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To answer the question, “Is Cannabis an Herb?”, we first have to define what qualifies as an herb, scientifically.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an herb is defined as:
A seed-producing annual, biennial, or perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season. Dictionary by Merriam-Webster
Which isn’t all that helpful, to be honest. But the secondary definition is more helpful:
A plant, or plant part, valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities. Dictionary by Merriam-Webster
In this case, cannabis does indeed qualify as an herb.
But most of us don’t automatically think of cannabis in that way. We tend to classify it more as a drug than an herb, if we’re honest.
As an example, Rosemary is a herb because it has leaves that are used in the kitchen for cooking. We may drop some into a stew, or sprinkle a little on our meat before laying it on the grill to enhance the flavor, or to otherwise improve the quality and taste of our food. That’s what an herb like Rosemary is essentially for.
However, an herb like Echinacea, Ginseng, and Gingko, might also be used for health purposes, and sold as an organic or natural supplement over the counter, or perhaps used in the production of certain prescription drugs.
Other herbs like Lavender are also commonly valued for their aromatic properties and are widely used for soaps, lotions, perfumes and air fresheners.
But what about cannabis? Is it really an herb in the same way that these other herbs are?
If we’re honest, most of us don’t automatically place cannabis alongside these other herbs when we hear the term. We might think of Basil, or Parsley, or Rosemary, for example. Images of spice racks along the kitchen cupboard might come to mind. We might even picture our Mom’s sprinkling a dash or two of Oregano into a large pot of thick, bubbling tomato sauce on the stove top.
Hardly anyone these days would classify basil, rosemary, and garlic alongside cannabis. None of us would keep cannabis in our spice racks next to the thyme. None of us would sprinkle it on our soup like oregano, or rub the leaves on our wrists like lavender to make ourselves smell nice. (All of those things might be huge mistakes, actually).
Cannabis, which is indeed an herb, is largely considered a drug by most people today. Which is strange considering that cannabis has quite a few medicinal properties that can help us to stay healthy and even cure some serious illnesses.
For example, so far 30 states have approved cannabis for medicinal use, however the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only recently approved a drug derived from cannabis – Epidiolex (a form of cannabidiol, or CBD) – in June of 2018 to treat two serious and rare forms of epilepsy.
As FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement,
This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in cannabis can lead to important medical therapies.
So, while this very recent FDA approval is promising, there is still a long way to go in the process of rethinking many of our long-held opinions about cannabis.
Now, you might be asking, “Why hasn’t the FDA approved cannabis oil before now?” Well, one of the main reasons is that there have yet to be enough large scientific studies to properly demonstrate all the medical benefits.
Yet, it cannot be denied that CBD helps to decrease pain and reduce inflammation and has been known to help with various muscle-control disorders.
In 2015, for example, three separate cannabis studies were conducted on cancer patients and found that 47 percent of the patients were completely healed of nausea and vomiting after using the substance.
Patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) have experienced reduced feelings of pain from muscle spasm, according to a 2014 review study on patients who used an oral cannabis extract made from CBD.
One of the greatest benefits to using cannabis extract has been seen in people with epilepsy. A study conducted in 2015 looked at the results of a daily dose on people who suffered from seizures due to severe epilepsy. Over 137 people participated in this important study – even a few toddlers – and those participants experienced a remarkable decline in seizures, up to 54% over a 12-week period. However, since the study did not involve a “control group”, it’s debated whether or not some of these people were exhibiting a placebo effect. Underscoring the need for more studies at FDA-approval standards.
But cannabis isn’t the only herb with amazing healing properties. Did you know that there are several other herbs that also provide a variety of health benefits?
It’s true. For example:
Imagine if we could begin to regard cannabis – not as a drug – but as an herb that is simply an organic plant with a variety of positive uses. This shift in our thinking might eventually allow others in our society to enjoy the many positive benefits of cannabis without fear, and change the quality of life for hundreds, perhaps thousands, or even millions of people in the process.
The key to changing our thinking about cannabis starts with education.
Based on the studies that have been conducted to date, the benefits of CBD for medical use have proven quite promising, to say the least. There’s no doubt that, as more studies are funded and approved, the full story of the healing properties of cannabis will be revealed.
Until then, the rest of us might need to begin shifting our preconceived ideas about cannabis from the negative stereotypes that are often associated with the herb, to more practical and less fearful – and more fact-based – ideas.
What do you think?
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