It’s no secret that Cannabis has healing properties, but exactly how it works is a mystery to many. This high-level overview links the laws of nature to human physiology to help make sense of the science beneath the leaf.
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Of over 480 different compounds present in the plant, only around 66 are termed cannabinoids. The most well known among these compounds is the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), which is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
Cannabinoids exert their effects by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells.These receptors are found in different parts of the central nervous system and the two main types of cannabinoid receptors in the body are CB1 and CB2.
The main way in which the cannabinoids are differentiated is based on their degree of psychoactivity.For example, CBG, CBC and CBD are not known to be psycholgically active agents whereas THC, CBN and CBDL along with some other cannabinoids are known to have varying degrees of psychoactivity.The most abundant of the cannabinoids is CBD, which is thought to have anti-anxiety effects, possibly counteracting the psychoactive effects of THC.
When THC is exposed to the air, it becomes oxidized and forms CBN which also interacts with THC to lessen its impact.
This is why cannabis that has been left out unused will has less potent effects when smoked, due to the increased CBN to THC ratio.
The real difference between today’s indica and sativa plants is in their observable traits during the cultivation cycle. Indica plants tend to grow short with thick stems and broad, deep-green leaves. They also have short flowering cycles, and grow sufficiently in cold, short-season climates. Sativa plants have longer flowering cycles, fare better in warm climates with long seasons, and usually grow taller with light-green, narrow leaves.
For the last 50 years of cannabis cultivation, crossbreeding has been the name of the game. As a result, there’s virtually no such thing as a “pure” indica or sativa anymore. Every flower you’ve ever come in contact with has most likely been a hybrid of some sort. Classifying a particular cultivar, or strain, as indica or sativa usually means that it tilts to one side or the other of an indica/sativa spectrum.
The “indica vs. sativa” framework has drawn controversy, and for good reason. As you research cultivars online, you may keep coming up against the same phrases to describe sativas (“cerebral,” “heady,”, “uplifting”, “energizing”) and indicas (“relaxing,” “sedating,” “full-bodied,” “couchlock,” “stoney”). It’s still perfectly valid to describe effects as “sativa-like” or “indica-like”, as long as we remember that sativa or indica-like effects don’t necessarily coincide with a plant’s sativa or indica lineage.
This is where hybrids come in. You’ve probably noticed how hybrid cultivars have become as prominent as indicas and sativas, if not more so. It’s a sign that cannabis marketing is catching up to reality. All modern cultivars are technically hybrids, but the plants we officially classify as hybrids are the intentional crossbreeds of indicas and sativas, designed to produce specific qualities and effects. Often, budtenders recommend hybrids for their highly specialized effects, flavors, and aromas.
Hybrids certainly present a more nuanced taxonomic reality, but they do not provide a label that adequately indicates the effects that a user can expect from a cultivar —- especially as we recognize how differently from one another our bodies react to cannabis. Ever settle in to relax with some indica, only to find yourself in a high-energy cerebral haze? Or, have you tried sativa-dominant strains you heard were great for productivity and ended up in a prolonged, full-body couchlock? The truth is, you can’t always rely on your body to receive indica or sativa-like effects from an indica or sativa flower. You and your friend might smoke the exact same bud and have two equally distinct experiences.
There are three forms of Cannabis: flower, concentrates and infused products.
The flower is the actual flower bud that is found on the Cannabis plant.
When harvested and dried, flower is typically either smoked or vaporized using any number of devices to suit individual needs. Traditionally, this is the most commonly used form of Cannabis and is available in numerous flower strains, all of which are distinguished by appearance, effect, odor, potency and taste.
Response time: In spite of the relatively quick response time of utilizing flower, the vast arrays of strains and the relative potency levels among Cannabis flowers yield similarly vast spectrums of efficacy and usage results. Therefore, it is recommended to start slowly with a single inhalation, and wait at least 10 minutes before taking a second inhalation. Repeating the process in 10-minute intervals allows the patient to safely measure and achieve the desired effects of the medicine.
Concentrates are oils from the Cannabis plant that are extracted through scientific processes using solvents such as CO2, ethanol or butane.
Concentrated Cannabis is a more diverse form of medical marijuana than its flower counterpart. Its products range from stalked resin glands or trichomes in solid or resinous forms, to waxes and oils. Like flower, concentrates are typically smoked or vaporized, including smokeless inhalation methods. The potency of this Cannabis form tends to be stronger than flower or infused products.
Response time: Concentrates deliver an immediate effect, typically recognized within five minutes of usage. As with any inhaled Cannabis product, it is recommended to start with a single inhalation and wait a period of time (at least five-to-seven minutes in this case) before taking a second inhalation. Repeating the process in seven-minute intervals allows the patient to safely measure and achieve the desired effects of the medicine.
Infused products are any products infused with concentrated Cannabis extracts. Forms of infused products include candy, baked goods, beverages, tinctures, oral sprays, pills, topical products and personal care products.
Response time: As there are many infused products that can be purchased in various potency levels, it is not possible to predict response times for this category. It is important to note, however, that these products may have a longer response time than experienced with flower or concentrates. Therefore, when testing an infused product for the first time, it is recommended to use only a small dose in a controlled environment (i.e., do not plan to drive, operate heavy machinery, etc.) and wait at least 30-60 minutes before taking another dose.
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