-cannabis-juice/9523898

[2] Aaberg KM, Gunnes N, Bakken IJ, Lund Søraas C, Berntsen A, Magnus P, et al. Incidence and Prevalence of Childhood Epilepsy: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Pediatrics. 2017;139(5) 

[3] DA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy [press release]. 2018. 

[4] Dale T, Downs J, Olson H, Bergin AM, Smith S, Leonard H. Cannabis for refractory epilepsy in children: A review focusing on CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder. Epilepsy Res. 2019;151:31-9.