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Cannabis 101

It’s a new day for cannabis in America. More than 65 million Americans live in one of the  states where cannabis is legal for adults 21 and over, and more than half of the country has laws on the books allowing medical marijuana in some form. This means more people than ever may try cannabis for the first time, or for the first time in several decades—which may as well be starting out all over again, given the light-years of progress in the ensuing generation.
So this is for you—you, the unstoned, who hasn’t seen a joint in 30 years or a dab, ever. 
(Yes, we’ll explain what a “dab” is.)

What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with receptors in the brain and body to create various effects. There exist dozens, and potentially more than 100, cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but THC is most widely known among these due to its abundance and psychoactive attributes.

What do Cannabinoids do?

Cannabinoids are neuromodulators, which means they affect the processes of multiple neurons, rather than simply sending messages back and forth between two (like neurotransmitters). In fact, since they are created in the "receiving" cell and sent to the "sending" cell, they actually affect how many neurotransmitters get released (back to the "receiving" cell). What happens next depends on the cannabinoid and its receptor's location.

The endocannabinoid system affects various processes including memory and sensory information processing, pain-sensation, reproductive functions, mood, appetite, immune responses, and involuntary movements (i.e. seizures). While cannabinoid receptors can be found within multiple systems in the body, the CB1 receptor is most plentiful in the brain while CB2 is predominantly located in the immune system.

What are the effects of Cannabinoids?

What aren't their effects? Anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, antioxidant, appetite stimulant, mood stabilizer, pain relief, and even brain cell protection and repair.

Understanding cannabinoids starts with the two of the most recognizable cannabinoids: THC and CBD (Cannabidiol).

What is THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high. Whether the question comes as a newbie to the cannabis world or an experienced consumer who would like to know a bit more about the most famous of cannabinoids, THC has likely been synonymous with cannabis in your mind for as long as you’ve known about the plant.

Some short-term effects of THC include:
  • Elation
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Pain relief
  • Memory impairment
  • Energy
  • Hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Slowed perception of time
  • Laughter
  • Dizziness
  • “Couch-lock,” or feeling heavy
  • Anxiety/paranoia (THC can overexcite the neural pathways and lead to anxiety and paranoia, especially in individuals who are new or unaccustomed to cannabis.)

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis, second only to THC in abundance. These plant-derived cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant in Greek), are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of Cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-psychoactive and displays a broad range of potential medical applications. These properties make it especially attractive as a therapeutic agent. Don’t expect to get “high” off of this organic chemical, however. CBD is all relaxation without intoxication.

Some short-term effects of  CBD  include:
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidant
  • neuroprotectant
  • anxiolytic
  • antidepressant
  • analgesic
  • anti-tumoral agent
  • anti-psychotic

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The Endocannabinoid 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, 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. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity, and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person's open-mindedness and ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations. Reformatting these old patterns is an essential part of health in our quickly changing environment.

What are Terpenes?

The cannabis plant consists of a wide variety of chemicals and compounds. About 140 of these belong to a large class of aromatic organic hydrocarbons known as terpenes (pronounced tur-peens). You may have also heard people talk about terpenoids. The words terpene and terpenoid are increasingly used interchangeably, although these terms do have different meanings. The main difference between terpenes and terpenoids is that terpenes are hydrocarbons (meaning the only elements present are carbon and hydrogen); whereas, terpenoids have been denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers) or chemically modified. Terpenes are common constituents of flavorings and fragrances. Terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are responsible for the aroma of cannabis.

5 common terpenes found in cannabis:
1. Limonene
Flavor / Aroma – Citrus.
Uses – Limonene can be used to help promote weight loss, prevent and treat cancer, and treat bronchitis. It can also be used to make ointments and  creams that penetrate the skin better.

2. Myrcene
Flavor / Aroma – Earthy and musky with a hint of fruity flavors.
Uses – Myrcene has been shown to be an effective anti inflammatory. It also works as a sedative and muscle relaxer. This could possible contribute to the tired/stoney feeling often attributed to indicas.

3. Linalool
Flavor / Aroma – Floral with a hint of spice. In addition to cannabis, linalool can be found in an array of flowers,mint, cinnamon, and even some fungi.
Uses – Can be used as an anti inflammatory. It also helps to modulate motor movements. 

4. Alpha Bisabolol
Flavor / Aroma – Floral. Alpha bisabolol is also found in chamomile.
Uses – Can be used to heal wounds, fights bacteria, and can be used a deodorizer. Research suggests alpha bisabolol has been effective in treating a variety of inflammations.

5. Delta 3 Carene
Flavor / Aroma – Piney / earthy.
Uses – Studies have found Delta 3 Carene to be an effective anti inflammatory. It is also known to dry fluids like tears, running noses, and menstrual flows.

What are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists, and include over 6,000 already-identified family members. About 20 of these compounds, including apigenin, quercetin, cannflavin A and cannflavin B (so far unique to cannabis), β-sitosterol, vitexin, isovitexin, kaempferol, luteolin and orientin have been identified in the cannabis plant. Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits, as well as their contribution of vibrant color to the many of the foods we eat (the blue in blueberries or the red in raspberries).
Some flavonoids extracted from the cannabis plant have been tested for pharmacological effects. The clinical findings are promising, but further research is needed to fully understand what role flavonoids play in the overall therapeutic effects of cannabis treatment, especially how they interact with cannabinoids by either synergistically enhancing them or reducing their effects.

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