Humans have been cultivating cannabis since they first came in contact with the plant. Its variety of uses and effectiveness are justification enough for humanity’s constant entanglement with marijuana. Arguably its most significant use is in medicine, and the majority of states in the US benefit from medical marijuana (MMJ) programs. Generally, a person’s ability to enter their state’s MMJ program is dependent upon the “qualifying conditions” the state legislature has decided upon.
Some states, like Missouri, have a very inclusive list of qualifying conditions – containing 25+ specified ailments in addition to blanket statements like “chronic pain”. However, other states have much more restrictive standards. The list of ailments that marijuana can treat is seemingly growing every day, so shouldn’t lists of qualifying conditions mirror that progress?
Here are a few of the countless conditions that medical marijuana has shown to help with:
1. Acid Reflux
While acid reflux isn’t the most debilitating condition, it is certainly irritating – with its uncomfortable effects often interfering with the enjoyment of food and drink. However, medical marijuana has proven to be helpful with a plethora of gastrointestinal disorders like loss of appetite and nausea. That effectivity extends to acid reflux.
Your gastrointestinal tract is regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is also the main cell-signalling system that the compounds in cannabis interact with. Cannabis can help reduce acid reflux-related inflammation, relax your esophagus, and help manage pain and discomfort.
Research has shown that the development acne is heavily influenced by the endocannabinoid system. CBD has shown to deliver strong anti-acne activity, modulating acne-causing glands and acting as an anti-inflammatory. While there haven’t been many products with a high enough CBD concentration in beauty markets, the promise that CBD topicals show is undeniable.
Agoraphobia is an extreme anxiety disorder that is often characterized by the fear of entering open or crowded spaces. There is mounting evidence that cannabis helps relieve anxiety disorders (we’ll get to that in a bit) as well as phobias. Cannabis – and CBD in particular – can act as an anxiety-reducing agent, managing symptoms of Agoraphobia related to the endocannabinoid system like stress and anxiety.
4. Alzheimer’s Disease
Studies with Alzheimer’s patients have shown that THC has helped relieve many of Alzheimer’s disease’s (AD) symptoms, including anxiety, chronic pain, poor appetite and sleep problems. This is due to the endocannabinoid system’s responsibility in regulating those functions. In addition, inflammation plays a huge role in the progression of AD, so THC and CBD’s strong anti-inflammatory effects may be helpful in slowing the development of the disease.
5. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
Like Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder. Generally speaking, cannabis is incredibly effective in relieving the symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders. Surveys with ALS patients have shown that cannabis use – particularly high CBD and average THC doses – has reduced symptoms like appetite loss, depression, pain, and drooling.
The endocannabinoid system is the driving force behind the body’s regulation of energy balance and appetite. Most people are well aware that increased appetite – the “munchies” – is a common effect of cannabis, so it’s no surprise that cannabis has been used as an appetite stimulant as far back as ancient China and India. For those same reasons, marijuana can be helpful during several stages of anorexia recovery.
Medical marijuana’s effectiveness in treating anxiety is all dependent on the cannabinoid and dosage. There’s evidence that the endocannabinoid system is activated during the presence of anxious feelings. The brain’s amygdala – the part of the brain most commonly associated with anxiety – is the home to a large amount of the ECS’s cannabinoid receptors. In short, high-CBD percentages have shown to be more effective in treating anxiety than high-THC percentages, but terpenes found in all cannabis have been shown to contain calming agents.
8. Appetite Loss
Medical marijuana is helpful in treating appetite loss for the same reasons it’s helpful in treating anorexia. Only a small dose of cannabis is needed for appetite stimulation, and it’s often used to treat appetite loss in several diseases and disorders.
Marijuana has well-recorded applications in combating pain and inflammation, and it has been used to treat arthritis since at least 2500 B.C. Modern science shows that the effects of THC and CBD help control pro-inflammatory factors that damage tissue and cause many forms of arthritis.
While smoking cannabis may not have a decidedly positive effect on the lungs, other methods of ingestion have been shown to curb aspects of asthma. Airway dilation and bronchospasms are the main symptoms generally characterized with asthma – both functions being regulated by the endocannabinoid system. Studies have confirmed THC’s bronchodilatory effects, increasing bronchospasm recovery times in asthma patients. In addition, it’s been suggested that CBD could be helpful in managing the inflammatory response in asthma.
