Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Pot Doc” Discuss Cannabis Therapeutic Possibilities

Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Pot Doc” Discuss Cannabis Possibilities
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No one is quite sure where the idea for smoking the cannabis plant started, although most research seems to point to Asia. But over the centuries, people have learned that the naturally occurring chemicals in cannabis can give you a buzz and also provide therapeutic value in alleviating pain, nausea, anxiety and more.

Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson wonders if maybe the cannabis plant is not alone in that regard. In a recent episode of his podcast Star Talk, Tyson spoke with Staci Gruber, a Harvard University neuroscientist. Their conversation covered a lot of ground on cannabis and its potential therapeutic uses.

“How many plants out there remain undiscovered simply because we don’t have enough people sitting down [and saying], ‘Hey, let’s smoke that, or let’s smoke this?” Tyson asked. While he clearly meant it as a hypothetical – the safe way to evaluate new plants is scientific study – Gruber agreed that there remains “huge potential in botanicals” for their possible therapeutic applications.

Both Gruber and Chuck Nice, a comedian who co-hosts the show, said people have used plants for many different reasons since at least 2700 BC.

“People have been getting high since people have been people,” said Nice.

The Therapeutic Uses of the Cannabis Plant

Gruber, known as the “pot doc,” is Director of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core and Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. She also is a professor at Harvard University.

Gruber spoke at length about the therapeutic applications of cannabis and CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis that is increasingly used to treat many different conditions. For example, she said there is compelling work showing that CBD is extremely effective as an anti-inflammatory.

She also spoke about the potential of CBD to treat CTE, the brain injury condition that has come to light in recent years in relation to professional football players.

Taking on Marijuana Myths

Tyson and Gruber also spoke about myths around cannabis. She said while cannabis does not appear to cause any mental health issues in healthy people, those with pre-existing psychological conditions may experience cannabis differently (although CBD may be an effective anti-psychotic treatment). She also said other medications patients take may alter the experience. It’s important to consult with a doctor before using medical marijuana.

She said research so far has discovered that cannabis seems best for treating chronic pain, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis. Also, treatment of seizures in children.

She mentioned that researchers are increasingly finding evidence that CBD is effective in treating anxiety.

Tyson has spoken about cannabis on the podcast before, including its potential use in sports. He also said it is not surprising that President Joe Biden, who he said comes from the “Reefer Madness” generation, does not support the legalization of cannabis.

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