Cannabis is a flowering plant that has fibrous stalks used for paper, clothing, rope, and building materials leaves, flowers, and roots used for medicinal purposes, and seeds used for food and fuel oil. Cannabis leaves and flowers are consumed in several forms: dried flower buds or various types of concentrated, loose, or pressed resin extracted from the flowers or leaves through a variety of methods. Once mature, the plant’s leaves and flowers are covered with trichomes, tiny glands of resinous oil containing cannabinoids and terpenes that provide physical and psychoactive effects.
100+ different types of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Concentrations or percent of each type of cannabinoid ranges widely from plant to plant and strain to strain.
The first identified and best-known cannabinoid is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC has the most significant psychoactive effect of the cannabinoids. The ratio of THC to other cannabinoids varies from strain to strain. While THC has been the focus of breeding and research due to its various psychoactive and therapeutic effects, non-psychoactive cannabinoids have physiologic effects that can be therapeutic.
Cannabidiol (CBD) relieves convulsions, inflammation, anxiety and nausea—many of the same therapeutic qualities as THC but without psycoactive effects. It is the main cannabinoid in low-THC cannabis strains, and modern breeders have been developing strains with greater CBD content for medical use.
- Cannabinol (CBN) is mildly psychoactive, decreases intraocular pressure, and seizure occurrence.
- Cannabichromene (CBC) promotes the analgesic effects (pain relief) of THC and has sedative (calming) effects.
- Cannabigerol (CBG) has sedative effects and antimicrobial properties, as well as lowers intraocular pressure.
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is showing promise for type 2 diabetes and related metabolic disorders.
- In addition to cannabinoids, other cannabis plant molecules are biologically active. A few other molecules known to have health effects are flavonoids and terpenes or terpenoids (the flavor and smell of the strain). Cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds are secreted by the glandular trichomes found most densely on the floral leaves and flowers of female plants.
Different people have different experiences. One individual may feel stress release, while another feels over-stimulated and stressed, while another feels energized and on-task. There are many factors that impact the effect:
- Amount used (dosage)
- Strain of cannabis used and method of consumption
- Experience and history of cannabis use
- Mindset or mood
- Nutrition or diet
- Types of Cannabis
Though cannabis is biologically classified as the single species Cannabis Sativa, there are at least three distinct plant varieties: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis, though the last is rare. There are also hybrids, which are crosses between sativa and indica varieties. Cannabis used for fiber is typically referred to as hemp and has only small amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, usually less than 1%.
Genetic “breeders” of the cannabis seed have developed thousands of different strains of cannabis from these three varieties. There are marked differences between sativa, indica, and hybrid. Today, we mostly find hybrids. It can be difficult to find pure indica or sativa.
All types of medical cannabis produce effects that are more similar than not, including pain and nausea control, appetite stimulation, reduced muscle spasm, improved sleep, and others. But individual strains will have differing cannabinoid and terpene content, producing noticeably different effects. Many people report finding some strains more beneficial than others. For instance, strains with more CBD tend to produce better pain and spasticity relief. As noted above, effects will also vary for an individual based on the setting in which it is used and the person’s physiological state when using it.
In general, sativas and indicas are frequently distinguished as follows:
The primary effects are on thoughts and feelings. Sativas tend to produces stimulating feelings, and many prefer it for daytime use. Some noted therapeutic effects from use of Sativas:
- Increased sense of well-being, focus, creativity
- Reduces depression, elevates mood
- Relieves headaches/migraines/nausea
- Increases appetite
- Some noted Side-Effects from use of Sativas
- Increased anxiety feelings
- Increased paranoia feelings
The primary effects are on the body. Indicas tend to produce sedated feelings, and many prefer it for nighttime use.
Some noted Therapeutic Effects from use of Indicas:
- Provides relaxation/reduces stress
- Relaxes muscles/spasms
- Reduces pain/inflammation/headaches/migraines
- Helps sleep
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces nausea, stimulates appetite
- Reduces intra-ocular pressure
- Reduces seizure frequency/anti-convulsant
- Some noted side-effects from use of Indicas:
- Feelings of tiredness
- “Fuzzy” thinking
Strains bred from crossing two or more varieties, with typically one dominant. For example, a sativa-dominant cross may be helpful in stimulating appetite and relaxing muscle spasms. Crosses are reported to work well to combat nausea and increase appetite.