The Medicinal Cannabis Library

The endocannabinoid system, explained.

Learn about the role of the endocannabinoid system, how to regulate it and the unique way medicinal cannabis treatments interact with the human body.


medically reviewed by


December 19, 2022

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What is the endocannabinoid system?

Each of us – whether we consume cannabis (aka marijuana) or not – has an endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a molecular system made up of a vast network of chemical signals and cellular receptors located throughout our brain and body. These help regulate and balance many processes in the body – including immune responses, communication between cells, sleep, pain, appetite, hormone levels, metabolism, memory, and more. 

The endocannabinoid system is made up of:

  1. Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids)
  2. Cannabinoid receptors
  3. Enzymes responsible for the synthesis and degradation of the endocannabinoids (we’ll unpack all of these terms below!)

Unlike the nervous system or cardiovascular system, the endocannabinoid system is not an isolated structural system located in a specific region of the body. Instead, the ECS is a receptor system broadly distributed throughout the body which is acted upon by cannabinoids and enzymes. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors can be found throughout the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.

Let’s unpack the endocannabinoid system further.

What is the role of the endocannabinoid system?

The ECS plays a vital role in our central nervous system and immune systems. Researchers have linked the endocannabinoid system to at least 15 internal processes in the body.1

These include:

  • appetite and digestion
  • bone remodelling and growth
  • cardiovascular system function
  • chronic pain
  • inflammation and other immune responses
  • learning and memory
  • liver function
  • metabolism
  • mood
  • motor control
  • muscle formation
  • reproductive system function
  • skin and nerve function
  • sleep
  • stress

All of these functions contribute to the stability and balance of your internal environment. The role of the endocannabinoid system is to ensure that when external force – such as an injury, illness or stressor – throws the body off balance, your ECS can kick in to help return your body to a state of homeostasis.  

The endocannabinoid system is made up of those three core components mentioned above: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and enzymes. Each of these components play an important role in helping our internal functions run smoothly, and are constantly working together to keep a wide range of bodily processes in balance. Let’s look at each component individually:

1. Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) 

Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring molecules found in the body. They exist to mediate our normal physiological functions, and appear to have evolved in the brain to maintain biological harmony while also playing a role in neuronal plasticity (how the brain adapts to change).

The two major endocannabinoids that have been discovered are:

  • Anandamide (AEA) (ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss)
  • 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG)

Both of these endocannabinoids help our internal functions run smoothly, and a healthy human body produces them as needed. When there is a deficiency or imbalance in our endocannabinoid production, then we may need to look at external ways to upregulate our endocannabinoid system (more on this below).

Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) are not to be confused with Phytocannabinoids which are found in plants. Phytocannabinoids naturally occur in a range of plant species, but are most commonly associated with the cannabis plant. You’ve probably heard of the popular cannabinoids, CBD and THC, however there are hundreds of cannabinoids. 

2. Cannabinoid receptors

Cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of cells throughout the body. When endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, this signals to the ECS to kick-start a response.  Researchers have identified two primary cannabinoid receptors within the body:1 

  • CB1 receptor (cannabinoid receptor type 1) – predominantly found in the central nervous system, brain, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs. CB1 receptors can also be considered a THC receptor due to the way THC directly binds to CB1 receptors (more about this later).
  • CB2 receptor (cannabinoid receptor type 2) – predominantly found in the immune system, specifically within organs and cells responsible for some sort of response.

Many tissues contain both CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors, and each is linked to a different action. Both endocannabinoids (like Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG)) and phytocannabinoids (like THC and CBD) interact with our two primary cannabinoid receptors to produce varying effects on the mind and body. More about how cannabis interacts with our CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors below.

3. Enzymes

Enzymes are molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes in the ECS are responsible for the synthesis and degradation of endocannabinoids.2 This means that certain enzymes will help produce endocannabinoids on demand, and once they have carried out their functions in the body, other enzymes will then just as quickly break the endocannabinoids down again.

There are two main enzymes responsible for this:

  • fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) – which breaks down the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA)
  • monoacylglycerol acid lipase (MAGL) – which typically breaks down the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG)

Modulation of these two enzymes can up-regulate or down-regulate the endocannabinoid system by increasing or decreasing endocannabinoid levels within the body.

How does the endocannabinoid system work?

The endocannabinoid system works by relying on each of its components – endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and enzymes – to create balance within the body

A typical endocannabinoid system function works when the body’s naturally produced endocannabinoids (which are present in various organs and tissues) become active by binding with a cannabinoid receptor (also located all throughout the body) to regulate a bodily function, such as digestion or sleep. Essentially, when a system or function in the body is out of balance, receptors bind to cannabinoids to help correct the problem. Once the endocannabinoid system brings the body back into balance, enzymes will break down the cannabinoids to prevent overcorrecting the problem.

Let’s look at an example: if your body is experiencing pain, then a signal may be sent to enzymes to synthesise (produce) the endocannabinoid 2-AG. The 2-AG may then bind with and activate the CB1 receptors and/or the CB2 receptors3 to relieve the sensation of pain4 without interrupting other important bodily functions, such as temperature regulation, digestion and more. Once the body has been brought back into balance, the enzyme MAGL will then rapidly degrade the endocannabinoid 2-AG to avoid overcorrecting the problem and creating an imbalance in the body. It is this process that helps other functions of the body run smoothly even when the body is experiencing disruptions such as pain, inflammation or a fever.

When it comes to conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, or inflammatory diseases where the endocannabinoid system has not managed to bring the body back into balance and reduce symptoms, then it may be worth investigating whether an endocannabinoid deficiency or ECS dysregulation is contributing to these symptoms and looking at ways to upregulate the ECS to provide relief (more on this below).

How does cannabis interact with the endocannabinoid system?

There are hundreds of cannabinoids found in cannabis. The most popular and well-known are CBD and THC, followed by CBN, CBC and CBG. Because these phytocannabinoids have a similar chemical structure to our endocannabinoids, they have the potential to aid internal processes and mediate physiological functions when taken correctly and responsibly – especially under the guidance of a prescribing doctor

Phytocannabinoids like THC, CBD and CBN interact with our endocannabinoid system in varying ways:

THC and the endocannabinoid system

THC has been shown to work directly with the ECS by activating the CB1 receptors in the brain, producing a psychoactive effect. This may help relieve symptoms of pain, reduce nausea and vomiting, increase appetite, improve sleep, and more in some patients. It’s important to note that because THC works so directly upon the endocannabinoid system via the CB1 receptor, using too much THC can actually flood the CB1 receptors, potentially leading to increased anxiety, impaired memory and slow reaction times. This is why it’s so valuable to undergo cannabis treatment with the support of a prescribing doctor who can tailor a cannabis treatment plan to your exact needs, symptoms and individual circumstances. Learn more about THC tolerance and how THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system by heading to our Tolerance Breaks article.

CBD and the endocannabinoid system

CBD works indirectly with the ECS to interact with our opioid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors, giving it the potential to reduce pain, depression and anxiety while boosting the immune system and helping with addiction. CBD is more likely to bind to the CB2 receptor, but it does not bind to the CB1 receptor like THC does. Because the stimulation of the CB1 receptors is what causes the ‘high’ associated with cannabis (an unwanted side effect for some), CBD taken without THC does not cause this effect. CBD may also work by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down, allowing them to have a greater effect on your body. For example, CBD has been found to inhibit the activity of the fatty acid amide hydrolase enzyme,5 which breaks down the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA). Because anandamide levels play a key role in memory, mood, appetite, sleep, and pain relief, CBD’s inhibition of the enzyme that breaks it down may aid these functions while stimulating a sense of happiness and mental wellness.

