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unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you’ve heard about medical cannabis. it’s been a long time coming, since cannabis has reportedly been used as a medicine for millennia.

so what exactly is it?

well, it’s not a cunning ploy devised by the hippies of the 60’s and 70’s, although we certainly applaud their style.

it’s all about science, and we love science.

it all began in 1964 when a curious israeli scientist by the name of raphael mechoulam, discovered the compound which he so simply named, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short (thanks raph).

THC was the first of a class of compounds that were later named “cannabinoids” (as in compounds that come from cannabis).

the discovery of one cannabinoid lead to another, and now there are at least over 100, and undoubtedly more to be discovered.

while THC is psychoactive (as you may, or may not know ;) ), the rest are not.

one of the important discoveries (and there have been a heap) is that these cannabinoids interact with a physiological system that we didn’t even know existed - the endocannabinoid system. yay for science.

basically, this system is responsible for modulating homeostasis, which is pretty much just a fancy way of saying that it works to keep our bodies in their optimal state.

each individual cannabinoid interacts with this system differently, but like a good vegan cheese and wine, they’re best consumed together.

this phenomenon, which is grounded in science, even has its own name - the “entourage effect” (and not the vincent chase variety). it’s all about how the cannabinoids appear to have a synergistic effect, wherein they’re most effective when they’re all together. this supports the belief that the best way to consume cannabinoids is in the form of a whole plant extract, such as an oil.

so what kinds of things might these cannabinoids be taken for?

well, it’s still early days, but there a few things that we know for sure.

perhaps most well known, cannabis has been widely recognised as a great pain-reliever. given the severe and numerous side effects associated with traditional opioid-based meds, this is a particularly exciting area of research.

a certain cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) seems to have a potent anti-anxiety effect. in what some have termed “the age of anxiety”, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

cannabinoids have even been shown to have a neuroprotective effect. this is extremely significant, given the rise in neurodegenerative diseases, such as alzheimer's and dementia, that are riddling an ageing population.

and one of the most publicised medical applications of cannabis is its use for those suffering from drug-resistant forms of epilepsy, such as dravet syndrome. a number of people around the world have experienced dramatic improvements in their health and well-being after substituting toxic sedatives with cannabidiol.

while these are some of the areas receiving the most attention, there is an ever-growing list of ailments - including irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia - that are being relieved by various forms of medical cannabis.

so how do you get your hands on some of this amazing stuff?

unfortunately in Australia, unless you’re suffering from a life-threatening illness, you’re pretty much no chance of qualifying for medical cannabis.

the ridiculous thing is, like we mentioned, only one of the cannabinoids are psychoactive. that means there are over a hundred more cannabinoids that might provide you with relief from an ailment or just help you keep in tip-top shape without any drug-abuse potential.

fingers crossed this changes at some point in the near future.