Cannabis is one of the best treatment options for those with the auto-immune disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS). For those who are unfamiliar with MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin as a foreign invader. Myelin is the coating around nerves that allows the transmission of messages from the brain to the body. When the myelin sheath is destroyed, nerves and muscles are affected, resulting in muscle atrophy, loss of coordination and loss of motor control. Testing for MS shows lesions in the brain and in other areas of the body. It affects the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerve. The cause of MS is unknown and the severity of symptoms varies greatly from one person to the next. There are 4 types of MS. There does not seem to be a genetic link.
Symptoms include pain, neuropathy, numbness and tingling, vision problems, impaired coordination, bowel and bladder problems and fatigue. Cannabis can improve the brain function of those with MS, thereby easing many of the symptoms associated with the disease.
There are 7 ways that cannabis can help:
1. Neurogenesis and Brain Protection
When the immune system goes into overdrive, as it does with all auto-immune diseases, it releases cytokines, pro-inflammatory proteins which cause excessive inflammation in the brain. This inflammation results in “unnecessary cell death” and the destruction of neurons. Cannabinoids have been proven to be potent anti-inflammatories which calm the immune system and stop the attacks on the central nervous system. They also aid in neurogenesis which is the formation of new brain neurons. Here is the link to an article I wrote about the Neuroprotective Properties of Cannabis.
2. Reduces Pain
Cannabis has been shown to be a powerful analgesic which blocks the pain receptors in the body. With inflammation and swelling comes pain, so when inflammation is reduced, so is pain. A study conducted at the University of California in San Diego held clinical trials to test the effects of smoking cannabis on physical pain. Within 45 minutes of smoking cannabis, participants who had smoked medium to large quantities of the medicine experienced a significant reduction in pain.
3. Stops Muscle Stiffness and Spasms
20% of those with MS experience spasticity which is uncontrollable muscle stiffness and twitching. This occurs when inflammation in the brain and spine damage nerve cells responsible for movement. The anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties of cannabis reduce the loss of muscular control and relieve spasticity. This finding was corroborated by a 2012 University of Plymouth study that cannabis was twice as effective in relieving stiffness and spasms. After 12 weeks of regular cannabis usage, participants experienced a significant reduction in spasticity compared to those who received the placebo.
4. Helps Digestion
Gastrointestinal problem are very common symptoms of MS. These include constipation, bladder and bowel control and digestive difficulties. With 70% of immune cells in the digestive system, cannabinoids interact with these cells via CB1 receptors to reduce bowel inflammation. THC is well-known as an appetite stimulant for those who have problems with appetite due to nausea and gastric distress. It also boosts the metabolism and stimulates hunger hormones. Cannabinoids also bind to receptors which helps to relax the muscles, reduces nausea and vomiting and relieves diarrhea.
5. Sleep Aid
Cannabis has been proven to be a great sleep aid. Those with MS often have serious sleep problems due to spasticity and pain. THC, in particular, helps you get to sleep faster, sleep more deeply and sleep for longer periods. Deep sleep is necessary to repair muscles, bones and the immune system.
6. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Those with MS often deal with anxiety and depression which accompanies having an incurable, chronic, debilitating disease. Flooding your brain with endocannabinoids reduces rates of stress-related anxiety and depression. It allows your brain to calm down and relax, providing a sense of well-being. A study at the University of Buffalo, using rats, found that when they were put under chronic stress, they produced fewer endocannabinoids. After cannabis compounds were injected into their brains, the rats demonstrated fewer symptoms of depression.
7. Protects Your Eyes
Some common symptoms of MS are blurred vision, uncontrolled eye movements and even temporary blindness, due to inflammation. Some people experience inflammation of the optic nerve which can cause swelling and impair their vision. Chronic optic nerve inflammation can be degenerative and can result in glaucoma and retinal degeneration. The neuroprotective qualities of cannabis can actually reduce the damage of these eye diseases.
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