While the 1960’s have often been associated (at least in the minds of many) with the use of marijuana, the “teens” (as this decade is known) may soon supplant that period. That’s because so many states and localities have passed legislation allowing for the recreational use of cannabis.
As these laws have become enacted, there has been continued research and debate on the effects of the use of cannabis on the human physique. We’ll take a look here at what the nervous system facts are in regards to cannabis use.
Before we get its effects, let’s look at how it gets into you. Some people may not realize that there is a difference between cannabis and marijuana.
Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant. While marijuana is smoked, cannabis itself can be consumed by being eaten, drunk (as in tea), or after being converted to essential oils.
Now that you know how it gets into the body, let’s look at what it does when it’s in there. Particularly let’s look closer at cannabis and some nervous system facts to gain a better understanding.
To understand how cannabis affects the nervous system, we should first understand what makes up that key part of our physiology. In short, the nervous system is what makes you run.
It’s made up of your brain, nerves, spinal cord, and sensory organs. The nervous system controls your body and just like other control systems, it sometimes can get misaligned.
When this happens, for reasons we understand, and those that we don’t, sometimes we can adjust the alignment and other times we are left to only deal with the aftermath. Let’s look first at some very specific diseases and the effect that cannabis has on each of them.
When it comes to the nervous system facts surrounding cannabis, this is a big one. A number of studies have been completed, or are in progress, that have looked at the effects of cannabis on this disease.
The results, to date, have been promising. It’s been reported that cannabis can slow Alzheimer’s by blocking certain proteins which have been linked to the growth of the disease in an individual.
The introduction of cannabis into an Alzheimer’s patient’s body can also have positive growth in the brain. It again blocks damaging proteins but also promotes the growth of new brain cells, effectively negating the rapid attack pattern of this disease.
To be clear, this is in no way a cure, but rather a way to sort of level the playing field. Research will continue as scientists hope to discover other ways to combat this disease.
Some scientists have found through studies that cannabis can decrease the frequency with which seizures occur in those suffering from epilepsy. While they are not completely eliminated or made more predictable, their number, as well as their strength, can be greatly diminished.
Work completed by Baker and Pryce has shown that cannabis can help a sufferer of multiple sclerosis (MS) from the debilitating pain caused by the disease. It does this by reducing some of the damage to the body that the disease causes.
Not all effects of cannabis on the nervous system are positive though. Let’s look at some potential negative nervous system facts.
The researchers at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) have completed a number of long-term studies and concluded that there is a potential link between heavier usages of marijuana and depression or anxiety in the user.
It’s also been discovered that THC has an effect on the hippocampus which is responsible for memories. This means that the memory-making capabilities of the user could be lessened or impaired.
Similar to the effects that epilepsy sufferers find through relief with cannabis, those diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome can also experience a drop in the frequency of the number of tics. And the severity in them.
Those are just some of the nervous system facts surrounding cannabis use and its effects on the body. Let’s look now at the science behind these facts.
Let’s look at one possible reason why cannabis has proven to have such a profound effect on the nervous system. And it all started way back in the 1980s!
Scientists discovered that humans had an “endocannabinoid system” (ECS) as part of their bodies regulating system. But what does that mean exactly?
What those scientists discovered was that the metabolic process in our bodies, the process that keeps a balance between our systems, was being run by this ECS. What systems exactly need an ECS you may ask.
Well, in 2016 at the Cannabis Health Summit, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal shared research that showed a significant effect by the ECS on mood regulation, appetite, memory, inflammation, pain perception, muscle tone and movement, stress management, gastrointestinal motility, and seizure activity (among other systems).
Now the thing is, many people do not have an ample supply of naturally occurring endocannabinoids in their body to regulate these systems as needed. That’s why the introduction of cannabis can have so many healthy results.
When you think of cannabis, your mind probably goes to THC, this is the component of the plant that produces the “feel good” effect in your brain. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another active part of cannabis with some key medical benefits.
When people are studying the medicinal benefits of cannabis, what they are studying at the base is the effect of CBD on the bodies’ systems. While research into the effects of CBD is ongoing, at this point there has been enough scientific study completed to show that CBD has produced significant benefits in the overarching protection of the nervous system.
Its benefits are not limited to the nervous system either, as it has also been shown to keep blood sugar levels in check and build strong bones. It’s that protection of the nervous system that has scientists particularly intrigued though.
One of the ways that it does this is through its ability to suppress amide hydroxylase (FAAH) in the body. This fatty acid is particularly good at breaking down some of the neural transmitter functions necessary for certain developmental processes.
CBD also stimulates the body to increase the production and release of endocannabinoids and cannabinoids. The function of these is in the regulation of certain key nervous system tasks such as mood structure, sleep patterns, the strengthening of memory, and the regulation of one’s appetite.
As with many things, inflammation can be good in moderation.
Inflammation in a body is one of the ways the body attempts to protect its immune systems. Scientists, such as Dr. Ewa Kozela in the Tel Aviv University, have been studying the anti-inflammation properties of CBD.
Dr. Kozela and others believe that CBD has an innate ability to keep the cells of the immune system in check so that their periods of inflammation are focused and direct. This is particularly important for patients who have chronic, long-term illnesses.
The presence of CBD or THC restrains the immune cells from triggering the production of inflammatory molecules, and limits the molecules’ ability to reach and damage the brain and spinal cord
Homeostasis is not a word that many people are familiar with, but it’s certainly a feeling that we’ve all had. It’s a feeling of balance.
It’s having the perfect internal temperature, not being too hungry or too full, and being healthy so that your cells can comfortably do their thing. It is, in effect, a big word for describing yourself being right in the middle.
Many people, through no fault of their own, have trouble keeping their body in this state. That’s where the ECS comes in to play.
As we discussed earlier, the main function of the ECS is to regulate some of the key areas of the bodies’ nervous system. In effect, the ECS, when functioning properly, can help us to achieve homeostasis.
This is why many doctor’s and scientists have been extolling the virtues of cannabis and particularly CBD as a viable medical “tool.” Its introduction into the body helps to jump-start certain features within the ECS which, when running right, can help a body feel, and function, its best.
When it comes to cannabis use, the full effects on the nervous system are still being determined. Although much research has been completed on this subject, there are still connections to be made.
In what scientists and doctors have discovered to date though, the effects of cannabis, and specifically CBD, on the body are positive, particularly in those who fight chronic illnesses on a daily basis. Given the current political and public acceptance of cannabis, we may soon have an even greater opportunity to explore its benefits to the body.
As more and more people begin understanding the effects and abilities cannabis provides the body, and the laws regarding its usage, we will begin to learn even more about how this plant effects the human condition. If you have questions about the effects of cannabis, we’d love to share more nervous system facts.