Cannabis and Hemp as Treatment for Pain

There are a number of treatments available for pain. Everything from acupuncture, to muscle relaxants, to opioids, to surgery. There is a time and place for each one, none more important than the other. It’s just a matter of what makes the most sense for you and your health. As part of our mission, we at The Sacred Plant have chosen to educate the masses about the possibilities of more natural solutions and treatment options, such as using medical cannabis and/or hemp. These options may be used as a separate treatment, or even used in conjunction with more traditional protocols.

Expert pain management physician and cannabinoid expert, Dr. David Bearman has been practicing pain management for several decades. It’s only for the past ten years that he’s included cannabinoid medicine. Across his entire career, his goal has always been to help the patient find the best relief, with the least amount of side effects.

As Mark S. Wallace, MD, a professor of clinical anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego explained at the 2018 American Pain Society meeting, “Our approach in recommending medical cannabis for pain is that patients have failed to respond to conservative therapies first. However, this should be considered before chronic opioids.

Before we look more closely at the specific ways medical cannabis and hemp can help with pain, we first should briefly explore the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

Our Natural Healer: The Accidental Discovery

Your body has many important systems working separately and together, at any given moment. Just as an example, your immune system controls and regulates your ability to defend against infection. Your Cardiovascular System (CVS) regulates your heart rate, blood pressure, blood vessels, and your blood itself. The Respiratory System regulates breathing mechanisms, including working with your airways, lungs, and coordinating with the Cardiovascular System through the blood vessels.

With so all these intricately linked processes, you may ask…

How do these systems know when to turn on or off? How do they know how and what to repair or what to protect at precisely the right moment? What controls these complex systems?

Thanks to pioneering research from the late 1980s and early 1990s, we now know the answer: The Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

Researchers accidentally stumbled upon what we now know as our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) while studying the medicinal applications of cannabis. Through this research, scientists first saw that there are naturally occurring neurotransmitters that respond to a specific chemical component of cannabis—THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). These neurotransmitters—later identified as cannabinoid receptors—turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor within the human brain.

In fact, cannabinoid receptors have since been found throughout the entire body, most notably seen in organs such as your lungs, kidneys, liver, and in your immune cells. They are present throughout your central nervous system (CNS).

Though the discovery of the ECS is so recent, it’s been around for millions of years. Experts speculate that the ECS has been present within mammals for upwards of 500 million years.

Since its groundbreaking discovery, the ECS has been continuously studied and shown to be responsible for homeostasis in your body. Maintaining homeostasis is the most critical responsibility of the ECS. Its job is to facilitate ongoing harmony within the body, even in the face of changes in our environment.

There are several factors that can impact homeostasis at any given point. Among those factors are our eating habits, consistency of exercise, environmental toxins, sleep hygiene, levels of stress, digestion, and the list goes on. If any of these factors become out of balance, the risk of disease and discomfort within the body increases.

In addition, our ECS is also heavily responsible for the processes of repair and protection. Because the Endocannabinoid System is in charge of these essential functions within our body, it has quickly been recognized as our inner “healer”.

The Sacred Plant: A Brief History & Understanding

We call it the sacred plant, while society has many different names for it, like Cannabis, “Marijuana,” Hemp, “Weed,” and many more.

Cannabis Sativa is the proper biological classification of the overarching species. Think of apples. Apples is the species of fruit. Within that species, there are many different types of apples ranging in color, taste, smell, size, etc. Same with trees. Tree is the species of plant, but within that species there are hundreds of subspecies or types of trees. Within the Cannabis Sativa species, there are 3 main separate subspecies: sativa, indica, and ruderalis (hemp). These subspecies are determined according to the specific, differing levels of constituents and molecules within each plant.

The three main constituents, or chemical make-up of the plant, consist of:

  • Phytocannabinoids/ Cannabinoids: Compounds unique to the Cannabis Sativa plant species. Each cannabinoid has its own level of effect on the human body through your body’s ECS.
  • Terpenes: These compounds are the “essential oils” of the plant. Terpenes have complementary effects to cannabinoids, as well as other benefits. They occur in a variety of plants, vegetation, and fruits and have a distinct, strong aroma and flavor profile.
  • Flavonoids: Considered some of the largest groups of phytonutrients found within plants. They give color to fruits and vegetables. Research continues to explore the value of these compounds but they are known to be beneficial, especially when working in harmony with other phytonutrients.

What makes the sacred plant truly unique is its ability to work within the ECS. This capacity is directly related to the cannabinoids found in Cannabis Sativa.

4 Ways Cannabis & Hemp Can Help With Pain

Regulating Inflammation

Research shows the following cannabinoids and terpenes as having anti-inflammation characteristics: CBD CBDa THCa CBGa CBC Myrcene Limonene Humulene Caryophyllene Delta 3 Carene

For best results, experts recommend using whole plant applications due to the Entourage Effect. The entourage effect is the combined interaction of all the plant constituents—cannabinoids and terpenes, working in unison to increase effectiveness. This also brings about side benefits (see examples below) and fewer adverse effects.

When using a whole plant application, less is more, as well. This often leads to positive results at much lower dosages

Reducing the Overall Pain Response

Helps Other Medications to Work Better

Despite decades of research and efforts to treat chronic pain, pharmaceutical options have proven “incomplete”—not fully reliable or effective—and are now known to have negative side effects, create dependent cycles, and even lead to severe addiction or death.  Opioids are by far the worst offenders, but over-the-counter medications are not without their issues. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) turned out to have negative effects on the liver. NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Aspirin and Ibuprofen (Advil) negatively affect the cardiovascular, GI, renal, and respiratory systems. You may not realize it, but all NSAIDs “double the risk of hospitalisation due to heart failure.” Little wonder why people are looking for better, more natural options!

Cannabis and hemp are able to help in a couple of ways. First, they reduce the pain response (more on that below) and secondly, they can work in tandem with other medications, allowing doses to be significantly lowered. In one study, researchers saw a 64-75% reduction in opioids in patients who added medical cannabis to their treatment. They also reported the complete discontinuation of opioid use in 32-59.3% of chronic non-cancer pain patients. Considering the extent of the opioid epidemic throughout North America, it is certainly promising to know that there is a natural way to manage pain, with little to no risk, and few to any side effects.

Improved Quality of Life

There are several direct and indirect ways cannabis and hemp can help improve quality of life. This, in turn can make a big difference in your pain tolerance, and overall ability to manage your pain. Some examples include: Mood Elevation—If your mood is good, you will naturally have more optimism about overcoming your pain challenges. For example, the relief hemp and cannabis can offer can help you to feel less irritable. Likewise, they both can contribute to a reduction or even elimination of anxiety and depression. Mobility and Exercise— You’ve heard it said: Sitting is the new smoking. Living a sedentary life is damaging to your health. Unfortunately, when you are in pain the last thing you want to do is exercise. Getting out and about may be very uncomfortable, even impossible.

Better Sleep—Everyone knows how important sleep is. When you are in pain, sleep may be a challenge. Not sleeping can lead to or make worse health issues that may contribute to pain. It’s a vicious circle, but cannabis and hemp can help.

As always, best results come from a whole plant product, wherever possible. You want to make sure you are getting as many terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids as possible in order to achieve these side benefits to taking cannabis and hemp for pain.