Cannabis: What is it and what’s in it for me?


Disclaimer
Please note that the following information is not meant to be advice or a recommendation. It provides information that can help you in making well-informed decisions about using cannabis with a goal of increasing the potential benefits and minimizing potential harms. It should not be used solely as the basis for any decision or action. It is based on research.

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What is Cannabis?

Cannabis, the scientific name for the hemp plant, is one of the oldest domestic plants on earth. Its leaves and flowers contain a resin that can affect how you feel, think and act. Every part of the plant has medicinal, recreational, and spiritual uses. It has been used in cultures around the world for thousands of years! 

Cannabis seeds have always been a valuable source of nutrition for early humans, as it provides an excellent source of essential fatty acids and protein. Historically, the plant was a popular choice for women’s health issues like menstrual distress and labour pain. It was also used for pain relief; frequently applied topically to wounds and injuries. Because of its psychoactive properties, cannabis was and still is used to facilitate spiritual healing. There is no doubt that the long relationship we’ve had with the cannabis plant shows that it is an important part of human health and wellness. But how do we know what type of cannabis is right for each of us? 

The Changing Story of Cannabis 

Determining the best cannabis for you is becoming more interesting especially with the new types of consumption and new products that are now being introduced on a regular basis Due to the international prohibition on cannabis which began in the 1930’s, scientific cannabis research was also prohibited except for a few governmentfunded and controlled studies. Government research has largely examined harms and possible negative side effects rather than looking at its potential as a beneficial medicinal and wellness product. Canadian Federal legalization in 2018 allowed scientific research to begin. Significant discoveries are happening every day, reshaping the way we understand and use cannabis. And this is proving to be a good thing. 

The Indica and Sativa Debate

Historically, the terms Indica and Sativa have been used to identify cannabis plants based on the shape and size of the leaves, and the amount of fiber they produced. Cultivators (growers) separate plants into Indica and Sativa labels according to their growth traits and physical makeup. Each of these species have unique characteristics. And between the two there are numerous “strains” or types. Each cannabis strain or cultivar has its own shape, colour, aroma profile, and range of effects. Importantly they vary in terms of their cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles and effects on mind and body. 

The “Indica vs. Sativa” framework is currently drawing controversy, for good reason. When we search cultivars online, the same phrases repeatedly describe Sativa’s (“cerebral,” “heady,”, “uplifting”, “energizing”) and Indica’s (“relaxing,” “sedating,” “full-bodied,” “couch lock,” “high”). And then there are hybrids. Today, Hybrid cultivars are much more common than Indica and Sativa strains. This is a result of many years of cross breeding. Today almost all cultivars are hybrids. The plants we officially classify as hybrids are intentional Indica and Sativa crossbreeds designed to produce specific qualities, like flavours, aromas, terpene profiles and specialized body and mind effects.  

Yet, most retailers, licensed producers, and others, still recommend cannabis products based on this common categorization. The challenge is these labels no longer adequately explain the affects you may expect from a cultivar.  

While our understanding of how cannabis works is quickly expanding there is still much to learn. As a result, our uses for cannabis are also expanding. While this classification may be useful for cultivators, medical cannabis users find this classification misleading as they try to determine the wellness and health benefits and what will work best for them. Based on new research, cannabis is now considered a personalized medicine. Two people can use the same bud or product and have two very distinct reactions and experiences.  

The reality is, we can’t rely on our bodies to experience expected Indica-like or Sativa-like effects from an Indica dominant or Sativa dominant flower. This is particularly important when using cannabis for medical and wellness purposes where it’s essential that consumers have an educated, informed understanding of the cultivar and can depend on consistent effects each time they consume. While we may want to describe effects as “Sativa-like” or “Indica-like”, it’s important to remember that the effects don’t necessarily coincide with a plant’s effects or usage. 

The terms Indica and Sativa are not completely irrelevant terms though. They are important for growers who use them to categorize plants based on growth traits and resulting chemical profiles. They are also effective for botanists who use these terms to classify plants based on shared characteristics, not their effects on the human body. If this classification is no longer reliable for consumers, ho w does a person determine which products are best for them? 

The Cannabis Plant

A brief look at the makeup of the cannabis plant offers insight into ways to determine the best cannabis for you. The leaves and flowers of a mature cannabis plant are covered with trichomes. These tiny glands of resinous oil contain cannabinoids and terpenes which provide both physical and psychoactive effects. THC, CBD, and over 100 other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are produced here.