CBN and the endocannabinoid system

One of the lesser known (but no less important) cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant is CBN, short for ‘cannabinol.’ CBN is known to have anticonvulsant, sedative, and other pharmacological activities6 that are still being explored. CBN is created during the breakdown of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.

Like THC, CBN also binds to the CB1 receptor, but at a much lower strength than THC.7 This technically makes it a psychoactive compound, but it doesn’t produce much of a ‘high’ sensation that some patients may experience with THC. CBN has a stronger affinity towards the CB2 receptors, which are mostly associated with immune system regulation.7

What about endocannabinoid deficiency? 

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency8 (CECD) is a term coined by neuropharmacologist Dr Ethan Russo in the early 2000s in an attempt to explain the potential therapeutic effects of cannabis in treating certain treatment-resistant conditions. The theory suggests that a low functioning endocannabinoid system – which may look like low endocannabinoid levels, an overabundance of metabolic enzymes or some other ECS dysfunction – could contribute to the development of certain chronic conditions such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome9
  • Fibromyalgia9
  • Chronic migraines9
  • Endometriosis10
  • Anxiety11
  • Depression12
  • PTSD13
  • Autism spectrum disorder14

A 2016 article reviewing over 10 years of research on the endocannabinoid system and its relationship with IBS, fibromyalgia and chronic migraines, suggests that endocannabinoid deficiency may explain why some people develop some of these conditions.9 However, much more research is needed before we can come to a definitive conclusion.

Possible signs of endocannabinoid deficiency:

If you develop issues with sleep, chronic pain, menstrual pain, unmanageable stress, IBS symptoms, migraine, depression or any other issues relating to bodily functions that are regulated by the endocannabinoid system, this may be a sign of endocannabinoid deficiency or dysregulation. Unfortunately, there is no definitive cause of CECD and the concept is still very much a theory which requires more robust research to be better understood. If you’re ever unsure, always speak with a qualified healthcare professional about your conditions and symptoms.

Is medicinal cannabis right for me and my condition/s?

If you have a chronic condition with symptoms that are resistant to other types of treatment, such as pain or anxiety, you may want to explore medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment option with a prescribing doctor. Medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for patients who have some kind of endocannabinoid dysfunction, which has been seen in endometriosis patients, fibromyalgia patients and more.

Medicinal cannabis is legal in Australia with a valid prescription. To be eligible for medicinal cannabis, you’ll need to:

  1. Have a chronic condition with symptoms lasting 3 months or more, and
  2. Have tried other conventional treatments which were ineffective or caused you unwanted side effects.

Take our free eligibility quiz to see if you might be eligible for medical cannabis access.

Ultimately it will be up to a prescribing doctor to determine whether cannabis may be right for you and your condition. A cannabis clinician with experience in cannabinoid medicines is your best bet for getting specialised advice and a treatment plan that meets your therapeutic needs. An experienced cannabis clinician should be able to determine which cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds would benefit you and your symptoms, as well as your ideal type of cannabis treatment, the method you use to take it and at what dose.

6 ways to balance your endocannabinoid system

There are a number of ways we can naturally regulate our endocannabinoid system to achieve balance in the body and treat potential endocannabinoid deficiencies. Some of these methods include:

  1. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids: fatty acid precursors – like those found in omega-3 – are known to produce endocannabinoids.15 Try consuming omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught fish, nuts and seeds and pasture-raised eggs.
  2. Diversifying your gut microbiome: eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables (all of which contain microbacteria feeding prebiotics) can boost endocannabinoid levels.16
  3. Trying terpenes: terpenes are the aromatic compounds found in plants – including cannabis. The terpene Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) which is found not only in cannabis but in basil, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and more activates the CB2 receptor17 and has anti-inflammatory, anxiety and pain reducing and neuroprotective effects.
  4. Moving your body: exercise has been shown to increase endocannabinoids18 to help maintain homeostasis within the body, with moderate aerobic activity19 having a greater benefit than light or intense exercise. Importantly, the exercise should be something you enjoy and take pleasure in to really benefit your endocannabinoid system.  
  5. Reducing stress: prolonged periods of stress can impair the development of new cannabinoid receptors, and increased amounts of the stress hormone cortisol interfere with the function of our CB1 cannabinoid receptors, finding ways to reduce stress is another good way to regulate the ECS.20
  6. Consuming cannabinoids: When there is a potential endocannabinoid deficiency,9 or a condition like chronic pain that is resistant to standard treatments (such as medications, therapies and lifestyle changes), phytocannabinoids in medicinal cannabis treatments can potentially help boost our endocannabinoid system function.

The bottom line

Although there is still much research to be done, studies to date strongly suggest that the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in our central nervous system and immune systems. This means that maintaining a balanced and functioning endocannabinoid system is essential for good health. Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, stress reduction techniques and herbal medicines can be used to help upregulate the endocannabinoid system and drive a range of health benefits, while cannabinoids like THC and CBD can be useful in helping to correct potential endocannabinoid deficiencies where other treatments have failed.

At Polln, all of our doctors are experts in cannabinoid medicines who understand the therapeutic implications of medicinal cannabis. They can determine your suitability for medical cannabis and tailor a treatment plan with your individual needs, symptoms and potential endocannabinoid deficiencies in mind.

To talk to an expert in medicinal cannabis, sign up as a Polln patient today.

