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Alternative Medicine: 5 Key Benefits of Cannabis Over Pharmaceuticals

alternative medicine

Cannabis has been a topic of much discussion and debate in recent years, particularly in the realm of alternative medicine. With its potential to offer relief from various conditions and symptoms, it has piqued the interest of many individuals seeking natural remedies.

In this article, we will delve into the world of cannabis as an alternative medicine, exploring its active components, potential benefits, risks, and legal implications. We will also discuss how cannabis works as a medicine, the various methods of consumption, and its viability as an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals.

Whether you’re curious about the science behind cannabis or considering it as a potential treatment option, this comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights into the use of cannabis as a medicinal alternative.

Key Takeaways:

Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and has potential as an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals. The active components in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, have shown potential benefits in pain management, anxiety and depression relief, nausea control, and treatment of neurological conditions. While cannabis can be a beneficial alternative medicine, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects and to understand the legal implications of using it. Consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating cannabis into your treatment plan.

What is cannabis?

Cannabis, also known as medicinal cannabis, is a plant-based medicine that has gained significant attention in the USA and Canada for its potential therapeutic uses.

Historically, cannabis has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, with evidence of its use dating back to ancient civilisations in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The plant contains over 100 different compounds, known as cannabinoids, with THC and CBD being the most well-known. These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce various effects, including pain relief, reduced inflammation, and improved sleep. Cannabis is classified into different strains, such as indica, sativa, and hybrid, each with distinct effects on the body.

The increasing acceptance of medicinal cannabis in the USA and Canada has led to a growing number of states and provinces legalising its use for various medical conditions, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer, and PTSD.

How Does Cannabis Work as a Medicine?

Cannabis functions as a medicine through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, utilising cannabinoids for various therapeutic purposes.

What Are the Active Components of Cannabis?

The active components of cannabis include cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, AEA, which interact with receptors like CB1 and CB2 to produce various physiological effects. Among these, CBD (cannabidiol) is known for its non-psychoactive properties, making it suitable for therapeutic applications without the ‘high’ associated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC, on the other hand, is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis consumption, binding primarily to CB1 receptors in the central nervous system. The endocannabinoid AEA (anandamide) plays a role in regulating mood, memory, and appetite, exerting its effects by interacting with both CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors are mainly present in immune cells, moderating inflammatory responses and immune function.

What Are the Potential Benefits of Cannabis as an Alternative Medicine?

Cannabis presents a range of potential benefits as an alternative medicine, providing relief for:

  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Treatment for various neurological conditions

Pain Management

Cannabis has shown promise in managing chronic intractable pain and neuropathic pain, potentially serving as an alternative to opioid medications, as evidenced by double-blind studies. Research indicates that cannabis compounds, such as THC and CBD, have analgesic properties, which may alleviate pain by interacting with the endocannabinoid system. Clinical trials have demonstrated that cannabis-based treatments can reduce neuropathic pain, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall well-being for individuals struggling with chronic pain. This offers a potential solution for patients seeking relief from debilitating pain conditions while minimising the risks associated with prolonged opioid use.

Relief from anxiety and depression

Cannabis exhibits potential in providing relief from anxiety and depression, utilising its therapeutic properties and interaction with the endocannabinoid system.

Research suggests that the compounds in cannabis, particularly THC and CBD, can modulate neurotransmitter systems involved in anxiety and mood disorders. By targeting the endocannabinoid system, cannabis may help regulate stress response, promote relaxation, and improve emotional well-being. The anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids could contribute to mitigating symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It’s essential to consider individual differences in responses to cannabis and consult a healthcare professional for personalised guidance on its potential therapeutic use.

Nausea and Vomiting Control

Cannabis has been explored as a treatment for controlling nausea and vomiting, particularly in the context of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), demonstrating clinical utility in its application.

