- Medical cannabis is a drug derived from cannabis plants which may be used as a medicine to support several health conditions. It is legal when prescribed by a doctor but otherwise an illegal drug. The debate over its therapeutic benefits has been a hot topic in recent years.
This blog will explain the pros and cons of medical cannabis and go through alternative products which are legal and available from Vasse Valley (Yay!)
Medical Cannabis: Explained By A Nutritionist
Evidence suggests that cannabis has been used for medical purposes and religious ceremonies for thousands of years, with origins tracing back to native Central Asia. Medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016 and the use of hemp seeds as food in 2017. Thank goodness as hemp seeds are life!
~ HEMP SEEDS/HEARTS ~
Did you know that hemp seeds only became legal as a food in Australia in November of 2017 and thank goodness they did because they are little nutrient powerhouses that have so many health benefits.
- They are a great source of complete protein which means they contain all 9 essential amino acids. Three tbsps. contains 10g of protein.
- They contain 30% fat and are particularly rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). This makes them a great source of essential fatty acids for vegans and vegetarians. (Essential fatty acids are important for reducing inflammation in the body).
- Hemp seeds may also help improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis due to their high levels of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids
They contain vitamin E, iron, zinc, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium.
- Recent studies show that hemp seeds may reduce the risk of heart disease as they contain the amino acid arginine which acts as a relaxant to your blood vessels.
- Hemp seeds may reduce symptoms associated with PMS and menopause, thanks to its high levels of gamma-linolenic acid.
You can add hemp seeds to porridge, overnight oats, chia pudding, muesli, smoothies, salad, pesto, and pasta, the options are endless.
Aim to include 2-3 tablespoons of hemp seeds daily!
Medicinal cannabis uses a standardised extract of cannabis that comes from specific strains of the plant. The quality and purity of Medical cannabis ensures its safety and reliability.
Medical cannabis contains more than 100 different bioactive chemicals, including cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenoids. Two of the most researched compounds of cannabis are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is psychoactive and cannabidiol (CBD) a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid. THC may help with pain, muscle spasticity, insomnia, appetite, nausea and anxiety. CBD may help with seizures, inflammation, pain, nausea, depression and anxiety.
There are two main medicinal cannabis products currently approved for use in Australia. One contains a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD and the other has a high-CBD form that contains less than 1-5% THC.
It is always best to speak to your health Practitioner to determine if medicinal cannabis is appropriate for you.
Medicinal cannabis may have a wide range of complex and subjective effects which can vary between light and heavy uses depending on one's constitution. These can include feelings of intoxication, altered cognitive and sensory perception, euphoria, anxiety, dizziness and increased appetite. Let's explore some of the pros and cons below.
What are the Pros of Medical Cannabis?
Research has shown that medicinal cannabis may help with a range of health conditions such as chronic pain, seizures, muscle spasms, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, appetite, among other conditions.
Now for some solid recent research...
In a 2017 Systematic Review researchers concluded that medicinal cannabis may:
- decrease spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis patients;
- reduce tremor, rigidity, and pain in parkinson's patients;
- improve speech and swallowing, and decrease spasticity in Alzheimer's disease patients.
In 2021 a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of randomised controlled trials showed that medicinal cannabis may provide pain relief, improve physical functioning and sleep quality amongst patients with chronic pain.
Medicinal cannabis has also been used to reduce the incidence of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It may help with increasing or decreasing appetite and may also reduce weight loss associated with some cancer treatments.
What are the Cons of Medical Cannabis?
Although medicinal cannabis has many health benefits, like all prescription medicines there may be some side effects. Medicinal cannabis has a wide range of subjective effects which can vary between light and heavy uses, with the type of medicinal cannabis product and depending on one's individual constitution. The known side effects from medicinal cannabis (CBD and THC) include fatigue, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, fever, increased or decreased appetite, dry mouth, and diarrhoea. Patients with neurological conditions may be more likely to experience negative effects from medicinal cannabis.
Because of these reasons patients should never drive or operate machinery while being treated with medicinal cannabis. That probably should also include roller derby, synchronised swimming and rock climbing, hehe.
According to the TGA medicinal cannabis is not appropriate for:
- people with an active or previous psychotic or active mood or anxiety disorder
- women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding
- people with unstable cardiovascular disease.
Are there any alternatives to Medical Cannabis?
Terpenes, also known as terpenoids are mostly found in plants and form the major constituent of essential oils from plants. They give plants and flowers their distinctive scent, taste and healing abilities. Terpenes have a wide range of medicinal uses and are similar in structure to cannabinoids, which is why they can stimulate similar responses in our bodies. Cannabis contains at least 100 known terpenes - pretty cool huh!
Some terpenes can interact with the same receptors as medicinal cannabis, therefore their effects may be similar for health concerns such as sleep disturbances, stress, anxiety, pain and inflammation. Terpenes and CBD might even be used simultaneously to enhance their function. This is widely known as the ‘entourage’ effect.
Photo Credit: https://www.insideoutimages.com.au/
Terpenes may jump-start our body to do things like relax, regulate pain, sleep better and improve mood. They may have a positive effect on receptors and neurotransmitters and can enhance norepinephrine and dopamine activity, and increase GABA - our anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. Okay terpenes sound pretty cool so far!
Terpenes may also:
- support pain relief
- encourage relaxation
- enhance energy levels
- aid sleep
- help mood disorders
- fight cancer and tumour growth
- encourage the produce antioxidants in the body
- kill harmful bacteria
- fight inflammation
The wonderful thing about terpenes is they are perfectly legal to use. They are also generally recognised and safe and therefore readily available over the counter, whereas medicinal cannabis is currently not.
Overall, medicinal cannabis use may provide relief from a wide range of symptoms associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders. However it's always best to consult your health practitioner to talk about the benefits and risks and decide if medicinal cannabis is appropriate for you.
A safe alternative to medicinal cannabis may be terpenes. Research is still in its infancy however it is promising and showing many medicinal health benefits.
Thank you for reading, we hope this blog post has got you curious about terpenes! Pop over to our shop if you’d like to see our terpenes range.
Photo Credit: https://www.stevebarko.com/
*** Disclaimer ***
Nothing contained in this blog post is a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for educational and informative purposes only. Please consult a registered medical professional prior to making significant dietary changes, taking any supplements or modifying any medications.
About The Author:
Margo White is a Clinical Nutritionist who holds a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine. Margo uses food as medicine to gently nourish, strengthen and support health. She believes that life is about balance, and shouldn’t be restrictive. Margo advocates for an 80/20 way of eating; 80% whole foods and 20% soul foods - soul foods to nourish your soul and bring you great joy. When she’s not seeing clients in the clinic she is either in the kitchen developing recipes or creating content and blog writing for various aligned food companies.
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