The 10 Most Groundbreaking Peer Reviewed Cannabis Studies

It wasn’t too long ago that the belief in cannabis’ ability to “cure” cancer sounded like a hoax.  Although there isn’t a general consensus within the scientific community, there are some incredibly interesting studies on the use of cannabinoids to destroy cancer cells.  Here are ten of the most groundbreaking studies and reviews showcasing the beneficial relationship between cannabis and human health.

Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects

Kush budsEthan B. Russo’s 2011 literature review published in the British Journal of Pharmacology draws attention to the synergistic relationship between all of the chemicals naturally housed in the cannabis plant. Russo’s review found that this synergy produced an “entourage effect” that could result in the “treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.” One of the most important implications of this research is that whole plant cannabis is superior to isolated cannabinoids due to the entourage effect’s beneficial impact on health

Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System

This 2013 Cerebrum publication by Bradley E. Alger is a great synthesis of information regarding the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a ubiquitous system that plays an enormous role in maintaining internal stability.  The ECS is comprised of cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body, endocannabinoids (compounds produced by the body), and enzymes that metabolize those compounds. Phytocannabinoids, compounds contained in the cannabis plant such as THC and CBD, interact with the ECS the way that endocannabinoids do. This review provides insight into the many ways that the ECS regulates health as well as the potential ways that cannabis can play a role in that modulation.

Comparative Risk Assessment of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Other Illicit Drugs Using the Margin of Exposure Approach

Drugs and alcoholThis 2015 study published in Scientific Reports confirms what we already knew but for some reason continue to find ourselves debating: cannabis is much safer than other drugs, including the very legal alcohol and tobacco. This study found that alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and heroin are considered high-risk substances while cannabis is low risk. The study also concluded that it would be more beneficial to regulate cannabis than to prohibit it.   

Anticancer Mechanisms of Cannabinoids

While this 2016 Current Oncology review is not the first peer-reviewed research to call attention to cannabis’ anti-cancer properties, its review of the large body of evidence indicating that cannabis might have an important role to play in cancer treatment. Specifically, the review synthesizes evidence from multiple studies examining the role cannabinoids play in triggering the cell death of cancer cells by signaling molecular pathways involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

It should be noted that this study (and other studies mentioned in this article) does not mean that cancer is “cured.” It is simply an interesting correlation that requires more studies and more funding.

Amyloid Proteotoxicity Initiates an Inflammatory Response Blocked by Cannabinoids

If the title of this 2016 Aging and Mechanisms of Disease study left you even more confused than you were before you read it, you’re not alone. The short of it is this: cannabis may be able to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease (and diseases like it). While the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases are still not clearly understood, the beta amyloid protein is implicated in nerve cell death.  This study found that cannabinoids like THC “stimulate the removal of intraneural [beta amyloid], block inflammatory response, and are protective,” making cannabinoids neuroprotective compounds that may prevent the type of toxicity responsible for neurodegeneration. 

The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids

When the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine publishes a nearly 500-page report in which it concludes that cannabis is a medically viable treatment option for a range of diseases and that it should no longer be federally prohibited, the scientific community tends to listen. That’s what happened when this report came out in early 2017. The National Academies found that cannabis was conclusively beneficial as a treatment for chronic pain, nausea, and MS-related spasticity. It identified a moderate amount of evidence suggesting cannabis’ use as a sleep aid.  The Academies’ findings led them to recommend that research into cannabis’ medical properties be strengthened and unfettered by prohibitionist legislation.   

Epidemiological Characteristics, Safety, and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in the Elderly

A growing portion of the cannabis market is comprised of people over the age of 60. This 2018 European Journal of Internal Medicine study confirms that cannabis is a safe medical option for those people. By the conclusion of the study, 93.7% of participants reported improvement in their condition, a decrease in falls, and a reduction in the use of prescription medications including opioids. 

Cannabinoid-induced Cell Death in Endometrial Cancer Cells: Involvement of TRPV1 Receptors in Aptopsis

This 2018 Journal of Physiology and Biochemsitry study adds to the body of research demonstrating the anti-proliferative effects of cannabinoids.  Endometrial cancer originates in a woman’s uterus. This study found that CBD assisted in the modulation of endometrial cancer cell death, making CBD and CBD-rich extracts promising subjects of study as potential treatments for endometrial cancer, especially therapy-resistant types. 

Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population

Opioids Vs Cannabis: Which is worse?When Sean Spicer and Jeff Sessions made arguments implicating cannabis in the rise of opioid addiction, they were speaking in ignorance. This 2018 JAMA Internal Medicine study proves that. The study found that states that had implemented medical marijuana laws saw a reduction of 2.11 million daily doses annually in opioid prescriptions. The study concluded that “medical cannabis policies may be one mechanism that can encourage lower prescription opioid use and serve as a harm abatement tool in the opioid crisis.” 

Efficacy of CBD-enriched Medical Cannabis for Treatment of Refractory Epilepsy in Children and Adolescents—An Observational, Longitudinal Study

Epilepsy, an umbrella term for an array of seizure disorders that are frequently diagnosed in childhood (sometimes even infancy and toddlerhood), can be an extremely debilitating condition. When it becomes drug-resistant, patients and their families may begin to lose hope. Cannabis has been identified as a potential therapy for drug-resistant epilepsy disorders, and this 2018 Brain & Development study adds to the large body of evidence suggesting so. The study concluded that CBD-enriched cannabis extracts significantly reduced the frequency of seizures in children aged 1-20 years.   

The Limits of Cannabis Research

While we’ve outlined some fascinating studies about the medicinal applications of cannabis, we need to acknowledge that cannabis research has widely been obstructed by the United States government.

This means that while all of these studies are uplifting, they need more funding and more research before the scientific community can form a consensus on what cannabis does and doesn’t do to the human body.

Cannabis has many wonderful applications, but you should consult your doctor before you solely use it to treat medical ailments.

The 10 Most Groundbreaking Peer Reviewed Cannabis Studies was last modified: by
Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.