We’ve all been there – you’re new, excited, and a little apprehensive about Cannabis. Welcome to the world of Cannabis. Here we’ll go over all the bread and butter basics for using Cannabis to increase your quality of life!
Cannabis sativa, also known as Marijuana or “Weed,” is a plant with medicinal properties. The Cannabis plant was grown in ancient times as an important textile crop in multiple areas of the world, and the first recorded medicinal use of Cannabis was in China in 2700 BC (1)!
It was used as the first anesthetic for early surgical procedures in China in the form of Cannabis boiled in wine. In 1869, Robert Hooke, the scientist who first discovered living cells (and, thus, father of molecular biology), stated that Cannabis might “possibly be of considerable use Lunatiks, or for other Distempers of the Head and Stomach.” (1-2)
This was the first record of Cannabis in Western medicine, indicating that it has applications in mental health as well as gastrointestinal/appetite disorders. Hooke went on to say that Cannabis was non-toxic; he said “there was no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.” (2)
Obviously Cannabis has fallen out of political favor since then. However, the therapeutic applications for Cannabis continue to grow. Today, Cannabis is being used to help millions of people. Here is a list of symptoms that may be improved with Cannabis use (3-5):
Depression/Mood Regulation Disorders
Cannabis is a plant that contains many unique chemicals. It was classically believed that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, was the only psychoactive ingredient (6). Recently, it’s been found that cannabidiol, or CBD, also has therapeutic properties and that the ratio of THC and CBD can be altered to give specific therapeutic profiles (6).
Cannabis also contains compounds called Terpenes that give it the distinct smell and taste. Although they are not believed to be psychoactive, recent reports indicate they may play an important role in the overall effect of Cannabis strains (7-9). For more information on terpenes and “The Entourage Effect” see our blog post here.
If you’re curious and want to find out more about how THC and CBD work in the body to produce the effects of Cannabis, check out our section on The Endocannabinoid System here.
The most common method of using Cannabis is smoking “flower” (10). As the name implies, Cannabis flower is the flowering part of the plant. It may not look like the colorful flowers we’re used to, but it is, in fact, the same reproductive structure of the plant.
The flowers on Cannabis plants contain microscopic mushroom-shaped structures called trichomes. These trichomes contain the active compounds and look like tiny crystals dusting the outside of Cannabis flowers. When processing and handling Cannabis, this dust can fall off the flower. When collected, it can be smoked or vaped, and is called kief.
Inhaling dried flower by either smoking or vaping is an ideal method for fast-acting relief. Additionally, you will find the larest diversity of product options is found in flower. Flower is the raw form of Cannabis, and all other products are derived from flower.
Infusions are made by extracting the active ingredients in Cannabis into a liquid solvent. If you’ve ever had a strawberry infused lemonade or any sort of gin (juniper-infused vodka), it works in a similar fashion, except that Cannabis is infused in fat-containing liquids like butter or oil.
All edibles, foods containing Cannabis, are made using infusions. So are tinctures, which are typically Cannabis infused in alcohol. One consideration when eating Cannabis infused products is that the effects may take up to an hour to begin and will last much longer.
These Cannabis infusions can be distilled or concentrated down to form various forms of Cannabis concentrate: shatter, wax, rosin, sap, and vape oil. Cannabis concentrates are recommended for more experienced users who know that they need larger doses. Concentrates can be smoked by dabbing or vaped in a vaporizer.
(1) Pain, S. (2015) A potted history, Nature 525, S10-S11.
(2) Bennet, J. (2003) London’s Leonardo: The Life and Work of Robert Hooke, Oxford University Press, 205-206.
(3) Webb, C. W., and Webb, S. M. (2014) Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis: A Patient’s Survey, Hawaii J Med Public Health 73(4), ePub.
(4) Rosenberg, E. C., et al. (2015) Cannabinoids and Epilepsy, Neurotherapeutics 12(4), 747-768.
(5) Kopper, B. S. (2015) Cannabis in the Treatment of Dystonia, Dyskinesia, and Tics, Neurotherapeutics 12(4), 788-792.
