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Marijuana (cannabis) is in the news a lot lately. Since many states including Washington D.C. have legalized the plant for medicinal use, everyone has an opinion on whether cannabis should be readily available or not. Colorado and Washington State have even legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults over the age of eighteen. Many people are hoping that marijuana prohibition will soon be a thing of the past. They point out that cannabis is just a green herb, not a dangerous drug.
Headache pain, chronic back pain, pain from various cancers, pain from glaucoma, and pain stemming from neurological problems are the most common reasons that people ask their doctors to write prescriptions for cannabis. People also use cannabis for muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, nausea resulting from cancer chemotherapy, and poor appetite caused by chronic illnesses such as HIV. Cannabis also shows promise in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette syndrome, bipolar disorder, anorexia, Alzheimer's, dementia, depression, chronic stress, insomnia, PMS, asthma, and some digestive diseases.
The Schedule I classification of cannabis in the US makes the study of medical cannabis difficult. It also causes users and providers of the herb to be branded as criminals. Scientists do know that cannabis helps the body’s natural chemicals work better.
Cannabis may be smoked, vaporized, eaten, used in oral sprays, used in oils, and taken as a liquid extract. When smoked, cannabis produces a distinct aroma and has a unique flavor.
The genus Cannabis contains two species which produce psychoactive cannabinoids. Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, both listed as Schedule I medicinal plants in the US (along with heroin and cocaine). Both indica and sativa are illegal in most states. A third species, Cannabis ruderalis, has few psychogenic properties and is useful for making hemp rope.
Cannabis contains hundreds of known compounds and at least eighty interact with receptors in the brain. As of 2012, more than 20 cannabinoids were being studied by the U.S. FDA. The most psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures. Since ancient humans used hemp seed as food, it was quite natural for them to also discover that the plant contained medicinal properties. Ancient Egyptian scrolls from 1550 B.C. mention medical cannabis. The writings describe adding cannabis to suppositories for relieving the pain of hemorrhoids. In ancient India, cannabis was used for treating insomnia, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, and pain. The Ancient Greeks used cannabis leaves to treat nose bleeds and cannabis seeds to expel tapeworms. In the medieval Islamic world, physicians used cannabis to treat edema, epilepsy, inflammation, and pain.
Cannabis is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese use cannabis as a herbal remedy for many conditions including constipation, gout, rheumatism, and absent-mindedness.
Cannabis is an annual, flowering plant that bears both male and female flowers that are pollinated by the wind. Cannabis prefers full sun and rich soil but will grow in almost any garden.
For more information about marijuana laws in your state, see http://norml.org.
* Medical use of cannabis or preparations containing THC is legal in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Spain, the UK and some states in the US, although it is illegal under US federal law. In most states, it is also illegal to grow cannabis, sell cannabis, or transport it across state lines.
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