How Cannabis Works
Cannabis is a 21-carbon molecule that contains 483 chemicals. Sixty-six of these chemicals are cannabinoids, many of which have been shown to have medicinal value.
The medicinal effects of cannabis are mediated by the endocannabinoid system. An introduction of cannabinoids increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. The effect of an increase of dopamine is to slow down neurotransmission.
Therefore, if a person is having migraines caused by an overload of the electrical circuits in a certain part of the brain, slowing down the speed of transmission leads to fewer neural impulses, which in turn, decreases the likelihood or severity of a migraine. The same is true for people having panic attacks. If one has negative thoughts surging throughout the midbrain, the emotional control center of the brain, the limbic system becomes overwhelmed.
Cannabis slows down the speed of neurotransmission, and reduces neural stimuli, thus alleviating symptoms.
Dopamine acts as one of the “off” switches of the brain’s regulatory mechanism. Cannabinoids compete with dopamine for the binding sites on the dopamine transporter, thus freeing up more dopamine in the brain to slow down the speed of neurotransmissions. In the opinion of many medical researchers, this is responsible for part of the therapeutic value of cannabis.
In other cases cannabis has a direct effect on other receptor sites in the brain that contribute to therapeutic value in the treatment of other conditions. For instance, cannabis apparently directly affects the appetite and sleep centers of the brain, decreasing the perception of pain and also nausea. Further, cannabinoids may stimulate certain receptors in the GI tract, which makes them valuable in treating Crohn’s Disease and IBT.