11. Autism Spectrum Disorders
For years, the use of marijuana in treating autism spectrum disorders was surrounded by an air of controversy. There were stories of organizations urging state legislators to tighten regulations with children and medical marijuana, due to the growing trend of parents treating their autism spectrum children with cannabis. However, autism spectrum disorders remain on a few states’ lists of qualifying conditions. CBD has been shown to limit outbursts of rage and temper tantrums, as well as seizures in more severe cases of autism.
12. Bulging Disc
Back pain is the number one reason why people visit their doctors, and a bulging disc is one of the most reasons for people’s back pain. Though they can be asymptomatic, a bulging disc can result in tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain – specifically of the sciatic nerve. However, there’s precedents of marijuana effectively treating nerve pain – including an Institute of Medicine-issued report of the ECS managing the nervous system’s perception of pain. In addition to pain relief, cannabis takes care of symptoms like inflammation and muscle spasms too.
Cachexia, or wasting disorder, often affects patients with conditions like AIDS and late-stage cancer. Cachexia causes already uncomfortable symptoms to worsen, as well causing patients to experience weight loss, muscle/fat depletion, nausea, and major weakness. Marijuana is of course useful in treating cachexia, due to its appetite stimulating effects. Because of this, cachexia is listed as a qualifying condition in over 20 states.
While some cannabinoids have noted cancer-fighting properties, they’re not proven to be more effective than more conventional treatments currently available. However, marijuana’s value in cancer treatment shouldn’t be understated. Cannabis is known to combat nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, and it can undoubtedly improve a cancer patient’s living situation.
15. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A lot of the over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed to treat carpal tunnel syndrome have a series of unwanted side effects. Weight gain, illnesses, allergies – a list that makes you question if the medication is even worth it. CBD, on the other hand, relieves pain and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent without the intrusive side effects.
16. Celiac Disease
This autoimmune disorder can lead to unpleasant symptoms, intestinal damage, and a higher risk of long-term health complications. While a gluten-free diet is the only treatment currently known, medical marijuana can be very useful in supporting the treatment. Cannabis can be used to treat symptoms like stomach pain, joint pain, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea. But in addition, studies have shown that cannabinoid receptors can help heal intestinal damage caused by celiac disease, so there may be more MMJ treatments in the future.
17. Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is the number one reported reason for patients’ use of medical marijuana, and that’s for a reason. Increasing amounts of studies has shown cannabis as an effective pain treatment, packing fewer side effects than more traditional alternatives.
18. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s is a bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract – leading to pain, fatigue, and malnutrition. Medical marijuana’s known anti-inflammatory effects make it a great candidate for managing Crohn’s disease, reducing bowel inflammation and providing alleviation from many uncomfortable symptoms.
19. Degenerative Disk Disease
When the shock-absorbing discs within the spine begin to wear down and cause pain, Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is generally the diagnosis. Degenerative Disc Disease can lead to extreme pain, a lack of flexibility, and numbness of extremities. However, research has shown that reducing inflammation is key to reducing pain in DDD patients, making marijuana – particularly CBD – a good course to take to manage symptoms.
Dementia – while not a disease on its own – describes multiple symptoms related to mental decline like memory loss, frustration, mood changes, problems communicating, and more. While marijuana hasn’t shown to combat cognitive decline, it can be helpful in managing the behavioral symptoms of dementia. The relaxing and sedative effects of cannabis can help with dementia patients’ agitation, anxiety, aggression and lack of sleep.
People suffering through depression have been using marijuana to self-medicate for years. A current USC study on marijuana’s impact on depression has shown promising results in support of that decision, with marijuana users in the study showing fewer signs of depression than those who continued the study without cannabis. This is surely due to marijuana’s mood-boosting capabilities, with many strains packing uplifting effects.
22. Drug Addiction
The endocannabinoid system regulates how the body responds to stress and rewards, which are some of the key functions in drug addiction. This has led to research showing some cannabinoids in marijuana interfering with important mental mechanisms that prompt addictive and compulsive behavior. Not to mention marijuana’s obvious role in reducing opioid dependence – providing a less addictive alternative for pain relief.
Epilepsy has been extremely responsive to marijuana treatment, to the point of the FDA approving a pharmaceutical drug that uses CBD to treat two severe forms of the disease. High-CBD strains of cannabis have been known to reduce seizures while also minimizing the psychoactive effects of THC, which may be optimal in some cases.
