When it comes to cannabis, there is so much more than meets the eye. As any cannasseur knows, the mysteries of the herb are often solved when looking at its chemical blueprint. The rise of regulatory marijuana testing provides us with a closer look at the chemical profile of each strain, but what are we looking for in these tests and what is their purpose?
If you haven’t read our Terpene 101 article, go ahead and read it here. Our cannabis education continues in this piece, where we will take a look at cannabinoids. The chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers, cannabinoids are responsible for cannabis’s range of therapeutic effects. Cannabinoids work by mimicking the body’s endocannabinoid system, used to regulate many important functions such as appetite, sleep, emotion and movement, by binding to receptor sites throughout the brain and body.
With over 85 cannabinoids found in marijuana, the possibilities for the herb’s curative effects are endless. The most commonly known cannabinoid, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, gives modern medical marijuana its psychoactive effect. Today, most cannabis is bred to have disproportionately high amounts of THC, which can trigger heightened feelings of anxiety and paranoia. This is because THC binds to receptors in the brain involved in processing emotional responses such as fear, stress and paranoia. This can overexcite the neural pathways of those new to cannabis.
To counteract the emphasis on THC, those interested in the research and study of cannabis have began advocating for the use of whole plant medicine. This terms refers to the use of the full spectrum of cannabis compounds, which each possess their own unique healing properties. This helps to explain the rise in the interest of CBD dominant strains such as Harlequin and Sour Tsunami. CBD, or cannabidiol, is non-psychoactive and is actually known to counteract the anxiety that cannabis patients feel with high-levels of THC.
Considered to be the building block of the medicinal study of cannabis, CBD’s curative properties reach far and wide. Its current uses include treatment for arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and antibiotic-resistant infections. CBD is even behind the famous Charlotte’s Web strain used to treat epileptic seizures for children. CBD has also demonstrated anti-cancer properties and is currently a significant factor in cancer treatment throughout the world.
Other cannabinoids have their own strengths. CBN, or cannabinol, is non-psychoactive and known to promote bone cell growth. It’s most pronounced effect is its sedative properties, and with CBN rarely exceeding 1% in a strain’s overall cannabinoid make-up we can be sure a little goes a long way. If you are looking for CBN rich products it would be best to look for oils, capsules and edibles.
THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is also non-psychoactive and specifically useful when treating prostate cancer. THCA is also a neuroprotective, meaning that it is useful in treating neurodegenerative diseases, such as parkinson’s disease and alzheimer’s disease. However, THCA is only found in raw, live cannabis. When smoked, or heated, the acid turns into THC. As a result, many people seeking the benefits of THCA have taken to juicing raw cannabis.
Understanding cannabinoids allows us to tailor our use of the herb to aid individual conditions, essentially functioning as key ingredients in the production of healing potions and tonics. The beauty of the herb lies in its natural origins and the ability to self-monitor and administer medication.
Focusing our research on lesser known compounds such as cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) allows us to take a holistic view of the plant and move away from the prevailing discourse and stigma around cannabis. Take a look at the graphic below for a quick and easy cannabinoid 101.