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Cannabis extracts may ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis

December 4, 2009 |  5:21 pm

Marijuana If you've been following the medical marijuana debate, you may be interested in a new review of studies on the effects of cannabis extracts on the spasticity (involuntary muscle contractions) experienced by people with multiple sclerosis.

The studies that were reviewed specifically tested extracts containing two compounds derived from Cannabis sativa, used in combination. One was THC -- the main active ingredient that gives the characteristic "high." The other was cannabidiol, or CBD, which doesn't give the same high and may act to lower levels of THC in the brain. (The reasoning, therefore, is that combining the two would give the anti-spastic effect in muscles while not fogging the brain.)

In an article published in the journal BMC Neurology, Shaheen E. Lakhan and Marie Rowland of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in Los Angeles examined six randomized, placebo-controlled studies. Though results from individual studies weren't exactly the same, they did show that the extracts were generally well-tolerated, compared with placebo, though doses had sometimes to be adjusted.

The authors also noted a "trend" in spasticity reduction and improvement in mobility -- in objective assessments of spasticity, they did not see statistically significant differences, but in subjective measures -- i.e. what the patient reported -- they did. "More study needed," the authors conclude -- and also urge more study on the anti-inflammatory properties of the compounds.

BMC Neurology is one of those journals that nicely allow free access once the article's been published. So you can read the whole study here.

And because medical marijuana has been much in the news, here are some other articles you might want to look at:

-- A 2008 look at medical marijuana science in the L.A. Times Health section by freelancer Jill U. Adams;

-- Last month, the American Medical Assn. urged the government to reclassify marijuana from that of a dangerous drug with no medical use, by Times writer John Hoeffel;

-- And, of course, the ongoing battle about what constitutes a legal way to sell pot: An article from earlier this week by Hoeffel reports that "a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, concluding that state law does not allow medical marijuana to be sold, proposed an injunction Tuesday that would order an Eagle Rock dispensary to cease selling it."

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press