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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

What You Need to Know About Medical Marijuana

Nov 29, 2017 10:25PM
by Dr. Isabel Sharkar
The use of marijuana has been around in America since the 1840s. It was known that George Washington himself used to grow hemp. In 1937, cannabis oil was available over the counter and heavily used to treat a whole variety of ailments. That same year, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed and the anti-marijuana propaganda known as Reefer Madness shifted Americans’ perspective on the sacred plant, demonizing it and making people believe it’s the “gateway drug”.

By 1942, cannabis was out of the pharmacopeia. The reason why American people today continue to believe that marijuana is a “bad” drug is because of this propaganda. The rest of the world, like Israel and Germany, continued advancing their research on the benefits of cannabis and its effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Cannabis more than 100 different cannabinoids, with THC and CBD being the most commonly studied; as well as terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids. The ECS is comprised of endocannabinoids—fat-soluble neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors and their proteins that are expressed throughout the mammalian central nervous system, including the brain. These endocannabinoids neurotransmitters mediate brain plasticity. The endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA), meaning “bliss” in Sanskrit, plays a role in pain, depression, appetite, memory and fertility.

The cannabinoid receptors, like CB1 and CB2, are widely distributed around the body in the brain, liver, fat and immune cells, bone tissue and skeletal muscles. They are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain sensation (especially chronic pain), mood, memory, sleep, stress regulation, immune function, energy metabolism and reproductive function.

Today, legal marijuana products on the pharmaceutical market include Marinol and Cesamet, used for a compromised immune system due to chemotherapy, and Epidiolex, an FDA-approved cannabidiol (CBD) for epileptic children. These two drugs have been allowed to use a patented version of cannabis to treat the immune system in such serious conditions.

In naturopathic medical school, doctors are taught that for every ailment there is a natural remedy in the immediate environment. Now with the opioid crisis, doctors and patients need safer alternatives. Did you know that every 15 minutes, an American dies from an opioid overdose? That’s nearly 100 deaths a day.

Cannabinoids have an opioid-sparing property, which means that adding cannabinoids to your protocol will lead to needing significantly less opioids to achieve the same effect. Opioids aside, cancer is taking more lives today than ever before. Current statistics state that one in three women and one in two men will get cancer in their lifetimes. Nature is our best ally.

Unfortunately, not all CBD and THC are created equally. The last thing you want is to use products sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, fungacides and other impurities. Make sure your CBD/THC has a toxicology report. Also, be mindful of the entourage effect, using the whole plant because it interacts synergistically together. We are not made to take single isolated compounds because our bodies need a full spectrum of molecules to be consumed together.

This is why using medicines of just CBD or THC may not be sufficient in treating many medical conditions. Each person will respond differently to the different strains and dosages. One size does not fit all, nor will it ever. We still have so much to learn about this sacred plant, especially when it comes to dosing and titration.

Dr. Isabel Sharkar is a licensed naturopathic physician and co-owner of Indigo Integrative Health Clinic, in Georgetown. For more information, call 202-298-9131 or visit


Some conditions also benefit from the use of medical cannabis

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Diabetes type I
  • Neuropathy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions
  • Epilepsy
  • Autism
  • PTSD
  • Lyme disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cancer


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