What We Know About How Cannabis Works  Cannabinoids 

A fundamental part of the cannabis plant, Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that give cannabis it’s unique range of effects. They affect our body through the endocannabinoid system (endo meaning “within”).  Named for substances our body naturally produces—and depends on—they are very much like plant-based cannabinoids. The ECS delivers cannabinoids, (both naturally produced and those from the cannabis plant) throughout the body. It has far-reaching effects on our body, which is why cannabinoids are believed to have so many different wellness and medicinal uses.  

 Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant can be an important supplement for our Endocannabinoid System. It plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and everyday experience. The goal of the ECS is to help maintain optimal balance or homeostasis in our bodies. This includes blocking pain, affecting mood, memory, stress response and appetite to name a few. This is helpful particularly in our modern world where lifestyle often results in a lack of essential nutrients, and supplements that affect our body’s balance.  

 Some of the current uses of cannabinoids include: 

 While scientists have identified at least 113 different chemicals in the plant, two most popular, and those we know the most about are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)), the psychoactive compound and Cannabidiol (CBD) which is often derived from hemp and doesn’t cause a high. There are many positive effects of cannabis and different formulations of THC and/or CBD. They’re currently used for many purposes and more uses are on the horizon. 

THC

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the best-known cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. It is the chemical that causes psychoactive effects, such as feeling “high”. It can induce a variety of sensory and psychological effects including mild dreaming, euphoria, and increased sensory awareness. Scientific research and anecdotal evidence also suggest THC has therapeutic benefits which include relief from pain, inflammation, insomnia, stimulating appetite and relieving symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 

CBD 

CBD or cannabidiol is the non-intoxicating and most known cannabinoid in the cannabis plant with enormous therapeutic potential. It can also counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive compared toTHC-dominant cultivars means it is an appealing option for wellness and medical uses, such as treating symptoms of chronic pain, cancer, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), cardiovascular disease, anxiety, antibiotic-resistant infections, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and overall relaxation 

Terpenes 

A relatively recent discovery about the cannabis plant is the importance of terpenes in the cannabis experience. This is something previous scientists didn’t consider. The labels Indica and Sativa were established long before scientists understood how integral terpenes are to the overall effect of a cultivar. We now know that not only do cannabinoids like THC and CBD bind with receptors in the brain, but terpenes also bind to receptors.  

 

Why are Terpenes So Important in Cannabis?

Terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for a plant’s flavours and aromas. Cannabis produces over 200 different terpenes. In fact, there are over 30,000 terpenes found in nature, making it the most common chemical produced in nature. For example, terpenes make up the basis of essential oils and are found in all spices, vegetables, and fruits.
 Terpenes interact with cannabinoids in a synergistic way which helps to explain why different cannabis cultivars have different effects on the body. Terpenes influence the character and effect a cannabis plant will produce. For example, if we took two cultivars with identical cannabinoid profiles but different terpene profiles, each would have a different effect on the user.  

Knowing what cannabinoids and terpenes are in a specific cultivar and how much of each, makes it easier for consumers to choose their best strain. Focusing only on the sativa or indica label isn’t as reliable as each strain is one-of-a-kind and contains a variety of cannabinoids. There is no rule as to which cannabinoids are found where. Sativas and indicas can have the same cannabinoids. One type might just have more or less than the other, making it a hybrid.

While knowing the difference between Indica-like or Sativa-like effects may be a starting point in deciding which cannabis cultivars to use for an individual person and a particular purpose, we know that a more informed, and educated decision can be made by focusing on the cannabinoid and terpene content and their synergy. Like aromatherapy, terpenes can stimulate and sedate. The effect from each depends entirely on the terpene. Below is a list of some of the most well-known terpenes, their fragrance and known benefits:

A Terpene Chart Highlighting the 9 Most Popular Terpenes in Cannabis 

A good way to help you decide on a cannabis product is to consider which terpenes appeal to you. Does the aroma of citrus fruits calm you or do spices like cinnamon and cloves found in caryophyllene help you feel focused? Perhaps both appeal to you and it depends on what you are looking to feel at a particular time. 

Cannabis is a complex plant that contains a variety of compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a range of effects, including pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria. Terpenes, on the other hand, are responsible for the aroma and flavor of cannabis strains and may work in synergy with cannabinoids to produce psychoactive effects. While research on the benefits of cannabis is ongoing, it is showing success as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.  

If using cannabis products, be sure to talk with a health professional to discuss potential benefits and risks. 

 

If you wish to learn more about Cannabis, visit our Cannabis Education Page. 

A brief look at the makeup of the cannabis plant offers insight into ways to determine the best cannabis for you. The leaves and flowers of a mature cannabis plant are covered with trichomes. These tiny glands of resinous oil contain cannabinoids and terpenes which provide both physical and psychoactive effects. THC, CBD, and over 100 other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are produced here.

