Intro to Cannabis
From 1500 to 200 BCE cannabis’ use as a medicine spread across the world, from China to India, Persia, Egypt and Greece. Evidence suggests the plant may have played a vital role in the development of agriculture, which had a profound impact on both human beings and our planet. Cannabis first appeared in the Western Hemisphere during the colonization of the Americas, where its sturdy fibers were used in the production of rope, paper and clothing. By that time, cannabis was widely used as an herbal medicine across the world, and eventually added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1850. Every major pharmacy in America offered medicinal cannabis tinctures until its prohibition began in the 1930s.
One of the most unexpected controversies around cannabis concerns its species – experts are divided on whether there is only one species of cannabis, or whether there are several distinct species. The most widely accepted description of the cannabis plant breaks it down into three subspecies: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis.
These descriptions have been embraced by the cannabis community who commonly distinguish “sativa” strains from “indica” strains based on the perceived differences of effects. Most strains today are hybrids, a result of crossbreeding sativa and indica strains together, the primary effects of which are determined by the most dominant strain.
Tall and open branched with narrow, spindly leaflets.
- Plants grow tall and are usually around 6 ft. tall
- Flowering stage: between 10 and 16 weeks
- Yield Size: 1.5 to 2.5 oz per plant
- Effect: Broadly categorized as having stimulating, expansive mind-altering effects.
Shorter, bushier and conical in shape, with relatively wide leaflets.
- Broad and short leaves
- Plants are short and grow between 2 and 4 ft
- Flowering stage: between 8 and 12 weeks
- Yield Size: 3 oz to 1 pound per plant
- Effect: Indica strains are known for their sedating, mellow body effects.
Short, branchless, and grows wild in parts of Europe and central Asia.
- Short and stalky plants
- Grows between 1 and 2.5 ft.
- Flowering stage: Automatically flowers after 21-30 days of vegetation
- Yield size: 1-2 oz per plant or less
- Effect: The effects of cannabis ruderalis alone are minimized by its naturally low concentrations of THC. However, ruderalis genes offer the ability for breeders to create an autoflowering hybrid with the advanced potency and flavor profile from its genetic partner
In the late 1980s researcher Allyn Howlett discovered a receptor in the brain that the cannabinoid THC binds to. Another primary receptor was identified and the pair became known as CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors can be found in abundance in the brain, nervous system, glands and organs, while CB2 receptors are found in the immune system. CB1 receptors are primarily stimulated by cannabinoids like THC, and are responsible for effects on memory, mood, sleep, appetite and pain sensation. CB2 receptors appear to be activated by cannabinoids like CBD (and THC to a lesser degree) and work to reduce inflammation and immune response.
In 1990, Israeli cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam discovered what became known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a biological regulatory system that promotes balance and well-being in all mammals. Not only did it explain how cannabinoids work with the body’s receptors, the system was discovered to have involvement in numerous, vital physiological functions- including its ability to directly affect our body’s response to injuries and inflammations.
This profound discovery could be called one of the twenty first century’s greatest scientific breakthroughs, and it ushered in a flurry of studies. In fact, there are now over 22,000 published studies or reviews in scientific literature pertaining to the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids – nearly half of which were published in the last ten years.
The ECS is always at work. The receptors are activated either by the body’s own endogenous (internal) cannabinoids, or by plant cannabinoids (also called phytocannabinoids) like THC and CBD.
The cannabinoids and receptor mechanism is often described as a lock and key system. When the ECS is working properly, signals are firing and optimal functioning is happening in the body. When the endocannabinoid system is not functioning properly, phytocannabinoids can be introduced, plug in to the receptors, and switch the ECS on to do its job. The better the ECS is working, the more our bodies are in equilibrium, and the less likely we are to develop disease.
Here are some of the capabilities of the ECS that have been discovered so far:
- Balances and strengthens the nervous and immune systems
- Initiates pain control
- Calms inflammation
- Initiate neurogenesis (production of new nerve cells)
- Involved in protective mechanisms against illnesses including neurological diseases and nerve damage
- Found to suppress numerous cancers and possible Alzheimer’s Disease
Of the 400+ identifiable chemicals known to exist in the plant, and at least 85 different cannabinoids, only THC has been found to be psychoactive. Remarkably, this makes cannabis one of a handful of plants with the power to affect human consciousness. Since ancient times, shamans (spiritual healers) from a diverse array of cultures around the world have used cannabis in their work. From the Scythians to the Rastafari, the alchemists to the Curanderos, cannabis has found a place in healing traditions across the world.