  1.  Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Mar 13;19(3):833. doi: 10.3390/ijms19030833. PMID: 29533978; PMCID: PMC5877694.
  2.  Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Mar 13;19(3):833. doi: 10.3390/ijms19030833. PMID: 29533978; PMCID: PMC5877694.
  3.  Baggelaar MP, Maccarrone M, van der Stelt M. 2-Arachidonoylglycerol: A signaling lipid with manifold actions in the brain. Prog Lipid Res. 2018 Jul;71:1-17. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2018.05.002. Epub 2018 May 8. PMID: 29751000.
  4.  ScienceDirect, Nociception,
  5.  de Almeida DL, Devi LA. Diversity of molecular targets and signaling pathways for CBD. Pharmacol Res Perspect. 2020 Dec;8(6):e00682. doi: 10.1002/prp2.682. PMID: 33169541; PMCID: PMC7652785.
  6.   ScienceDirect, Cannabinol,
  7.  Morales P, Hurst DP, Reggio PH. Molecular Targets of the Phytocannabinoids: A Complex Picture. Prog Chem Org Nat Prod. 2017;103:103-131. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-45541-9_4. PMID: 28120232; PMCID: PMC5345356.
  8.  Russo EB. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions? Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2004 Feb-Apr;25(1-2):31-9. PMID: 15159679.
  9.  Russo EB. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016 Jul 1;1(1):154-165. doi: 10.1089/can.2016.0009. PMID: 28861491; PMCID: PMC5576607.
  10.  Bouaziz J, Bar On A, Seidman DS, Soriano D. The Clinical Significance of Endocannabinoids in Endometriosis Pain Management. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017 Apr 1;2(1):72-80. doi: 10.1089/can.2016.0035. PMID: 28861506; PMCID: PMC5436335.
  11.  Lutz B, Marsicano G, Maldonado R, Hillard CJ. The endocannabinoid system in guarding against fear, anxiety and stress. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Dec;16(12):705-18. doi: 10.1038/nrn4036. PMID: 26585799; PMCID: PMC5871913.
  12.  Huang WJ, Chen WW, Zhang X. Endocannabinoid system: Role in depression, reward and pain control (Review). Mol Med Rep. 2016 Oct;14(4):2899-903. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2016.5585. Epub 2016 Aug 1. PMID: 27484193; PMCID: PMC5042796.
  13.  Steardo L Jr, Carbone EA, Menculini G, Moretti P, Steardo L, Tortorella A. Endocannabinoid System as Therapeutic Target of PTSD: A Systematic Review. Life (Basel). 2021 Mar 9;11(3):214. doi: 10.3390/life11030214. PMID: 33803374; PMCID: PMC8000573.
  14.  Aran A, Eylon M, Harel M, Polianski L, Nemirovski A, Tepper S, Schnapp A, Cassuto H, Wattad N, Tam J. Lower circulating endocannabinoid levels in children with autism spectrum disorder. Mol Autism. 2019 Jan 30;10:2. doi: 10.1186/s13229-019-0256-6. PMID: 30728928; PMCID: PMC6354384.
  15.  Naughton SS, Mathai ML, Hryciw DH, McAinch AJ. Fatty Acid modulation of the endocannabinoid system and the effect on food intake and metabolism. Int J Endocrinol. 2013;2013:361895. doi: 10.1155/2013/361895. Epub 2013 May 26. PMID: 23762050; PMCID: PMC3677644.
  16.  Guida F, Boccella S, Belardo C, Iannotta M, Piscitelli F, De Filippis F, Paino S, Ricciardi F, Siniscalco D, Marabese I, Luongo L, Ercolini D, Di Marzo V, Maione S. Altered gut microbiota and endocannabinoid system tone in vitamin D deficiency-mediated chronic pain. Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Mar;85:128-141. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.006. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PMID: 30953765.
  17.  ​Aly E, Khajah MA, Masocha W. β-Caryophyllene, a CB2-Receptor-Selective Phytocannabinoid, Suppresses Mechanical Allodynia in a Mouse Model of Antiretroviral-Induced Neuropathic Pain. Molecules. 2019 Dec 27;25(1):106. doi: 10.3390/molecules25010106. PMID: 31892132; PMCID: PMC6983198.
  18.  Desai S, Borg B, Cuttler C, Crombie KM, Rabinak CA, Hill MN, Marusak HA. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Exercise on the Endocannabinoid System. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2022 Aug;7(4):388-408. doi: 10.1089/can.2021.0113. Epub 2021 Dec 3. PMID: 34870469; PMCID: PMC9418357.
  19.  Raichlen DA, Foster AD, Seillier A, Giuffrida A, Gerdeman GL. Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):869-75. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2495-5. Epub 2012 Sep 19. PMID: 22990628.
  20.  Hill MN, Patel S, Campolongo P, Tasker JG, Wotjak CT, Bains JS. Functional interactions between stress and the endocannabinoid system: from synaptic signaling to behavioral output. J Neurosci. 2010 Nov 10;30(45):14980-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4283-10.2010. PMID: 21068301; PMCID: PMC3073528.

The information on this website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Polln is not promoting the use of medicinal cannabis. Medicinal cannabis in Australia is scheduled medication and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Details about medicinal cannabis as a scheduled drug can be found on their website. If you would like to explore medicinal cannabis for your chronic condition, please consult with a doctor.

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Ready to start feeling better, naturally?

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Medical Conditions

Plant medicine: Medicinal Cannabis and Epilepsy

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Plant medicine: Medicinal Cannabis and Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide. This disorder disrupts the normal electrical activity in the brain, causing recurrent seizures of differing intensities and frequencies. The impact of epilepsy goes beyond just physical symptoms and can affect cognitive abilities and emotional well-being too.

The seizures and their aftermath can be both physically debilitating and emotionally distressing, which is why it’s so important for doctors to tailor treatment plans to meet the physical and emotional needs of epilepsy patients.

While conventional antiepileptic medications have been a major advancement in epilepsy management, they are not always entirely effective and can be associated with undesirable side effects. This has prompted both patients and the medical community to explore alternative approaches, such as medicinal cannabis, which can be used as a complementary therapy or a stand-alone treatment.

Medicinal cannabis, commonly referred to as medical marijuana, has gained recognition for its potential to alleviate epilepsy symptoms for some patients naturally. The compounds found in medical cannabis, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), have shown promise in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures in certain individuals with epilepsy. These positive findings have encouraged further research into how cannabinoids interact with the nervous system to help reduce the intensity or frequency of seizures.

Read on to find out how medical cannabis may help some patients manage epilepsy.

What is epilepsy? 

Epilepsy is a spectrum of neurological disorders characterised by abnormal brain activity, resulting in recurrent seizures. These seizures can vary widely in their manifestations and severity, and can impact people differently. Because of epilepsy's diverse nature can diagnosis and treatment can be complicated 

Seizures associated with epilepsy can range from subtle moments of altered consciousness or brief staring spells to more intense convulsions. The type of seizure someone experiences depends on the part of the brain affected and the pattern of abnormal activity it generates.

There are different types of epilepsy, and each has its distinct set of challenges. Some people may experience focal onset seizures, which originate in a specific area of the brain, while others may have generalised onset seizures that involve widespread brain networks. Additionally, there are epilepsy syndromes that tend to manifest in specific age groups and are characterised by specific seizure types and patterns.

Managing epilepsy effectively requires accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. Antiepileptic medications are commonly prescribed to control seizure activity, but their effectiveness can vary depending on the type of epilepsy and individual response. In some cases, surgery may be considered to remove or isolate the epileptic focus (the part of the brain where the seizure originates).

If you or a loved one are living with epilepsy and want to explore natural treatment support, medical professionals, such as our knowledgeable Polln specialists, can help you make an informed decision about your treatment options.

Challenges of Traditional Epilepsy Treatments

Managing epilepsy involves a multifaceted approach that often relies on antiepileptic medications (also known as “anti-seizure medications”). These medications have greatly improved the lives of many people by helping them control seizures and achieve a better quality of life. However, while traditional epilepsy medications are effective for many, they are not without potential challenges.

One of the notable benefits of modern epilepsy medications is their ability to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures for many people with epilepsy. These medical advancements have revolutionised epilepsy management, allowing people to regain a sense of control and stability in their lives.

However, there has been growing interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis as an adjunct therapy for epilepsy. While not always a suitable replacement for modern epilepsy medications, some individuals find that incorporating medicinal cannabis into their treatment plan may provide additional relief or help them avoid common side effects like dizziness, fatigue, weight gain, and mood changes.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in medical cannabis, has shown promise in reducing certain types of seizures, particularly in cases where traditional medications may not be fully effective. However, it's important to note that medicinal cannabis is not suitable for everyone, and its use should be discussed with healthcare providers, like our Polln doctors. Remember: When making decisions about epilepsy treatment options (whether that involves traditional medications, adjunct therapies like medicinal cannabis, or a combination of both) it’s important to make these decisions with the help of a trusted doctor.

How Medical Cannabis May Impact Patients with Epilepsy

The potential therapeutic role of medical cannabis in managing epilepsy has garnered increasing interest, shedding light on its possible therapeutic benefits for some individuals living with seizure disorders. Exploring the interaction between medical cannabis and the neurological system can provide insights into its potential efficacy in mitigating the challenges posed by epilepsy.

  • Neurological Regulation: Medical cannabis compounds, including CBD and THC, interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of receptors and signalling molecules involved in maintaining neurological balance.

