The Cannabis Plant
The cannabis plant, like other herbs and plants, is filled with active components including cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids that interact with the brain and body to create certain effects. Using whole plant medicine instead of an isolated pharmaceutical medicine is important because of the entourage effect where the combinations of active components work together to increase the therapeutic effect.
It’s also important to note that there is a difference between medicinal cannabis plants and industrial hemp plants. Some products made from industrial hemp claim to have CBD for medicinal use, but according to research from places such as ProjectCBD.org, this is not true. Hemp plants are low-resin which means they are low in cannabinoid content. High-resin plants which have phytocannabinoids, terpendoids and flavonoids, have proven medical effects.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system regulates the most important physiologic systems in the body. It gets turned on when there is an imbalance due to illness, injury or disease and works to rebalance the area affected. If the endocannabinoid system is not working properly there is an imbalance, which can lead to further health issues. The cannabis plant is a natural medicine that rebalances the endocannabinoid system to help heal health conditions.
Read this article for a more In Depth Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System: by Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist, scientist, and currently the director of research and development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute in Prague.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that activate cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body. It is often described as a lock and key. Our body has receptors or keyholes that the cannabinoid key locks into. There are two main cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system. CB1 receptors exist mainly in the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. CB2 receptors are located in areas of the body related to the immune system, peripheral nervous system and bone. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the heart, liver, gastrointestinal system, reproductive system and skin.
The main two cannabinoids are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is known to be most helpful for neuropathic pain, sleep, cancer, autism, and as a muscle relaxant, but is also helpful for inflammation, nausea, anxiety and depression. CBD is known to be most helpful for anxiety, depression, inflammation, psychosis, spasms and seizures, but is also effective for pain and injuries to the central nervous system, brain and spine.
Terpenes are essential oils that exist in all plants, trees and flowers giving them their scent such as limonene found in citrus, linalool in lavender, caryophyllene in pepper and myrcene in hops. Phytocannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically together to provide therapeutic effects. Here is a chart showing the 10 most common terpenes found in cannabis.
Each cannabis plant has its own set of terpenes. Our three favorite strains of CBD rich cannabis are Critical Mass, Mango Haze and Therapy. The top three terpenes in Critical Mass are myrcene, pinene and carophyllene. In Mango Haze the top three are linalool, pinene and myrcene, and in Therapy they are myrcene, pinene and camphene.
Here is a research article by Dr. Ethan Russo in the British Journal of Pharmacology called Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects covering the wide-ranging therapeutic attributes of terpenoids in cannabis .
In addition to cannabinoids and terpenoids, there are 20 Flavonoid compounds in the cannabis plant which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-allergic properties. All together this makes for a pretty potent natural medicine!
The Power of Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System
For your viewing pleasure, here is an excellent presentation on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system by Dr. Bonnie Goldstein.