It's hard to open a newspaper or scan the Internet these days without finding some article either praising or condemning the use of cannabis as "medical marijuana." Its analgesic, antiemetic, anti-asthmatic, and anti-rheumatic properties have been so well established that cannabis is actually prescribed as a treatment by doctors in some states. But there is still the legality issue. Cannabis contains a psychoactive compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); that's the part of the herb that gets you "high." And it's still illegal nationwide under Federal law; states that allow cannabis sales to medical users have done so by finding loopholes that allow them to skirt the Federal laws.
But there is another compound in cannabis, one that not only is not psychoactive; it has been shown to actually block the psychoactive properties of THC. It is called Cannabidiol (CBD), and is a major constituent of the plant. From a legal point of view, CBD is actually more present in the type of non-psychoactive cannabis grown as hemp to produce paper and cloth than it is in the cannabis grown to "get high."
Cannabidiol has also been called by medical researchers "the wonder drug of the 21st century," because of its many potential uses in medical treatment. The most recent experiment on CBD should give you an idea why researchers are excited about it. In a study performed at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, CDB was found to stop the metastasis of several forms of aggressive cancers. Not slow it…stop it.
This discovery has the potential of altering the fatality rate of cancer forever
Those of you who have cancer or who have relatives who do, don't go out and score some marijuana and smoke it hoping it will stop the spread of your disease. The researchers in this study point out that 1) so far their results have been found only in animals and they are still waiting for FDA approval to test CBD on humans, and 2) you couldn't possibly smoke enough marijuana to produce the amounts of CBD needed to stop the metastasis of cancers. They at first used a highly concentrated form of Cannabidiol extracted from cannabis plants, and lately have begun synthesizing the compound in the lab.
In both in vitro (petri dish) experiments and those on animals, injections of this concentrated form of CBD were found to halt the metastasis of several types of aggressive cancers – breast cancer, brain cancer, cancer of the prostate, and any form of the disease in which high levels of ID-1 (the gene that causes cancer to spread) are present. Molecular biologist Pierre Desprey, one of the study leaders, explains, "What we found was that Cannabidiol could essentially 'turn off' the ID-1. The cancer cells stopped spreading, and returned to normal." He and his fellow researcher Sean McCallister are excited about the possibilities they see in CBD and hope to start clinical human trials soon, especially because in other medical uses CBD has been shown to have no known toxic effects and produce no deleterious side effects.
Cannabidiol research shows promise for other diseases, too
In a British study on patients suffering from inflammatory disorders, CBD was found to be more effective as an anti-inflammatory agent than aspirin. In another study, patients suffering from Huntington's Disease who had previously not responded to standard neuroleptic therapy responded very well to treatment with CBD, showing improvements in choreic movement of 20 to 40%. In a small but important Brazilian study on patients with epilepsy, 87% showed improvements and 50% remained free from convulsions. CBD has also been found to reduce symptoms in patients suffering from schizophrenia.
So it appears that the lowly hemp or cannabis plant might have far more important uses than just something to smoke to get high. If the results of Desprey and McCallister's trials on human patients with cancer prove as startling as their trials on animals, marijuana (or at least one of its constituent elements) may turn out to be the anti-cancer wonder drug that scientists have been trying to find for ages.