CBD, for instance, has shown promise in influencing GABA receptors, which play a critical role in inhibiting excessive neuronal activity. By modulating these receptors, CBD may help regulate abnormal brain activity associated with seizures in some patients.

  • Seizure Threshold Modulation: Both CBD and THC have been studied for their effects on altering the seizure threshold, which is the point at which an individual is more susceptible to experiencing a seizure.

CBD's anticonvulsant properties show potential in raising the seizure threshold, thereby reducing the frequency and intensity of seizures. However, the influence of THC on seizures requires careful consideration due to its potential to lower the seizure threshold in some cases.

  • Neuroprotective Effects: CBD's neuroprotective properties have gained attention for their potential in safeguarding brain cells from damage caused by seizures. Research suggests that CBD's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions may help mitigate the neurodegenerative effects associated with epilepsy, providing a multifaceted approach to managing the condition for some patients.

  • Dosage and Personalized Treatment: It's important to note that the effects of medical cannabis on epilepsy can vary widely based on factors such as dosage, cannabinoid ratios, and an individual's specific response. Working closely with medical professionals to establish appropriate dosing and monitoring is crucial to achieving optimal outcomes.

  • Improved Quality of Life: Patients who experience fewer seizures often report an improved quality of life. Reduced seizure frequency can lead to better cognitive function, improved mood, and enhanced social interactions.

  • Reduced Medication Dependency: Some individuals with epilepsy may be able to reduce their reliance on traditional antiepileptic medications when using medicinal cannabis, which can be beneficial, especially if they experience adverse side effects from these medications.

While further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms and effects, medical cannabis offers hope for some people wanting additional options for epilepsy care to address the challenges posed by this complex neurological condition.

Possible Risks of Medicinal Cannabis for Epilepsy

Before starting on a course of medicinal cannabis treatment for epilepsy, it is important to carefully evaluate any potential risks to make informed decisions about your medical treatment.

  • Side Effects: While CBD is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, THC and other prominent compounds in cannabis can cause side effects such as dizziness, increased heart rate, and cognitive impairment. These side effects may be particularly concerning for vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly.

  • Drug Interactions: Medicinal cannabis can interact with other medications, potentially affecting their effectiveness or causing adverse reactions. It is crucial for patients to inform their healthcare providers about their cannabis use to manage potential drug interactions properly.

  • Long-Term Safety: The long-term safety of medicinal cannabis for epilepsy requires further clinical trials. Concerns about potential adverse effects on brain development in children and adolescents and the risk of addiction need to be carefully considered.

  • Individual Variation: Responses to medicinal cannabis can vary significantly among individuals. What works for one person may not work for another, making it challenging to predict outcomes and customise treatment effectively.

Ongoing research and increased understanding of medicinal cannabis treatments  are critical for maximising the therapeutic benefits and minimising the risks associated with its use in epilepsy management.

Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

Living with epilepsy and finding the right medical care for seizure management can be challenging. That's why Polln offers Australians natural alternatives and adjunct treatments. Our specialised approach to medicinal cannabis care is designed to help people manage epilepsy and other conditions when other treatments have failed to provide adequate relief.

At Polln, patients can easily schedule appointments online, and access same-day, after-hours, and weekend appointments from home. Our 30-minute video consultations give you the time you need to weigh the risks and benefits of new treatment options. 

If you receive a prescription, you can conveniently order your medications through our Polln pharmacy portal, with express delivery available Australia-wide. After your appointment, our dedicated Care Team provides ongoing personalised support, including complimentary nurse check-ins.

Remember: to qualify for access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, you must have experienced a chronic condition for over three months and have tried other treatments that were either ineffective or resulted in unwanted side effects.

The Wrap Up

Epilepsy is a complex disorder that disrupts the normal electrical activity in the brain and causes recurrent seizures. While traditional medications have played an important role in managing this condition, medicinal cannabis, particularly CBD-rich formulations, shows promise as an alternative or complementary therapy, especially for some medication-resistant epilepsy.

At Polln, we're here to help you explore potential options for epilepsy management with our team of dedicated doctors. Schedule an appointment today to see if plant medicine could be a beneficial addition to your treatment plan.

Medical Cannabis and Epilepsy FAQs

Is cannabinoid oil for epilepsy?

Yes, cannabinoid oil, also known as CBD oil, has been studied and used as a potential treatment for epilepsy, particularly in cases where other treatments have not been effective. The TGA has approved a CBD-based medication called Epidiolex for specific forms of severe epilepsy. This medication was also the first and only medicinal cannabis medication to be listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before using CBD oil for epilepsy, as its effectiveness can vary from person to person, and other treatment options should also be considered.

How can I prevent seizures? 

To prevent seizures, especially while considering the use of medicinal cannabis, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a neurologist, epilepsy specialist, or one of our Polln doctors, for personalised guidance. For many people, prescription medications are the primary means of seizure control, and adherence to the prescribed regimen is important. Lifestyle adjustments, like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, and avoiding personal seizure triggers, can also be helpful. If appropriate, medicinal cannabis containing CBD or low levels of THC may be considered as part of the treatment plan, but it should be closely monitored by a qualified healthcare provider. Additionally, other options like Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS), or surgery may be explored in cases where seizures are not responsive to medications or other treatments.

Medical Conditions

Plant Medicine: Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions

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Plant Medicine: Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions

Neurological conditions can pose significant challenges to individuals and their loved ones, affecting not only physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. These conditions often require long-term management and personalised treatments.

Neurological conditions include a wide range of disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain. These conditions can have a wide range of symptoms, from seizures and muscle spasms to cognitive impairment or chronic pain.

Traditional drugs for neurological conditions can be an important part of neurological condition management, but they can come with limitations, such as unwanted side effects, varying efficacy, and the potential for dependence. This has led many patients and healthcare professionals to explore alternative treatments for adjunct therapies like medical cannabis.

Medical cannabis, sometimes referred to as medical marijuana or medicinal weed, is gaining recognition for its potential to relieve symptoms associated with various neurological disorders in some patients. Cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, may help modulate pain perception in the brain, reduce inflammation, and potentially improve overall neurological function.

Read on to find out how medical cannabis may help some patients with symptoms associated with neurological conditions and how to safely explore options for medicinal cannabis treatments. 

What are neurological conditions?

Neurological conditions, also referred to as neurological disorders or diseases, encompass a broad spectrum of medical conditions that affect the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. 

These conditions disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, leading to a wide range of symptoms and health challenges. Neurological conditions can be caused by factors, such as genetic factors, infections, injuries, autoimmune responses, and degenerative processes (ageing-related changes).

Diagnosis, treatment, and management of neurological disorders typically involve a multidisciplinary approach, with neurologists and other healthcare professionals (like our Polln doctors) working together to provide comprehensive care.

Neurologists specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions, employing a combination of clinical assessments, imaging studies, and laboratory tests to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, patients often receive tailored treatment plans that may include medications to manage symptoms, physical therapy to improve function, surgical interventions to address specific issues, and, in some cases, lifestyle modifications.

Lifestyle modifications can be particularly important in the management of certain neurological conditions. These modifications may involve dietary changes, exercise regimens, and adaptations to daily routines to optimise the patient's quality of life and overall well-being. The goal is to empower individuals affected by neurological conditions to lead as fulfilling and comfortable lives as possible, despite the challenges posed by their condition.

