ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
CANCER
Yoga Eases Sleep Problems Among Cancer Survivors
Healthy Behaviors Slow Functional Decline After Cancer
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
DIET, NUTRITION
Eat Up, But Eat Healthy This Holiday Season
Compound in Berries May Lessen Sun Damage
Holiday Eating Without the Guilt -- or the Pounds
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Most Mt. Everest Deaths Occur Near Summit During Descent
Artificial Light Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
Accumulated Lead May Affect Older Women's Brains
EYE CARE, VISION
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Florida Vision Test Law: Fewer Traffic Deaths Among Elderly
FITNESS
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Fliers Can Keep Blood Clots at Bay
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Sun, Smoke, Extra Weight Add Years to Skin
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
Maximize Your Run
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Working Intensely Early on May Help Autistic Kids
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
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Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients

(HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients, glaucoma patients and others can benefit from medical marijuana, and now a new analysis shows that it can help multiple sclerosis (MS) patients find relief from the muscle spasms that are the hallmark of the debilitating autoimmune disease.

"The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in MS appears to be comprehensive, and should be given considerable attention," said lead researcher Dr. Shaheen Lakhan, executive director of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation.

"Spasticity, an involuntary increase in muscle tone or rapid muscle contractions, is one of the more common and distressing symptoms of MS," the researchers noted in their review. "Medicinal treatment may reduce spasticity, but may also be ineffective, difficult to obtain or associated with intolerable side effects," they added.

"We found evidence that cannabis plant extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms," Lakhan said.

Although some objective measures showed improvement, there were no significant changes in after-treatment assessments, Lakhan said. "However, subjective assessment of symptom relief did often show significant improvement post-treatment," he added.

For the study, Lakhan and his colleague Marie Rowland reviewed six studies where marijuana was used by MS patients. Five of the trials showed that marijuana reduced spasms and improved mobility, according to the report published Dec. 3 in the online journal BMC Neurology.

Specifically, the studies evaluated the cannabis extracts delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These studies found that both THC and CBD extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms, Lakhan said.

Although there was a benefit from using marijuana there were also side effects, such as intoxication. This varied depending on the amount of marijuana needed to effectively limit spasms, but side effects were also seen in the placebo groups, Lakhan and Rowland noted.

The careful monitoring of symptom relief and side effects is critical in reaching an individual's optimal dose, Lakhan said. "Moreover, there is evidence that cannabinoids may provide neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits in MS," he added.

"Considering the distress and limitations spasticity brings to individuals with MS, it would be important to carefully weigh the potential for side effects with the potential for symptom relief, especially in view of the relief reported in subjective assessment," Lakhan said.

Dr. Moses Rodriguez, a professor of neurology and immunology at the Mayo Clinic, said that "the idea of using cannabis to treat MS has been around for a long time."

Rodriguez noted that the effects of using marijuana have been mixed. "It has been difficult to know whether the effect has been just a general well-being or whether it has a direct effect on muscle fibers and spasticity," he said.

If drugs could be developed that take away the intoxicating effects of marijuana, it could have a direct effect on spasms without the high, Rodriguez said.

The Obama administration announced in October that it will no longer prosecute medical marijuana users or suppliers, provided they obey the laws of states that allow use of the drug for medicinal purposes.

Rodriguez said he is often asked by his MS patients about whether there is a benefit to using marijuana.

"What I tell my patients," he said, "is if they want to try it they should try it. They should understand that there is a potential for it to be habit-forming and there may be a potential that they are fooling themselves."

Patricia A. O'Looney, vice president of biomedical research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said the society has studied this issue and does not think enough is known to recommend that MS patients use marijuana.

"Because the studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit compared to existing therapy, and issues of side effects and long-term effects are not clear, the recommendation is that it should not be recommended at this time," she said.

Another expert, Dr. William Sheremata, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, also doesn't think MS patients necessarily benefit from marijuana use.

Sheremata noted that the objective measures in the study did not show any benefit from marijuana. "Those are the only valid measures. Subjective responses are subjective; they really don't have much in the way of validity," he said. "I am not convinced that the use of marijuana benefits patients as a whole."

SOURCES: Shaheen Lakhan, M.D., Ph.D., executive director, Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, Panorama City, Calif.; Moses Rodriguez, M.D., professor, neurology and immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Patricia A. O'Looney, Ph.D., vice president, biomedical research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City; William Sheremata, M.D., director, Multiple Sclerosis Center, University of Miami School of Medicine; Dec. 3, 2009, BMC Neurology, online Published on: December 04, 2009