The Cannabis Plant
Cannabis is believed to have evolved 20 to 30 million years ago, with humans cultivating and benefiting from its diversity of uses for tens of thousands of years. It was first discovered and widely used for food, fibre, medicinal, and religious purposes. Today, cannabis is actively researched for its medicinal properties and therapeutic potential.
Cannabis plants produce large, glandular structures called “trichomes”, which densely cover the flowering heads of unfertilized female plants. These trichomes are home to the oils containing the crucial medicinal compounds we know as cannabinoids and terpenes.
The Benefits of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in cannabis, also known as phytocannabinoids. In fact, your body naturally produces its own cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoids in our bodies directly interact with the phytocannabinoids produced in cannabis plants, this interaction within our bodies is called the Endocannabinoid System.
There are more than 400 cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant, while the two most important for their therapeutic potential are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most prominent cannabinoid found in cannabis and the main psychoactive compound which interacts with the CB1 receptor of the endocannabinoid system. Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extremely important medical compound found in cannabis, especially since it does not exhibit any psychoactive effects, and acts on CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
The CB1 receptor is concentrated in the brain and throughout our central nervous system. THC binds closely to this CB1 receptor and is responsible for maintaining core functions throughout the body (ie. stress response, motor activity, pain perception and memory).
As the main psychoactive compound of cannabis, THC causes various stimulative effects on the body and mind, mainly because it interacts with the same part of the brain that produces dopamine.
The CB2 receptor in the endocannabinoid system is less concentrated in the brain, and more distributed throughout the peripheral organs in the body. When CBD binds closely with CB2 receptors, it acts by regulating many different processes (ie. the immune system, gastrointestinal system, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems).
As a result, CBD does not exhibit psychoactivity, as it mainly affects the body rather than the mind. However, CBD does offer many benefits to the relaxation of the mind, and potential relief from mental illnesses and PTSD.
The medical potential of both THC and CBD is extensive, while the public knowledge of symptom relief from these cannabinoids is increasing daily. Many researchers still agree more work must be done before we can make any claims for curing diseases. However, consumers are still actively using cannabis-infused products for heavy symptom relief from their otherwise debilitating ailments;
- Loss of appetite
- Pain and muscle spasms
- Chronic cancer pain and weakened immune system
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Depression, Anxiety
This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms or conditions; for more detailed information about therapeutic uses, as well as about adverse effects, please consult the “Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the Cannabinoids” on Health Canada’s website.
Terpenes, (pronounced tur-peens) are the aromatic compounds found within the oils of all plants. Terpenes are responsible for the fragrance and aromatherapy of many well known therapeutic plants such as Lavender, Lemon or Chamomile. There are more than 20,000 known terpenes, while cannabis is responsible for producing more than 100 different types. The terpenes found in cannabis help distinguish each individual strains’ unique scent and flavor, which is exactly how strain names have been coined (Ex. “Super Lemon Haze”, “Blueberry Kush”, “Pineapple Express“).
These essential oil compounds and their makeup will determine the therapeutic effects of that specific strain. Indicas are known as the sedative, heavy pain relieving and sleep-inducing strains, while Sativas are known as the uplifting, motivating and energizing strains. Hybrid strains have become just as common over recent years, which yield somewhat of a balance between indica and sativa strains.
Cannabinoids and terpenes work together in synergy to create what is known as the “Entourage Effect”. Dr. Ethan Russo, M.D. (Neurologist and Medical Cannabis researcher), describes how phytocannabinoids and terpenes influence each others mechanisms in his study: “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,”
The interactive synergy of cannabinoids and terpenes is uncovering new findings about the effectiveness of “whole-plant cannabis medicine” and “the entourage effect”. This synergy can help explain how cannabis provides symptomatic relief across a wide range of medical ailments. The therapeutic benefits of THC, CBD and terpenes in isolation is impressive. However, when they are combined, the entourage effect displays a definitive increase in beneficial properties.
Researchers can use terpenes to modulate the effects of other cannabinoids and achieve a specific therapeutic outcome. For example, terpenes such as Linalool and Myrcene can enhance the calming and relaxing effects of a high CBD strain, while Alpha Pinene and Beta Caryophyllene can increase the anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects of a high THC strain. This versatility means the opportunities for medicinal uses are extensive.
There is a myriad of ways to deliver cannabis medicine and experience its therapeutic benefits. The most common delivery methods are inhalation (combustion or vaporizing), oral delivery (edibles, capsules and oils) and topical delivery (creams, transdermal patches).
Many experienced users were introduced to cannabis through inhalation methods, however, there is no shortage of patients interested in cannabis who have never tried the drug before. From both sides of the spectrum, the interest in alternative delivery methods to inhalation is ever growing. The health concerns that come with combusting and inhaling cannabis are also driving the interest for alternatives such as vaporizers, edibles, capsules and oils. There are even consumers who prefer the least invasive delivery methods possible and will explore cannabis-infused topical creams for their skin conditions, or deep tissue and muscle pain relief.
Each consumer of cannabis will experience the effects differently, and many factors will play into the potency of the medicine, such as an individual’s body mass index, or the type of meal they most recently ate.
This is where the practice of microdosing becomes a crucial part of receiving the maximum benefit from the medicine. By consuming a very small serving size (5 or 10mg), and increasing each dose slowly, it allows consumers to work their way up a personalized result while avoiding the unwanted effects of overconsumption.
While THC offers many benefits, it can also induce feelings of sleepiness or paranoia if taken in large doses. Microdosing allows you to easily regulate the effects of THC by controlling your dosage size to achieve the desired result, i.e. “starting low and going slow”.
Hemp and medical marijuana are distinctly different plants when it comes to both appearance, structure and medical makeup. They are sister plant varieties of the species Cannabis sativa, while Hemp is known for its industrial fibre applications, and producing next to zero THC (0-0.3%). The Cannabis sativa and indica strains we know as medical marijuana, typically produce THC in the range of 15% to 30% or more, while producing low concentrations of CBD. Hemp, on the other hand, produces higher concentrations of CBD, free from having to filter through any unwanted, psychoactive THC.
Hemp is grown commercially around the world for its industrial applications. Hemp stalks are made of thick fibrous materials used for industrial purposes, while the flowering heads are sought after for extracting CBD. As medical cannabis and CBD becomes decriminalized across the world, it becomes a promising opportunity to salvage CBD from the flowering heads of hemp, which has otherwise been restricted for use and discarded in the past.
How we test our cannabis
Current legislation has sparked a wide-spread trend across Canada and the US to promote additional research and trials for therapeutic and consumer-based cannabis products. We are encouraged to report a constant analysis of product quality, run clinical trials to test the potential of therapeutic benefits, and ensure we manufacture safe products with consistency and desired results.
The Cannabis and Hemp industries are two of the youngest, fastest growing industries in the world. We are excited to learn and grow with you as we navigate these rapidly changing industries.