What is medical cannabis

Macro of high-grade marijuana bud from Holland.

You’ve likely heard of people using marijuana as medicine. Medical cannabis an increasingly popular choice. Here’s what it’s not: it’s not about getting high. Rather, medical cannabis is used to treat a variety of conditions as varied as nausea, seizure disorders, Crohn’s disease, colitis, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, depression, and many others. It can also be used to stimulate appetite, facilitate sleep, reduce pain and inflammation, and more.

Though there are dozens of known cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, the two main ones used in medical cannabis are:

THC — THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. This chemical component is the most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. THC is well known for its mind-altering effects. It’s what gets a user high. THC also offers therapeutic effects, making it an important component in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions.

CBD — CBD is short for cannabidiol. This is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects, but it is effective in treating all kinds of medical conditions.


Medical cannabis has been found to be an effective treatment for a long list of physical and mental health conditions including but not limited to: cancer, PTSD, MS, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, diabetes, autism, insomnia, IBS, Parkinson’s disease, and respiratory diseases.

For example, a 2013 clinical study published in Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology, found that Tikun Olam’s Erez strain of medical cannabis produced dramatic results in Crohn’s patients with 50 percent of participants achieving complete remission. More than 90 percent experienced substantial improvement in their condition with no observed side effects.

Last year, a research survey published in Clinical Neuropharmacology, examined how cannabis effected the motor and non-motor symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, Tourette’s syndrome, and other movement disorders. It also looked at side effects, quality of life, and daily activities of living associated with the treatment. Here’s what the survey found:

Positive effect on condition and mood — 76.9 percent
Improvement in pain and spasticity — 64 percent
Decreased tremors — 59 percent
Improved sleep quality — 59 percent


As promising as these studies are, you can’t just swing by your local dispensary, pick up a tray of marijuana-laced brownies, and expect them to magically cure your condition. That’s because medical cannabis and recreational cannabis have different goals and chemical compositions. Recreational cannabis typically features strains known for their psychoactive effects and may have very high THC levels whereas medical cannabis features strains known for their therapeutic effects and may have a more balanced chemical composition — or even minimal THC levels.