What is cannabis and what are strains?
With so many new cannabis strains being developed it helps to understand where they came from and what makes each strain profile unique, but first, let’s learn some history. Cannabis can be traced back to Central Asia, where growers of the plant developed the landrace strains, the original strains of cannabis that are used to make hybrid strains. For centuries, cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes to help with pain, insomnia, neurological disorders, and mental health disorders. People also enjoy smoking the plant for recreational purposes like relaxation, stress relief, and creative stimulus. Because of this, states are in the process of or already have legalized cannabis for medicinal use, recreational use, or both. For consumers of cannabis, it’s important to know what is going into your body and the benefits it contains. To understand what the cannabis plant is and how it provides benefits to the body, it is helpful to break down the active compounds of cannabis and understand the entourage effect. The more you know, the better the experience it can be, and the more you can target your strains to meet your specific needs.
What about cannabinoids?
Consumers of cannabis have probably heard of THC and CBD (whether you fully understand their effects or not). THC and CBD content percentages are included in the packaging of cannabis and CBD products can be sold in a variety of stores, from cannabis shops to gas stations. But what exactly are they? These are the two most common and most researched cannabinoids, chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that provide relief for several symptoms. The chemical compounds in the plant imitate chemicals already found in our bodies. The system these compounds are located in is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Without ECS, the human body could not process the feeling of being high.
This ECS is composed of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), endocannabinoids, and enzymes that help regulate sleep, mood, memory, appetite and more. The cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of the cells while the endocannabinoids activate the cannabinoid receptors. The enzymes in the ECS allow for a metabolic breakdown of endocannabinoids so the high does not last. The CB1 receptor found in the brain interacts with THC to achieve the feeling of a high, while the CB2 receptor is located in the immune system and outside of the nervous system. Remember, cannabis affects everyone differently, based on body chemistry and what receptor a cannabinoid binds to.
Each strain of cannabis has its own unique scent: pine, citrus, musk, berry, etc. these scents come from terpenes, aromatic compounds found in the cannabis plant. While terpenes provide the unique scent for cannabis, they also provide therapeutic benefits by acting similarly to cannabinoids like THC and CBD in the endocannabinoid system. While terpenes do not cause a high, they can affect the body. Terpenes are the basis for essential oils that are used for aromatherapy and are believed to affect and enhance the high from smoking or ingesting cannabis (known as the entourage effect).
THC and CBD: How they work
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most common cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, both interact differently within the body because of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS. While there are many benefits to both THC and CBD, they provide different experiences and cater to different people’s needs. THC is an intoxicating substance that causes the high while smoking. CBD is non-intoxicating and provides more relief for pain management. Because of its non-intoxicating properties, CBD products like CBD lotions and oils are legal in some states where THC is not and, in some cases, CBD products can be purchased outside of dispensaries. Because CBD provides a clear-headed and functional effect, it is good for someone who smokes throughout the day. THC and CBD have several overlapping benefits and because of that, a balance of both provides the best results while cutting out negative short-term side effects of THC dominant strains, such as anxiety and paranoia.
Within the endocannabinoid system, there is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, anandamide, that allows the body to experience a naturally heightened sense of joy. THC and anandamide both bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors but binding to the CB1 receptors is the cause of the feeling of being high. While humans have this system to allow them to feel high, everybody has different body chemistry that will cause THC to impact them differently. The most common short-term side effects of THC include elevated heart rate, drowsiness, hunger, and paranoia. While cannabis and THC products are still in the early stages of research, there are currently no conclusive long-term negative side effects; however, the research that has been conducted to date has shown anatomical brain changes, bronchitis, and psychosis linked to the use of cannabis and THC products. Anatomical brain changes include changes in the corpus callosum, which connects the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain. This can lead to permanent memory impairment. Although there are no known links between cannabis and bronchitis, bronchitis is linked with smoking tobacco products. Studies show that inhaling smoke of any type on a regular basis is not safe for lungs. Psychosis has been shown on people who have a predisposed health condition. Common side effects for CBD include dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue but those side effects may be different if there are other medications taken while consuming CBD.
THC offers benefits for PTSD, chronic pain, insomnia, nausea, ADHD, appetite loss, neurological disorders, and more. Benefits for CBD include relieving pain, epileptic seizures, inflammation, and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
How THC and CBD work together: the entourage effect
The “entourage effect” is a term used to describe different behavioral changes and benefits based on different strains of cannabis and combinations of compounds of cannabis. There are many ways to ingest cannabis products including full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolates. Oils, ingestible capsules, dabs, and vape cartridges are full-spectrum ways of consuming cannabis, meaning they provide compounds like THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, and multiple terpenes in one package. Broad-spectrum doesn’t contain as many compounds, usually removing THC from the strain but still having CBN and CBG. Isolates only contain CBD with no other compounds. Because strains have different concentrations of compounds, this can cause different feelings and benefits for the consumers. The entourage effect allows consumers to understand that they may feel different and receive different benefits from strains. This helps users to fully comprehend what they are consuming while allowing them the flexibility to exclude compounds that they don’t want or need to consume.
As a consumer of cannabis, it is important to know how cannabis can impact your body and mind. While picking out strains, look at the benefits of both THC, CBD, and terpenes to know how the strain will affect your high. For more information on what strain may be best for you, talk to your patient consultant, or explore the Local Joint website to learn more in depth information on strains.