Cannabis provides a range of medicinal benefits from reducing inflammation to creating feelings of bliss and happiness. How? Cannabinoids.
Every time you consume cannabis, you’re medicating whether it’s intentional or not. While the current federal scheduling of cannabis is due to the inflammation of racism and capitalism almost a century ago, its usefulness as medicine predates those realities. Ancient eastern Chinese people cultivated cannabis as long as 5,000 years ago. In the 1600s, enslaved Africans farmed hemp for the riggings of ships, fuel for lamps, and even clothes made to withstand harsh conditions. Some of these very plantations are still intact and able to thrive on hemp sales today.
Cannabis was an essential part of American medicine cabinets decades before it was demonized as the Devil’s Lettuce that fed on the brains of children. Centuries before being labeled Jazz Cigarettes that, “caused white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and others.”
This propaganda gave ammo to the Marijuana Tax Act, making cannabis illegal to possess. As a result, adequate research on the effects of cannabis has been slow to nearly nonexistent. Yet, the list of proven benefits is longer than a TSA line during the holiday season. These benefits can range depending on the cultivar (or strain) you consume, the method of consumption, and/or your unique biological makeup. Cannabis to the body is like the favorite auntie that helps brings balance to a toxic family dynamic by just being carefree, unfiltered, and open-minded.
How is this possible? Mammals, that includes humans, have an internal network called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The thing is, our organs need balance to operate well and without interruption. The ECS helps control a lot of biological functions such as memory, metabolism, mood, and body temperature. This keeps the human body in check by triggering responses that restore our internal environment regardless of what goes on outside of it. Put it this way, if cannabis is our body’s favorite auntie, then consider the ECS Big Mama.
When the ECS gets just a little bit of cannabis, it has the potential to treat seizures, PTSD, nausea, chronic pain, anxiety, and a host of other conditions and symptoms. A combination of cannabinoids and other compounds is responsible for the varying results.
Cannabinoids, specifically phytocannabinoids, are plant cannabinoids similar to those we naturally produce in our bodies, which are called endocannabinoids. Endo means “within,” and Phyto translates to “plant.” They interact with the ECS by binding to two endocannabinoid receptors throughout our bodies: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the central nervous system, the brain, and the spinal cord. While CB2 receptors are mostly located on immune cells. They’re responsible for reducing inflammation and are only present in the brain in the event of inflammation or injury.
The effects of consuming can range depending on the receptors cannabinoids bind to. Even though there are over a hundred, only a few are present in large enough quantities to be noted. Let’s get into it.
THC is the compound in cannabis that is responsible for the high we all love. The brain already naturally produces an identical cannabinoid, called anandamide. Anandamide generates a sense of joy and happiness and is crucial in memory, motivation, movement, pain, appetite, and fertility. Anandamide is also an anti-anxiety and antidepressant agent due to its role in the formation of new nerve cells. However, anandamide quickly breaks down in the body, so the naturally produced bliss comes to an end rather quickly. Given that THC and anandamide are similar, consuming it can provide the same blissful effects, or, for some, paranoia. And because THC is a plant-based cannabinoid, it doesn’t break down as quickly as anandamide, leaving you with a state of bliss that’s a lot stronger and lasts a lot longer.
THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
Once the acid in THCA heats to 420 degrees, it converts to THC. When buying weed from a dispensary (or elsewhere), you’ll take THCA into account when calculating the potency, even though THCA itself is non-intoxicating.
CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. It’s non-intoxicating because it doesn’t activate the CB1 receptors as THC does. Studies show that CBD doesn’t bind to either receptor. Instead, it indirectly influences them by blocking the breakdown of our body’s cannabinoids, leaving us to use more of what we already naturally produce.
The non-intoxicating, but psychoactive properties of CBD make it ideal for therapeutic use for those who want to avoid feeling high. In addition to treating the multiple forms of epilepsy, CBD is also useful for anxiety, stress, depression, and physical ailments. There is no shortage of research to back up these claims, either.
CBN is only mildly intoxicating compared to THC because it derives from the same cannabinoid acid, THCA. Prolonged exposure to air causes THCA to become CBNA. In turn, like all the other acids in the cannabinoid family, once CBNA is heated, it will convert to CBN.
Research on this cannabinoid is minimal, but early studies show CBN as an effective sleep aid or sedative. It has may also help regulate the immune system and relieve pain and inflammation caused by several conditions that include arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
CBC encourages neurogenesis, a function of brain health and development. But like many of the other cannabinoids, it is non-intoxicating because it does not bind to CB1 receptors. CBC is linked to pain perception and inflammation without activating endocannabinoid receptors. For this reason, CBC is more effective when combined with other cannabinoids.
THCV is similar to THC in molecular structure and psychoactive properties but produces entirely different results. It is most abundant in Sativa strains and typically comes with a more motivated, alert, and energizing high.
Research shows THCV has stress-relieving effects and can help reduce or even prevent anxiety and panic attacks. As a result, it’s significant in the treatment of PTSD. It is also neuroprotective, so it is ideal for treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. And another thing, THCV is an appetite suppressant. Do what you will with that information.
The matriarch of cannabis is last, but certainly not least. Without CBG, no other cannabinoid would exist, at least as far as science can tell. CBG is known as the “Mother of all Cannabinoids” because all cannabinoids stem from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA is the precursor to THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. Like THC, CBG reacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. CBG, however, buffers to the euphoric effects of THC. Ultimately, allowing it to alleviate the paranoia caused by THC in some people.
CBG also fights inflammation, pain, nausea, and aids in slowing the proliferation of cancer cells. Studies show it can also significantly reduce intraocular eye pressure caused by glaucoma. Strains high in CBG can help with treating inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and cancer.
Next time you consume, think about the method and how you feel. Depending on the strain, cultivation practices, and potency, those effects can vary. Some cannabis will energize you and provide a social boost, while others can settle you into a relaxing calm or leave you comatose.
*We are not medical doctors. Your cannabis research should not end here. Take this extremely condensed information and use it to further your journey in learning about one of the most complex plants we’ve ever consumed.*
– Oldest Evidence for Weed Smoking Found In Chinese Grave
– A List of Major Cannabinoids in Cannabis and Their Effects
– Role of the Endocannabinoid System and Medical Cannabis
– What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
– Antique Cannabis Book / A Price Guide to Antiques
– Racism and Its Effect on Cannabis Research