Cannabis 101

Cannabis 101

Medical Cannabis & Its Benefits

Patients turn to cannabis to help with a wide variety of conditions including, pain or physical discomfort, sleep disorders, depression, neuropathy and multiple sclerosis.  Evidence suggest that cannabis is an effective medicine for some of these conditions, and less so for others.  Other conditions that people use cannabis to treat are ADHD, anxiety, arthritis or degenerative arthritis, Fibromyalgia, HIV or AIDS, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appetite or weight loss.

Cannabis As Medicine

Cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years.  Early Chinese writings dating indicate that cannabis was used to treat over a hundred medical conditions.  As far back as 1500 B.C. cannabis was used as medicine in the Mediterranean region, Greece and India.  In 1838, Dr. William O'Shaughnessy, and Irish physician working in India, published his findings of his experiments with Cannabis indica.  His writings gained notice in Europe where other doctors began their own experiments.  Cannabis was used as medicine in the United States until it was banned  under the Marihuana Tax act of 1937.  In 1996 California was the first state to legalized medical cannabis use and since then more than half of the United States has a medical cannabis program.

Endocannabinoid System

While humans have been consuming cannabis for centuries, it is only in the last century that that we have begun to understand how cannabis works in the body. THC was identified in 1964 and the first cannabinoid (CB) receptor in the human body was discovered in the late 1980s, which lead to the discovery of an entire network of receptors called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS is a system of neuromodulator chemicals and their receptors found throughout the body.  These receptors are involved in the regulations of pain, mood, memory, digestion, motor function, immune response, appetite, blood pressure, bone growth, and the protection of neural tissues, to name a few.  The two primary receptors in the ECS are CB1 and CB2 receptors.  These receptors are activated by cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, etc.  ​CB1 receptors are primarily expressed in the central nervous system.  CB2 receptors are mainly expressed in the peripheral tissues of the immune system, the gastrointestinal system and the peripheral nervous system and to a lesser degree the central nervous system.

Cannabis is absorbed through the bloodstream to the brain and then the rest of the body through either the lungs or the stomach. When smoked or vaporized, the plant's chemicals,  go directly to the lungs, where they are absorbed seconds after inhalation.  When cannabis enters the blood stream through the stomach it is first carried to the liver and then the rest of the body. The stomach absorbs the chemicals, mainly THC, more slowly than the lungs, which is why it takes longer to feel the effects of THC in edible form and the effects last longer.   

The Cannabis Plant

The cannabis plant produces hundreds of chemical components of which phytocannabinoids and terpenes are the main active ingredients. The body produces its own cannabinoids in the form of endocannabinoids and the cannabis plant produces phytocannabinoids in the form of carboxylic acids, i.e. THCA, CBDA, etc.  Smoking, vaporizing, or cooking phytocannabinoids transforms them into their commonly known forms: THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD (cannabidiol), etc.  Researchers believe that cannabinoids and terpenes are primarily responsible for the different medicinal and psychoactive effects of cannabis.

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