Functional medicine and medical cannabis – Dr Julia Piper

Functional medicine and medical cannabis – Dr Julia Piper

We are a few months into the operation of our PGP medical cannabis clinic. Having been the first multidisciplinary team within the UK to set up such a clinic in the background of a private integrated medical practice, we have been leading the way in Functional Medicine which is so closely akin to the practice of prescribing medical cannabis.


We have been working towards understanding medical cannabis for a few years now. Dr Piper, in her role as chairperson of the Medical Choices UK charity, coordinated a roadshow throughout the UK with Australian pharmaceutical colleagues Paul and Sharlene Mavor.


Dr Piper was able to contextualise all of this due to her significant experience in integrative medicine over the past 20 years particularly involving Functional Medicine.


We need to understand the concept of personalised medicine where there is no one size that fits everybody. Each person is unique and responds in different ways to drugs, herbs, diet, and exposure to almost anything in life. Hence these complexities need to be understood and factored in to diagnosis and treatment.


As Dr Piper so clearly states, “We were not taught at medical school about the Endocannabinoid systems that exist throughout our human bodies. So far, as many as four different systems have been found and there will be more. These systems of receptors throughout the body, respond to medical cannabis. Interestingly, we, as human beings, produce our own cannabis compounds such as Anandamide, And there is a possibility that the human body is deficient in these compounds.”


Remember that we were designed centuries ago at a time when we had evolved inside the jungle.Therefore many of our physiological mechanisms are still tied into that environment. The prohibition of cannabis in the middle of last century, possibly does not help the human body. The most well known cannabis is that which is smoked and makes people high. However I guess when we lived in the jungle, we would pull it out from the ground and eat it.

Maybe this is another mechanism by which we could improve our dietary nutrition!


But we are in the realms of growing cannabis and trying to understand its constituents more and more, So that specific compounds can be utilised in various illnesses. We do of course run the risk, if this becomes too commercialised, of almost producing more drugs. ( one Exocet missile per specific receptor) The aim of herbal cannabis  is to remember the entourage effect and the maintenance of multiple compounds that have effects which maybe synergistic, therefore it would be important to remain balanced in our viewpoints and to retain biological complexity.


With respect to the PGPS medical cannabis clinic, we have a psychiatrist, a pain specialist and two GPs. So far the number of patients seen has been very low, particularly because of the complexity and time-consuming nature of patient assessment, combined by the costs due to the huge costs of insurance which are phenomenal and The legal requirement for peer group review which is costly.


Whilst there is clearly a need for medical cannabis, there is also clearly a big need for quality, governance and proper communication between health professionals and the patient.


It would be enormously helpful if all of this could be further supported by the NHS as there are people who are in enormous amounts of pain, taking opiates, with significant side-effects. This needs to be addressed and medical cannabis is very likely to help in these areas. Also, there are children suffering with epilepsy who need treatment that works and medical cannabis is a major option in this area.


In some ways, I still see medical cannabis As a sticking plaster, says Dr Piper, who specialises in root cause medicine. However, she admits that she sees the treatment as part of a multidisciplinary approach as part of the tool bag that Doctors & integrative Physicians so badly need in order to more humanely support human suffering.


Dr Piper would like thank T21 for their excellent work in the area of medical cannabis and for their excellent registry regarding collation of data.

For more information on Private GP and CBD and Medical Cannabis Services:

Dr Julia Piper – Integrative GP and founder of

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