The cannabis plant has been used for centuries in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. The primary varieties of the Cannabis plant are Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. Cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two active compounds found in the C. sativa plant. THC is responsible for the psychotropic effect, while CBD has no such effect. These compounds act through the CB1 receptors in the brain. Furthermore, the body’s first physiological endocannabinoid “anandamide” is also present in Cannabis.
While the recreational use of Cannabis has led to its ban across various parts of the world, more countries have recently legalized its medicinal use. In India, cannabis grows abundantly in the Himalayas and other tropical and subtropical parts.
Medicinal Properties of Cannabis
Cannabis is used in Ayurveda to treat various health issues, including sleep disorders, stress, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety, sexual disorders, and muscle pains. Additionally, it may help improve sleep, increase appetite, reduce constipation, and improve overall well-being.
Currently, the use of medical Cannabis has been approved for several conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting associated with cancer treatment, and epilepsy and seizures. It may also be useful for cancer patients who suffer from chemotherapy-induced severe nausea and vomiting, cancer-associated chronic pain, lack of appetite, weight loss, and depression.
Cannabis Research and Clinical Studies
Researchers are still studying the benefits of Cannabis and its various compounds, as well as the function of the other components present in the plant. However, they have proven that Cannabis is anti-cancer and may reduce the spread of cancer and its associated symptoms.
Although Sativex oromucosal spray has shown potential in a recent phase II clinical study for brain tumors, larger studies are required to determine its exact benefits. The preparation also needs to undergo rigorous safety and efficacy testing to get approval from national licensing authorities before patients can use it.
Legalization of Medicinal Cannabis
In India, the legal non-clarity surrounding Cannabis leaves has hindered the pursuit of clinical research on Cannabis compounds. The NDPS Act 1985 exempts the “leaves” of the Cannabis plant from the list of narcotic drugs. However, they are listed as a Schedule E(1) ingredient under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940. The use of bhang is restricted in India, and only government-authorized centers that have a permit for vendors can sell it.
Another challenge in the use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes is the need for standardization of cultivation, purification, and extraction methods. This is necessary for the formulation of Good Manufacturing Practices, which should be mandatory for all therapeutic preparations.
Medicinal Cannabis has the potential to benefit patients suffering from various conditions. More research and clinical studies are necessary to determine the specific benefits of cannabis compounds for different patient groups fully. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time for the potential use of Cannabis to treat sick people, with many lawmakers and patients supporting its legalization for medicinal purposes.