In the rush to embrace the healing power of cannabis—to use it to fight inflammation, mitigate the effects of chemotherapy—we run the risk of repeating the mistakes of pharma-based medicine, which treats problems in isolation. Instead, many believe we should consider a holistic approach, where a range of solutions are used to address the root cause of problems and create a balanced, healthy life. Cannabis, because it can be used to enhance mind, body and spirit, and because it works with the human endocannabinoid system to bring body functions back into balance, is by its very nature a holistic treatment.
While it will be very helpful to learn if cannabis can treat specific ailments, we hope that some researchers take a broader view, and study the roles cannabis can play in creating healthy lifestyles, including the synergistic effect of cannabis on mind, body and spirit.
Medical professionals and lay practitioners who believe in a holistic approach are looking at ways to incorporate cannabis into balanced, healthy lifestyles. These can include cannabis as a source of nutrition, a way to augment systemic alignment, an aid in exercise, a pain reliever, a stress reducer, to name just a few.
Many professionals are now employing cannabis in acupuncture, chiropractic, diet counselling, massage therapy, wellness coaching and yoga, with positive results for their patients/clients. Some have gone so far as to position themselves as holistic cannabis specialists, helping their patients/clients incorporate cannabis in many aspects of a healthy, balanced life.
Internal Balance: the Holistic Effect of Cannabis on the Endocannabinoid System
UCLA Health offers a simple summary of cannabis’s impact on the endocannabinoid system: “…in the 1990’s, scientists discovered endocannabinoids, the natural cannabis-like molecules produced by the human body. Scientists began to realize cannabis exerted its effects, in part, by mimicking our endocannabinoids. It appears the main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain bodily homeostasis—biological harmony in response to changes in the environment.”
Leafly uses a Goldilocks metaphor to explain homeostasis: “Homeostasis is the concept that most biological systems are actively regulated to maintain conditions within a narrow range. Our body doesn’t want its temperature to be too hot or too cold, blood sugar levels too high or too low, and so on. Conditions need to be just right for our cells to maintain optimum performance, and exquisite mechanisms have evolved to draw them back to the Goldilocks zone if they move out. The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital molecular system for helping maintain homeostasis—it helps cells stay in their Goldilocks zone.”
The UCLA article goes on to explain how widespread the endocannabinoid system is in the human body “We now know the endocannabinoid system is involved in a wide variety of processes, including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function.” This explains, in part, why cannabis is proving a promising holistic treatment for so many different ailments.
Cannabis and a Holistic Health Paradigm
We found a great graphic of how cannabis fits into a holistic health paradigm at the website of Harvest, Inc., a cannabis grower and retailer.
Their graphic—a wheel—includes six areas where cannabis can help create a healthy, balanced life. According to Harvest:
- Cannabis for Physical Health: Build a Health Body
- Cannabis can help rebalance the body, easing pain, reducing inflammation, controlling seizures, improving appetite, and much more
- Cannabis for Emotional Health: Find Your Joy
- Cannabis can improve outlook, reduce depression, ease anxiety, eliminate anger, and create a sense of happiness
- Cannabis for Social Health: Connect with Others
- Cannabis can relax and calm, alleviate social anxiety, enhance communications, increase empathy
- Cannabis for Spiritual Health: Breathe and Be Present
- Cannabis may increase awareness, enhance intuition and psychic senses, improve meditation and raise consciousness
- Cannabis for Mental Health: Embrace the Calm
- Cannabis can reduce insomnia, improve attention, treat eating disorders and alleviate symptoms of PTSD
- Cannabis for Occupational Health: Reveal Your Best Self
- Cannabis may improve focus, increase creativity and help build communication skills
Cannabis and Professional Practice
Clinicians are showing a growing acceptance of medical cannabis. According to a survey done by Holistic Primary Care in 2018, 56% of clinicians surveyed believed that CBD and cannabis-derived substances have therapeutic value and should be used more widely.
At Home Grow Community we’ve written on the growing use of cannabis in integrative health practices. If you’re a practitioner of acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition, life/wellness coaching, massage therapy, or yoga, you’ll find valuable information on how cannabis is being used in your field, the positive effects on patients/clients and how peers are using cannabis to create specialization that helps them grow their practices. Check out these blogs:
We’re here to help you and your clients understand cannabis, and how it may fit into healthy living practices. Feel free to link our content with your website. If you’d like to work together as partners, and you practice in the greater Boston area, we can provide information to send to your clients, materials to use in your office or studio, and can work with you to host informative events.
If interested in learning about how to add cannabis to your practice, or build a specialization around holistic cannabis, check out these websites:
- Integrative Practitioner: Practitioner Opportunities for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Education”
- University of Vermont: “A Holistic Approach to Health Using Medical Cannabis”
- The Holistic Cannabis Network
- The Holistic Cannabis Academy