Created: 16 January 2014
Written by Dell J.
Cannabis has been cultivated throughout the world’s history as a source of industrial fiber, seed, oil, food, recreation, religious, spiritual enlightenment, and medicine. Each part of the plant is harvested differently, depending on the purpose of its use.
Cannabis is a flowering plant that includes three known varieties, Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis. These three grow naturally in Central Asia and South Asia with no human intervention. The flowers (and to a lesser extent the leaves, stems, and seeds) contain psychoactive and normal active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are a class of diverse chemical compounds that activate receptors on cells that block neurotransmitter release in the brain. These receptors include the cannabinoids found in cannabis and some other plants. Cannabis can be used for pain management by altering transmitter release on nerve cells that carry signals from sensory organs toward the body’s control system to remove the pain.
The most notable cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis. Cannabidol (CBD) is another major constituent of the plant, representing up to 40% of its substance. Cannabinol (CBN) is the primary product of THC degradation and there is usually little of it in a fresh plant and is only mildly psychoactive. Currently, there are at least 85 cannabinoids in cannabis, with THC, CBD, and CBN consisting of the top three.
As mentioned earlier, THC is the primary psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. This is what causes you to have the high feeling or the feeling of euphoria. CBD (Cannabidiol) shares a precursor with THC and is also psychoactive, but considered to have a wider scope of medical applications than THC, including treating epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, spasms, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, nausea, convulsion and inflammation, as well as inhibiting cancer cell growth. Cannabinoids can also be put into cakes, cookies, brownies, or other foods, and can be consumed for recreation or medicinal purposes.
Is Marijuana the same as Cannabis?
Marijuana consists of the dried flowers of Cannabis plants selectively bred to produce high levels of THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD. These cannabinoids are concentrated in a viscous resin produced in structures known as trichomes. Trichomes are the fine outgrowths or the hairs on cannabis flowers. The resin produced from trichomes is a viscous liquid, composed mainly of volatile fluid terpenes, which make resin thick and sticky.
Cannabis plants consisting of dried flowers, i.e., Marijuana can exhibit many variations in the quantity and type of cannabinoids they produce. Selective breeding has been used to control the genetics of plants and modify the cannabinoids. This is the reason why you have such a variety of marijuana strains with distinct taste, smell, and potency. And this is also why certain strains bred from Cannabis plants are better for certain illnesses.
The two main Cannabis plants are Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. Cannabis Sativa are long lanky plants that can take up to ten weeks to harvest during flowering. They tend to have a more grassy type odor to the buds providing an uplifting, energetic and “cerebral” high that is best suited for daytime smoking.
A sativa high is one filled with energy and can easily entice creativity for new ideas. Sativa plants are dominated by high THC levels and low or no CBD levels. These cannabinoid levels are why cannabis sativa plants are known to be good for alleviating pain.
Sativa seeds are chiefly used to make hempseed oil which can be used for cooking, lamps, lacquers, or paints. They are also used as caged-bird feed, for it is a moderate source of nutrients for most birds.
Benefits of Sativa:
- Feelings of well-being and at-ease
- Up-lifting and cerebral thoughts
- Stimulates and energizes
- Increases focus and creativity
- Fights depression
- Relieves headaches and migraines
- Relaxes muscles, relieves pain
Common Sativa Strains:
- Silver Haze
- Jack Herer
- Maui Waui
- Sour Diesel
- Skunk #1
Cannabis Indica are short and stocky and can take up to eight weeks to harvest during flowering. . They have a heavy, stony high that is relaxing and can help different medical problems such as treating insomnia. Indica plants have moderate THC levels and higher levels of CBD than Sativa plants.
Indica buds are most commonly smoked by medical marijuana patients in the late evening or even right before bed due to how sleepy and tired you become when high from an indica strain.
Cannabis Indica originally come from the hash producing countries of the world like Afghanistan, Morocco, and Pakistan.