Types of Neurological Conditions

While neurological conditions share a common thread of affecting the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves), neurological conditions cover many different kinds of disorders. Each neurological condition, like Parkinson’s or Epilepsy, has its own specific causes and symptoms, which makes the field of neurology quite complex.

Some common neurological conditions include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Migraines
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Neuropathy (damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves)

Each neurological condition presents its unique challenges in terms of diagnosis and management. Treatment approaches vary, and they often involve a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle modifications tailored to the specific condition and individual needs.

Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions

Medicinal cannabis is gaining recognition as a potential treatment option to help manage the symptoms of various neurological conditions due to its ability to potentially alleviate symptoms such as pain, muscle spasticity, and seizures in some patients.

Medicinal cannabis may help some patients manage the symptoms of the following neurological conditions:

The first ever medicinal cannabis product on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)  was listed in 2021. Epidyolex® a prescription cannabidiol (CBD) oil that is used to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older.

  • Parkinson's Disease: Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to motor impairments, including tremors and rigidity. Medicinal cannabis may help reduce these symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for some individuals with Parkinson's.
  • Neuropathic Pain: Neuropathic pain conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy and trigeminal neuralgia, involve chronic pain resulting from nerve dysfunction. Medical cannabis treatments, with their analgesic properties, have been shown to help some people manage neuropathic pain.
  • Migraines: Migraines are characterised by severe headaches and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and in some cases, visual disturbances or auras. Research shows that medicinal cannabis may help  reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in some patients. Additionally, medicinal cannabis may help some patients manage associated symptoms of migraine, such as nausea and vomiting.

Remember: the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in managing neurological conditions can vary from person to person. Additionally, the use of medicinal cannabis should be approached cautiously, and consultation with an experienced healthcare professional, like one of our caring Polln doctors.

How Medicinal Cannabis May Affect  Neurological Conditions

Medicinal cannabis, and medicinal cannabis products, containing cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), may help some people manage some of the complex symptoms of neurological disorders.

While ongoing research is still uncovering exactly how medicinal cannabis interacts with neurological conditions, here are a few ways it might affect some patients: :

  • Managing Neuroinflammation: THC and CBD, the main compounds in medical cannabis, have anti-inflammatory effects. They interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates immune responses and inflammation.

It has been suggested that Medicinal cannabis may help slow down the progression of conditions like multiple sclerosis in some patients by reducing neuroinflammation, as inflammation is a key factor in nerve damage.

  • Immune System Modulation: Medicinal cannabis compounds may affect how the immune system responds in some patients, especially in neuroinflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's. 

Medicinal cannabis may control the release of cytokines and other immune signalling molecules, which helps in calming down an overactive immune response. This is significant for conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome and lupus, where an overly active immune system is a characteristic feature.

  • Pain Alleviation: Neurological conditions often bring persistent pain that can seriously affect a person's life. Medical cannabis may help manage pain symptoms in some patients due to its pain-relieving properties. This can be especially helpful for people with conditions like diabetic neuropathy, which causes nerve pain due to diabetes, or trigeminal neuralgia, a condition causing severe facial pain.
  • Seizure Control: Medicinal cannabis, particularly the cannabinoid CBD, may aid in the management of seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Although we don't fully understand exactly how it helps, it seems that CBD's capacity to regulate nerve cell activity and the release of signalling chemicals in the brain plays a crucial role in decreasing the frequency and intensity of seizures.

Remember: The efficacy of medicinal cannabis can vary from person to person and can depend on many factors, including your condition, the specific medical cannabis treatment  used, and the dosing regimen.

As with any medical treatment, medicinal cannabis carries potential side effects and interactions with other medications. If you’re interested in learning more about medicinal cannabis treatments, book an online consultation to weigh the risks and benefits with one of our compassionate Polln doctors. 

Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis for Neurological Conditions

While not everyone will experience adverse effects, it's important to be aware of potential risks associated with medical cannabis for inflammatory conditions:

  • Cognitive Effects: Depending on the compounds present and their concentrations, medical cannabis might lead to cognitive effects, including impaired memory and concentration.
  • Interactions and Side Effects: Just like any medication, medical cannabis could interact with other medications you're taking. Side effects, though potentially fewer than with traditional medications, still warrant careful consideration.
  • Psychoactive Effects of THC: The psychoactive nature of THC may not be appropriate for people with certain mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. 

A comprehensive discussion with a caring medical professional can help you navigate possible risks and make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis could be right for you. 

Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

At Polln, we understand that living with a neurological condition can be immensely challenging. That's why we offer Australians a compassionate and natural alternative for managing their neurological well-being when other treatments fail to provide adequate relief. 

At Polln, we've streamlined the process of accessing care, making it convenient and stress-free for individuals dealing with these conditions. You can effortlessly schedule appointments online, with options available for same-day, after-hours, and weekend consultations to accommodate your schedule. Our unique 30-minute video consultations with specialised doctors can be conducted from the comfort of your own home.

If you receive a prescription, you have the convenience of ordering your prescribed medications through our Polln pharmacy portal, complete with the option for express delivery anywhere in Australia. Following your appointment, our dedicated Care Team is here to provide ongoing personalised support, including complimentary nurse check-ins.

Remember: to qualify for access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, you must have experienced a chronic condition for over three months and have tried other treatments that were either ineffective or resulted in unwanted side effects.

The Wrap Up

Living with a neurological condition can be a significant and long-lasting challenge. It requires a constant effort to manage symptoms, adapt to their limitations, and seek comfort and function despite ongoing neurological issues. Medical cannabis may provide hope for those dealing with conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain when other treatments have failed to provide relief.

Medicinal cannabis, under the guidance of experienced healthcare professionals, can offer people new possibilities for people with neurological conditions to improve their quality of life and manage symptoms. Polln's compassionate team is here to assist every step of the way. Book a consultation today to see if plant medicine could be right for you. 

Remember: to qualify for access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, you must have experienced a chronic condition for over three months and have tried other treatments that were either ineffective or resulted in unwanted side effect

Neurological Conditions: FAQ

Can multiple sclerosis be cured?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune neurological condition with no known cure at present. While there is no cure for MS, various treatments aim to manage its symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve patients' quality of life. Medicinal cannabis, particularly formulations containing both THC and CBD, has shown promise in alleviating some MS symptoms, such as pain, muscle spasms, and spasticity in some patients.

However, it should be viewed as a complementary therapy rather than a cure. Research on the long-term effects and optimal use of medicinal cannabis for MS is ongoing, and its effectiveness can vary from person to person. Individuals with MS should work closely with healthcare professionals to develop comprehensive treatment plans tailored to their specific needs and conditions.

Do Parkinson's symptoms come and go? 

Parkinson's disease is characterised by both motor and non-motor symptoms, and their presentation can indeed fluctuate, with periods of symptom exacerbation (known as "on" periods) followed by relative relief (known as "off" periods). These fluctuations are often a result of the interplay between the disease progression and the effectiveness of Parkinson's medications, particularly levodopa.

Some people may experience the "wearing-off" phenomenon, where the medication's effects diminish before the next dose, leading to a return of symptoms. Medicinal cannabis, particularly formulations containing both THC and CBD, has been explored as a potential adjunct therapy to help manage Parkinson's symptoms during "off" periods, offering relief from issues like tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia in some patients. 

