Medicinal cannabis: a brief guide on uses and effects

The cannabis plant ( Cannabis sativa ), popularly known as marijuana, is a plant species with multiple therapeutic and medicinal properties.

Historically it has been used as medicine, food source and master plant in various spiritual and cultural traditions. It was also used as a raw material for the manufacture of multiple products such as textiles, paper and fuel, being considered one of the most valuable crops in antiquity.

The first written records on its medicinal use date back to the year 2.737 a. of C. within the Shengong pharmacopoeia, one of the fathers of Chinese medicine.

The buds, or flowers of the female plant, are those that concentrate the greatest amount of compounds with medicinal utility. The main ones are cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids, produced naturally by the plant.


They are chemical substances capable of activating a physiological system present in the body and brain of all mammals, including humans, called the endocannabinoid system. This system would have as a mission to regulate the good functioning of the rest of the systems that are part of the organism.

Cannabinoids are a very broad and diverse group of substances, with a chemical structure similar to each other. Currently, three general types of cannabinoids are recognized:

-The phytocannabinoids: those synthesized naturally by the cannabis plant.

-The endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids , produced naturally by mammals.

-The synthetic cannabinoids , that is, those that are created in a laboratory.


They are those synthesized naturally by the cannabis plant. At present, close to one hundred have been identified. Of them, the most common or relevant are:

– Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabin l (Δ 9 -THC in its chemical formulation, popularly known as THC ). It is the main stimulating component of the plant. It acts as a euphoric, analgesic, anti-emetic and anti-inflammatory.

– Cannabidiol ( CBD ). Reduces the psychoactive effect of THC. It acts as anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic and antispasmodic.

– Cannabinol ( CBN ). It occurs when THC is oxidized. It acts as a sedative, anticonvulsant, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.

– Cannabicromeo ( CBC) . It is believed that it works by intensifying the effect of THC. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, antifungal and analgesic.


It is a complex system that involves the production of endocannabinoid molecules, that is, chemical substances released by the mammals’ own organism, which activate their specific receptors in the body. Of these, the most studied are CB1 and CB2.

This system modulates various physiological functions of our body, such as the perception of pain, the inflammation of organs and tissues, the regulation of appetite, the control of various metabolic functions -such as storing energy, controlling stress and temperature-, the regulation of sleep and a process of mediation in different processes at the neuronal, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive and immunological levels.

Diverse investigations consider it one of the most important systems in the self-regulation and maintenance of the internal systems of our organism (phenomenon known as “homeostasis”). That is, the endocannabinoid system would aim to maintain the stability of the internal systems of the human body despite the fluctuations caused by the environment.

The endocannabinoids are molecules that act as a natural “key”, causing the activation of the two main receptors identified today: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are mainly located in the central nervous system and are responsible for mediating neuronal processes and the psychoactive effects of certain substances. On the other hand CB2 receptors are located mainly in the immune system, which they help regulate.

For the endocannabinoid system to work, it is necessary that the receptors described above be activated chemically by the cannabinoids. Its activation produces a series of changes within the cells, which allow the endocannabinoid system to regulate the proper functioning of the physiological processes of the body.


Cannabis has various subspecies ( ssp .) Or varieties, each with different morphological and psychoactive characteristics.

This subspecies ( ssp .) Is native to America, Asia and Africa. It is characterized for being a subspecies of great height and little foliage, with elongated leaves and a period of flowering more extensive than that of other varieties.

Its medicinal potential generates the following effects: it igorizes, relieves pain, reduces nausea and stimulates the appetite .

This subspecies comes mainly from South Asia and the Indian subcontinent, hence its name.

Unlike the Cannabis Sativa sativa variety , these are compact plants with a lot of foliage. They do not reach great height during their growth and have a short flowering period: from six to nine weeks.

Its therapeutic potential generates the following effects: relieves pain and discomfort, reduces anxiety and stress, induces sleep, helps mitigate spasms and convulsions, reduces inflammation and is a powerful appetite stimulant .


Subspecies native to northern Europe and Asia, is characterized by being a small specimen with a short flowering period, since unlike the indica and sativa varieties, its flowering period does not depend on the light cycles.

That is why the subspecies ruderalis has been used to modify the genetics of the subspecies already described, thus producing hybrid plants known as autoflowering or “automatic”, that is, having a short life cycle of approximately 10 weeks.


They are called like this the varieties of cannabis with a genetic component different from its original one. The long history of domestication of the cultivation of this plant species has led to the crossing of different varieties or strains. In this way it has been possible to obtain different characteristics in the new hybrid plants, with different percentages of cannabinoids such as THC or CBD, and diverse presences of terpenes (aromatic molecules produced by the plant).

At present, there is a great variety of hybrid strains with multiple combinations of characteristics. In general, hybrid cannabis plants are good flower producers with high percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes, which allows to select strains that are better suited to the therapeutic needs of the pathology to be treated.


The medicinal and / or pharmacological effects of cannabis that are proven are varied. These depend on the content and types of cannabinoids produced by the particular strain of the plant, as well as the combination of its other components, the formats used for the preparation of the medicine, as well as its routes of administration and dosage.

Because each plant is distinct from another, thus generating a unique combination of compounds, the effects of each strain differ from each other.

In spite of this, in general, the medicinal use of cannabis will generate the following effects:

  • Sensation of euphoria, relaxation and sedation.
  • Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Reduction of nausea and vomiting.
  • Favorable actions on muscle tone and motor coordination.
  • Decrease in intraocular pressure.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Actions on the respiratory system such as dilation of the bronchi.
  • Cardiovascular effects such as hypotension and tachycardia.
  • Neuroendocrine effects such as decreased release of different sex hormones and increased release of hormones related to stress responses.
  • Immunomodulatory effects: in low doses stimulates immune system responses. In high doses, decreases them.
  • Antiproliferative effects, that is, prevents the growth of some tumors.



The combination of two factors, the large amount of cannabinoids produced by the plant (a hundred) and the function of the endocannabinoid system (regulating the proper functioning of the body’s physiological processes), allows cannabis to be used as a therapy palliative , meaning that it seeks to reduce or eliminate the side effects of traditional treatments, such as concomitant therapy (to complement and enhance the effect of traditional treatment) or as curative therapy , in many pathologies such as:




-Anxiety and depression

-Arthritis and osteoarthritis







-Posttraumatic stress


-Multiple sclerosis

-ELA and spinal cord injury





-Gastrointestinal diseases (Crohn, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel)


– Huntington’s disease





-Nausea and vomiting


– Parkinson’s disease



-Restless Leg Syndrome

-TDAH, hyperactivity, TGD

-Tumors of the central nervous system

-Tourette syndrome


Regardless of the information given here, if you want to treat a pathology or disease with cannabis medicine, as a foundation we recommend that you always do it under the supervision of a doctor or therapist specialized in the subject.