What We Know About How Cannabis Works  Cannabinoids 

A fundamental part of the cannabis plant, Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that give cannabis it’s unique range of effects. They affect our body through the endocannabinoid system (endo meaning “within”).  Named for substances our body naturally produces—and depends on—they are very much like plant-based cannabinoids. The ECS delivers cannabinoids, (both naturally produced and those from the cannabis plant) throughout the body. It has far-reaching effects on our body, which is why cannabinoids are believed to have so many different wellness and medicinal uses.  

 Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant can be an important supplement for our Endocannabinoid System. It plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and everyday experience. The goal of the ECS is to help maintain optimal balance or homeostasis in our bodies. This includes blocking pain, affecting mood, memory, stress response and appetite to name a few. This is helpful particularly in our modern world where lifestyle often results in a lack of essential nutrients, and supplements that affect our body’s balance.  

 Some of the current uses of cannabinoids include: 

 While scientists have identified at least 113 different chemicals in the plant, two most popular, and those we know the most about are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)), the psychoactive compound and Cannabidiol (CBD) which is often derived from hemp and doesn’t cause a high. There are many positive effects of cannabis and different formulations of THC and/or CBD. They’re currently used for many purposes and more uses are on the horizon. 

THC

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the best-known cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. It is the chemical that causes psychoactive effects, such as feeling “high”. It can induce a variety of sensory and psychological effects including mild dreaming, euphoria, and increased sensory awareness. Scientific research and anecdotal evidence also suggest THC has therapeutic benefits which include relief from pain, inflammation, insomnia, stimulating appetite and relieving symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 

CBD 

CBD or cannabidiol is the non-intoxicating and most known cannabinoid in the cannabis plant with enormous therapeutic potential. It can also counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive compared toTHC-dominant cultivars means it is an appealing option for wellness and medical uses, such as treating symptoms of chronic pain, cancer, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), cardiovascular disease, anxiety, antibiotic-resistant infections, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and overall relaxation 

Terpenes 

A relatively recent discovery about the cannabis plant is the importance of terpenes in the cannabis experience. This is something previous scientists didn’t consider. The labels Indica and Sativa were established long before scientists understood how integral terpenes are to the overall effect of a cultivar. We now know that not only do cannabinoids like THC and CBD bind with receptors in the brain, but terpenes also bind to receptors.  

 

Why are Terpenes So Important in Cannabis?

Terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for a plant’s flavours and aromas. Cannabis produces over 200 different terpenes. In fact, there are over 30,000 terpenes found in nature, making it the most common chemical produced in nature. For example, terpenes make up the basis of essential oils and are found in all spices, vegetables, and fruits.
 Terpenes interact with cannabinoids in a synergistic way which helps to explain why different cannabis cultivars have different effects on the body. Terpenes influence the character and effect a cannabis plant will produce. For example, if we took two cultivars with identical cannabinoid profiles but different terpene profiles, each would have a different effect on the user.  

Knowing what cannabinoids and terpenes are in a specific cultivar and how much of each, makes it easier for consumers to choose their best strain. Focusing only on the sativa or indica label isn’t as reliable as each strain is one-of-a-kind and contains a variety of cannabinoids. There is no rule as to which cannabinoids are found where. Sativas and indicas can have the same cannabinoids. One type might just have more or less than the other, making it a hybrid.

While knowing the difference between Indica-like or Sativa-like effects may be a starting point in deciding which cannabis cultivars to use for an individual person and a particular purpose, we know that a more informed, and educated decision can be made by focusing on the cannabinoid and terpene content and their synergy. Like aromatherapy, terpenes can stimulate and sedate. The effect from each depends entirely on the terpene. Below is a list of some of the most well-known terpenes, their fragrance and known benefits:

A Terpene Chart Highlighting the 9 Most Popular Terpenes in Cannabis 

A good way to help you decide on a cannabis product is to consider which terpenes appeal to you. Does the aroma of citrus fruits calm you or do spices like cinnamon and cloves found in caryophyllene help you feel focused? Perhaps both appeal to you and it depends on what you are looking to feel at a particular time. 

Cannabis is a complex plant that contains a variety of compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a range of effects, including pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria. Terpenes, on the other hand, are responsible for the aroma and flavor of cannabis strains and may work in synergy with cannabinoids to produce psychoactive effects. While research on the benefits of cannabis is ongoing, it is showing success as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.  

If using cannabis products, be sure to talk with a health professional to discuss potential benefits and risks. 

 

If you wish to learn more about Cannabis, visit our Cannabis Education Page. 

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