There have been studies of marijuana’s positive impact of glaucoma patients since the early 1970s. The endocannabinoid system has shown to play a big role in the cardiovascular system, possibly even regulating blood pressure. Glaucoma is often characterized by extreme pressure in your eye, often leading to blindness. In turn, cannabinoids seem to help decrease this pressure, in addition to managing pain and nausea that results from glaucoma.
25. Hepatitis C
While marijuana alone can’t be used to treat hepatitis C, it can be used to help patients fully comply with hepatitis C treatments. Hep C’s standard treatment – interferon – carries a bevvy of side effects that many patients have trouble managing, such as muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, depression, and abdominal pain. Marijuana is known to be helpful in managing all of these conditions.
Marijuana is useful in treating HIV/AIDS for similar reasons it’s useful in treating hepatitis C. Antiretroviral therapy, the treatment generally used to combat HIV/AIDS, can result in unrelenting side effects like appetite loss, depression, nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, and more. Marijuana lessens these side effects, allowing patients a better quality of life while adhering to treatment.
Inflammation is a key part in the body’s defense and healing mechanisms, but that doesn’t mean it should be suffered through. Generally, inflammation can be a result of a plethora of circumstances – including diabetes, arthritis, allergies, and injury. No matter the cause, inflammation can cause pain, loss of function, and swelling – which is why marijuana is such a sought after treatment for it. CBD and THC don’t only reduce inflammation, but they interfere with the body’s production of pro-inflammatory substances too.
Difficulty sleeping is enough of a problem on its own, but it can also cause a ripple effect in anybody’s life. Lack of concentration, headaches, depression – what once were simple side effects can grow into larger problems on their own. Thankfully, cannabis – particularly strains high in cannabinol and THC – is an efficient sleep aid, and it can help insomnia patients return to a normal sleep cycle.
29. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Similar to its use in treating Crohn’s disease, marijuana can be an effective treatment for IBS due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which help ease intestinal flare ups in IBS. Additionally, cannabis can help relieve common symptoms of IBS like depression and abdominal pain.
Menopause is an almost universal experience among women, which is why it’s so surprising that pharmaceuticals meant to treat menopausal symptoms can result in such an extreme list of side effects: swelling, mood swing, headaches, nausea, heart disease – many would rather to just suffer through the symptoms! Marijuana, on the other hand, can deal with symptoms like irritability, depression, and trouble sleeping without the unwanted side effects.
Smoking or vaporizing cannabis can provide an almost-instant relief to a migraine’s list of debilitating symptoms – something that over-the-counter medications can’t even begin to claim. A recent study has looked at the effects of weed on people who suffer from migraines, and the results were promising, with 85% of patients reporting fewer migraines with marijuana as a part of their treatment.
32. Motion Sickness
Marijuana is not only able to combat nausea induced by chemotherapy or various disorders – it can combat motion-induced nausea, too. Controlled research has shown that subjects who experience motion sickness generally have lower endocannabinoid levels – showing a direct link between motion-induced nausea and the ECS.
33. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system that over 2.3 million people suffer from. Currently, there is no cure for the disorder, which has led to MS patients seeking out alternative methods to deal with symptoms. Marijuana has shown to greatly reduce symptoms in patients, acting as an anti-inflammatory, pain relief, and antispasmodic medicine. This allows MS patients better motor control, less muscle spasms, and a less painful existence.
34. Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms can accompany an underlying condition like MS or ALS, but they’re bound to plague everyone eventually – whether it be a tense lower back after mowing the lawn or a foot cramp in the middle of the night. These muscle spasms generally stem from inflammation, which – as we’ve discussed – can be treated with marijuana.
35. Muscular Dystrophy
Unfortunately, Muscular dystrophy (MD) disorders are completely inherited, and there is no known cure. However, marijuana can offer a solution to managing the chronic pain that is known to come along with MD disorders, without ending in chemical dependency like opiate-based pain medications.
Chronic and severe nausea is a condition that can appear across many disorders and diseases, and medical marijuana has been used to treat it for thousands of years. Some strains that are known to treat nausea are Super Sour Diesel, White Fire OG, and Death Star.
Neuropathy is weakness and pain caused by nerve damage – generally in the hands and feet. Many patients don’t get enough relief from more traditional treatment methods, so they turn to medical marijuana to help effectively manage pain.
38. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Finding an effective treatment for OCD can be a long process. Generally, doctors turn to cognitive therapy in addition to the help of anxiety or depression medications, but those pharmaceuticals come with a long list of potential side effects. And while OCD looks very different across different individuals, marijuana could prove helpful in treating symptoms of OCD like stress, depression, impulsive behavior, and anxiety.
Osteoporosis is often linked to the aging process and is characterized by a patient losing bone mass, becoming more prone to fractures and breaks. Using marijuana to help treat osteoporosis has been a controversial subject, connected to claims that marijuana use can lead to lower bone density. However, those claims are widely inflated and unsubstantiated. In fact, marijuana can help treat many symptoms of osteoporosis, mostly in the areas of managing fracture pain and inflammation.
40. Palliative Care
While palliative care isn’t strictly a “condition”, improving the quality of life for patients living with serious and terminal illnesses is of great importance. For patients in hospice care, depression and anxiety is common and understandable. CBD has been found very effective in treating those feelings. And for people living with painful conditions, marijuana’s pain relieving effects are well documented.
41. Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system that is known to wreak havoc on the motor system – causing tremors, difficulty walking, slowness, in addition to severe cognitive and behavioral symptoms. In studies, cannabinoids have shown to significantly reduce uncontrolled movements caused by Parkinson’s, but there still isn’t a full understanding as to why. As research continues, marijuana continues to be used to manage other symptoms found with Parkinson’s, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, and a lack of sleep.
The development of post-traumatic stress disorder is directly linked to the endocannabinoid system (ECS). When cannabinoid receptors in the ECS are working properly, they help suppress harmful memories and lower anxiety. However, when they’re not functioning right, fearful memories can stick and linger – leading to higher cases of PTSD. It’s been shown that CBD is helpful in quelling painful memories and lowering anxiety.
Though smoking marijuana can trigger psoriasis flare-ups, topical cannabis creams and tinctures have shown to be very helpful in treating the condition. Marijuana is known to be extremely effective in treating skin irritation or inflammation. Not only that, but a 2007 study showed that cannabinoids can slow the increase in problem skin cells during psoriasis flare-ups, so marijuana could prove to be more effective than many think.
Medical marijuana – particularly CBD – has provided great relief for patients suffering from seizure disorders. Research has shown seizures being reduced by upwards of 89% when patients are treated with cannabis. The promising studies have led to the use of medical marijuana gaining support from the Epilepsy Foundation as well as marijuana being seen as a viable treatment option for patients.
45. Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease characterized by an insufficient level of oxygen throughout the patient’s body, caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells. It can lead to fatigue, severe and periodic pain episodes, swelling, and more. Researchers are hypothesizing that marijuana can significantly decrease chronic pain and decrease inflation in sickle cell patients. They seem to be behind the curb though, as a 2005 survey already showed that 52% of sickle cell anemia patients consumed marijuana to relieve pain.
46. Skin Conditions
Medical marijuana has already shown to be effective in treating acne and psoriasis, and that effectiveness extends to other skin conditions as well. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) exists in all cell types produced by the skin – regulating hair follicles, moisturization and protection, proliferation, wound-healing, and more. Because of this, topical application of THC and CBD is growing in popularity among patients with skin conditions.
47. Social Anxiety Disorder
CBD or low doses of THC have been known to significantly lessen many symptoms of social anxiety disorder. A study in 2001 even found that ingesting CBD before engaging in situations that could be anxiety-inducing significantly reduced patient discomfort – even allowing severe patients to enjoy social interactions.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare, lifelong condition that generally starts in your back and spreads to your neck and other joints. It’s the gradually fusing of bones, with major inflammation in your spinal bones. While there’s no cure for the condition, medical marijuana can treat symptoms like pain, inflammation, and sleeping problems.
It’s well publicized that marijuana has stress relieving properties. However, it should be known that higher doses of THC can lead to anxiety and paranoia, so it’s better to stick to low-THC/high-CBD strains if you’re looking to unwind.
Tendinitis may be the most common condition on this list. Characterized by inflammation in the joints, tendinitis can lead to pain and tenderness while moving. However, marijuana’s treatment is a foregone conclusion at this point, with cannabis being a tremendous anti-inflammatory medicine.
If you’d like to learn more about marijuana’s medical applications, check out these other articles from The Weed Blog: