Cannabis, or marijuana, comes from a plant called cannabis ruderalis. It is considered psychoactive with various mental and physical effects that occur in the body after it is smoked, vaped, used in lotions, or orally consumed. Cannabis contains 483 known compounds with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known components. Cannabis must be heated up in a process called decarboxylation in order to feel the effects from the plant.
Cannabis has been used recreationally for its relaxing and euphoric effects, as well as for spiritual celebrations, dating back to 1400 BCE. Researchers have conducted many studies in which cannabis has helped people with chronic conditions, such as relieving chronic pain and helping prevent wasting syndrome, in which patients are unable to eat because of decreased appetite and nausea.
Cannabis is more than just a social ingredient for getting stoned. Our bodies are specially designed to utilize its chemical compounds, better known as ‘cannabinoids’. Thanks to an ever-growing smorgasbord of scientific evidence and research, the public’s perception on pot is changing (and quite rightly so.)
Cannabis tea is made by steeping cannabis into hot water. Cannabis tea typically contains small concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), because THC is an oil that is only slightly water-soluble. Adding milk with fat into it allows the THC to bind to the fat.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is another cannabinoid found in cannabis that does not cause a psychoactive or “high” effect. Although research on CBC is still in its infancy, it is believed that it has antiviral and antibacterial properties. In addition, CBC is known to alleviate and prevent cases of active acne. It is also considered an anti-inflammatory and works well in combination with CBD.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in both cannabis and hemp plants. CBD is known for its ability to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the body, as well as controlling nausea and vomiting. CBD is just one of the many chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant and is a good option for patients who are seeking pain relief but do not want to experience the intoxicating effects that THC causes.
For more information about CBD and its uses, see our Complete Guide to CBD.
Cannabigerol, also known as CBG, is another cannabinoid, or chemical compound, found in cannabis. It is considered a parental cannabinoid in the sense that CBG is vital in the production of THC and CBD found in the cannabis plant. CBG produces acids that, when cannabis is broken down, produce THC and CBD, the most well-known components of cannabis.
Even though CBG research is very new, CBG is thought to target specific bodily systems and problems. There has been promising research suggesting that it helps with glaucoma, Huntington disease, and irritable bowel disorders (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Check out our CBG article for more information.
Cannabinol, or CBN is released from the cannabis or hemp plant when it is heated and exposed to oxygen, creating carbon dioxide. CBN is one of the latest cannabinoids being researched and is touted for its relaxing and sedative effects. It does have more of a psychoactive effect than CBD, but is not as psychogenic as THC, the compound in cannabis that is known for producing the “high” or elevating feeling users experience.
Check out our article on CBN for more information.
Cannabis concentrates is a term encompassing a variety of different products where cannabis has been processed to have a more potent effect. This is useful for people who find smoking flower to be hard on their lungs and throat. Typically, concentrates are used in devices like vaporizing pens or dabbing rigs. Concentrates often have a stronger effect than the standard delivery method of smoking cannabis flower.
Some concentrate products you might see at a dispensary include wax, shatter, rosin, budder, honeycomb, and live resin. All are made using a variety of different methods. But concentrates are typically divided into two different categories: solvent-based and solventless.
Solvent-based extractions typically use ethanol, carbon dioxide, butane or propane to strip the resin out of the flower. Resin is a sticky sap-like substance that is found inside the trichomes of the cannabis plant and is considered the most useful part of the plant as it contains substantially concentrated amounts of THC. Typically, these extractions are done using industrial equipment. Do note that the combination of solvents and machinery used in extraction can become a dangerous fire hazard if not properly or safely handled.
Solventless concentrates require a more manual approach. They are typically processed using mesh strainers, or by agitating frozen plant matter in water to filter out the trichomes and make live resin. Heat and extreme pressure is another method that, when applied, squeezes the cannabis enough to make rosin. Rosin can then be further processed to attain different consistencies and textures.
Check out our guide on concentrates to learn more about the different types available and how to use them.
Edible is a generalized term for food that has cannabis added to it as an ingredient. Edibles can be bought from dispensaries in the form of gummies, chocolate, cookies, ice pops, soda and more. In addition, many people make their own edibles at home using ingredients infused with cannabis like cannabutter infused coconut oil.
Taking edibles is ideal for people who want to consume cannabis but are weary of smoking or vaporizing. Unlike smoking, which has an immediate psychoactive effect, edibles can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes to take effect.. Edibles usually produce a high that can last 4 hours plus.
Hash and hash oil are the oldest and most well-known cannabis concentrates. They are also referred to as hashish. It can be smoked, vaporized, or can be taken orally and is considered one of the most potent substances found in the cannabis plant. It has a long history of use in Afghanistan, Morocco, India, and Pakistan. In Europe, hash is the most popular form of using cannabis, as opposed to smoking flower, which is a popular method of consumption r in the United States.
Hash is made from resin that is extracted from the trichomes, or the little hairs, on the cannabis plant. It is typically made by compressing the cannabis plant or using solvents. The consistency and appearance vary depending on the process of extraction and the amount of leftover plant material remaining after the hash is extracted. It can be hard or soft and is most often light or dark brown in color.
One benefit of hash is that it contains higher amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids. It also takes a smaller dosage for someone to experience its potent effects compared to the standard consumption method of smoking cannabis flower.
For more information about hash or hash oil, click here.
Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa are the two primary subspecies of the cannabis plant. They are categorized based on the appearance of the plant and the different effects the cannabis has when consumed. Cannabis indica plants are typically shorter and bushier than sativa plants. They have dark green leaves, while sativa plants have leaves that are lighter in color. Indica is thought to contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is a good choice for nighttime use as it acts as a sedative, relieves pain and helps with insomnia. Indica is known for producing a relaxing “body high.”
When you go to a dispensary, the budtender will often ask you if you are looking for an indica or sativa. However, recent research shows that the effects are more complex than this comparison, though it is a good starting point for selecting a strain that is right for you.
Check out our blog to read more about indica versus sativa.
A joint is a cigarette made from rolling paper and cannabis. First, the cannabis is ground up with a grinder or by hand and then sealed inside of the rolling paper. Sometimes joints include a filter, also known as the crutch or roach, to reduce the throat and lung irritations that smoking can cause. In addition, the filter prevents the resin from the burning cannabis from getting in the smoker’s mouth. Lighting the joint burns the cannabis and releases cannabinoids, so they can be inhaled through the mouth.
Sometimes a joint can contain both cannabis and tobacco; this is known as a spliff.
Kief is typically a cannabis powder that consists of the trichomes, or little hairs, of the cannabis plant. Trichomes are thought to have the highest concentration of cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When looking at a dried cannabis bud, you may see tiny little crystals. These crystals are what essentially makes up kief.
Kief is easily extracted from the cannabis plant, and many cannabis smokers end up extracting it with their grinders. Some grinders contain two to three screens inside of it, which filters the particles in smaller and smaller sections, leaving the concentrated kief at the bottom of the grinder.
Kief can be smoked in a pipe or a joint. It is also considered a cannabis concentrate because it is a primary ingredient in making hash or hash oil as it contains cannabis resin.
You can learn more about kief and how to extract it here.
Cannabis sativa is one of the two main subspecies of the cannabis plant. The other is cannabis indica. Boths are thought to have distinct effects. Sativas are known for an energizing “head high” and for increasing focus and easing depression. This varies from the relaxing effects thought to be perceived from indica, which create more of a “body high.”
In addition to the psychoactive effects of these cannabis strains, the sativa and indica plants have different physical appearances. Indica is more of a bushy plant while sativa plants are a taller, skinnier plant and have lighter green leaves.
Despite all these differences, current research shows that sativa and indica are more similar than we initially thought. Current research now suggests that the terpene profile and the cannabinoid profile are responsible for the differences between strains more so then we previously realized.
Learn more about the indica versus sativa debate.
Terpenes, or terpenoids, are chemicals produced by plants that are responsible for the different flavors and aromas of cannabis strains. Plants produce terpenes to protect themselves from predators or to attract pollinators. In combination with cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), Terpenes are thought to enhance the health benefits of cannabis. Terpenes help us differentiate the different strains of cannabis through scent, as the combinations are all unique.
Many terpenes that are found in cannabis are also found in other plants and products that we already consume. For example, linalool is a terpene that can also be found in lavender and provides anti-anxiety effects. Pinene is another terpene that is found in rosemary and is thought to provide an invigorating effect and improve mental alertness.
Learn more about terpenes here.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known and largest chemical component of cannabis. It is the component that has psychoactive effects, or the part that makes you feel “high.” THC is not found in fresh cannabis; by burning or heating the cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is converted into THC. The flowers of the cannabis plant typically contain the largest amounts of THC.
THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in certain areas of the brain that affect thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination, and sensory and time perception. When THC stimulates the brain, dopamine is released and creates euphoria and relaxing effects. In addition, it changes how new information is processed in the hippocampus portion of the brain. This explains why many people experience short term memories differently when consuming THC.
Read our article about THC to learn more.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) can be found in all cannabis and is considered essential for extracting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the plant. When cannabis is heated or burned through a process called decarboxylation, THCA is converted to THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. Some strains of cannabis have higher concentrations of THCA in it, as does fresher cannabis flower. It is important to note that when you are purchasing cannabis flower and you see the chemical breakdown of it on the packaging, the amount of THCA and THC are typically one in the same.
THCA has different benefits than THC, so it can be beneficial to hold off on decarboxylation in some cases. THCA has been found to be highly effective in treating nausea and is an anti-inflammatory that can help with chronic pain. It has also been suggested that it has the potential to inhibit prostate cancer tumor growth.
In order to reap the benefits of THCA, you can find it in lotions, oils, tinctures and transdermal patches for purchase from a dispensary. Juicing with raw cannabis leaves is also another popular method of consumption. If you would like to tap into the benefits of THCA without feeling intoxicating effects, we recommend that you avoid applying any sort of heat that will convert it to THC.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is another psychoactive compound found in cannabis that research is beginning to address. THCV’s effects can be thought of as a cross between the intoxicating effects of THC and CBD. It makes patients feel more energized and alert as well as providing an anti-appetite effect, among other benefits to diseases like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Check out our article on Exploring THCV for more information.
A tincture is a liquid form of cannabis that is infused into alcohol or glycerin. It typically comes in a bottle with a dropper and can be easily measured and titrated for using cannabis for medical purposes, such as for anxiety or neuropathy. The dosage measured in the dropper is typically placed sublingually, or under the tongue, for a quicker effect.
Vaporizing cannabis is done by heating any form of cannabis, including waxes or oils, to 329-374°F. This temperature is important because it allows the cannabis to evaporate into vapor to inhale, instead of burning the plant or plant extracts like smoking does.
You can purchase a vaporizer for your home and it will emit the evaporated particles into the air where you can breathe it in, free from the hazards of smoke. Many people who vaporize cannabis choose to do so with a vape pen, which is a more affordable and portable alternative to buying a tabletop vaporizer.
Cannabis science is one of the fastest moving frontiers medicinal sciences in the world. The pharmacology behind it has been accelerated by the realization that we’re all already marinated in cannabis-like molecules (endocannabinoids) and their receptors.
Endocannabinoids help regulate many physiological processes such as your mood, memory, appetite, pain, immune function, metabolism, and bone growth to name a few. Consuming cannabis also modulates this endocannabinoid system in many ways. The effects can be benevolent, although sometimes problematic.
Understanding the science behind cannabis is a key factor in being able to fully enjoy its medicinal value.
People have been using cannabis as medicine for thousands of years. The plant has also been widely used clothing, fuel, food, fiber, and medicine.
Cannabis contains more than 120 different cannabinoid molecules. But, as far as we know, only one gets you high: THC. The plant itself contains a huge amount of cerebral, non-intoxicating THC cousins with emerging medicinal potential. Their abbreviated names are often: CBD, CBG, THC-V, CBC, and CBN to mention a few.
Data Last Updated 03/25/2021
for their medical cannabis cards