Inflammation has become a big focus of the medical community as it’s increasingly tied to illness. Both friend and foe, some inflammation is beneficial and an integral part of the body’s ability to survive. But when the body remains inflamed without reason, it becomes problematic.
On the brightside, a lot of things reduce inflammation – drink a bottle of olive oil! Many people are encouraged to take NSAIDS on a regular basis to enhance this reduction. Yet, not everyone wants (or is able) to do this: those looking for more natural answers turn towards cannabis. And cannabis doesn’t let them down.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the result of a biological response to cellular damage caused by irritants or trauma. It’s considered part of the immune system, since it’s a reaction to illness or injury.
All sorts of things cause inflammation, everything from cutting yourself shaving to getting a cold. From having a toothache to twisting your ankle. From eating something that doesn’t agree with you to a sunburn.
Sometimes it’s obvious that inflammation is occurring – an abrasion hurts, for instance. Other times, inflammation comes and goes without much fanfare.
The Good and the Bad
As mentioned above, inflammation is both good and bad for you. Acute inflammation, which happens as the result of your body repairing itself, is the initial response to harmful stimuli and involves an increased deployment of blood and immune cells to the injured area. In this way, it’s beneficial: without it, wounds wouldn’t heal and infections would never go away.
When the inflammation becomes long-lasting, it turns into an issue
Like the old adage goes, everything in moderation and this seems to apply to inflammation as well. Think of it this way: taking one aspirin a day is advantageous to your health; taking twenty a day and you’ll probably have to bid a tearful goodbye to your stomach lining. Inflammation is like this – there can certainly be too much of a good thing.
Chronic inflammation is an exaggerated response that leads to changes in the cells present at the inflamed site; it both heals and destroys the nearby tissue. Some people aren’t aware that they have chronic inflammation until it does enough damage to cause disease. Other people have overt symptoms – someone with esophageal inflammation, for example, may have years of acid reflux.
Acute inflammation is temporary and fleeting; chronic is not. If the latter is left untreated, it can lead to several ailments including gastrointestinal issues, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative maladies.
Acute inflammation is often a result of injury, infection, allergies and toxins while chronic inflammation is a result of diet, excessive alcohol use, cigarette smoking, and working with irritants (such as certain corrosive chemicals).
Cannabis and Inflammation
People suffering from medical conditions commonly turn towards marijuana to help them manage their illness. If they’re suffering from an inflammatory condition, they have good reason to look towards the leaf: pot is linked to both reducing inflammation and the associated pain. Many feel certain strains target their pains better than others. Blue Dream, for example, is a popular strain for targeting pain. Whichever strain you choose, the reason for pot’s effectiveness has to do with its most prevalent cannabinoids: THC and CBD.
THC and CBD each work to minimize inflammation but in different ways. High THC strains such as Sour OG are helpful in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, a precursor for many heart attacks and strokes. It’s beneficial in reducing airway inflammation too, namely when you come down with the flu.
CBD is helpful in reducing the inflammation in joints and inhibiting the progression of disease related to that inflammation
It’s also helpful in reducing edema, a swelling of the body that happens as the result of injury or in some medical problems (like comprised kidney or cardiac function).
CBD is helpful to people who suffer from Crohn’s disease as well (Crohn’s is an illness marked by inflammation in the lower digestive tract). And CBD may be effective in treating some cancers caused by chronic inflammation.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, cannabinoids have certainly been shown to exert anti-inflammatory properties, but the reasons why aren’t entirely clear. Some stuff is known: THC and CBD decrease the production of cytokines (proteins that signal cells to react), but CBD goes the extra mile and reduces the activity of the pathway most important to the inflammatory process. CBD also suppresses the activity of the amidohydrolase enzyme, which increases anandamide, an endocannabinoid that further reduces inflammation.
Research conducted in Zurich found another perk to pot: cannabis helps stop inflammation because it contains beta-carophyllene, a terpene found in a variety of plants. Cinnamon, oregano, basil, and black pepper contain beta-carophyllene and, not surprisingly, are used as part of anti-inflammatory diets.
Inflammation and Pain
Of course, marijuana’s impact on the pain associated with inflammation is well established. A Canadian study published in 2010 proved that this relief isn’t leaf lore when it comes to nerve pain or pain from surgery. This study involved a clinical trial where researchers compared a placebo with three different doses of cannabis.
They discovered that people on the highest dose of marijuana experienced the most relief
This, as well as other research, is enough for some states to list specific inflammation related diseases as approved conditions for medical pot. Medical marijuana is valid in certain areas for problems such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and severe or intractable pain. An indica strain like Orange Bud might be useful when trying to manage pain.
Recreational Use and Inflammation
While a lot may be made of weed’s anti-inflammatory properties in terms of medicinal marijuana, recreational users help themselves too. In short, you don’t have to have an active illness to have inflammation somewhere in your body. Just as people take an aspirin a day to ward off things like cancer (they’re recreational aspirin users), people who regularly ingest marijuana receive the benefits. Whether you use marijuana medicinally or for fun, the advantages of cannabinoids don’t change.