Basics of Cannabis
Cannabis is a very complex plant, that contains more than 100 unique chemicals known as phytocannabinoids (or cannabinoids) which are stored in the plant, and act on cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body.
Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD help by mimicking natural endocannabinoids, thereby providing relief from symptoms. While estimates vary, a typical cannabis plant produces 60 to more than 100 unique cannabinoid compounds, most found at low levels. The two most prominent and best studied cannabinoids are THC and CBD.
THC - Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol
THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis and is responsible for the “high” or euphoria. Studies confirming THC’s medical effectiveness are ongoing, but current clinical evidence primarily shows THC to be helpful for relief of chronic neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and the muscle spasm and pain of multiple sclerosis. Other areas of therapeutic benefit of THC may include:
CBD - Cannabidiol
CBD is the second most well-studied cannabinoid. One primary difference as compared to THC, is that CBD is non-intoxicating and non-impairing. Patients using pure CBD won’t get the “high” commonly experienced when using THC. CBD is a known anti-inflammatory agent, that likely also works as a neuroprotectant and immunomodulator. It also has recently been shown to be effective in treating pediatric drug resistant epilepsy. A large amount of anecdotal, clinical and research evidence is emerging showing benefit of CBD in the following areas:
The cannabinoid profile of a strain describes a particular plants chemical makeup on a cannabinoid level. Most commonly, strains tend to be much higher in one cannabinoid than the other and can therefore end up being THC heavy or CBD heavy, for example.
Strains that are balanced have an equal (1:1), or close to equal (1:3), amount of multiple cannabinoids. Balanced strains may offer a unique medicinal benefit.
Indica vs Sativa
Traditionally, cannabis was marketed and sold as two main species or varieties – Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. Each of these are associated with specific effects.
Indica strains are typically characterized as body focused, sedative, relaxing and recommended for people with sleep and pain issues.
Sativa strains are typically recommended for daytime use because of reported uplifting, energizing and strong cerebral effects.
In reality, almost all available cannabis strains are genetic hybrids, and may exhibit properties associated with both an indica and sativa strain. The effect of a specific strain is determined primarily by the interaction of that plant’s cannabinoid and terpene profile (mixture of chemicals), and the metabolism of the individual user.
The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a network of chemicals and receptors that exist naturally in our bodies. It is named after the cannabis plant, which was discovered first, but functions within our body independent of any cannabis use. The ECS was discovered in 1992, and evidence shows that it is fundamental to normal human function and health. The ECS, which works similarly to other neurotransmitter systems, helps to control processes in the body including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory. When the ECS is not working properly, current evidence suggests the results are physical complications and illness.
Two primary cannabinoid receptors have been discovered named CB1 and CB2. Both are found throughout the body, but are most common in the brain and immune system.
Located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system
Distributed primarily in the peripheral and immune tissues
Two primary endocannabinoids have been discovered named anandamide and 2-AG.
A neurotransmitter produced primarily in the central nervous system, which sends specific chemical messages throughout the nervous system.
An agonist of the CB receptors that plays an important role in both the bodies immunity as well as how it deals with inflammation.