ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Trigger Natural Painkiller
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Acupuncture Eases Side Effects of Head, Neck Cancer Treatments
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Stem Cells Might Treat Tough Fractures
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
CANCER
Method for Treating Cervical Lesions May Pose Pregnancy Risks
Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
3 Steps Might Help Stop MRSA's Spread
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Holistic Dentistry-My View
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
DIET, NUTRITION
Fruits, Vegetables, Teas May Cut Smokers' Cancer Risk
Milk Destroys Antioxidant Benefits in Blueberries
Successful Weight Loss Shows Unique Brain Patterns
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
EYE CARE, VISION
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Too Much Sun, Too Few Antioxidants Spell Eye Trouble
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
FITNESS
Super Bowl Loss Can 'Kill' Some Fans
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Have a Goal in Life? You Might Live Longer
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Can Be Good for You
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Countdown to Hair Loss
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
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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