What Is Cannabis: All About Its Compounds And Effects
published on April 13, 2020
Cannabis is the most famous and the most controversial plant ever. On the one hand, it is not perfect: it has side effects, it is obviously understudied, and no one knows exactly how it affects the body and mind of a daily consumer over a few decades. On the other hand, Canada has already made it legal and the US is on the way to federal legalization. Moreover, people suffering from various serious diseases note that marijuana really helps them, reduces certain symptoms, or at least make the whole treatment bearable, for example, when chemotherapy is required. Recreational consumers, in turn, claim that cannabis makes them more creative, focused, productive when they are working, and super relaxed and sleepy when they face insomnia.
So, where is the truth? Who is right and who is wrong? How exactly does this unique plant affect minds and bodies? That is what our article is about. Below, you can find the information about its compounds (terpenes and cannabinoids,) effects, and also ways to consume marijuana.
Compounds Of Marijuana – About THC, CBD & Others
Cannabis contains certain compounds that are called cannabinoids. Scientists note that there are over one hundred cannabinoids in it, and the vast majority of them are understudied. However, the research of the two most common, most popular, most important compounds, which are THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) allows us to discuss the properties and effects produced to this plant and even change them. So let us take a look at them in more detail.
Simply put, there is an endocannabinoid system, and it is part of the human body. It produces cannabinoids itself, but it also responds to cannabinoids in cannabis, or more precisely, its receptors, CB1 and CB2 respond to it. CB1s are found in the brain, and they interact with tetrahydrocannabinol. That is why THC is considered the compound that affects the mind, and not only the body. CB2s is the so-called body receptors, and they, as you might guess, interact with cannabidiol. By the way, THC can interact with CB2 and produce body effects, too, but CBD does not produce euphoric effects because they do not affect the brain. Basically, this is how the system works.
So, there is no doubt these two compounds are the rock stars in the world of cannabinoids. Still, we should not underestimate minor cannabinoids, too. Firstly, they are understudied, and who knows, maybe one of them, for example, CBG-A or CBN will change modern medicine or at least the perception of marijuana forever one day.
Moreover, even if we focus on what we know now, we will find out that minor compounds matter. For example, in your opinion, what is more, powerful and useful, 99% CBD isolate or full-spectrum product that contains minor cannabinoids and tetrahydrocannabinol, too? The right answer is the full-spectrum product just because the synergy between all the compounds produces stronger effects. Maybe, one day we will learn more about minor compounds, but at this stage, this is more than enough to consider their effectiveness.
What are terpenes and are they important?
Does cannabis contain only cannabinoids and nothing but them? Well, this is a unique plant, but it is still a plant, and like a lot of other trees, bushes, flowers, it also contains terpenes. These are secondary metabolites produced to protect the plants from various threats, for example, from pests. In general, there are over 25,000 terpenes, but in cannabis, there are about 15 most common ones. The most prominent of these are myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, terpinolene, and, of course, pinene.
Yes, these compounds make different strains that taste and smell different. A strain that contains more pinene smells more like pine, and a strain that contains more limonene smells more like citrus. However, this is not the only thing terpenes are responsible for.
The most important thing to take into account is that there is a synergy between them and cannabinoids. In 1992, the remarkable discovery was made – it proved that terpenes can affect the same receptors as cannabinoids. Moreover, they produce their own effects and influence on the way cannabinoids affect the human body. Of course, not all of them are studied well enough, but still, even the recognition of how many combinations of existing terpenes and cannabinoids can be created and how many different effects the new strains can produce is mind-blowing.
How Can Marijuana Affect Your Body?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer just because the number of effects as well as the number of possible combinations is nearly endless. That is why we need to divide all possible effects into a few groups: THC positive effects, THC negative effects, CBD positive effects, and CBD negative effects. Special attention should also be paid to therapeutic properties. Generally speaking, this information allows getting a common understanding of how cannabis can affect one’s body and mind.
How tetrahydrocannabinol affects our bodies & minds
There is no doubt THC is like the superstar in the world of cannabinoids. Growers make every effort to increase the level of this compound in their plants, breeders think about the new techniques that would allow making cannabis strains even more potent, and consumers are looking for strains with the high concentration of this cannabinoid. Of course, such excitement is directly related to the effects it produces. So what are they?
- Pure happiness, strong euphoria
- Pain relief
- Overall mood improvement
It produces so many amazing effects, so is this a perfect medication for the body and mind? No, of course, it is not. Like a regular medication, it has its side, obviously negative effects, which are as follows:
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
As you can see, the negative effects of tetrahydrocannabinol seem pretty serious. To avoid them, you need to consume the right dose– the best decision for beginners is not to choose too potent strains and do not consume too much. If you are not sure what “too much” means, consult a budtender.
