Medical cannabis is often prescribed to patients who suffer from chronic pain, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and — most notably — cancer. This is typically due to the drug’s ability to ease nausea and vomiting, increase food intake, and relieve neuropathic pain.

However, in spite of medical cannabis’ popularity in these and other treatment scenarios, many are still left wondering why it is so effective. In other words, what makes cannabis qualify to be a legitimate method of treatment?

Several years ago, this information was rather difficult to find, seeing as the United States government had long declared the substance an illegal and highly addictive drug with absolutely no medical value, thus creating a roadblock for medical research.

Yet, that did not keep individual scientists from researching the drug on their own time — and at their own risk. This led scientists to eventually discover that a system in the brain responds to approximately 60 of the chemicals found in cannabis — now referred to as the endocannabinoid system.

As further research has been conducted, it has been found that the endocannabinoid system affects the body’s major systems — digestive, endocrine, immune, nervous, reproductive, and those found in the heart. Once this information was brought to light, scientists made the astounding conclusion that cannabis could not only be used for medical purposes, but to target specific disorders and diseases as well.

That discovery was made just over 20 years ago, and the intrigue in and desire to implement the use of medical cannabis has only skyrocketed since then. In spite of government regulation, scientists have banded together to further research the breadth and depth of the drug’s impact — and they certainly have not been disappointed.

Since the early 2000s, medical cannabis has been found to alleviate the symptoms of even the most unpredictable brain disorders, such as epilepsy and Tourette’s; reduce the near-chronic stiffness and aches felt by patients with fibromyalgia; and treat psychosis and other disorder-related symptoms found in those with Parkinson’s Disease.

Thankfully, the United States has made great strides in the legalization of medical cannabis, especially in recent years. While there were just 10 states seeking contemplating legalization in 2014, we now see 29 states with laws already in place.

However, it is imperative that we not become complacent in these small victories. Instead, we must push for further education on — and eventual legalization of — this life-altering medication. Otherwise, many will be left to suffer with their chronic symptoms with no end in sight.