Benefits of Indica:
- Relieves body pain
- Relaxes muscles
- Relieves spasms, reduces seizures
- Relieves headaches and migraines
- Relieves anxiety or stress
- reduces inflammation
- stimulates appetite
Common Indica Strains:
- God Bud
- Northern Lights
A cancer patient hoping to relieve the pain from chemotherapy would benefit greatly from the effects of an Indica plant, whereas an individual dealing with depression would better benefit from a Sativa plant. Combining different Indica strains, different Sativa strains or a combination thereof creates hybrids. The resulting hybrid strains will grow, mature and smoke in relationship to the Indica/Sativa percentages they end up containing."
Common Hybrid Strains:
- AK 47
- Black Jack
- Super Skunk
- White Widow
Due to the crossbreeding, some strains may have higher THC OR CBD, and the terpenes dictate the smell and flavor.
Terpenes are the primary constituents of the essential oils of cannabis flowers. An “essential oil" carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant. Essential oils are widely used as natural flavor additives for food, as fragrances in perfumery, and in traditional and alternative medicines such as aromatherapy.
THC and the other cannabinoids have no odor, so marijuana’s compelling fragrance depends on which terpenes predominate. It’s the combination of terpenoids and THC that endows each strain with a specific psychoactive flavor. The resinous trichromes of the cannabis plant contain both the cannabinoids as well as the terpenes, which are constantly being replaced as they evaporate from the resin.
There have been over 200 terpenes found in cannabis. However, only a few of these oily substances have large enough amounts to impact the bud. The amount and type of Terpenes can vary with each strain of marijuana, which is the reason for all the different smells and flavors from all the strains. Studies have also shown that the full range of psychoactive and medical effects of Cannabis resin cannot be re-created simply with the use of pure cannabinoid type drugs like THC.
Hmmm...This is an interesting plant, but how is it consumed?
There are a variety of ways to consume Cannabis; however the most prominent way is by some form of smoking or oral consumption. Each way of consumption has benefits and some may have drawbacks to consider. The intensity of your high or the level of the psychoactive effects can differ depending on your method of cannabis consumption. For this discussion, we will focus on smoking with a paper or cigar wrap, pipe or bong, vaporizer, and medibles.
Smoking (paper or cigar wrap):
Smoking is the most expedient method of consumption, with almost immediate effect and dosage controlled by the patient. A rolled paper filled with marijuana is called a joint, while a cigar wrap filled with marijuana is called a blunt. Both methods are definitely reliable for you getting a full blast of THC. A blunt seems to hit harder and get you higher than a conventional joint, but both are very highly effective.
The controversial downside to smoking marijuana is that it can damage the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Although results from clinical trials have been contradictory, many researchers believe herbal marijuana contains toxins and carcinogens that lead to increased risk of respiratory diseases and cancer and therefore recommend other methods of consumption of medical marijuana besides smoking.
However real studies of populations of cannabis users have failed to show the lung damage everyone expected to see and as the NHS report accepted in 2011 there is "no conclusive evidence that cannabis causes cancer". THC - one of the main chemicals in cannabis seems to have anti-cancer properties which may account for this unexpected finding.
According to reports, if you do choose to smoke, here are some helpful tips to minimize the risk due to toxins and tars contained in the marijuana:
- Use more potent, higher THC cannabis so less inhalation is necessary to acquire an effective dose.
- Use a filter and non-chemical rolling paper if smoking a marijuana cigarette (joint) or cigar wrap (blunt).
- Exhale immediately after inhaling deeply to avoid the tars in the marijuana from coating your lungs. It is a myth that holding your breath will create a stronger dosage or enable more THC to be absorbed.
