Right now, about 400,000 people in the USA, and 2.1 million people worldwide have multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (or MS for short) is a neurodegenerative disease that wreaks havoc on the nervous system.
It's unknown why the disease happens, but it can develop suddenly and cause a wide range of problems that manifest physically, mentally, or in both manners.
However, cannabis has emerged as a powerful medicine in the fight against MS. Cannabis proved its medicinal value to the world by helping treat MS symptoms, which is difficult even for pharmaceutical options.
Continue reading to learn what MS is, what it can do to a person, and how cannabis has the potential to help millions of MS patients worldwide.
What Do We Know About Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is classified as an auto-immune disease. By definition, an auto-immune disease is someone's immune system turning against them and beginning to attack specific cells.
Naturally, the immune system is supposed to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other invaders.
Think of allergies as a sort of mild form of an auto-immune response. Your immune system mistakes harmless pollen and dust as intruders and overreacts, causing collateral damage to your cells.
In the immune response, there are two important types of cells—T-cells and B-cells. T-cells are like the Terminator; they seek out and destroy all pathogens.
B-cells are like scouts because they hunt down and mark invaders by releasing antibodies. There are many more cells involved, but these two do most of the destruction.
Attack on the Central Nervous System
With MS, T-cells and B-cells begin to attack the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is one of two parts of the nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.
More specifically, T and B-cells begin attacking neurons in the CNS. Neurons are specialized cells in the nervous system, and they're what allow us to hear, think, see, feel, move, and speak.
Neurons are specialized cells with long extensions like a tentacle to reach out and communicate (send signals) with the cells around them. This extended portion of a neuron is called an axon.
The axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin. Myelin acts like a jacket by insulating the axon, which speeds up the transmission of signals.
However, in MS, the immune cells begin attacking and destroying the myelin around the axon. Sometimes the damage is so bad that the nerve fibers under are entirely severed.
The damage and subsequent inflammation wreak havoc on the neurons by either slowing down their signals or stopping them altogether.
Effects of Multiple Sclerosis
Due to the complex nature of neurons and the CNS, someone with MS can have a wide range of symptoms.
MS symptoms can be physical by causing fatigue, walking difficulty, muscle spasms, numbness, and chronic pain. MS also affects the mind by causing learning difficulties, damaging the memory, and simple problem-solving difficulty.
MS can also cause psychological problems such as depression, and trouble with processing emotions.
How Does Cannabis Help People With Multiple Sclerosis?
Cannabis can help treat many different symptoms of MS because of its diverse set of compounds. These compounds include not just cannabinoids, but terpenes and flavonoids as well.
The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. CBD has been the focus of MS treatment because of the way it interacts with the immune system.
Many studies have proven that CBD can reduce inflammation and pain by modulating the immune system. That means that the CBD changes the way immune cells (like T and B-cells) react to stimulation.
CBD also exhibits some neuroprotective effects, which means that it can protect neurons from damage. This caught scientists’ attention with the possibility of cannabis being able to slow or stop the immune system from attacking the CNS.
However, at the moment, researchers don't definitively know if cannabis is able to prevent or slow down the onset of MS.
THC also plays a vital role with its ability to relieve neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is a common pain from MS neuron damage, and is one of the most challenging types of pain to treat.
Narcotics and other pain medications do not affect neuropathic pain the way that cannabis does. Luckily, multiple studies prove that when THC and CBD are used together, pain and muscle spasms from MS decrease significantly.
On top of that, CBD can help relieve some of the anxiety and stress associated with MS, allowing relaxation.
On top of all the tremendous help from THC and CBD, there's also terpenes and flavonoids. Terpenes are known to enhance the anti-pain, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety effects of CBD and THC. Flavonoids might also play a role since one study has shown that flavonoids can help reduce MS fatigue.
However, the research is ongoing regarding terpenes and flavonoids in relation to MS treatment.
The Future of Multiple Sclerosis and Cannabis
At the moment, about 40% of people with MS are using cannabis for a wide range of symptoms. It's estimated that up to 90% of people would use cannabis if it were legal.
Luckily, access to medical cannabis is becoming easier year after year as more states pass cannabis laws. In 2018, the farm bill was passed, allowing full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils in most states.
The medical cannabis industry has matured a lot in recent years, and now there are many high-quality cannabis products to choose from. Many of these products are made for effectiveness, long-lasting relief, and easy consumption, like THC and CBD gummies.
There is still a lot of research left to be done to find out all the different ways cannabis can help people with MS. Soon we might see specialty strains, edibles, and CBD oils specifically for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
As research is ongoing, it’s only a matter of time until we find out how cannabis can slow or stop multiple sclerosis in its tracks. Until then, patients with MS can rely on cannabis as an effective and potent therapy for the road ahead.Find relief for your MS symptoms with our award winning edible here.