If there has been a single noticeable trend in medicine over the last few years, it has almost undoubtedly been the influx of a mass of information–seemingly out of nowhere–on the myriad healing properties of the cannabis plant and its many derivative extracts.
Pot smokers have known for years what cannabis is good for, and that knowledge is reflected in the popular perception of “weed.” It stimulates the appetite, relieves depression and anxiety (in some people) and draws a droopy-eyed smile from everyone who samples it.
But fighting cancer? Alleviating glaucoma? Fighting nausea, anorexia, appetite loss, local pain, and even… helping broken bones heal? To the average American of fifty years ago, these ideas seem laughable. But the results just keep coming in.
Most recently, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel discovered that cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system in such a way as to promote healthy bone growth. One compound specifically, researchers said, contributed more than any other to the plant’s remarkable property. Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD. Even when separated from the other compounds in cannabis (the most of these being THC, the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant), the CBD contained in the plant was sufficient to show a clinically-significant increase in the growth of new bone.
As the researchers involved in the project are quick to mention, the usefulness of cannabinoids in helping bones heal is absolutely without question. What is open to question still is how these findings, along with the hundreds of others like it demonstrating clearly the clinical benefits of cannabis compounds, will affect international efforts to promote safe legalization in countries where medical use is still illegal.
Open to further question is just how far these bone-health benefits go. Clearly, this suggests marijuana as indicated for broken bones, but what about people who suffer from degenerative bone disorders? Researchers believe that victims of osteoporosis and similar diseases can look to cannabidiol for treatments for their afflictions in the near future.
But developing specific therapies and drugs takes time–a notoriously long time, especially between finding early results like these (the tests were done entirely on rats), and bringing an actual product to market. Drugs can stay in the testing process for years, and this already-Byzantine process is made even worse by the fuzzy legal limbo in which much of this research takes place.
The global political climate will continue to determine to a large extent the degree to which these new drugs and therapies can be adopted. And as long as the stigma attached to marijuana persists–that it is a dangerous drug with only recreational use–that progress will be further stymied.