How cannabidiol affects our bodies & minds
It may seem that CBD is less important than its famous “relative.” Producers of the wide range of CBD products, which, besides, are incredibly popular even though they are not cheap, will hardly agree with that. Cannabidiol also produces a lot of great effects, and can even counteract some negative effects produced by tetrahydrocannabinol.
So what to expect from consuming CBD-rich products?
- Pain relief (sometimes even if it comes to severe, chronic pain and localized pain if topicals are used)
- Treating inflammations (including localized processes)
- Reducing stress and tension
- Better skin
- Improving cognitive functions
- Antipsychotic effects
But what does it produce negative effects, too? In rare cases, the following effects are observed:
- Dry mouth
- Lower blood pressure
- Short-term memory losses
Can We Use Marijuana to treat diseases?
The very existence of such a term as ‘medical cannabis’ is supposed to prove that marijuana can and should be used to treat certain diseases and their symptoms. Well, though this is still widely debated, in most states, this plant is used to treat the following illnesses, conditions and their symptoms:
- Cancer symptoms like pain, vomiting, inflammation
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders
- Mood disorders
- Some gastrointestinal diseases
- Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s
As you can see, the range of diseases the symptoms of which can be treated with marijuana is pretty wide. Though it is not a panacea and though it works for most people, not for all patients, it is still a great alternative to some medications with serious side effects.
But how exactly do the above-mentioned compounds act and interact? Let us take a look.
Therapeutic effects produced by tetrahydrocannabinol are as follows:
- Pain relief
- Cramps cure
- Relaxing effect, causing sleepiness
- Giving an appetite
- Improving a patient’s mood
Therapeutic effects produced by cannabidiol are as follows:
- Reducing inflammatory process
- Pain relief
- Treating migraines
- Improving the condition of the patient suffering from mental disorders
- Treating nausea
- Relaxation, mood improvement
Please note that even though the number of therapeutic effects is pretty impressive, as we noted before, cannabis is not a panacea, not an ideal medication that treats all diseases from gastrointestinal diseases to mental illnesses. Nevertheless, if patients know how to use it (consultation of a good doctor and a professional budtender in a dispensary is a must), they can benefit from it significantly, reduce numerous symptoms, improve the mood, and make treatment bearable, if necessary.
We do not know everything about cannabis. Maybe, it can do even more, but now, these are the things people are certain of.
What Are Cannabis Strains
Even if you have never smoked weed before, you have probably heard about cannabis strains. It may seem that one does not need any specific explanations of what strain of a plant is, but in the case of cannabis, it is necessary.
So, initially, there were three species of this plant:
- Indica: short and quite compact plant, larger yields, make a consumer feel the so-called body high (full relaxation, relief.)
- Sativa: a tall plant with long, narrow leaves (which have already become the symbol of cannabis), long-lasting effects, make a consumer feel the mental high (euphoria, happiness.)
- Ruderalis: was found in Siberia, now grows in Europe and some countries of Asia, does not contain enough THC to make a consumer feel high, was used for creating new autoflowering strains.
Though ruderalis is one of the species, the first two of them are much more important because they are usually used in the cannabis industry. Growers have their own opinions about each of them and use them in different ways, but from the point of view of a consumer, Indica is relaxing and Sativa is energizing and euphoric.
So why do we talk about two species instead of discussing cannabis strains? Does it mean that there are only two types of marijuana, Sativa- and Indica-dominant ones? No, it is much more complicated. Decades of studies, scientific researches, and experiments have paid off. Today, people can cross Indica and Sativa and get numerous hybrids, which, in turn, can be crossed, too. So, we have thousands or thousands of possible and existing varieties of cannabis, and they are called cannabis strains.
Why do we even need cannabis strain? Well, everything is simple – experimenting with species, levels of THC and CBD allows creating the marijuana that produces a set of different effects. Generally speaking, they can be divided into four main groups:
- Euphoric. These strains are perfect for people suffering from depression and other mood disorders. They can be as energizing, as relaxing depending on the percentage of Indica/Sativa, ratio, and levels of cannabinoids and terpenes.
- Relaxing. Most of these strains are the so-called nighttime strains that are used to treat insomnia or just relax in the evening. However, not all of them make you sleepy – some of them are also great for watching TV, reading a book or some other similar activity because they make you stay clear-headed and even a bit focused.
- Arousing. Energetic strains are also known as the daytime strains because they act better than coffee. These varieties of marijuana make a consumer feel energetic, uplifted, and also can turn boring household chores into an engaging activity. In most cases, such strains are consumed in the morning or in the afternoon.
