Cannabis - A Closer Look
For thousands of years cannabis has been recognized on and off globally as a humanitarian resource, as well as fertile ground for socioeconomic progress. In our modern society, it’s important to know the value cannabis has to the masses, both medicinally and recreationally. Most simply, cannabis can be classified into three categories: indica, sativa, and ruderalis. From just three species of the cannabis plant, growers over the years have created thousands of strains through crossbreeding.
Today’s cannabis market is as diverse and complex as ever, which is why it is important to understand both the basic and more complex and crucial differences. In this paragraph we will simply focus on the indica plant. Indica plants are often recognized by their purple hues or berry fragrance, but these properties are not always apparent, and does not determine the classification of a cannabis plant. More than likely, the change to purple is due to a potassium deficiency caused by the plants inability to metabolize the nutrient in cold temperatures. Indica plants that are grown commercially are known for their “body buzz” and anxiolytic properties that pertain to anxiety, sleep, PTSD, as well as many muscular disorders.They can harbor high levels of THC with
greater levels of CBD than sativa plants.
CBD has seen great success in treating severe muscular, anxiety disorders, seizures, autoimmune diseases, and more. It has also proven itself to be a viable alternative to addictive opiates. CBD can be extracted from virtually any plant. Ruderalis plants do not produce a high and can be considered industrial grade hemp, but CBD can be extracted from this plant, as well. Most strains are not bred for high CBD content and popular Sativa strains generally contain negligible amounts of THC. CBD is preferable for many patients who work 9-5 jobs and do not want the psychoactive properties of cannabis, but benefit greatly from its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. CBD has proven to be especially effective in inhibiting overactive neurological tracts, in seizure patients.
Sativa plants are probably the most well-known species of cannabis plant, given that strains like White Widow, Sour Diesel, and Maui Waui often make it into pop culture. Sativa strains are often recognized by their light green colors and citrus aromas, but like indica plants, without these common attributes they still function, medicinally, as any Sativa would. These are high THC strains with little to no CBD, and thus highly marketable amongst the recreational retail market. Sativas are known for their uplifting high, which can even be energizing for athletes and daily use. How cerebral or physiological these effects are will rely on the specific strain, as well an individual’s unique body chemistry.
We will go into greater detail of the many variations of THC and CBD later, as they relate to patients within the retail space. Many ruderalis strains have been created and crossbred for the purpose of treating specific illnesses, but it should always be noted that no person shares another’s biochemistry. Many Americans are resilient to the positive effects of certain antibiotics, but extremely responsive to others. Similarly, psychiatry functions on a trial and error basis, due the fact our body chemistry is unique. Your cannabis’ medicinal value somewhat relies on your knowledge of the levels of THC and CBD in the strain, and your knowledge of your unique body chemistry. It is your body chemistry and your knowledge of it that is responsible for informing you of your needs and determining the most medicinally viable strain. All modern sativa and indica plants are ultimately hybrids of both, and thus must be referred to and understood as either indica/sativa dominant.
THC and CBD both interact with our internal endocannabinoid system. All through your body are receptors that send and receive messages with chemical and electric currents. There are two primary cannabinoid receptors that lie within the nervous system, tissues, glands, and organs: CB1 and CB2. CB2 is usually housed within the immune system, which explains the many antioxidant effects of CBD and its historical use, in a pre-antibiotic world. Earlier we touched on the different forms of THC and CBD. In these next few paragraphs we will give you a summary of the variations of cannabis and its medicinal properties.
THC is the most well-known compound of cannabis, however many of cannabis’ medicinal properties are derived from its lesser known components. This is probably due to THC’s psychoactive properties, which many pain patients may want to avoid if their primary use of cannabis is for the purpose of chronic pain. THC has uplifting properties that are often used to treat depression. THCA is an offshoot of THC which functions as a stealthy analgesic to those who don’t desire psychoactivity. Many sativa-dominant, hybrid strains that are considered balanced share indica and sativa plant properties. Very balanced hybrids that are referred to as 50/50, in the retail space, are often purchased to treat depression and/or anxiety. A hybrid may be any ratio, such as an imbalanced 70/30 strain that is very sativa dominant, with little indica properties. The balanced pairing of anxiolytic properties characteristic of an indica plant, with the uplifting properties of a sativa, are viable for anxiety and depression patients. Strains high in THC have the potential to cause anxiety in patients, especially those whom have a genetic predisposition or pre-existing condition.
There are many forms of cannabinoids and each has their own unique properties, though many are shared. CBD, CBG, and CBC are the primary compounds of the cannabinoid family. We will first discuss CBD, as it is the most well-known of the cannabinoid family. CBD has proven to be a viable analgesic, antibacterial, anti-epileptic, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and anxiolytic. CBD’s anxiolytic properties can be applied to a variety of illnesses, including, but not limited to sleep, anxiety, and muscular tension that is related to stress, as well as an anti-psychotic. In recent years, many studies have confirmed CBD’s ability to relieve seizure disorder patients without the use of addictive muscle relaxers that leave already sick people in a fog.
It can definitely be said that there are also many benefits from use of acidic phytocannabinoids (THCA, CBDA, CBGA, etc.) that can be applied to a concern for one’s general health and wellness. Containing no pychoactive effects, they come with a variety of health benefits, only found in the raw plant material. Many people advocate for consumption of the raw cannabis plant to reap the full extent of its benefits.
The recognized importance of the less popular components of cannabis is reflected in the ‘whole plant’ movement. Some refer to this as the "entourage effect" or "full spectrum". This is relevant in the context of what can and can’t be considered medicinal, as well as the legality of cannabis, as a whole. Many states and politicians tend to be more comfortable addressing cannabis and providing cannabis, as the isolated cannabinoid CBD. The National Institutes of Health and other research has suggested that in order for patients to receive the full medicinal effects of cannabis, one must consume all of its synergistic components.