(6) Maroon, J., and Bost, J. (2018) Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids, Surg Neurol Int 9(91), ePub.
(7) Aizpurua-Olaizola, O., et al (2016) Evolution of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Content during the Growth of Cannabis sativa Plants from Different Chemotypes, J Nat Prod 79(2), 324-331.
(8) Baron, E. P., Lucas, P., Eades, J., and Hogue, O. (2018) Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort, J Headache Pain 19(1), 37.
(9) Blasco-Benito, S., et al. (2018) Appraising the “entourage effect”: Antitumor action of a pure cannabinoid versus a botanical drug preparation in preclinical models of breast cancer, Biochem Pharmacol, ePub.
(10) McNabb, M., et al. (2018) National Cannabis Consumer and Patient Survey, C3RN.
Glossary of Terms
(in order of appearance)
Cannabis: a fast-growing plant that has been used for centuries for both its medicinal applications and for its fibers (hemp). Also known as Marijuana, Mary Jane, Ganja, or Weed.
THC: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis. This means the THC in Cannabis activates a system in both the brain and body that causes the therapeutic effects of Cannabis.
CBD: Cannabidoil, or CBD, is another compound that naturally occurs in Cannabis. Although it is believed to be non-psychoactive, CBD has been shown to have many therapeutic effects. Furthermore the ratio between THC:CBD can be altered to obtain specific therapeutic profiles.
Terpenes: Technically terpenes are an entire class of molecules that share a specific shape, but in Cannabis, specifically, they are the molecules that give it the distinct smell and taste. Terpenes are not believed to be active components, but this is currently under investigation as more evidence of “The Entourage Effect” comes to light.
Flower: The reproductive part of the plant. In Cannabis, the flower is what contains the active ingredients THC, CBD, and others. It can be directly used by smoking or vaping. All other products are derived from flower.
Vaporizer: A piece of equipment used to inhale Cannabis flower or concentrate. Vaporizers typically give you more control over a lower temperature than smoking, which decreases the smoke and other particles besides THC and CBD.
Trichomes: Small mushroom-shaped structures that naturally occur on the outside of Cannabis flowers. They produce THC, CBD, and terpenes. To the naked eye they appear to be a crystal coating on Cannabis flowers. Trichomes are believed to have evolved as a defense mechanism for the Cannabis plant, creating a bitter taste so that herbivores would not eat the precious flowers.
Kief: An accumulation of trichomes from Cannabis flower that have fallen off the flower. It looks much like green/brown dust and is very concentrated. It can be smoked or vaped.
Infusions: Cannabis infusions are fat-containing liquids that contain the active compounds of Cannabis. Infusions can either be directly taken or ingested in Cannabis-containing food, or edibles.
Edibles: Cannabis-containing food products. They are created by cooking with infusions.
Concentrates: Any form of Cannabis that contains a higher amount of THC and/or CBD. Examples of concentrates are kief, wax, shatter, rosin, sap, and vape oil.
Dabbing: A method for using Cannabis concentrates. A small portion (or a “dab”) of concentrate (wax, rosin, shatter, sap, etc) is heated using either a hot stick.
Wax: Also known as butane hash oil, was is a Cannabis concentrate. It can be inhaled by either dabbing or vaping.
Shatter: Transparent Cannabis concentrate that appears smooth, amber, and shiny. It can be inhaled by either dabbing or vaping.
Sap: A type of shatter that is sticky and more liquid than solid. This is usually due to high CBD content, although other compounds such as terpenes may have an effect as well. It can be inhaled by either dabbing or vaping.
Rosin: A Cannabis concentrate that is produced with extreme heat and pressure; also called a “solventless” concentrate. Many believe the process of making rosin is cleaner than that of shatter, wax, or sap. Rosin can be inhaled by either dabbing or vaping.
Vape Oil: A Cannabis concentrate infusion, usually in vegetable oil, coconut oil, or propylene glycol. It can be inhaled by vaping.