FEB 26, 2016 08:09 AM PST

The Scientific Value of Marijuana

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
4 7 1757

Marijuana has been a popular drug long before it was legalized across several states in the US. This plant shows up in the archeological records 37 million years ago, and humans have been using this plant for various purposes 8,000 years ago. Besides medicinal uses, people have also found value in the plants' seeds for nutrition and stems for durable fibers.

But today, marijuana is mostly known for its psychoactive effects. This property is due to the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC works by mimicking the natural cannabinoids in the body to stimulate thinking, memory, pleasure, and spatial perception. Specifically, THC acts like the neurotransmitter called anandamide, which regulates hunger, sleeping, and pain relief. This is why users experience these proverbial symptoms upon marijuana exposure.

In studies attempting to find a toxic limit for THC consumption, researchers gave rats a dose 40,000 times higher than normal. This had the effect of making them sleep for 3 days. Marijuana dependency is lowest even when compared to common addictive substances like caffeine or alcohol.

Aside from its recreational feel-good effects, researchers have found uses for marijuana in medicine, as the plant can relieve vomiting and pain for chemotherapy patients, reduce epilepsy episodes, and treat insomnia. This is due to marijuana containing at least 85 other cannabinoids besides THC, each with different effects on the body. As such, farmers have bred countless strains of the plant, with each strain capitalizing on certain chemical properties. And most of the strains intended for medical purposes have had the THC selectively bred out.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 18, 2018
Videos
JUL 18, 2018
What Does it Take to Burst a Stomach?
People often say they feel like they feel like they’re going to burst after consuming a large meal, but is it really possible for your stomach to bur
JUL 23, 2018
Videos
JUL 23, 2018
This is Your Brain on Yoga
Yoga is a great way to keep muscles strong, joints flexible and stress levels low.Many studies tout the benefits of yoga for relieving pain, improving rang
JUL 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 29, 2018
Algae in Space: A Potential Food and Fuel Source?
During SpaceX’s recent CRS-15 launch, a mission to resupply the International Space Station with fresh supplies, the commercial space company’s
AUG 11, 2018
Videos
AUG 11, 2018
GMO Crop Ban Rescinded
Genetically modified crops that use neonic pesticides can now be planted in wildlife refuges.
AUG 12, 2018
Videos
AUG 12, 2018
How A Therapeutic Gene Circuit Might Work
University of Wyoming researchers demonstrate their research in optogenetics.
AUG 15, 2018
Videos
AUG 15, 2018
What Your Doodles Say About You
During a boring meeting, a teleconference or a less-than-interesting class, many of us will doodle mindlessly on paper. It’s a way of passing the tim
Loading Comments...