Cannabis has moved out of the grey area and into its rightful position as a part of a healthy approach to overall wellness. In fact, a recent study released from Duke University and the University of Arizona found that long-term marijuana use didn’t lead to a decline in health. In this study, 1,000 participants from New Zealand were tracked over a 40-year period, each with a minimum of 20 years of consistent cannabis consumption—smoking, specifically.
The study found no decline in lung function as well as no increase in high blood pressure or diabetes. Nor did it detect any other deterioration in physical health. The one caveat to the study was that the researchers found high levels of gum disease among the study participants. That said, this is a factor that could very well decrease as people move away from smoking marijuana towards vaporizing cannabis as well as consuming edibles or using cannabis-infused topical products.
In addition, no similarities were found between those who engaged in long-term tobacco smoking versus long-term marijuana smoking. Avshalom Capsi, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and the co-author of the study, said that “overall damage to physical health is not apparent in this study.”
This study adds new scientific evidence to the thousands of years of anecdotal evidence, which show that cannabis isn’t bad for your health, nor can it kill you. Meanwhile, 595,690 deaths a year in the U.S. alone are attributed to tobacco. What we’re now finding is that cannabis provides a variety of health benefits for both healthy individuals and those struggling with various illnesses.
Here are 11 key—and sometimes surprising—benefits of cannabis.
A survey conducted at Nunavik Inuit Health in 2004 found that the 57.4% of people in the survey, who said they used cannabis, had a lower average percentage of fat mass, body mass index and fasting insulin levels. There were statistically significant differences between the groups of people who self-reported as smoking cannabis compared to those who didn’t.
Smoking cannabis in the last year was associated with a 56% lower likelihood of obesity. This is just one of the many studies that ties lower rates of obesity to cannabis consumers. Researchers found that cannabis consumers’ waists are 1.5 inches smaller on average than that of non-cannabis users. Cannabis is believed to help regulate your metabolism, also making it a factor in lowering the risk of diabetes.
In addition, for a number of folks, cannabis can get people off the couch and moving—whether it’s on the road or in the gym. In fact, some claim that marijuana increases athletic performance, for long-distance runners and swimmers in particular. Some athletes claim that it improves focus and the ability to push past previous limitations.
One of the many benefits of marijuana is improved sports performance, especially in long-distance running.
Depression is one of the most common medical conditions in the world. In a 2015 study from the University of Buffalo, RIA senior research scientist Samir Haj-Dahmane, Ph.D., said, “In the animal models we studied, we saw that chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, leading to depression-like behavior.”
This means that cannabis can be used to supplement endocannabinoids lacking within our system, helping the body return to homeostasis and in turn reducing levels of depression. Cannabis also aids in relieving stress, which is one of the biggest risk factors for depression.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It also causes mental disability for those afflicted many years prior to death. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in September 2014 found that, “THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.” This is believed to be due to the neuroprotective and antioxidant qualities of cannabis.
Arthritis is one of the leading causes of physical disability in the world. And it’s one of the most common kinds of chronic pain that people experience. The first recorded use of cannabis to help heal arthritis was in China nearly 4,000 years ago.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active compound in most strains of marijuana, has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, helps regulate autoimmune conditions like arthritis.
One of the most common reasons people miss work and have a decreased quality of life is due to various types of chronic pain. From PMS cramps to headaches to back pain, many people are debilitated by daily, overwhelming pain. Due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, cannabis can help reduce pain whether it’s applied in the form of a topical or consumed orally. Cannabis consumption can also help greatly decrease the need for harsh, addictive opioids.
One of the benefits of cannabis is that it can relieve pain. Learn what the top strains for chronic pain are.
One-third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure or hypertension. This can lead to cardiovascular disease as well as strokes or heart attacks. Tobacco is one of the most common causes for high blood pressure, along with poor diet and lack of exercise.
There are a wide range of scientific and anecdotal studies to support how cannabis decreases blood pressure. Some researchers also believe that cannabinoids may have a protective role within the body, also leading to a decrease in blood pressure.
Eating disorders are becoming an increasingly large problem across the world as many young people are exposed to constant media and peer pressure to be unattainably beautiful and thin. Cannabis can help regulate eating patterns, aiding with recovery from conditions like bulimia and other binge disorders.
It can also help stimulate appetite and regain a desire to eat in individuals with eating disorders like anorexia. Cannabis can also help reduce anxiety—both social and food related, which can lead many people down the path of eating disorders.
Veterans have become one of the most vocal supporters of cannabis legalization due to the incredible relief that cannabis can provide to people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Consuming cannabis can help reduce the stress and anxiety that PTSD sufferers struggle with every day. It also reduces the need for harder opioids and medications that can often worsen the symptoms of PTSD.
Many people experience nausea on a regular basis, whether it’s due to digestive problems, migraines or chemotherapy. Marijuana reacts with brain receptors to help regulate the feelings that are often associated with nausea.
It can also help decrease stomach pain and regulate your body’s digestive processes—as digestive issues often go hand in hand with feelings of nausea. Cannabis can also help stimulate appetite if people find themselves unable to hold food down, because they’re experiencing queasiness and an unsettled stomach.
CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, can greatly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Medical marijuana legalization has been pushed through in many states due to the incredible effects that cannabis has on seizures.
A study from the American Academy of Neurology published in 2015 found that there was, on average, a 51% decrease in the amount of seizures people experienced while using medical cannabis, as well as a 63% decrease in seizures for patients who had Dravet’s syndrome.
A specific marijuana strain, Charlotte’s Web, was created particularly for a young girl who experienced extreme seizures. The strain is still widely used due to its effectiveness and lack of psychoactive side effects.
Another benefit of marijuana, specifically THC, is that it produces feelings of happiness.
Lastly, for the vast majority of people, marijuana induces a sense of euphoria and calm. Happiness, or a general sense of well-being is something that everyone wants. Scientific studies show a connection between happiness, optimism and overall life satisfaction.
Cannabis activates a neurotransmitter in our brain called anandamide—also called the bliss molecule. This molecule, among other things, is responsible for making us feel happy. THC is responsible for stimulating anandamide, which is found both within our body as well as within cannabis itself.