The stigma around weed is slowly shifting. Once considered a potentially life-ruining “gateway drug,” cannabis has a new reputation: miracle drug. Marijuana’s supporters laud it as the answer to everything that ails you, from pain to mental issues, all without the dangerous side effects of many pharmaceutical drugs.
But is it?
We do know this much: While many Americans aren’t quite ready to empty out their medicine cabinets and start a pot farm in the backyard, we’re curious about one area where cannabis has shown a great deal of promise: treating inflammation and muscle soreness. Even though cannabis’ federal classification as a schedule-1 drug blocking it from undergoing meaningful clinical trials, several studies have found that cannabis—or, more specifically, several of its non-psychoactive chemicals—is an effective anti-inflammatory.
But first, we have to understand how cannabis works.
Endocannabinoids are chemical compounds that occur naturally in the body. They’re crucial for regulating the immune system, insulin, inflammation, and fat and energy metabolism. The endocannabinoid system is a relatively new discovery, and scientists are still learning more about it, but they have found that it affects everything from fertility to memory, and may even be responsible for the post-workout “high” many people experience. Cannabinoids in marijuana mimic your body’s natural endocannabinoids. That’s why scientists are exploring cannabis’ effects on such a wide variety of bodily functions.
One endocannabinoid, 2-AG, is especially prevalent in the central nervous system. 2-AG regulates appetite, immune function, pain, and inflammation. And as it happens, CBD, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, closely mimics 2-AG. That similarity has piqued researchers’ interest in CBD’s potential to treat epilepsy and autoimmune diseases like lupus, IBD, and inflammatory skin diseases.
“The whole point of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis, so it wants to regulate an even balance of nerve transmissions, inflammation and everything else,” explains Perry Solomon, M.D., chief medical officer at HelloMD, a startup dedicated to educating people about marijuana. “Studies have found that THC in mice increase the death of T-cells, which are inflammatory; this helps in immunosuppression. Some studies have found that endocannabinoids themselves down-regulate chemicals the body produces when there’s inflammation. In theory, and even in some clinical trials, it shows there is a decrease in inflammation when using cannabis.”
For instance: Cannabis’ tendency to lower T-cell counts is has…