Modern medicine is thought to be the best and most advanced, but with so much focus being put on “what goes into our bodies”, pharmaceutical companies are being scrutinised by the general public more and more. Due to this movement towards a healthier medical world and more medical scrutiny, older types of natural medicines are slowly starting to creep back into the spotlight. With changes in modern mind set, legislation and overall attitude towards health, these previously shunned medical areas are now getting anew breath of life as.

Medical Marijuana

A substance or area of drug that has been shrouded in political propaganda since shortly after the turn of the 21st century, more than arguably any other medicinal substances, is cannabis or marijuana. A substance which was banned almost globally until recent times, it was a fairly common ingredient in medicine a hundred years back or so. As a plant containing both THC and CBD it has a plethora of medical benefits that have only recently been examined in a full, objective environment.

With benefits seen in epilepsy, autism, and cancer research, this field has become a viable move towards less harmful drugs. With the subject now reaching ears in South Africa, groups have urged government to legalise the medical use of marijuana for further medical study and use. After a win in the Cape High Court, no pun intended, in 2017, allowing for certain levels of study and research on the matter, we have recently seen increased ability to study its capabilities. We have also seen the arrival of our first medical marijuana dispensary, opened in Durban in May 2018.

The most notable study in recent years, on the medicinal properties of marijuana, covered the effects of CBD on children suffering from epilepsy. It was found that CBD reduced the average number of seizures each month by 39%. This is one of the most successful clinical trials on the medicinal benefits of CBD components. It is an integral piece of information needed by the larger professional community to consider the use of CBD’s in common medical applications.

Tribal Ayahuasca

A tribal mixture that has been used for centuries in South America, ayahausca is known for taking people on vision quests and often said to remedy an ill mind. Making use of DMT rich plant matter, the mixture activates elements of the brain which allow for deep and detailed hallucinations. Recent global interest in these vision quests has put this substance in the spotlight, forcing the medical world to examine it a little closer. As more and more scientists and reliable professionals experiment with this mixture, more is coming to light about possible real world, modern, medical benefits on offer.

Now, in 2018, the Federal Drug Administration has approved proposal for the first trial in the US investigating ayahuasca as a treatment for depression. It is also actively being researched as PTSD treatment, renewing global interest in this natural, historic and previously condemned medicine. People from around the world travel to the Amazon every year to drink ayahuasca for mental health conditions, including alcoholism, depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and drug addiction.

Traditionally made from the bark of a vine which grows in the Amazon, the mixture puts users into a state of deep introspection for a few hours. When they emerge, they often report newfound perspective on their unhealthy behaviour or lifestyle choices. There is, however, limited empirical evidence backing the extraordinary stories about the therapeutic effects of this drug. Scientists, many who changed their research focus after their own experiences on ayahuasca, are seeking to change the idea of natural medicines with further, scientifically backed evidence.

Magical Psilocybin

It would be hard to mention magic mushrooms in a serious conversation without getting an eye roll from any self-respecting adult, but times are changing. With revitalised research into its main components, psilocybin, this often comically represented substance has potentially life changing benefits when used to treat depression or anxiety – even addiction studies have shown promise.

A review of research on combination therapy, using psilocybin as a key ingredient, has concluded that it’s not only an effective way to treat conditions related to anxiety, depression, and addiction, it could very well be better than many existing forms of treatment on the market.

The similarity between this substance and our own neurotransmitters such as serotonin, as well as their ability to affect our perception and mess with our state of consciousness, has made these generally shunned drugs quite attractive candidates for treating a range of psychiatric conditions – shown to strengthen links across previously disconnected regions of a brain.

While these age-old, yet generally shunned, medicines show promise in modern research, they tend to go against most people’s moral values, as well as most countries laws. With ever increasing public and professional interest into these types of treatments, it could be possible we could see more discussion taking place in the future, maybe even a shift in the medical world.