Medical Conditions

Plant Medicine: Medicinal Cannabis and Sleep Disorders

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Plant Medicine: Medicinal Cannabis and Sleep Disorders

Living with a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or restless legs syndrome, can be an exhausting and frustrating experience. These conditions disrupt our natural sleep rhythms, meaning we not only don’t get enough sleep — but the sleep we do get tends to be poor quality too. The effects of bad sleep go beyond just feeling tired. Sleep disorders can cause difficulties concentrating, mood swings, lowered immune function, and a higher risk of illnesses.

Insomnia treatment can be challenging too due to the many reasons why sleep problems happen. Stress, poor sleep hygiene habits, and medical and psychological conditions can all cause sleep issues. The duration and severity of your sleep disorders also play a role in how to manage them, with chronic cases often requiring more comprehensive or holistic treatment options.

Medicinal cannabis has shown promise as a potential natural and lower-risk option for some people with insomnia. The natural compounds found in cannabis plants, cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) plus terpenes, interact with the body's endocannabinoid system to help regulate sleep and other bodily functions.

Learn more about how medical cannabis may help with sleep disorders in some patients and discover options for accessing medicinal cannabis in Australia.

Understanding Sleep Disorders

Insomnia and other sleep disorders are conditions that disrupt normal sleep patterns, making it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or achieve good quality sleep. Many factors, including stress, medical conditions, lifestyle habits, or even genetic factors can cause sleep disorders.

Some common sleep disorders include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.

People with insomnia face ongoing challenges in falling asleep or maintaining sleep, and are often accompanied by stress or anxiety.

Restless legs syndrome also causes disrupted sleep, however sleep difficulties are caused by uncomfortable leg sensations and uncontrollable urges to move the legs.

Instead of trouble sleeping at night, narcolepsy causes sudden, uncontrollable episodes of daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy can also cause sudden muscle weakness or paralysis triggered by emotions, like laughter or surprise. Additionally, narcoleptics can experience vivid hallucinations  (also known as hypnopompic hallucinations) upon falling.

Effective management and treatment of sleep disorders requires accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. Want to know more about sleep disorders? Talk to a doctor, like one of our helpful Polln specialists, to receive a comprehensive assessment and achieve better sleep.

Why is Poor Sleep Such a Problem?

With how busy our daily lives can be, it’s easy to underestimate how important sleep is for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

During sleep, our bodies undergo essential processes that help repair tissue, strengthen our immune system, and regulate hormones. Additionally, sleep is vital for memory consolidation, learning, and problem-solving, allowing us to process and make sense of the information we encounter throughout the day.

Getting enough sleep also stabilises mood and emotional resilience. Ongoing sleep deprivation (like what you would experience with chronic insomnia) has been associated with heightened stress levels and an increased susceptibility to mental health disorders.

Poor sleep can even affect our physical health and increase our risk of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Polln Doctor, Dr Melissa Catanzarite, MBBS believes that sleep is the single most significant component of our self care. “Sleep is the real miracle drug; it promotes healing, emotional stability and even weight loss. Without sleep we struggle to have meaningful interactions with those we love, our creativity is dampened or ceases altogether and we are at more risk for significant health disorders.

A person can take all of the medications, supplements and yoga classes in the world and their health will not improve until they prioritise sleep.”

Challenges of Traditional Sleep Disorder Treatments

Conventional treatments for sleep disorders that rely on pharmaceutical interventions (sometimes called “sleeping pills”) or behavioural therapies can be challenging for patients due to their possible side effects, dependency concerns, and varying levels of effectiveness.

While behavioural therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy, can be effective drug-free insomnia treatment options, they require commitment and patience as they often involve making long-term changes to sleep habits and routines.

Prescription sleep aids, like benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, on the other hand, help insomnia by boosting the calming effects of various brain chemicals. However, these medications are typically recommended for short-term use. 

Prolonged or excessive use of prescription sleep aids can lead to tolerance, where the effectiveness of the drug diminishes over time, or drug dependence. Additionally, when individuals stop using these medications after extended use, they may experience rebound insomnia, where their sleep problems worsen again.

Benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics can also lead to issues such as daytime drowsiness, cognitive impairment, and an increased likelihood of accidents or falls, particularly among older adults.

There is a significant need for natural sleep aids. Some alternatives include medical cannabis, relaxation exercises, and improved sleeping habits, such as taking daily exercises, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, and making changes to your sleeping environment to promote better sleep hygiene.

Medicinal Cannabis and Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Narcolepsy

Research has demonstrated the efficacy of medical cannabis in treating certain sleep disorders, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy in some patients. Studies have shown that the natural compounds found in cannabis, such as CBD and THC, can influence our sleep patterns to potentially provide us with a better night’s sleep.

CBD, or CBD oil, for instance, may act as a natural sleep medicine due to it’s calming properties and may help people with anxiety-related insomnia or restless leg syndrome.

Medicinal cannabis has been shown to help manage the following sleep disorders:

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterised by difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep.While treating insomnia can be complicated in some cases, research suggests that medical cannabis can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. 

In one study, 71% of patients using cannabis products for sleep reported improved sleep, with 39% reducing and/or discontinuing their prescription sleep medication.

  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS): Medical cannabis may help to reduce the symptoms of RLS, such as the urge to move the legs and relieve associated discomfort or pain.

A small 2017 study showed that medical cannabis was able to reduce symptoms of RLS. All participants noted an improvement in their sleep after treatment was completed. What’s more, the patients described medicinal cannabis products as the most effective sleep aid and the best-tolerated treatment.

  • Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is characterised by sudden episodes of daytime sleepiness and can lead to sudden loss of muscle control (cataplexy), hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.

Medical cannabis may help to reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy, such as excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

How Medical Cannabis May Support as a Natural Sleep Aid

Medical cannabis may help treat sleep disorders due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays an important role in regulating various bodily functions, including sleep.

The ECS has been found to influence sleep-wake cycles, sleep duration, and sleep quality through its modulation of neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain. Cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, may influence the quality and duration of sleep in some patients by:

  • Reducing Anxiety: CBD as a sleep aid may provide insomnia relief for some patients. CBD has anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) properties that may help alleviate anxiety and stress, common contributors to sleep disorders like insomnia.
  • Promoting Relaxation: Both THC and CBD have muscle relaxant and sedative properties, potentially aiding in relaxation and promoting sleep onset.
  • Regulating REM Sleep: THC has been shown to suppress REM sleep, which could be beneficial for those with conditions like nightmares or REM sleep behaviour disorder. Interestingly, reduced REM sleep has been linked to early onset dementia and cognitive decline; however, CBD and THC together may allow for more REM, potentially protecting brain health for some people.

  • Pain Relief: Medical cannabis may alleviate pain in some patients, which is often a contributing factor to sleep disorders. By reducing pain, it may facilitate better sleep.

Therapeutic Effects of Medical Cannabis for Sleep

When considering medical cannabis for sleep, it's essential to consult a doctor before starting a treatment course. Your practitioner can help you assess the potential risks and benefits, and decide if medical cannabis aligns with your sleep disorder and overall health needs.

Medical cannabis offers several therapeutic effects that may set it apart from other sleep medications:

  • Natural: Unlike many traditional sleep medications, medical cannabis is derived from the cannabis plant, making it a natural alternative that may appeal to those seeking a plant-based remedy without the side effects associated with some synthetic drugs.
  • Less Side Effects: Compared to some pharmaceutical interventions, medical cannabis may have fewer side effects for some patients, particularly when used responsibly and under medical supervision. This can be appealing for those concerned about adverse reactions and dependency associated with traditional sleep medications.

Risks of Medical Cannabis for Sleep

When deciding on any kind of  medication, it's important to acknowledge any possible risks alongside potential benefits.

