Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Cannabis Sativa: The Healing Botanical

Dec 31, 2016 08:45PM
by Patricia C Frye, M.D.
Whatever you thought about marijuana growing up during the era of “just say no”, I am asking you to set aside for just a moment. Consider that while some cannabis use may be part of a lifestyle of overindulgence, cannabis used in small doses can help create balance and homeostasis. What I am proposing is that you no longer think of medical “marijuana”, as the recreational drug you tried in high school and didn’t much care for.

Think, instead, about cannabis sativa—the 20,000 year old medicinal remedy first used in Chinese and Ayurveda medicine more than 3,000 years ago; the medication introduced into the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1856, and prescribed to treat migraines, asthma and numerous other symptoms by U.S. physicians until it was outlawed in 1938, over the objections of the American Medical Association.

Cannabis sativa, also known by its street name, marijuana, is a plant that contains approximately 400 different compounds. Some of those compounds, cannabinoids, are unique to cannabis while others, such as terpenes and flavonoids, are found in plants throughout nature.

These compounds have a wide variety of medicinal effects which include reducing inflammation; relieving pain; alleviating anxiety; regulating sleep, as well as gastrointestinal and autoimmune function. They are effective in elevating and stabilizing mood, relieving stress; and alleviating seizures, muscle spasm and psychotic symptoms. Animal and lab studies have demonstrated that cannabis is a potent anti-oxidant, kills certain cancer cells and interferes with tumor growth and metastasis.

Of all the compounds found in cannabis, THC is the most widely known and is the primary psychoactive component of the plant. It reduces inflammation, relieves chronic pain, is a potent muscle relaxant, and, among other things, prevents the deposition of amyloid plaques, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. It has been shown to reduce agitation, irritability and aggressiveness while improving sleep, mood, appetite and sense of well-being in Alzheimer’s patients.

THC is also very effective in promoting hours of restful, restorative sleep for those with anxiety, sleep apnea and insomnia.

Another large compound is cannabidiol, or CBD, which has no psychoactive properties and is becoming more widely recognized as an alternative to treating certain seizure disorders. It, too, is an anti-inflammatory, relieves chronic and neuropathic pain, migraine headache pain, arthritic pain and stiffness, and muscle spasm; it regulates appetite, glucose and fat metabolism, modulates the autoimmune system and has also been found to be effective in treating the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease—Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.  Another very important property of CBD is its ability to counteract the psychoactive effect of THC.

Cannabis is especially effective in treating chronic, neuropathic and migraine pain, because it attacks the cause of the pain through its anti-inflammatory properties, interrupts the firing of damaged nerves and alleviates anxiety. Patients with fibromyalgia, lupus, Lyme’s and other autoimmune conditions often experience relief due to cannabis’ ability to both reduce pain and modulate autoimmune function. Cannabis also potentiates the pain-relieving actions of opiate medication, without increasing the risk of respiratory depression, so it is helpful in reducing opiate doses and attenuating possible symptoms of withdrawal.

Cannabis can be used medicinally, without the “high”. Patients can experience hours of symptom relief without mental impairment or sedation. It doesn’t have to be smoked, but can be taken in drops or sprays under the tongue or used topically in a salve or lotion. Its high safety profile is an added bonus—the risk of addiction is low; for adults, possible side effects are benign and reversible; and no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose.

So if old ideas about “marijuana” prevent you from considering cannabis sativa as an adjunct or alternative to your conventional medication, it may be time to set those aside and give thought to the benefits of cannabis sativa, the healing botanical.

Patricia C Frye, M.D. is the founder of Takoma Alternative Care, located at 6930 Carroll Ave #412, Takoma Park, MD. For more information, call 301-328-3045 or visit


Global Brief
Health Brief