With the Australian government recently passing legislation to legalise medical marijuana across
the country, it shouldn’t be more than a year until patients start receiving prescriptions for strains of
medical cannabis and cannabis based products. After years of campaigning by patients across the
world who felt that the drug’s illicit status was denying them access to a medicine that can help
with a wide variety of issues, including pain relief, seizure control and mental health issues,
countries around the world have started to recognise the benefits of different strains of cannabis
and the medicinal properties that can be extracted from them.
The ingredients found in cannabis that can be used in medicine are known as cannabinoids and
there are approximately 113 of these, however the most common of these to be used in medicinal
practice are tetrohydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These two cannabinoids, and
their uses, differ greatly.
The main difference between the two is that THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis,
meaning that it is this that gets you ‘high’ or ‘stoned’, while CBD is actually an anti-psychotic that
will not result in this. The former has a history of making some users feel anxious or paranoid and
this makes CBD the preferred cannabinoid when it comes to medicine, as doctors and scientists
look to create drugs that have minimal side effects. However, this is not to say that THC is never
used, as it does have some positive effects that CBD lacks. So how are these different
cannabinoids used to treat people?
Many people suffering from a variety of illnesses will actually be prescribed the cannabis itself,
rather than drugs made from its ingredients. Different strains measure differently when it comes to
the two main cannabinoids, with some having high THC levels but low CBD and vice versa, while
some strains have a fairly equal balance of both.
Strains high in THC but low in CBD, such as Amnesia, OG Kush and Black destroyer, are often
prescribed to insomniacs and those with illnesses that cause sleeplessness. The ‘high’ or ‘stoned’
feeling experienced is said to make one more tired and helps relax the brain, making it far easier to
sleep. They have also been given to those suffering from anorexia, as they have the ability to ease
nausea and vomiting, and those undergoing chemotherapy in order to ease their pain, however
they are being used less often for the latter as CBD has been found to be equally effective.
Strains high in CBD and lower in THC, such as Charlotte’s web, Danceworld and Medihaze, can be
prescribed as pain relief for cancer patients, people suffering muscle pain or spasms and those
that suffer from migraines, however it can also be used to help those with certain mental health
difficulties. Due to CBD being an anti-psychotic, it can be used to treat those that suffer from
anxiety, stress, depression and paranoia.
So while we can expect to see all of these strains and more on the Australian legal drug market in
the near future, what are the options for children, or those that can’t smoke the herb? Well since
CBD was realised as such an impressive medicinal property of cannabis, scientists have worked
hard to extract it from the plant and they can now produce a wide variety of medicines with CBD as
their main component.
One such CBD based medicine is know as ‘tinctures’. Tinctures are liquid cannabis extractions that
are administered under the tongue. While it is true that tinctures made by different companies have
different levels of CBD in them, they are generally quite low in the cannabinoid. This makes them
ideal for smaller issues such as minor muscle or joint ache and stress relief.
‘Cannabis topicals’ are another medicinal product used for minor ailments. The topicals are a type
of balm that often contain a variety of therapeutic compounds along with CBD from which the user
benefits after applying directly to the skin. They can be used to help localised pains such as cuts or
The final major CBD based medicine is hemp oil. These oils are generally rich in the cannabinoid
and are administered by mixing them into juices or swallowed inside a capsule. They are often
used for far more serious conditions. One of the main areas where hemp oil has had many
resounding successes is in the treatment of patients that suffer from seizures. There have been
many instances of epilepsy sufferers massively reducing the quantity and severity of seizures after
using the oil.
It is hemp oil that is likely to be the first medicinal cannabis product to make it into Australian
patients’ hands, even before the afore mentioned strains of cannabis themselves. In fact, Canadian
company MJJ have already listed themselves on the Australian stock market and have recently
signed an agreement with NSW’s Fresh Therapeutics Compounding Pharmacy to import and
distribute their hemp oil capsule, known as the ‘Gelpell’.
With so many different strains of medical cannabis, and so many different products made from
them, available in the world today there is almost something for everyone. With only months to wait
before the medicines hit the market, doctors across the country will already be learning about the
different benefits of cannabis and speaking to their patients about the possibility of prescribing it to
them once available. The eventual legalisation of the drug in Australia is sure to make many
patients across the country feel more at ease and many will be glad that they are finally being
allowed to get the help that they deserve.