Some risks of medicinal cannabis for sleep include potential side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and cognitive impairment, as well as the risk of developing tolerance, and dependence. Additionally, the psychoactive nature of THC, may not be suitable for people with mood disorders, like bipolar or schizophrenia.

A comprehensive discussion with a caring medical professional can help you navigate these risks and benefits to help you make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis is a safe and effective option for you.

Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

We understand that living with sleep disorders can be incredibly challenging, affecting your daily life and overall well-being. That's why Polln offers a natural alternative to sleep medications when conventional treatments have failed to provide relief.

With Polln, we prioritise your needs by providing convenient and supportive services. You can easily book appointments online, including same-day, after-hours, and weekend appointments. We offer comprehensive 30-minute video consultations with specialised doctors, all from the comfort of your home.

If you receive a prescription, we've made it hassle-free to order your medications through our Polln pharmacy portal, with express delivery available Australia-wide. Following your appointment, our dedicated Care Team continues to provide personalised support, including complimentary nurse check-ins.

Remember: to qualify for access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, you must have experienced a chronic condition for over three months and have tried other treatments that were either ineffective or resulted in unwanted side effects.

Make an appointment with a Polln doctor today. Book now

The Wrap Up

Sleep disorders can have a profound impact on both our physical and mental well-being, disrupting our natural sleep patterns and significantly influencing our overall health and quality of life. Traditional treatments, though effective for some, can come with some challenging side effects like dependence or rebound insomnia, and might not but suitable for everything.

Medical cannabis provides a safer, natural, sleep aid option. By interacting with the endocannabinoid system, it can help improve sleep, reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and even regulate REM sleep. Even though medicinal cannabis has fewer side effects than other sleep medications, it’s still important to consult with a healthcare professional, like one of our Polln specialists, to weigh the risks and benefits and decide if plant medicine sleep aids are right for you.

Medicinal Cannabis and Sleep FAQ

What is the most effective natural sleep aid?

One natural sleep aid is medicinal cannabis. While the effectiveness and safety of medicinal cannabis as a sleep aid can vary from person to person, there is a growing body of research suggesting medical cannabis may improve sleep quality, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and increase the duration of deep and restorative sleep.

Medicinal cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, such as CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which interact with the body's endocannabinoid system. This system plays a role in regulating various physiological processes, including sleep. CBD, in particular, has been studied for its potential to promote relaxation and alleviate anxiety in some patients, both of which can contribute to better sleep.

Several studies have indicated that CBD may help some individuals with insomnia or other sleep disorders. It's believed to have a calming effect on the mind, helping to ease racing thoughts and create a more conducive environment for falling asleep. Additionally, some individuals have reported experiencing longer periods of deep sleep and improved sleep continuity when using CBD as a sleep aid.

It's worth noting that other natural sleep aids, such as meditation, hypnotherapy, and melatonin, are also recognised for their potential in promoting restful sleep. Different individuals may find varying degrees of effectiveness with these options, and it's advisable to explore what works best for your individual needs and preferences.

Can you become dependent on sleep aids?

Yes, it is possible to become dependent on sleep aids, including medicinal cannabis. Both over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids, as well as natural remedies like medicinal cannabis, can lead to physical and psychological dependence if used improperly or for an extended period.

  • Prescription Sleep Aids: Prescription medications like benzodiazepines and certain non-benzodiazepine drugs can effectively treat sleep disorders, but they carry the risk of dependence. Tolerance can develop over time, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. This can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the medication.

  • Over-the-Counter and Natural Sleep Aids: Even over-the-counter sleep aids, including herbal supplements, and natural options like medicinal cannabis can also lead to dependence. Using these aids regularly can create a psychological reliance on them to induce sleep.

  • Medicinal Cannabis: While medicinal cannabis  has shown potential for improving sleep, prolonged and indiscriminate use can also lead to dependence. Regular use might lead to the body adapting to its effects, potentially requiring higher doses to achieve the desired sleep benefits. Learn more
Medical Cannabis Access

What Medicinal Cannabis Products Are Available in Australia in 2023?

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What Medicinal Cannabis Products Are Available in Australia in 2023?

With over 450 medicinal cannabis products available in Australia in 2023, whether you’re an experienced medicinal cannabis patient or completely new to this method of treatment, it can be difficult to wrap your head around all of the different medications available on the market.

When looking for a medicinal cannabis clinic or doctor, it’s important to know that some clinics or doctors only prescribe a limited range, or sometimes even a specific brand, of medications or medicinal cannabis products. At Polln, we’re proudly product-agnostic, always. Product-agnostic means that our doctors can freely prescribe medication with your needs in mind, and aren’t bound to prescribing medications from certain brands. When doctors have a choice over what medications they prescribe, it ensures that patients receive appropriate, unbiased, and effective treatments that are best suited to their needs and concerns. 

At Polln, our doctors are continuously learning and referencing Australian clinical guidance, educational materials, and professional development programs to ensure that they are up to date with the latest developments in medicinal cannabis products and technology. What’s more, every Polln doctor is an Authorised Prescriber and has undergone extensive training in medicinal cannabis prescribing in order to guarantee the most effective treatments for their patients’ unique conditions and symptoms. 

What Types of Medicinal Cannabis Products are Available in Australia? 

In Australia, the following types of medicinal cannabis products are currently available and permitted for prescription under the Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA)


Dried medicinal cannabis flower is the most classic form of medicinal cannabis that is consumed via vaporisation – more on this below. 


Medicinal Cannabis oils are liquid extracts that are derived from the cannabis plant. They can be ingested orally or sublingually. More information on the different ways to consume medicinal cannabis below. 


Wafers are small tablet-like medications that are administered sublingually (dissolved under the tongue). 


Capsules are medicinal cannabis products that are enclosed in a capsule and designed to be consumed in oral dosage forms.

Topical Products 

Topical products such as creams and gels are products that are formulated with cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC) and are designed to be applied directly to the skin. 


Sprays are another form of medicinal cannabis that are designed to be consumed orally. Sprays are intended to provide both precise and controlled dosing of medicinal cannabis. 

Vape Cartridges

Also known as vape carts, vape cartridges are pre-filled cartridges designed for use with a vape pen. 

How Do I Know What Medicinal Cannabis Product Is Right For Me? 

Because medicinal cannabis works differently for everyone and has different onset, reactions and response times for each individual, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

A doctor at a product-agnostic clinic, like Polln, will work closely with you, evaluating your condition and needs, to determine what medicinal cannabis product will be most effective for you. Being a product-agnostic clinic means that your Polln doctor can prescribe any legal medications available in Australia for medical purposes. Our doctors take the guesswork out of determining what medicinal cannabis product is right for you and your needs. They will review your unique situation closely to come up with a completely personalised treatment plan that best suits your lifestyle, condition, and needs. 

To get started, book a consultation with one of our experts, or take our free eligibility quiz to find out if medicinal cannabis could be the right treatment method for you. 

What Are the Different Ways Medicinal Cannabis Treatments Can Be Administered? 

Medicinal cannabis can be delivered to the body in a number of different ways, depending on the individual needs of a patient. Each method will impact how the cannabis compounds are absorbed, distributed, and metabolised around the body differently. 

Five approved methods for consumption of medicinal cannabis in Australia include: 


Inhalation, including vaping, is the process of heating the cannabis plant at a high heat and allowing the cannabinoids and terpenes to be released in the form of a vapour, which is then inhaled. Smoking medical cannabis would also fall under this category, however smoking is not a recommended consumption method, more about that here.


