As more and more states legalize cannabis, there are an increasing number of medical studies exploring how this unique plant helps a variety of medical illnesses and symptoms. While there is still a lot to learn, some physicians are ahead of the game and began research decades ago on the medical efficacy of the compounds in cannabis. Jeffrey Hergenrather is one of those doctors that saw the miracles of the plant as a viable medical solution.
Hergenrather received his medical degree in 1975 from Brown University. He lived and provided medical services to approximately 1,000 people on The Farm, a legendary alternative community in Tennessee before moving to California. The people in the community medicated with cannabis regularly to relieve everything from migraines to menstrual cramps. Since then Dr. Hergenrather quietly integrated cannabis into his medical practice. With the legal stance on medical cannabis having changed in California as of 1996, Hergenrather has been able to more openly treat his patients.
Advocating for Cannabis’s Therapeutic Benefits
As one of the first licensed doctors in the U.S. to treat his patients with cannabis, Hergenrather saw remarkable results in patients with migraines, chronic pain, AIDS, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, intestinal disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders, and glaucoma. The key is cannabis’s interaction with human endocannabinoids. Extensive research on cannabis has revealed that cannabinoids offer a broad range of benefits including neuroprotective effects, analgesic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic, immunosuppressive, anti-epileptic, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, anti-ischemic, and vasorelaxation properties.
Dr. Hergenrather explains that endocannabinoids in the human body work to protect the body from cancers and injury. Cannabis is so effective because all animals except insects possess cannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal system, hearts, brains, and livers that respond to the chemicals in cannabis. In one presentation the doctor said, “When we’re injured, endocannabinoids go to help…They are doing things in very primary, elemental ways in keeping our bodies healthy. It’s homeostasis.”
Alzheimer’s and IBD
One specific disease that Hergenrather has treated and studied is Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD. He explains how there are two kinds of cannabinoid receptors in the body: CB1 and CB2. With IBD, cannabis can activate receptors in the rectum, colon, small intestine, stomach, and lower esophagus. As a result, the plant regulates intestinal secretions and motility, decreases inflammation and pain, and reduces the risk of tumors. He’s noticed that his patients’ overall health and quality of life significantly improved. Half of them discontinued their medications except for during times of flare-ups.
Dr. Hergenrather also treats patients at an assisted living facility for adults suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia called Primrose in Santa Rosa. Some patients there are difficult to deal with and are in a more advanced stage of dementia. They suffer aggressive behavior, mood swings, memory loss, severe depression, agitation, and other neurological disorders. So many of the drugs used to treat these problems are harmful to the patients with warnings that elderly patients taking them are at high risk for mortality.
Working with the patients’ families and the staff, physicians are using high-THC tinctures and edibles to treat the disease. “They can impact the evolution of the disease by inhibiting amyloid aggregation-nerve tangles in the brain that cause many Alzheimer’s related problems.” All of the patients participating saw improvement in symptoms, even the most extreme patients. Most no longer wanted to take their previous medication after this course of treatment.
Today Jeffrey Hergenrather is a medical cannabis consultant with a private practice. He’s active with the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, and California Cannabis Research Medical Support. Hergenrather is an expert in utilizing cannabis medicinally and continues to help patients seeking alternative healing solutions.
After decades of bureaucratic laws and regulations, it seems that the United States and its citizens are evolving as science and medical research does. The therapeutic benefits of cannabis can’t be ignored any longer. The world finally realizes the many attributes of the cannabis plant like Hergenrather did in the 1970’s. People have finally realized that some alternative treatments are better for them than traditional medicine and that their quality of life can significantly improve.