Cannabis is a plant containing many different medicinal compounds, better known as cannabinoids. If you are to truly understand what the cannabis plant can do for the human body, you must first familiarize yourself with cannabinoids. It is these unique compounds that make each strain so special, from its particular aroma and flavor, to its potent medicinal and/or recreational effects.
You may have already heard about THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) – two of the most well-known and most-studied cannabinoids. These chemical compounds interact with receptors inside the human body, which ultimately results in a broad range of effects, such as relaxation, happiness and pain relief.
But wait a second… why are cannabinoids capable of communicating with our bodies and producing so many different effects?
Well, the answer to this question lies within the endocannabinoid system. Before we learn about this incredible network inside the brain and body, enlighten yourself on the topic of cannabinoids.
What Are Cannabinoids?
The cannabis plant produces over 400 cannabinoids, 113 of which have been identified thus far. Among the many cannabinoids produced by the plant, the most well-known are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Cannabinoids are found in the plant’s trichomes. These tiny crystals have a frost-like appearance and you may notice some strains of cannabis have more than others, because cannabis cultivators are learning how to grow plants with higher cannabinoid percentages.
Strains with high-THC, low-CBD content will be a lot more psychoactive than strains with high-CBD, low-THC. After all, THC is a mind-altering chemical, whereas CBD is not. Instead, CBD is known for being a potent medical powerhouse of a cannabinoid with neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some other cannabinoids that possess healing effects include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC).
What are Endocannabinoids?
Understand that cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are somewhat different. Cannabinoids are produced by the cannabis plant. Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are produced naturally by our bodies.
“Endo” is short for “endogenous”, which is the term applied to something that originates inside the human body. Although endocannabinoids are unique to cannabis-producing cannabinoids, the effects and properties of the two are actually very similar.
How is this, you ask? Well, both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids react with cannabinoid receptors – cells inside the brain and body. When this happens, you may experience a feeling of euphoria or pain-relief, among many other different effects.
Scientists have been studying endocannabinoids consistently for many years. They have discovered two frequently occurring endocannabinoids – anandamide and 2-AG. Examples of some more endocannabinoids that have been detected in the human body include N-arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA), virodhamine and noladin.
While the effects of each endocannabinoid may be different, scientists believe that their main function is to promote homeostasis.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system, or the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) if you will, is a physiologic system named after the cannabis plant itself. It is an incredible network that is woven into the brain, immune cells, organs, glands and connective tissues. Thanks to in-depth scientific research, we have discovered that the ECS is among the most influential factor in human health.
Every single human body has an ECS built into it naturally, whether you realize it or not. This spectacular system is constantly working to maintain a stable environment inside, regardless of what is happening on the outside. Sometimes, environmental factors such as poor air quality and stressful surroundings may throw the system off balance.
The good news is that when the correct cannabinoids bind to specific receptors within the ECS, cells are alerted to function differently.
To help you understand the ECS, envision a lock-and-key system. The cannabinoids are the keys that fit into the receptors, which are the locks.
Now, let’s say cannabis enters the human body. THC is a cannabinoid that connects to one of the two primary cannabinoid receptors – CB1. These receptors are usually found inside the human brain. Once it attaches itself to this receptor, mind-altering psychoactive effects will be produced.
CB2 receptors are very different. They are often detected in various parts of the body, which explains why CB2 receptors are responsible for so many different biological functions, including pain, sleep, mood, memory and appetite. CBD is a prime example of a cannabinoid that binds with CB2 receptors.
How Can I Use Cannabis As a Medicine?
Remember to start low and go slow when using cannabis as a medicine. Every single person’s biology is unique, so what might seem like an adequate dose for one cannabis consumer could be too much or too little for another.
When you begin to notice the effects of your first cannabis dose, assess how you feel. Have you experienced relief from your ailment? If so, stick to this dose and if needed slowly increase it as the weeks pass by. Raise the dose slightly if you don’t feel satisfied, but remember to give it time! This is especially true with cannabis edibles, which take a lot longer to kick in (30 minutes-2 hours) than a joint or oral tincture might.
Some factors that may influence the outcome include your environment/setting, nutrition/diet, age, gender, mindset, biochemistry and history if cannabis use. To ease your mind before medicating with cannabis, spend some time looking over an online dispensary menu to find a strain that works best for you.
Share Your Thoughts
Have you or a loved one found relief from PTSD or chronic pain disorders through cannabis? Leave a comment and share your experience in the section below.