Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant in the family Cannabaceae. It has been used medicinally in every culture on the planet throughout human history. “Marijuana”, a word originating in Mexican Spanish, is the term by which it became commonly known in the 20th century. We use the term “cannabis” to give the plant proper respect for its many therapeutic uses. Training ourselves to use the term cannabis reminds us that this plant is serious medicine, and helps us overcome our culture’s negative stereotypes.
More than 700 chemical compounds are produced within the cannabis plant.
Phytocannabinoids account for at least 66 of the chemical compounds found in cannabis. ▵9THC—delta-9 tetra-hydrocannabinol—is the most well-known cannabinoid, and is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effect or “high.” CBD (cannabidiol) and CBN (cannabinol) are more recently identified cannabinoids that have been shown to work synergistically with THC to produce therapeutic benefits. Unlike THC, CBD and CBN have no psychoactive effect.
The science of cannabis is evolving rapidly, and new studies are revealing more and more about the plant’s amazing properties. Many therapeutic benefits are now thought to come from terpenes.
Why does cannabis taste and smell like lemons?
Terpenes are what give each cannabis strain its distinctive taste and smell. Terpenes aren’t exclusive to cannabis; they’re produced by many plants, including lavender, rosemary, mint, and basil to provide protection from insects and disease. They’re also the building blocks of essential oils, and are used in many fragrances and flavorings.
For example: CBD (cannabidiol) can increase THC’s potential to relieve pain and inflammation while reducing its psychoactive effects, the terpenes myrcene and beta-ocimene can augment the plant’s sedative qualities while reducing the respiratory irritation sometimes caused by smoking cannabis, and the flavonoids quercetin and cannaflavin work together to increase the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral qualities of both THC and CBD. This synergy is known as the Entourage Effect because, in order for a patient to reap the benefits of so many different active compounds, they must all be present together — the medicinal value of whole plant cannabis therapy is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
The endocannabinoid system—a biological system which came to light in the 1990s—is found in every species of mammal.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS)—and the cannabinoids that interact with it—are important in establishing and maintaining balanced health. The ECS consists of receptors that are configured to accept all cannabinoids—both endocannabinoids, synthesized by the body and phytocannabinoids, found in plants like cannabis.
The Cannabis Plant
Within each cannabis species, there are thousands of varieties, or strains, which have been bred to express different qualities of the plant. Many are hybrids, carrying some characteristics of both their Indica and Sativa parents.
Two species of the plant, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa, have unique medicinal value.
Indica plants have relaxing, sedative, and calming effects and are traditionally used for pain relief, relaxation, and sleep. They are good choices for nighttime use or when pain relief is desired.
Sativa plants are very uplifting, stimulating, and energizing, and are traditionally used to relieve symptoms of psychological or gastrointestinal conditions. Sativa strains are effective for promoting clear-thinking, focus, motivation, inspiration, creativity, and well-being.