Spiritual Uses of Cannabis:
- Quieting the mind for meditation
- Seeing through delusions and shifting perspective
- Diagnosing and treating diseases of the body, mind and spirit
- Achieving transcendence, unity and spiritual bliss
What Strain is Right for You?
Whether you are jumping on the cannabis train for the first time or are a lifetime connoisseur, its important to find strains that work well with your individual body. Finding the strain that is right for you is crucial in order to give you the best cannabis experience possible. Every mammal has their own unique Endocannabinoid System which controls how different strains affect us. One strain that works really well for one person, might not be the best choice for another. Finding strains that create the most synergy within our individual selves and with our own ECS will create the most effective and beneficial results. With thousands of strains out there and counting, it seem overwhelming or seemingly impossible to start narrowing the choices down. Here is a step by step guide to help navigate through the world of cannabis strains.
1) Start a Strain Journal
This will be key in recording what strains you try, the parental lineage of the strain, the effects it had on your mind and body, what you liked about it, what you didn’t like, the smell/ terpene profile, and anything else you would like to write down.
2) Identify Wanted Results
Have a clear understanding of the end result you are wanting to acquire. For example, “I am looking for something that may help increase my appetite,” or “I am having problems sleeping, I am wanting to find something that might allow me to fall asleep easier.”
3) Do a Little Self Research
Each strain is made up of a different set and amount of cannabinoids and different types of cannabinoids affect us in different ways. There are 8 main cannabinoids that you will want to look at.
- Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
Each cannabinoid has specific attributes. Here are two charts that clearly indicate the major cannabinoids and what their known therapeutic qualities are.
The next step would then be to look up certain strains that are higher in those specific cannabinoids and go from there. For example, if I was looking for something that may help relieve symptoms of Bipolar Disorder or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I would be looking for a strain that contains CBD,THC, and CBG cannabinoids. If I was looking for a strain that may help relieve symptoms of Fibromyalgia, I would be looking for a strain that contains CBN cannabinoids as well as THC and CBD cannabinoids. Here’s a couple handy sights that are easy to use to help narrow down what strains to try once you find what cannabinoids you are looking for.
Another way to find the best strain for you is to use a website like ‘Leafly’ to look up symptoms you are wanting to relieve. For example, type into the Leafly search engine “Strains for Depression.” This will give you a list of strains that have specific terpene and cannabinoid profiles that aid in relieving symptoms for depression. Narrow it down to 3 strains and then click on the link to locate a dispensary carrying that strain near you.
Now the fun part, once you have the strains in your possession and in a safe environment try one strain at a time. Allow about 4-5 hours minimum in between trying each strain. This way, an accurate analysis of the strains whole effect on ones self, from beginning to end, can be determined. After you smoke and try each strain individually, record how that strain made you feel, if it helped relieve any symptoms or made things worse, what it smelled like, what it tasted like, and most importantly what its parental lineage is (what strains make up a particular strain) Example: Blue Dream is made up of its parents Blueberry X Haze.
Think of marijuana strains in terms of a big family tree. Each strain has a set of parents, and each parents generation has a set of parents. Strains are typically made of 2-4 strains put together. All weed strains descended from 10 main strains known as the original Landrace Strains. Once you find a strain that benefits you in the ways you are seeking, from there try a couple more strains that contain one of those parent strains. So if I tried Blue Dream and thought it was benefiting me and wanted to see if I could find a strain that gave me even more relief, I would then try a strain that was half blueberry and half something else such as Blue Cheese (Blueberry X Cheese). I would also try a strain that was half Haze such as Silver Haze (Northern lights #5 and Haze). After trying the two new strains individually, with no less than 4-5 hours in between ingesting each strain, I would record my findings and compare. Did I prefer the Blue Cheese or the Silver Haze? If I enjoyed the Blue Cheese more I could determine that my body and determine which side of the family tree worked better with my body chemistry. After which I could then begin looking for more strains on that particular side of the family tree. Thus helping narrow down the guess and check method with helping to educate about how each strain and its synergy with ones own body chemistry.