(Don Lee, Newsmax) – With nearly two dozen states legalizing the medical use of marijuana and several more considering it one way or another, those supporting weed point to medical research that shows the benefits.
Here are four treatments credited to medical marijuana and cannabinoids, the compounds contained in the plant.
1. Treating Glaucoma
Early 1970s studies showed smoking marijuana decreased the intraocular pressure. That is, the fluid pressure inside the eye, making it useful in treating glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute. However, drugs already on the market were judged to be more effective, and side effects such as increased heart rate and lowered blood pressure were noted.
2. Controlling Seizures
A study in 2003 at Virginia Commonwealth University showed marijuana worked with a protein produced naturally in the brain to help control epileptic seizures. The researchers found the protein, which also plays a role in the “psychoactive” effects of marijuana, controls excitability and relaxation. The researchers, though, judged the psychoactive effects made the treatment impractical.
A little girl with Dravet Syndrome, another disorder characterized by seizures, responded well to treatment with a marijuana strain high in cannabidiol and low in THC—the psychoactive part of the plant — decreasing her seizures dramatically, according to CNN.
3. Cancer Research
Cannabidiol was thought to have inhibited a gene that helps cancer spread, according to an abstract of a study posted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, a part of the National Institutes of Health, in 2007. The chemical was the first nontoxic agent to have done so, the researchers said in their abstract.
4. Protecting the Brain
Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England found in 2013 that cannabinoids, chemicals found in marijuana, some of which also occur naturally in the body, can limit the size of the area of the brain that’s damaged by a stroke. All three classes of cannabinoid, those produced in the body, those extracted from the plant, and those made in a laboratory, seemed to help, the researchers said.
Another study published in the Oxford Journals online conducted on mice found cannabis compounds might similarly help protect the brain from damage after a concussion or similar injury, though researchers looked primarily at cannabinoids already produced by the body.
The column was originally published at Newsmax.