Ingestion involves the oral consumption of any medicinal cannabis treatment, such as edibles, tinctures, oils, capsules, and extracts. 


The sublingual method involves placing the medicinal cannabis treatment, such as a wafer, lozenge, tablet, oil, or spray, under the tongue. This allows for the active ingredients to be absorbed directly into the vessels of your tongue and bypass the digestive system. 


The topical application of medicinal cannabis involves directly applying the products directly to the skin. The topical method provides localised relief from inflammation, pain, skin irritations and more. It comes in a variety of forms, such as balms, lotions, creams, salves and patches. 


Suppositories offer a targeted dose of cannabinoids to a localised area that can help to facilitate higher absorption rates in the body. For this method, medicinal cannabis is provided in a solid form and is inserted into either the rectum or vagina. 

To determine which method of consumption will be most appropriate for you and your therapeutic needs, it is important you have a discussion with a doctor who specialises in medicinal cannabis and has a strong understanding of your condition and symptoms.

Want more information on the different methods of medicinal cannabis consumption? Head on over to Polln’s Medicinal Cannabis Library for more

What Categories of Medicinal Cannabis Are Available in Australia? 

The TGA classifies medicinal cannabis into five different categories that look at the amount of cannabidiol (CBD) within the medicine. These different categories help to ensure that patients have access to appropriate treatments and that prescribing doctors can maintain appropriate safety and quality standards in their treatment plans. 

Doctors at product-agnostic clinics like Polln will have access to a range of medications across the categories to offer patients truly personalised and customisable care.

The five different categories are as follows:

Category 1: CBD Medicinal Cannabis Product (CBD >98%) 

Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 1 are Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine (aka Schedule 4 Poison). In order to obtain a Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine, patients require a prescription. 

To be classified as Category 1, cannabidiol must comprise 98% or more of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. Any other cannabinoids found in the medicine (with the exception of cannabidiol) must be naturally found in cannabis and equal to 2% or less of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. The medicine must not contain any other active ingredients

Category 2: CBD Dominant Medicinal Cannabis Product (CBD >60% and <98%) 

Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 2 are Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs (aka Schedule 8 Poison). Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs are medicines with strict legislative controls, including opioid analgesics. 

To be classified as Category 2, cannabidiol derived from cannabis must comprise between 60-98% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine, and other cannabinoids (such as THC) derived from cannabis must comprise the remaining cannabinoid content of the medicine. The medicine must not contain any other active ingredients. 

Category 3: Balanced Medicinal Cannabis Product (CBD <60% and >40%) 

Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 3 are Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs. 

To be classified as Category 3, cannabidiol must comprise between 40-60% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. Other cannabinoids (including THC) must comprise the remaining cannabinoid content of the medicine, and the medicine must not contain any other active ingredients. 

Category 4: THC Dominant Medicinal Cannabis Product (THC 60-98%) 

Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 4 are Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs. 

To be classified as Category 4, other cannabinoids (including THC) must comprise between 60-98% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. Cannabidiol derived from cannabis must comprise between 2-40% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine, and the medicine must not contain any other active ingredients. 

Category 5: THC Medicinal Cannabis Product (THC >98%) 

Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 5 are Schedule 8 controlled drugs. 

To be classified as Category 5, cannabinoids (other than CBD) in the medicine are only those naturally found in cannabis. They must comprise 98% or more of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine, and CBD must comprise less than 2% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. The medicine must not contain any other active ingredients. 

At Polln, we pride ourselves on our doctors’ ability to prescribe any category of medicinal cannabis that is legally available in Australia. Because Polln is a proudly product-agnostic clinic, our doctors aren’t restricted to prescribing products or medications from just one brand. Instead, you can expect fully personalised treatment plans, optimised for you

What Is a Product-Agnostic Clinic? 

A product-agnostic clinic is one that provides recommendations and guidance on all legally available medicinal cannabis treatments. Doctors at product-agnostic clinics have the freedom to prescribe the medication that they think is best of the patient, without being incentivised or restricted to prescribing a certain medication or brand. 

With clinics that are not product-agnostic, patients may only have access to a limited range of medications that may not be an appropriate fit.

A product-agnostic clinic will focus on evaluating the patient’s medical history, current condition and needs, in order to create a completely personalised treatment plan. This plan may include various different forms of medicinal cannabis from a range of different manufacturers, suppliers, and brands. 

At Polln, we pride ourselves and our doctors on being completely product agnostic - always. This means that our doctors are able to prescribe any medication that is legally available in Australia, provided that they deem it medically fit to do so. Our doctors are not incentivised to promote or prescribe certain brands of medications, instead, they are motivated by their desire to help you, our patients, to achieve better health. 

The Importance of Receiving Treatment From a Product-Agnostic Clinic

Your care should be at the forefront of your care provider's mind, and you should have access to bias-free recommendations and products. 

When searching for a medicinal cannabis clinic that’s right for you, we recommend looking for a product-agnostic clinic that provides: 

Unbiased Recommendations 

Clinics that prioritise patient health and well-being over promoting specific products are more likely to deliver unbiased recommendations to their patients. Recommendations should be based on the patient’s medical condition, research, and the clinical expertise of the prescribing doctor, rather than financial incentives from specific cannabis product manufacturers. 

Access to Experts

A 2019 survey of Australian GPs showed that a large portion of Australian doctors felt uneducated about medicinal cannabis access pathways, available cannabis products, and the evidence supporting the prescription of medicinal cannabis. 

Here at Polln, every single one of our doctors has completed advanced training in medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis prescribing – so you know you’re in safe hands. What’s more, all of our doctors is an Authorised Prescriber (or is on their way to becoming one). 

Access to a Wide Range of Products and Brands

At product-agnostic clinics like Polln, doctors don’t have vested interests in promoting specific products or brands. This means that you receive unbiased treatment recommendations that are based solely on your needs and enables you to access any medical cannabis treatments that are available in Australia. 

Personalised Care Plans and Patient-Centric Care 

Here at Polln, we know that no two patients are the same. As such, it’s important that your doctor understands that different patients may respond differently to different medicinal cannabis products. A clinic that is product-agnostic will tailor a highly personalised treatment plan that suits your individual needs – not offer you a one-size-fits all plan or product. 

Evidence-Based Approach to Treatment 

A trustworthy clinic will rely on the latest scientific research and studies to guide their recommendations and prescriptions, not their allegiance with a particular brand or manufacturer. Studies show that access to current research, resources, and guides may assist in optimal clinical decision-making and beneficial patient-healthcare practitioner discussions. This approach works to ensure that patients are receiving evidence-based treatments that are more likely to be effective. 

Ongoing Clinical Support 

At Polln, you’ll feel supported every step of the way with complimentary post-consultation care from our Clinical Nurse team, plus ongoing support from our dedicated Care Team. Whether you’ve got a question about what medicinal cannabis products are available to you, how to administer your medicine, or how to fill your prescription, we’re here to help you. 

Transparent Pricing

Any reputable clinic should believe in full transparency when it comes to their pricing. As part of our commitment to transparency, trust and care here at Polln, you’ll never have to pay dispensing fees or be charged above the RRP for your treatments. Why? It’s the Polln price guarantee

How to Find a Product-Agnostic Doctor in Australia 

To speak to a product-agnostic doctor in Australia who has your best interests as their top priority, sign up as a Polln patient today and book an appointment with one of our expert cannabis clinicians.