Medical cannabis has proven itself time and again to be an effective and safe medicine when used appropriately and under the recommendation of a physician. We strongly encourage anyone who is considering using medical marijuana to educate themselves on the benefits and potential risks of it’s use so that they can make informed decisions about their own healthcare.
In most contexts, there is no real difference between the terms “cannabis” and “marijuana.” They both are words that are used to refer to the plants native to southern Asia of the species cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa is part of the Cannabaceae family, which is the same family of plants to which hops belong.
Cannabis sativa has been widely cultivated throughout all of recorded human history, and its use as a medicine and also a fiber plant and food dates back to 8,000 B.C.
At Galenas, while we can use marijuana and cannabis interchangeably to describe the plant, we typically use “cannabis” as it avoids some of the pejorative undertones often associated with the criminal history of cannabis sativa.
Forms of Cannabis
Cannabis Flower is the most common and least potent form of cannabis. Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the plant.
Hashish (“hash”) is dried cannabis resin, usually in the form of a small block. The concentration of THC in hashish is higher than in marijuana, producing stronger effects.
Hash oil is a thick, oily liquid, golden brown to black in colour, which is extracted from cannabis. Hash oil is the strongest form of cannabis.
Oil can be processed into a variety of forms which can be inhaled, used in cooking and making edibles, and also further refined into a water-soluble form for infusion into beverages.
The THC in cannabis is absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the lungs (if inhaled), or through the walls of the stomach and intestines (if eaten). The bloodstream carries the THC to the brain, producing the “high” effects. Drugs inhaled get into the bloodstream quicker than those eaten. This means that the effects of cannabis when smoked occur more rapidly than when eaten.
Paper and textiles
Some species of cannabis have few psychoactive effects. These plants are used to produce hemp fibre for use in paper, textiles and clothing.
Cannabis has been used for medical purposes for many centuries. It has been reported that cannabis may be useful to help conditions such as:
· nausea and vomiting, particularly when associated with chemotherapy
· wasting and severe weight loss, in people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or anorexia nervosa, as it may be used as an appetite stimulant
· pain relief, for example in people with cancer and arthritis
· relief from symptoms of some neurological disorders that involve muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury
The differences between growing media for cannabis cultivation are vast, but are often also overlooked when people think about the cannabis they are consuming. There are pros and cons to each way of growing, and growing techniques aren’t limited to soil and hydroponic systems. They are the two primary methods however, and so they are worth understanding for anyone that cares about where their medicine is coming from.
Hydroponic growing, as the name implies, typically means a water-based cultivation system whereby the roots of the plant are in constant or almost constant contact with a nutrient-rich water solution. This solution typically consists of only the absolute essentials for the plant and will give the grower much more control over the end result than a soil-based grow. Common substrates for hydroponic grows include rockwool, perlite, coco-coir, and hydroton (clay pebbles).
Conversely, soil is the media that these plants evolved in and is much more complicated than hydroponics simply due to the massive amount of variables that are present in a soil based grow. In any given batch of soil, a grower is dealing with a whole world of bacteria, microbes, nutrient combinations, and other organisms that can help or hinder the end quality of the plant.
At Galenas, we have chosen to grow in an organic, living soil medium. We think this is better for the plants, and better for patients.
Living soil, as opposed to run-of-the-mill potting soil, is often thought of as planting material that centers on compost and has an active microbiology and biodiversity, which can include worms and their castings, protozoa, healthy bacteria, amoebas, kelp extracts, and other ingredients to create a truly living biome underneath the plant.
Cultivators who create a biodiverse growing media don’t need to rely much or at all on fertilizers because microbes eat and digest compounds that create bioavailable fertilizers.
As a result, growers using living soil often report larger yields and better cannabinoid and terpene profiles. At Galenas, our philosophy is that what’s good for the plants is good for our customers.
While the word sounds technical and maybe a little daunting, it’s important to understand just what is in the cannabis we are consuming. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that exist in cannabis flowers which provide relief to a wide swath of symptoms and conditions including nausea, pain, anxiety, inflammation, seizure conditions, and many more. Cannabinoids provide their therapeutic benefit by imitating chemicals that occur naturally in our bodies, called endocannabinoids, which activate to maintain overall bodily health and homeostasis.
These chemicals aid in the communication and proper functioning that occurs between cells, and when there is a deficiency or problem with our endocannabinoid system, unpleasant symptoms and physical complications occur.
