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Marijuana

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What other names is Marijuana known by?

Anashca, Banji, Bhang, Blunt, Bud, Cannabis, Cannabis sativa, Charas, Dope, Esrar, Gaga, Ganga, Grass, Haschisch, Hash, Hashish, Herbe, Huo Ma Ren, Joint, Kif, Marie-Jeanne, Mariguana, Marijuana Médicale, Marihuana, Mary Jane, Medical Marijuana, Pot, Sawi, Sinsemilla, Weed.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is an herb. It contains chemicals called cannabinoids that affect the central nervous system. Cannabinoids are found in the highest concentration in the leaves and flowers, the parts of the herb that are used to make medicine.

Some people take marijuana extract by mouth or as a spray to be applied under the tongue for pain and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Some people inhale marijuana for medicinal purposes. Marijuana is smoked for nausea, glaucoma, appetite stimulation, to reduce swelling of mucous membranes, for leprosy, fever, dandruff, hemorrhoids, obesity, asthma, urinary tract infections, cough, anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients, nerve pain, and multiple sclerosis. It is also inhaled to weaken the immune system after kidney transplant to lessen the chance of transplant rejection. In addition, marijuana is smoked to reduce symptoms amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease).

Some people use marijuana recreationally to create a sense of well-being or to alter the senses. It is either taken by mouth or smoked (inhaled).

Avoid confusion with hemp, a distinct variety of Cannabis sativa cultivated for its fiber and seeds, which contains less than 1% THC.

In the U.S., marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, making possession illegal. Some states, such as California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and others, have legalized or decriminalized the use of medical marijuana, despite objections from the federal government. Some countries such as Canada also permit the use of medical marijuana.

Possibly Effective for...

  • HIV/AIDS-related weight loss. Smoking marijuana seems to stimulate the appetite of people with AIDS. Marijuana cigarettes can also cause weight gain in people with HIV who are also taking indinavir (Crixivan) or nelfinavir (Viracept).
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). Applying a specific spray containing marijuana extract (Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals) under the tongue seems to improve some self-reported symptoms of multiple sclerosis, including muscle spasms, need to urinate, and nerve pain. In the UK, this product is approved as a prescription medicine to treat muscle spasms in people with MS. In Canada, this product is approved to treat nerve pain in people with MS. This product is not available as a prescription medicine in the US. Also, some conflicting evidence suggests that this product does not significantly improve muscle spasms, nor does it reduce the need to urinate or tremors in MS patients. There are conflicting results regarding the effects of marijuana extract when taken by mouth. One small study shows that taking a specific marijuana extract (Cannador, Society for Clinical Research) by mouth reduces self-reported muscle stiffness and muscle spasms in people with MS. However, other studies show that taking marijuana extract by mouth does not significantly improve muscle spasms, the ability to walk, or tremors in people with MS. Early research shows that smoking marijuana may reduce muscle spasms, pain in the arms and legs, and tremors in people with MS.
  • Nerve pain. Early research shows that smoking marijuana three times a day might reduce nerve pain caused by HIV and other conditions.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). Early research shows that patients with ALS who use marijuana might have improvements in some symptoms, including depression, appetite, spasms, and drooling.
  • Weight loss in people with advanced cancer (cachexia). Early research shows that taking marijuana extract by mouth does not improve appetite in people with cachexia.
  • Glaucoma. Smoking marijuana seems to reduce pressure inside the eye in people with glaucoma. However, this effect seems to last for only 3-4 hours. Also, smoking marijuana seems to decrease blood flow to the nerve that transmits visual information from the eye to the brain. This might increase vision loss in people with glaucoma. So far, it is not known if marijuana can improve sight in people with glaucoma.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some research suggests that using a specific mouth spray containing marijuana extract (Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals) can decrease morning pain and improve sleep in people with RA. However, it does not seem to improve joint stiffness in the morning or overall pain severity.
  • Asthma.
  • Dandruff.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Leprosy.
  • Obesity.
  • Preventing organ rejection after kidney transplants.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Urinary infections.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate marijuana for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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