Research has indicated that cannabis may act through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system to alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Several clinical studies have suggested that cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, found in cannabis may play a role in reducing nausea and vomiting, providing a potential adjunct or alternative therapy for individuals experiencing these distressing side effects.

The positive impact of cannabis in managing CINV has sparked interest in further exploring its therapeutic potential, with ongoing clinical trials aiming to evaluate its efficacy and safety in this context.

Treatment of Neurological Conditions

Cannabis holds promise in the treatment of various neurological conditions, with ongoing research exploring its potential therapeutic uses and identifying new avenues for therapeutic benefits. Research indicates that cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in cannabis, may offer neuroprotective properties that could be beneficial in conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) has shown potential in managing symptoms of conditions like neuropathic pain and spasticity. Ongoing studies are investigating the use of cannabis-based medications in treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), offering hope for those affected by these challenging conditions.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Using Cannabis as a Medicine?

Using cannabis as a medicine comes with potential risks and side effects, requiring evidence-based understanding and careful consideration, especially in the context of medical cannabis use in the UK and Canada.

Temporary Side Effects

Short-term side effects of cannabis use, as observed in various pharmacotherapy studies, can include effects such as cognitive impairment, dizziness, and dry mouth. These effects are often reported shortly after the consumption of cannabis, and they may vary in intensity depending on the individual’s tolerance and the potency of the product. Some users may also experience heightened sensory perception, altered sense of time, and short-term memory impairment.

Cannabis use has been linked to increased heart rate, changes in blood pressure, and potential anxiety or paranoia, especially in those predisposed to such feelings. It’s important for individuals to be aware of these side effects and consider them when making decisions about cannabis consumption.

Long-term Risks

Long-term risks associated with cannabis use, as identified in drug research, may comprise potential cognitive alterations and dependence, requiring careful consideration within the context of therapeutic purposes.

Research has suggested that prolonged use of cannabis can lead to cognitive impairments, such as memory and concentration difficulties, which may persist even after discontinuation of use. Individuals who frequently use cannabis may develop a tolerance to its effects, increasing the risk of developing a dependence on the substance.

These long-term effects highlight the need for comprehensive education and awareness about the potential risks of consistent cannabis consumption, especially in individuals utilising it for therapeutic purposes.

How can cannabis be used as an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals?

Cannabis presents an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals, offering potential substitution in the treatment of chronic pain and as a means to reduce reliance on opioids.

Smoking or Vaping

Smoking or vaping cannabis provides a route for the delivery of cannabinoids, serving therapeutic purposes and offering a potential method for medicinal use. When cannabis is smoked, the cannabinoids are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, resulting in quick and potent effects. Vaping, on the other hand, involves heating the cannabis to a temperature that releases the cannabinoids in the form of vapour, which is then inhaled. This method allows for precise control of temperature and dosage, offering a more customisable experience. Both smoking and vaping also bypass the digestive system, allowing for a more direct and immediate delivery of cannabinoids to the body for therapeutic benefits.


Consuming cannabis through medibles offers a distinct approach for medical purposes, facilitating treatment and providing an alternative method of administration for therapeutic effects. Medibles, such as cannabis-infused biscuits, brownies, and gummy sweets, are particularly popular among patients seeking a discreet and convenient way to administer their medication. The effects of medibles are also typically longer-lasting, making them a preferred choice for individuals managing chronic pain or sleep disorders.

The precise dosage and standardised formulations of medibles make them a reliable option for those who require consistent treatment. This method of consumption also eliminates the potential harm associated with smoking and provides a more palatable experience for individuals with sensitivities to inhalation.

Topical Applications

Topical applications of cannabis offer localised therapeutic benefits, with ongoing clinical trials exploring their effectiveness in targeted treatment approaches. These applications, such as cannabis-infused creams and lotions, are being studied for their potential to alleviate localised pain, inflammation, and skin conditions. The therapeutic benefits of cannabis for conditions like arthritis, dermatitis, and neuropathic pain have sparked interest in exploring its use in topical forms. Clinical trials are evaluating the use of cannabis topicals for their targeted action, aiming to provide relief without the psychoactive effects associated with systemic administration.