- Focusing. These strains are used to be more focused on what you are doing now. They are especially popular with people who need something to get inspired, remote workers, freelancers. Moreover, such strains are often used by artists, musicians, writers – they are loved for their ability to make you super-creative and productive, too.
The best thing about this plant is the number of possible combinations of effects and therefore, strains are nearly endless. Moreover, a euphoric strain is not just euphoric. The focusing strain is doing more than just making you focused on something. You can pick an amazing daytime strain to be more concentrated, inspired and motivated, or a daytime strain to be more creative, or a nighttime strain to treat insomnia and feel that body buzz.
Is Smoking The Only Way To Consume Cannabis?
In short, no it is not. Buds and even oils are not the only products that can be used – there are also tinctures, edibles and even topicals that can be used to treat various symptoms or just to have a great time. In general, all products and ways to consume marijuana can be divided into two large groups: smoking and smoke-free groups.
Inhaling the smoke – Why still popular?
Some may ask “Why do people continue to smoke weed if there are so many great ways to consume marijuana and amazing cannabis products?” Well, this is a good question. Firstly, smoking, as well as vaping allows feeling the effects in a very short time, literally within seconds or minutes. The effects are pretty lasting, too – a consumer feels high and/or relieved during two-three hours. Sounds good, right?
It should also be noted that vaping is even better for heavy smokers than smoking a joint. Firstly, oil is vaporized. Part of the weed in a joint, however, is just burned while inhaling. This means two things: you waste less when vaporizing oils than when smoking, and you feel the more powerful effects. Is this good? Not always. As we have noted before, cannabis can produce negative effects, too, so overdose is no good. Consequently, vaping is better for experienced consumers than for beginners.
By the way, there are also pipes, water pipes, bongs, that can also be considered as smoking ways to consume marijuana. Though they are still popular, there are also people who do not really like the smell and taste of cannabis, even when it comes to the tastiest strains.
Smoke-free ways – Good alternative to smoking?
The growing popularity of smoke-free ways can be easily explained. Firstly, it is the perfect way to consume marijuana for people who do not want others to know about this. Secondly, it solves all the problems for people who have the plant’s natural smell. Finally, some of these products are really easy to dose. So, let us take a look at the range of modern CBD and/or THC products.
- Tinctures. This is like taking a medication – you have a dose, you have a medication, you know what you need to do and what to expect from it. People who want to feel the effects of cannabis, just place a few drops under their tongues or add a few drops to their beverage and enjoy them without any smoke or problems with dosage.
- Capsules. Capsules can contain cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol (or both) too. In this case, we do not even need to explain anything – such pills can be taken as regular pills.
- Edibles. This is the most controversial and one of the most favorite ways to consume cannabis for lots of people worldwide. On the one hand, this is just tasty – there are a lot of cannabis sweets you can make or buy. On the other hand, you never know when it is too much unless you are an experienced consumer who knows exactly how much you need to feel what you expect to feel. This is especially important considering that effects can last for 8-12 hours after you eat a chocolate bar or some gummy bears with cannabis. If you do everything right, long-lasting effects are great, but if you do anything wrong, the consequences can be very unpleasant.
- Topicals. Yes, some topicals contain a lot of cannabidiol. As we have noted before, cannabis can also be used to relieve localized pain, as well as to reduce localized inflammation – in such cases, topicals are more helpful than anything else.
As you can see, smoking buds is not the only option to consume marijuana. There are even such techniques as microdosing that are supposed to produce more powerful effects and can be especially useful for people who use cannabis for medical purposes.
Is it possible to list all the effects produced by this plant? No, it is not, and not only because it is still understudied or because it can produce any effects. The thing is they depend. They depend on lots of factors Indica/Sativa ratio, level of THC, the concentration of CBD, the strain, the one who consumes it, etc. We do not even know everything about minor cannabinoids and terpenes, we know only that there are a lot of them. Just imagine that there are over one hundred cannabinoids not including the two most famous ones, and lots of terpenes.
The number of possible combinations and ratios is endless, especially considering that growers can cross hybrids to get other hybrids and so on to infinity. All this makes cannabis, not just a special plant that can help you relax in the evening but also a plant that has an enormous potential when it comes to medicine and recreational use.
But, even if we focus on what we know about it now, we will find out that marijuana is not just something that only brings high. There is a reason why the majority of states have already made it legal, at least when it comes to medical use. This plant can significantly improve the quality of life for someone who is trying to treat a certain disease or someone who just wants to get rid of depression without being addicted.