Medical Cannabis

Learn about the evidence of the beneficial effects of medical cannabis

Medical Cannabis History

Medicinal cannabis (also called medical marijuana) refers to the use of the cannabis plant and its component cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) as a medical treatment for certain conditions and their associated symptoms. The flowering head of the cannabis plant contains the highest concentration of cannabinoids, differing to hemp oil which comes from pressing the seeds of hemp plants (in Australia).

It should be noted that referring to cannabis as though it were one type of medicine is misleading as there are various forms that medicinal cannabis can take as well as a range of strengths and varieties.

Cannabis has been used medicinally since 1000 BC, initially as an anaesthetic and was introduced from India to Europe around the mid-19th century1. It was used for a variety of conditions including rheumatism, convulsions, and muscular spasms.1,2 In the early 1900’s, although medical cannabis was widely used, chemists were unable to create a consistent product because the active ingredients were unknown. By the mid-20th century, cannabis became illegal in most countries around the world and its usage by the medical community ceased. In 1965, Raphael Mechoulam and Yehiel Gaoni isolated THC for the first time which led to a flurry of investigations. Twenty-five years later Mechoulam discovered endogenous cannabinoids as well as the endocannabinoid system, which again reignited interest and research into the plant3.

The last twenty years, has seen a gradual, world-wide re-adoption of Cannabis for medical purposes. It has been legalised in Canada, Israel and many US states, as well as several European countries including but not limited to Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Finland.

In the last 45 years, there have been nearly 600 studies conducted using medical cannabis, with more than a third of those studies published in the last five years. This renewed global interest in medical cannabis has led to a better understanding of the cannabis plant, and identification of many more active components that have potential benefits across a range of symptoms.

Who may benefit from Medicinal Cannabis?

Chronic pain, epilepsy, neurodegeneration, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, cancer pain and chemo-induced nausea and vomiting are some of the conditions listed as potential therapeutic uses of, or indications for, the prescription of medicinal cannabis in one or more of the following country health care professional guidelines:

Australian TGA Guidelines

Health Canada Cannabis Guidelines

Israel Ministry of Health Cannabis Guidelines

The Office of Medical Cannabis

Product Pipeline

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The Endocannabinoid system

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Additional Cannabinoids

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