What are the legal implications of using cannabis as medicine?

The legal implications of using cannabis as medicine vary significantly, influenced by the dynamic landscape of medical cannabis laws in the USA and Canada, impacting both participants and stakeholders.

Federal Laws

National laws governing the use of cannabis, as overseen by agencies such as the MHRA and EMA, play a pivotal role in shaping the regulatory framework within the USA and Canada.

The legal landscape surrounding cannabis is complex and multifaceted, with both the MHRA and EMA setting stringent guidelines for the approval, production, and distribution of cannabis-derived products. These regulatory bodies closely monitor the quality, safety, and efficacy of cannabis-based medications, ensuring that patients have access to standardised and reliable treatment options. National laws impact areas such as taxation, licensing, and research protocols, further influencing the entire cannabis industry. The evolving nature of these regulations reflects the ongoing societal and scientific discussions surrounding cannabis use and its potential health benefits.

State Laws

State laws and medical cannabis programmes in the USA and Canada play a crucial role in determining the accessibility and usage of cannabis as a medical intervention, shaping the landscape of healthcare provisions. The legislative frameworks in these countries have a profound impact on the availability of medical cannabis for patients seeking alternative treatment options.

Seventeen states in the USA, including Florida, have comprehensive medical cannabis programmes that extend to qualifying conditions such as chronic pain, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis. The approach to medical cannabis in Canada is also evolving, with the government’s commitment to streamlining regulations and improving access for patients in need. The rules and regulations set forth in these programmes are instrumental in governing the cultivation, distribution, and recommended usage of medical cannabis, ensuring that patients receive safe and effective treatment within the legal boundaries.

Medical Marijuana Programs

Medical cannabis programmes are crucial in providing data on the usage, efficacy, and therapeutic benefits of cannabis, contributing to the ongoing discourse on its medical applications. Through the collection and analysis of patient experiences and treatment outcomes, these programmes offer a wealth of valuable insights into how cannabis can alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with various medical conditions. This data not only aids in furthering scientific understandings but also shapes regulatory decisions and public health policies related to medical cannabis. By integrating medical and patient perspectives, these programmes play a critical role in shaping the broader conversation on the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its place within modern healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is cannabis and how does it work as an alternative medicine?

Cannabis is a plant that contains active compounds called cannabinoids. These compounds interact with receptors in our body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating various functions such as pain, mood, and appetite. As an alternative medicine, cannabis can potentially provide relief for a variety of conditions by influencing these receptors.

2. Are there different types of cannabis and how do they differ in terms of medicinal benefits?

Yes, there are different types of cannabis, including marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains higher levels of THC, the compound responsible for the “high” sensation, and is often used for its psychoactive effects. Hemp, on the other hand, contains higher levels of CBD, another cannabinoid with potential medicinal benefits such as pain and inflammation relief.

3. What are some common conditions that cannabis can potentially treat?

Cannabis has been studied as a potential treatment for a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and nausea. It may also have potential benefits for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

4. Is cannabis a safe alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals?

While more research is needed, studies have shown that cannabis can be a relatively safe alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals for certain conditions. However, as with any medication, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional and to use it responsibly.

5. How do I consume cannabis as an alternative medicine?

Cannabis can be consumed in various forms, including smoking, vaporizing, ingesting, and applying topically. The best method of consumption will depend on your specific condition and preferences. It is important to start with a low dose and monitor your body’s reaction to find the most effective method for you.

6. Is cannabis legal for medicinal use?

The legal status of cannabis for medicinal use varies by country and region. In some places, it is legal for both medicinal and recreational use, while in others it is only legal for medicinal purposes. It is important to research and understand the laws and regulations in your area before using cannabis as an alternative medicine.


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