Ever wanted to use weed to treat what ails you, but found yourself wading through multitudes of semi-convincing blog posts and abstracts for medical papers that require a subscription to view in full? You're not alone.
The good news is, as cannabis becomes increasingly mainstream, comprehensive sources of information are emerging.
The Cannabis Health Index (North Atlantic Books, 660 pages, $20) is a new reference text by mind-body medicine author Uwe Blesching that combines evidence-based, scientific cannabis research with mindfulness techniques to help readers heal themselves of "100 chronic symptoms and diseases."
The Cannabis Health Index makes no assumptions about its audience, opening with a beginner's guide of sorts: overviewing the mammalian endocannabinoid system, discussing cannabis safety and side effects, defusing misnomers like the "gateway" argument and ingestion methods.
Following this primer, Blesching expands on his mind-body healing emphasis, asking readers to "consider the possibility that by generating specific emotional content you are also changing the very chemistry of your body, either fully or partly modulated via the endocannabinoid system."
He continues, claiming that by exercising emotional responsibility, acceptance and intervention, "we can consciously direct and support the self-healing abilities of our body."
After laying out his thesis, Blesching then dives into treatment plans, which are organized by condition.
Individual conditions are each explained from a Western medicine perspective, after which available cannabis research is summarized and applied to "strain-specific considerations."
Also included are applicable mind-body medicine techniques, as well as suggested blessings and affirmations to be used in meditation. Some sections include food suggestions, too.
Each treatment plan opens with a one-to-five-leaf rating, indicating whether it is "possible," "probable" or "actual" that cannabis will be effective for the condition in question.
The leaf rating is coupled with a Cannabis Health Index score, a number that indicates both the author's confidence in the available, reviewed research, as well as the scientific community's degree of certainty as to whether cannabis is a viable treatment.
To arrive at this CHI score, each research paper reviewed is given a numerical value based on the type of study—clinical trials on humans get higher scores than, say, trials on mice—and the findings dictate if research should be positively or negatively weighted.
To calculate the final CHI score for a particular condition, all reviewed studies are added together for a total point value.
Blesching claims, for instance, that mitigating migraines with cannabis is probable (three leaves)—basing this claim on three reviewed studies, with a total CHI value of 10. That may or may not be convincing depending on who you are.
As a reader, I was surprised by how many treatment plans were based on just a handful of studies—though I'm inclined to believe this has more to do with the limitations of prohibition-era research than it does with any laziness on the author's part.
The opposite side of that assumption, though, is that Blesching spreads his focus a bit too thinly, or more precisely, tries to write too many books at once: The mindfulness sections feel scattershot, more an indulgence in the author's professional interests than a coherent message to the reader. That feeling is only exacerbated as Blesching further derails to discuss the role of spices and foods in healing, appending many treatment plans with dietary suggestions (Blesching penned a book about using spices as medicine).
And though it's fairly obvious why Blesching opts to incorporate holistic techniques—because weed will not solve all your problems or health issues—a more focused and comprehensive resource would be welcome.
More than anything else, The Cannabis Health Index illuminates the scientific community's varying levels of confidence in cannabis to treat particular conditions—exposing holes in our understanding of medical marijuana, and outlining where more research needs to be done.