Pipe or Bong:
Essentially, a pipe is a bowl to hold the hash or marijuana with a tube to suck on. The smoke goes right from the stem of the bowl into your lungs. The longer the stem the better, as this allows the smoke to cool and the heavy tars to condense out before you breathe them in. The pipe may have a little hole on the side of it, which you cover while you are inhaling the marijuana smoke while holding the whole pipe and smoking. A pipe which has been in use for a few weeks will soon become full of thick sticky tar and will need cleaning out.
A bong can be many different styles but it’s all basically the same thing. The smoke is pulled through some water which gets rid of some carcinogens and makes for a much smoother hit. The chamber is a lot bigger than a bowl so you can clear it which may increase your high. Some studies have reported that bongs are a very safe way to consume marijuana because the water filters out the smoke, thus making them healthier to use.
Bongs get you stoned much quicker than joints particularly if there aren't many people sharing the hits. Bongs also deliver much more smoke in one hit than a pipe or water pipe so inexperienced smokers might find they get too stoned too quickly.
Such as the case with all things, patients must consume their medicine in moderation and always pay attention to how you and your body react to your medicine. If something doesn’t feel quite right with you after medicating, don’t hesitate to seek some help by telling your doctor, family, friends, or be sure to go visit the nearest ER!
A vaporizer is a small to large size device that heats herbal cannabis to a desired temperature which causes the active ingredients to evaporate into a gas without burning any plant material. You will heat marijuana's active ingredients in the plant to a point where it produces a vapor (a fine mist), then inhale the vapor into the lungs. The correct vaporization temperature is around 320o Fahrenheit.
Hot air vaporization releases about five compounds, with THC being in the highest concentration, whereas smoking marijuana releases about 111 compounds. This is the non-smoked method most often recommended as an alternative to smoking. Patients can utilize it for most of the symptoms/conditions for which marijuana is recommended.
There are many vaporizers on the market, use due diligence when choosing the one for you. Prices can vary, and they are usually in the $200 - $500 range for a good reliable vaporizer. So although vaporizing may be the safest way to consume marijuana, it is also the most expensive. However, there are many new vaporizers on the market, and the open competition seems to be lowering prices. So you should take your time and do some research on the internet or visit your local smoking post or Head Shop.
Medibles (oral consumption):
Medibles are what we call cannabis that is infused in different foods for our consumption. Cannabis flowered tops and leaves are simmered in butter (or vegetable oil) for several hours, transferring the THC and other cannabinoids to the butter. The solid plant material is then discarded. The butter, now a dark shade of green, is then used in baking such items as brownies and cakes, or added to such foods as spaghetti sauce or soup. The oily base of the butter is needed for the cannabinoids to properly adhere.
This method is utilized by many patients suffering from pain and spasticity, and sometimes sleeps disorders. Although not the preferred method for patients suffering from nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite, it is sometimes used to supplement other delivery methods, or used by those unable or unwilling to smoke or use a vaporizer.
By consuming your medicine with medibles, patients have to realize that once the marijuana is consumed, it goes directly into your blood stream, which can get you very stoned and takes effect very quickly.
**Smoking cannabis results in a significant loss of THC and other cannabinoids through exhaled or non-inhaled smoke. In contrast, all of the active constituents enter the body when cannabis is consumed orally.
A warning for those choosing to medicate with edible marijuana – unlike with smoking and vaporizing, it is much easier to over-consume and therefore over-medicate with ingestion. Because it can take longer to feel the effect and/or because the edibles taste good, patients are warned to start with a small amount, wait an hour or two before ingesting more, and be extra careful in consumption so as not to exceed recommended dosage.
No Drugs Involved!
In summary, what we have in cannabis is a wonderful plant that can be used for a variety of things. This one plant can build cities or countries and at the same time feed and heal the people. There is no other plant in the world naturally grown with the capabilities of the cannabis plant. To be considered a drug and illegal, is the greatest folly the world has ever known. Hopefully as time goes on, more studies will show how this plant can help make the world a better place.
Everyone should take some time to read and learn about the cannabis plant and how it has played a major part in our world’s history!