Marijuana: not just for eating an entire family-sized bag of potato chips while binge-watching Netflix. As more areas of the world legalize cannabis, science is putting more thought into uses for cannabinoids besides making Family Guy funny. But what are cannabinoids and what do they do?
Cannabinoids are found in cannabis (obviously) and other plants. They are chemicals that trigger the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. When it comes to cannabis, the main cannabinoids are THC (psychoactive) and CBD (non-psychoactive). Human brains have designated cannabinoid receptors, which, according to some studies, makes a compelling case for these other uses for cannabis, such as treating diseases like cancer. Other uses for marijuana run the gamut from shrinking tumors to (surprisingly) curbing appetite as a treatment for obesity. With edibles and oils available, reaping the benefits of cannibinoids doesn't even require sparking up.
They Can Shrink Tumors
According to a report released by the National Cancer Institute in 2015, cannabinoids have been shown to kill cancer cells in lab mice. Not only did cannabinoids cause cell death in cancerous cells without harming non-cancerous cells, they blocked the growth of blood vessels feeding tumors.
They Can Slow the Progress of Parkinson's Disease
Research has shown cannabinoids to have a neuroprotective effect, meaning they help to slow, or in some cases, prevent the degradation of neurons. As Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative disease, patients can benefit from treatment with the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids. In addition, research suggests that cannabinoids may even be able to help repair neural cell mitochondria, another important factor in the treatment of Parkinson's.
They Can Treat PTSD
In addition to psychedelics making waves in clinical trials for PTSD, cannabis shows promising treatment for PTSD via a mechanism called "memory extinction." While that sounds like something out of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, memory extinction is actually a routine process for the brain. For the treatment of PTSD, encouraging memory extinction can help to lessen the impact of disorder-aggravating memories.
They Can Act as an Antiemetic
Antiemetics are medicines or compounds that reduce nausea and vomiting—and cannabinoids are among them. Whether suffering nausea and vomiting as a side effect of a serious illness like HIV or cancer, struggling with emetophobia (a fear of vomiting), or recovering from a hangover, cannabinoids can improve the symptoms.