Medical Cannabis For Hepatitis C

If you or someone you know suffers from Hepatitis C you may be interested to learn that medical marijuana has been shown in numerous studies to ease the symptoms of this horrible disease.

Hepatitis C is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by the virus which affects the liver. If left untreated, hepatitis C can worsen over time and cause liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis. Most people with hepatitis C aren’t aware that they have it until they experience some kind of liver damage. It’s estimated that over 3 million adults in the United States are infected with the hepatitis C virus. While there are treatments available, many medications cause side effects including nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, dry mouth, and headaches.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

There are no early warning symptoms with Hepatitis C so it has become known as the “silent killer”. During this time (it can be as long as 20 years) the virus can slowly destroy liver cells without anyone knowing. A number of groups are “high risk”, such as

  • IV drug users who have shared needles, their sexual partners and family members
  • People who had a blood transfusion prior to 1990 or those who undergo dialysis
  • People with tattoos or those who have their nails frequently done
  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with any liver disease

Eventual symptoms include:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pains and headaches
  • Fluid retention or dark urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching

How Cannabis Can Help

Research suggests that cannabis has the potential of offering therapeutic benefits to patients with HCV and other liver diseases. Major cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), bind with or influence the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system within the body. CB2 receptor activation has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and beneficial effects on alcoholic fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, liver injury, regeneration and fibrosis. A research review determined that the cannabinoids found within cannabis look to tame aspects of chronic liver disease (Zamora-Valdes, et al., 2005).

Since hepatitis C manifests in so many ways, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact strain you should use for it. It’s best to break down each of your symptoms to choose the best kind of strain for you. Some common symptoms treatable with marijuana are:

  • Inflammation of the Liver/Swollen Legs: Did you know that inflammation and swelling act as a response from your immune system? Medical marijuana can suppress the immune system, minimizing the number of inflammation signals sent to the affected tissue. Due to its full-body effect and use for immune disorders like lupus, indica strains are more suitable for inflammation.
  • Fatigue: Fighting off an infection like hepatitis C can wear you out. The kind of strain you should take for energy depends on your reaction to sativa strains. If you find that the psychoactive effects of sativastrains don’t affect you too much, you can opt for a pure sativa strain. On the other hand, you can use a sativa-leaning hybrid to balance out the “high” from a sativa strain.
  • Aches and Pains: Both hepatitis C and its cures make you feel achy. While both types of marijuana strains help with pain, you can feel the effects of indica strains all over your body. So, indica strains serve as a more potent cure for hepatitis C-related pain.
  • Nausea: Hepatitis C medicine tends to cause nausea rather than hepatitis C itself. Indica strains relax your stomach muscles, allowing you to keep food down.
    Weight Loss: The loss of appetite associated with hepatitis C often results in unhealthy weight loss. Since just about any marijuana strain makes you feel hungry, you can make your choice based on the other symptoms you have.

While cannabis can’t treat hepatitis C, it can be used complementarily with medications to help manage symptoms and reduce side effects. Many patients report feeling unpleasant side effects from hepatitis C medications, but by taking cannabis they are more likely to finish the course of medications and thus have a better outlook.

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