Cannabis is a flowering herb that grows in the wild in tropical and temperate climates, and is cultivated. It has been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes for thousands of years. The plant naturally contains more than 400 compounds, including more than 60 types of cannabinoids, many of which have documented medical value. The two most common cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Different varieties or strains of the plant have different combinations of these naturally-occurring chemical compounds. There are three main types of cannabis plants: indica, sativa, and ruderalis. The plant also produces terpenoids that are largely responsible for its aroma, and flavonoids which affect pigment. The interaction between these various compounds is often referred to as the “entourage effect” where the components working together are more effective than any compound acting in isolation.
The human body has an endocannabinoid system, lipids and receptors in the brain, organs, tissues, and throughout the nervous system. This system plays a role in appetite, sleep, memory, movement, how the body senses pain, and how a person feels. It has been described as a bridge between the body and the brain. The endocannabinoid system was named for the plant, after researchers observed the effects of cannabis on human health. The cannabinoids produced by the plant mimic those naturally produced by the body.
Most cannabis that is consumed is produced from the dried flowers or extracts of the plant. Some people prefer to consume raw or live cannabis which contains the non-psychoactive cannabinoid (THCA). The THCA in the plant converts to THC (associated with “high” and psychoactive effects) when it is dried and heated(decarboxylation) to a temperature usually to between 200 and 245 degrees. When cannabis is introduced to the body, through smoking or other forms of ingestion, the cannabinoids bind to receptors at different places in the body, depending on the type of cannabinoid. There is no definitive study that precisely identifies what strain, cannabinoid combination, dose or degree of efficacy is available from cannabinoids. However, preliminary research and anecdotal evidence identify potential benefits for anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-emetic and anti-proliferative treatments.
THC, for instance, binds predominantly in the brain; CBD binds predominantly in the body and is not psychoactive. Sativa plants tend to be associated with the ‘brain” high, or euphoria, and cannabis from sativa plants have been used to promote alertness and energy. Indicas are associated with the “body” high, and are associated with relaxation, improved appetite and sleep, and pain relief.