Cancer patients will be allowed to use cannabis for pain in Texas next month

Q: What can you tell me about the use of marijuana on someone who has colon cancer? I have a friend who is into this and I am wondering where to start research to see if marijuana can help him. Buying medical marijuana in Texas could be a challenge. Do you have any suggestions on where to start?

A: In a recent survey, nearly a quarter of colon cancer patients in western Washington state said they used cannabis (Cancer Causes & Control, July 14, 2021). The reasons for this were pain management, relaxation, help with sleep or appetite, and control of nausea or vomiting.

Starting September 1, Texas cancer sufferers will be allowed to use medical marijuana. The psychoactive substance that gets people high, THC, is capped at 1 percent. That is significantly less than the quantities permitted in other federal states. Some states allow up to 15 percent THC in medical marijuana.

Q: I had regular debilitating migraines from the age of 12 to my mid-50s. Ordinary over-the-counter pain relievers did not help at all when the headache started.

I tried a herbal remedy, a capsule that contained feverfew, butterbur, and something else. The instructions were to take it every day and this would reduce the occurrence of migraines. It worked for me, but at one point my source went out of business. Is there anything else you recommend?

A: Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and butterbur (Petasites hybridus) have long been used to prevent migraines (StatPearls, July 8, 2021).

Recent research shows that the active ingredients in butterbur root extract inhibit the calcitonin gene-related peptide (Journal of Headache Pain, April 13, 2021). New prescription migraine drugs like erenumab (Aimovig), fremanezumab (AJOVY), and galcanezumab (Emgality) work by the same mechanism.

A popular combination drug sold for migraines is MigreLief. It contains riboflavin, magnesium and feverfew extract. Feverfew extract reduces brain inflammation and inhibits the release of dopamine (Molecules, December 23, 2020). Presumably, these actions explain its ability to relieve migraine pain.

You can learn more about non-drug approaches to migraines in our eGuide to Headaches and Migraines. It also lists the pros and cons of medications. This online resource can be found under the Health eGuides tab on PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: When writing about natural products that help control blood pressure please add aged garlic extract to the list. There are several research studies showing its antihypertensive effects. You may also want to try olive leaf extract.

A: A review published last year in the Journal of Family Practice (Sept. 2020) answered the question, “Does evidence support the use of dietary supplements to aid in blood pressure control?” The authors present data on a number of natural therapies that can lower systolic blood pressure (which upper or first number in the measured value).

Aged garlic is one of them, along with olive leaf extract, beetroot, cocoa flavanols, flaxseed, and L-arginine. Some people experience mild indigestion such as gas or heartburn when ingesting ripened garlic.

These reviewers also mention potassium supplements. Although they can lower blood pressure, people taking certain BP medications need to avoid extra potassium. Patients should always speak to the pharmacist before considering a potassium supplement or a potassium-based salt substitute.

Contact the Graedons at peoplespharmacy.com.