If you’ve been following MERRY JANE’s series on the health and wellness benefits of weed, you’ll know there’s a lot of scientific research on this exact topic. In Volume 1, we explored some of the evidence behind the effects marijuana can have on pain, mental health, cognition, bones and joints, and internal and digestive health. Volume 2 covered pot's sweet effects on cardiovascular health, neurodegenerative diseases, migraines, and fibromyalgia. The third installment discussed the plant as a potential treatment for cancer, asthma, liver disease, sexual difficulties, and other health issues including epilepsy, glaucoma, and asthma.
And now, it is time for Volume 4, where we’ll look at the impact cannabis can have on sleeping disorders, skin health, and autism spectrum disorder.
Does Weed Actually Treat Sleeping Disorders?
If you’ve had much experience with some loud-ass indica, you’re probably aware of the anecdotal evidence (your experiences included) showing that cannabis supports deep, restful sleep. But there’s research to back up that notion, too. A 2007 study of 2,000 subjects, 1,000 of whom were suffering from various pain conditions, showed a significant improvement in sleep parameters with the use of the cannabis-derived pharmaceutical Sativex. Among all subjects, 40 to 50 percent “attained good or very good sleep quality, a key source of disability in chronic pain syndromes that may contribute to patients' quality of life” without the development of tolerance or a need for dosage increases.
Cannabis can also be an effective treatment for those who struggle with interrupted sleep due to nightmares, including patients with PTSD. A study in 2008 found that using marijuana can reduce the amount of REM sleep, the period in which dreaming is most active. The same study found that high doses of THC can facilitate falling asleep and increase dreamless, deep sleep. And in 2009, researchers determined that a synthetic cannabinoid known as nabilone could help manage treatment-resistant nightmares in patients with PTSD.
How Does Cannabis Effect Skin Health?
Studies show that the health benefits of weed may include relief for those with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Cannabis topicals provide an easy and effective way to apply cannabinoids directly to the skin.
Research published in 2003 found that when applied topically, the synthetic cannabinoid HU-210 significantly reduced experimentally induced itch. A 2016 review of prior research determined that cannabis shows potential as a treatment for psoriasis, an itchy and painful condition characterized by patchy buildups of excess skin cells. Another study in 2007 found the THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG may be effective treatments for psoriasis by slowing the growth of skin cells, known as keratinocytes, on the outer layer of skin.
The authors of a 2009 study found that marijuana had the potential to treat other skin conditions, writing that the “therapeutic possibilities of cannabinoid usage in skin diseases seem to be unquestionable.” A study published in 2013 even supports cannabis’s topical power in cancer treatment. The study found that anandamide, the endogenous cannabinoid that is an analog to THC, inhibited the growth of tumors in patients with melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.
How Does Cannabis Impact Spectrum Disorders?
Research has also been conducted on the effect cannabis can have on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurological and developmental disability that begins early in life and manifests with symptoms including epilepsy, hyperactivity, sleep disorders, self-injury, anxiety, behavioral problems, and communication difficulties, among others.
In one study, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center investigated a potential link between cannabis and behavioral improvements in patients with ASD. Reviewing the data of 188 children with ASD who were treated with cannabis, the research team determined that marijuana was safe and well-tolerated and was effective at reducing symptoms including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness, and rage episodes.
Most of the patients in the study received a cannabis extract containing 30 percent CBD and 1.5 percent THC. After six months of treatment, 30 percent of the subjects in the study reported a significant improvement in symptoms; more than 54 percent reported moderate improvement; and just 15 percent showed no change, or slight improvement.
The researchers also looked at improvements in patients’ quality of life, mood, and ability to perform daily activities before treatment and again six months after beginning cannabis therapy. Prior to treatment, 31.3 percent of those in the study reported good quality of life, a figure that more than doubled to 66.8 percent after treatment. Patients that reported a positive mood increased from 42 percent before cannabis treatment began to 63.5 percent after six months.
It’s clear that cannabis can have beneficial effects on patients with a host of medical conditions. As time goes on and more research into the benefits of weed continues, we’re sure to find more health and wellness applications for cannabis. Check back in with MERRY JANE to learn more about the science behind the benefits of marijuana.