When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout our brain (receptors called CB-1) and body (CB-2). Different cannabinoids have different effects because they bind to different receptors.
Cannabis contains at least 85 types of cannabinoids, with some estimates pushing that number up to as many as 113. The commonly known cannabinoids include THC and CBD, but there are obviously many others. Many of these cannabinoids have clinically documented medical value. At Galenas, our focus is on producing plants with a broad cannabinoid profile as opposed to only focusing on THC and CBD alone.
While Terpenes and Terpenoids are two different chemicals, we’re not going to go into that distinction here, as it’s fairly technical and unnecessary for a high level overview. Put simply, terpenes give cannabis its flavor and aroma. When connoisseurs talk about their preferences in flavors and aromas from one strain to another, what they are really comparing is terpene profiles. Terpenes are essential oils that live in the same glands as the cannabinoids (THC and CBD). These glands are called trichomes. Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis; they exist in every plant on earth.
Terpenes do more than just give flavor to cannabis flower. They are directly responsible for the unique feeling associated with each strain. Two plants could have similar cannabinoid structures, but completely different terpene structures. The terpene structures would result in two vastly differing experiences.
Sativas, for instance, typically smell bright and have strong citrus notes. The citrus smell comes from the terpene limonene, which is found in lemons. Limonene is responsible for the uplifted feeling typically found in sativa-dominant strains. Limonene also helps stimulate the immune system and protects the GI tract.
Terpenes associated with Indica strains are alpha and beta pinene, which are found in pine trees. Pinene has great anti-inflammatory properties, which helps with the pain relieving aspects of cannabis. Linalool is also predominant in Indica strains. This floral terpene is to thank for the sedative effect in lavender.
Terpenes interact with a person’s body chemistry when they are smelled and inhaled. They allow someone to “sample” a strain without consuming it. When picking out cannabis flower or concentrate, it’s important to smell the strain because the smell is a good indication of how that particular strain will work with someone’s body chemistry.
After the Mexican revolution ended in 1920, the USA saw an influx of immigration from Mexico into southern states, such as Texas and Louisiana. Not surprising, these new Americans brought with them their native language, culture and customs. One of these customs was the use of cannabis as a medicine and relaxant. Mexican immigrants referred to this plant as “marihuana”. While Americans were very familiar with “cannabis” because it was present in almost all tinctures and medicines available at the time, the word “marihuana” was a foreign term.
The media began to play on the fears that the public had about these new citizens by falsely spreading claims about the “disruptive Mexicans” with their dangerous native behaviors including marihuana use. The rest of the nation did not know that this “marihuana” was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets. The demonization of the cannabis plant was an extension of the demonization of the Mexican immigrants. In an effort to control and keep tabs on these new citizens, El Paso, TX borrowed a play from San Francisco’s playbook, which had outlawed opium decades earlier in an effort to control Chinese immigrants. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants. That excuse became marijuana.
During hearings on marijuana law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the backdrop for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively banned its use and sales. While the Act was ruled unconstitutional years later, it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970’s, which established Schedules for ranking substances according to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. Cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, supposedly as a place holder while then President Nixon commissioned a report to give a final recommendation.
In the mid 1990’s, California became the first US State to legalize medical cannabis with the approval of Proposition 215. Since that time, 33 States have passed legislation legalizing medical cannabis while 11 others & Washington DC have legalized adult recreational use. Roughly 240 million Americans are living in states with some kind of legal policy.
The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of several integrated mechanisms:
· Enzymes responsible for creating and destroying cannabinoids
· Receptor sites on cells to receive cannabinoids
· Endocannabinoids themselves (cannabinoid-like compounds that are naturally produced by the human body)
These mechanisms are predominantly responsible for communication within the body to best regulate various biological responses.
One of the prime questions raised in these early studies was whether or not the body produces its own natural equivalents to the previously discovered compounds called phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD, found in the cannabis plant. The answer turned out to be “yes” – in the form of the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, which are like the two prominent analogs to THC and CBD. With the understanding that the cannabinoid system allows humans to create our own cannabinoids, the door to deconstructing their purpose was opened.
Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types. At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury.
The endocannabinoid system, with its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all of the body’s organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system we begin to see a mechanism that explains how states of consciousness can promote health or disease.
In addition to regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence a person’s relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity.