Liver Diseases and Cannabis

Liver Diseases and Cannabis

Cannabis is now gaining international recognition for being an effective medical treatment for an array of conditions. Whilst we have always known of its medicinal properties, it has always been from anecdotal evidence.

But with research into our biological responses growing, it is becoming clear that not only does cannabis have psychoactive properties, it also creates a biological response from the CB1 receptors in our brains and the CB2 receptors in the rest of our bodies. Our endocannabinoid system, the system that reacts to cannabis, creates immune system responses that we are only beginning to understand.

Research is now beginning to evaluate the response of particular organs to cannabis to try and fully understand its benefits, the trend of moving away from particular components, such as THC could provide medical breakthroughs in areas such as the treatment of liver disease.

What It The Liver and What Does It Do?

The Liver is classed as a gland and performs approximately 500 functions within the human body. The live is the only organ in the human body that can regenerate and will continue to do so, even if as little as 25% of it remains.

The liver doesn’t have one single primary function, it is the only visceral organ that performs multiple functions, all vital to life support. The liver is responsible for: bile production, supporting blood clots, fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolization and blood filtration just to name a few.

What is a liver disease and why do we get them?

As the liver provides so many different functions to the human body, it can also suffer from a variety of ailments. Cirrhosis is where scare tissue replaces liver cells, this condition stops the liver functioning due to long term damage.

Such conditions such as hepatitis B and C cause long term liver damage, inflammation and can result in cirrhosis. Cirrhosis takes a long time to develop, often with patients not realising they have it until there are clear signs and symptoms.

Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, is another liver condition, however this is usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. It causes a fatty build up in the liver, whilst early onset doesn’t cause any harm, if left untreated it can result in cirrhosis.

Sustained drug and alcohol abuse can also impact the liver. Hepatitis B and C both cause liver inflammation and if left untreated can result in cirrhosis.

How Can Cannabis Be Used To Treat Liver Problems?

Cirrhosis is one the primary concerns when people exhibit problematic liver symptoms. As cirrhosis can develop and stop liver regeneration, it is important to be able to effectively treat it and mitigate the scar tissue development.

Previously, evidence gathered suggested that using cannabis actually made matters worse and actually increased the rate in which the liver degraded.

This has now been shown to not be the case, a study conducted by Brunet et alin 2013 demonstrated that sustained use of cannabis did not promote any further cirrhosis  and actually decreased the rate in which the cirrhosis was occurring.

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So, what is happening? We know that our body has an endocannabinoid system which binds to cannaboids through receptors in our brain (CB1) and the rest of our body (CB2), tests have shown that the use of cannabis promotes an anti-inflammatory effect across a variety of ailments.

Studies conducted are suggestive of the fact that use of cannabis can decrease the speed in which fibrosis of the liver takes hold. A study conducted by Ishidaet al demonstrated that the use of cannabis for patients with hepatitis C showed a slowdown of fibrosis of the liver with the use of cannabis.

Whilst these studies are new, the are showing that cannabis can not only provide systematic inflammation relief, but also slow down conditions whereby organs deteriorate through autoimmune responses, such as cirrhosis.

Whilst the liver can regenerate, even when as little as 25% of the original mass remains, currently cirrhosis is an incurable disease and can only be alleviated with a liver transplant.

However, it was found that in patients suffering from cirrhosis, they had a higher percentage of CB2 receptors than patient’s that don’t have cirrhosis. Conclusions are still being drawn as to the meaning of these findings, but some suggest that due to the increased number, cannabis will be an effective treatment in the future. Researchers

The immunomodulatory aspect of the cannabis means that it interacts with our immune systems through receptors and can limit the impact of auto immune responses, thus help treat conditions such as cirrhosis.

How Else Can Cannabis Help Treat Liver Problems?

Whilst we have focused on the immune system benefits of cannabis in that it seems to reduce the fibrosis of the liver. Cannabis may also be able to help treat people who have Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

Research conducted by HezodeEt al provides an argument for using cannabis in the treatment of NAFLD. Using cannabis can help slow down how much fat the liver processes and metabolises.

This process is exceptionally beneficial for people suffering from Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, as limited adjustments to their daily lives needs to occur. The research provides further evidence that people suffering from Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, do not necessarily need to reduce their calorie content for the cannabis to work effectively and reduce the amount of fat their liver metabolises.

Not only does cannabis help alleviate some of the damage caused by NAFLD, compounds can be extracted and utilised as an appetite suppressant to help obese people lose weight.  Whilst this is in contrast to the traditional view of cannabis being an appetite stimulant, research is gaining traction into how the 421 compounds interact with our bodies.

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What’s Next?

Everyday new research is emerging on the benefits of cannabis and how the component parts can help towards our overall health.

Even though we are still not certain on how cannabis interacts with our bodies on a molecular level, it is clear that a positive relationship between its use and some medical conditions is becoming evident.

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Evidence is continuing to grow across the world, with research being conducted, not only for particular compounds of cannabis, but also for the full plant.

Hopefully, with more evidence emerging and more research being funded, results and evidence will finally show what people have been saying for thousands of years. Only this time, there will be statistics and evidence to back up the anecdotal claims.

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