By Chris Kilham
AP Marijuana. Sierra de Juarez, Ensenada, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)
Today is known as National Marijuana Day or 4/20—and if the idea of having a marijuana deficiency sounds laughable to you, a growing body of science points at exactly such a possibility. Scientists have known that the active psychoactive compound in marijuana is THC, which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol.
In August 1990, researchers reported in the journal Naturethe discovery of receptors in the brain that specifically accommodate the cannabinoids in pot. Cannabinoids bind to particular neurological sites in the brain, as though the brain was specifically designed to utilize this plant. Did nature toss cannabinoid receptors into the brain by random chance? Are cannabinoid receptors part of an intelligent design for deriving maximum benefit from cannabis? Is cannabis a divine elixir of sacred communion for which we are ideally suited? Actually, a more sober answer seems likely. When there are receptors in the brain for a particular type of compound, that compound is made in the brain. This is true of many important agents that work to transmit brain messages of all types. So a hunt began to find such a compound.
In that vein, in 1992 researchers in Israel isolated the cannabinoid anandamide in the human brain. Unlike THC, anandamide is manufactured in the brain, and is therefore an endogenous cannabinoid. This agent, anandamide, is the compound that attaches to the built-in cannabinoid receptors in our brains. The name anandamide is based on the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss. Anandamide is a bliss molcule, enhancing greater well being and emotional satisfaction.
Ever since the pioneering work of Dr. William O’Shaughnessy on cannabis and pain compiled in the 1840’s a growing body of science has shown that cannabis offers relief for various types of pain. In the brain, the endogenous agent anandamide also plays a role in mitigating inflammation and pain. So both cannabinoids from inside and outside the body play a role in pain reduction. More recent studies show pain relief among sufferers of multiple sclerosis when cannabis is consumed.
Anandamide also plays a role in proper appetite, feelings of pleasure and well-being, and memory. Interestingly, cannabis also affects these same functions. Cannabis has been used successfully to treat migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma. So here is the seventy-four thousand dollar question. Does cannabis simply relieve these diseases to varying degrees, or is cannabis actually a medical replacement in cases of deficient anandamide?
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