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Using Marijuana to Treat HIV? Absolutely.

 There has been a lot of talk about whether smoking pot relieves symptoms or even fights HIV. Anecdotally, it is widely believed that it does.

But what does the science say?

In an exclusive interview with HIV Equal, noted cannabis expert Dr. Dustin Sulak described how the cannabinoid system actually can be stimulated even without cannabis.

While for many years it was believed it was the THC in marijuana that made people feel better, loads of new research shows that our endocannabinoid system actually can be stimulated without THC or even cannabis (although cannabis has scientifically proven therapeutic qualities as well).

“We always are making endocannabinoids (naturally), which affect receptors (in the brain) available to be stimulated,” Sulak said. “This can help relieve stress, balance the immune system, decrease inflammation and promote balance at the cellular level.”

In the modern era of antiretroviral therapy (ART), most people with HIV seldom have problems with their immune systems but often experience complications related to inflammation, especially long-term survivors of HIV.

“The endocannabinoid system got its name because it was discovered by examining how cannabis and THC effects the body, but now we know better how to stimulate it,” Sulak said.

Turmeric, the yellow spice found in Indian food, actually has lots of therapeutic effects on the body due to its effect on increasing the natural production of cannabinoids, Sulak said. The same can be said of the herb Echinacea.

In fact, while it long was held that endorphins caused a “runner’s high,” we now know that exercise actually increases levels of endocannabinoids, which also causes feelings of wellness during exercise, Sulak said.

“We used to think if was more of an endorphin experience, but new research is showing the association with endocannabinoids is even stronger than previously believed,” Sulak said.

An interesting experiment involving rats showed that when their endocannabinoid producing was measured during exercise, “It makes a big difference if the exercise is voluntary or not,” Sulak said.

For example, when they were forced to run on a wheel using heat or electrical impulses, stress hormones actually went up.

As for using the cannabis plant for its therapeutic effects, 2014 research showed that activation of cannabinoid receptors actually inhibits inflammation in the brain among people with HIV because it prevents the virus from attaching to cells.

Additional studies have shown that cannabis can help prevent damage from HIV-related neuropathy (nerve damage) as well as inhibit the replication of HIV.