ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
Living Near Major Road May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
CANCER
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
CAREGIVING
Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
Depression, PTSD Common Among Lung Transplant Patient Caregivers
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Quick Weight Loss May Be Best for Long-Term Success
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
EYE CARE, VISION
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
FITNESS
As Temperature Plummets, It's Still Safe to Exercise
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Maximize Your Run
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Living With Less TV, More Sweat Boosts Weight Loss
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Be Healthy, Spend Less
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
Wood Fires Can Harm the Youngest Lungs
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Optimism May Boost Immune System
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
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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