The human body comprises several systems that all work together in unison, with cannabis affecting them all in very different ways. Here we take a look at how cannabis affects your system, from the heart, lungs, and skin, to the less-easily quantifiable such as appetite and memory.
How Does Cannabis Affect the Heart?
It’s well known that the consumption of cannabis increases heart rate. But the reason why is less well known. The increased heart rate of 20-50 beats per minute that people experience is due to THC. The most well known of the cannabinoids contributes to reduced blood pressure, and it’s the higher heart rate that compensates for this lower pressure.
The long-term effects of cannabis use on the heart are not simply explained. For now, it all seems dose-dependent. High doses of THC seem to infer negative effects on the heart. While low doses of THC seem to positively affect heart health; as does CBD. The latter has been shown to help in the recovery process from stroke and heart attacks. And it’s this, which leads medical professionals to recommend those with heart concerns to stick to strains high in CBD and low in THC.
How Does Cannabis Affect the Lungs?
Contrary to what you may believe, studies suggest that smoking cannabis actually leads to increased lung capacity. For decades people have known about the connection between smoking tobacco cigarettes and lung cancer. Many then assumed that cannabis was likely just as harmful as tobacco to the lungs. But this turned out not to be the case.
The results of a study involving over 5,000 people suggested that regular cannabis smokers have increased lung capacity when compared to non-cannabis users. It was found that certain components of cannabis smoke tended to minimize some carcinogenic pathways, whereas tobacco smoke actually enhanced them.
Cannabis also seems to down-regulate immunologically-generated free radical production by promoting the Th2 immune cytokine profile. THC also inhibits the enzyme necessary to activate some of the carcinogens found in smoke. Both of which are good news.
While the science isn’t 100% clear just yet, what is clear is that the long term effects of cannabis smoke are nowhere near as severe as those of tobacco smoke.
How Does Cannabis Affect Appetite?
One of the most infamous side effects of cannabis consumption is the associated increase in appetite. While it may be a useful side effect for recovering cancer patients, it’s not so useful if you’re lying on your sofa surrounded by the contents of a well-stocked fridge!
Scientists believe that the reason for increased appetite lies within the CB1 receptors in the brain. They control our feeling of hunger by manipulating a hormone known as Ghrelin. As levels of this hormone surge, we tend to feel hungry even though we’re anything but.
The effects of cannabis on ghrelin are two-fold. In addition to increasing levels of the hormone, it also seems to alter the brain’s perception of ghrelin. It does this by manipulating the way cells respond to its presence. While scientists still have a ways to go in understanding the complete mechanisms behind appetite regulation, the short term effects of increased appetite have been harnessed for good in many medicinal patients.
How Does Cannabis Affect Fertility?
Research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that 662 men who smoke cannabis have significantly higher sperm count when compared to men who have never smoked. The results obtained were contrary to what was initially hypothesized, and the study highlighted how little was known about the relationship between cannabis and fertility.
But, it’s not all good news. When it comes to infertility in men, one of the main causes is what are termed “lazy” sperm – that’s those not strong enough to reach the egg.
It was found in a study that males who used cannabis had higher levels of “lazy” sperm. While it may not be a good sign for those wishing to start a family, the long term effects aren’t known as the study was only carried out for 3 months.
How Does Cannabis Affect Memory?
After consuming cannabis, many of us, on occasion, have had the experience of forgetting mid-sentence the very question we’re answering! There’s no doubt that cannabis use has an effect on short-term memory, and it does seem closely related to the terpene profile of the strain. It’s generally something that’s accepted as a short-term side effect, and memory function quickly resolves itself in the following hours.
But when it comes to long term effects on memory, the studies aren’t so cheery. It was found that longtime chronic users developed abnormalities in the brain that are associated with short-term memory loss. Upon further testing, they were seen to consistently perform slightly worse than non-users on tasks related to memory. Until the science becomes clearer, the message for now is “everything in moderation!”
How Does Cannabis Affect your Skin?
The cannabis plant comes as a complete package engineered by nature with a wide range of beneficial properties. The antibacterial properties of cannabis have proven to be extremely useful in combating bacterial infections in the skin, something which often leads to acne.
But what does cannabis possess in order for it to have such a potent effect on skin health? Well, it’s a combination of the essential fatty acids, anti-inflammatory properties and high quantities of antioxidants. And then, of course, there are the cannabinoids, CBD in particular. In the treatment of acne, CBD has been found to be extremely useful in combating the inflammation associated with it.
To Healing and Beyond
With legalization come the scientific studies and the public hunger for knowledge. While for now, the science is encouraging, there is still a lot to be learned about how exactly cannabis affects your system. With opinion divided on both the short term and long term effects, the best policy for now is moderation.