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Everything You Need to Know about Cannabis
Cannabis is the drug commonly known as marijuana. It comes from the cannabis plant and is used primarily for psychoactive purposes. In recent years, cannabis has shown extraordinary promise as a medicine.
What makes Cannabis such an interesting and unique plant? Is it really safe to use cannabis to treat various conditions and ailments? Find out everything you need to know about cannabis today in our all-in-one guide.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is the plant product we commonly know as marijuana. It comes from cannabis plants, including cannabis sativa, cannabis sativa forma indica, and cannabis ruderalis.
The plant itself originated from Central and South Asia. Today, it’s grown all over the world, including in major producing countries like Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Thailand, and the United States.
Cannabis isn’t your average plant extract. One thing that makes cannabis unique is that it contains 483 known compounds. You’ve probably heard of at least a few of those compounds, including:
-- Tetrahydrocannabinol: Known as THC, this is the compound most responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. The more THC is in the strain, the more powerful the “high” feeling will be.
-- Cannabidiol: Known as CBD, this is the compound most responsible for the medical benefits of marijuana (at least that’s what recent scientific studies seem to indicate). It has no known psychoactive effects but has been linked to powerful health benefits like reduced anxiety and even anti-cancer effects.
-- Other Compounds: THC and CBD are the two best-known compounds in cannabis, although tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG) will sometimes come up in conversations about cannabis.
What Are the Effects of Cannabis?
The effects of cannabis vary from strain to strain. Typically, however, cannabis leads to the following primary effects:
-- A Heightened Mood Or Feeling Of Euphoria
-- A Feeling Of Relaxation
-- Increased Appetite
There are also some negative side effects associated with marijuana usage, including:
-- Loss Of Short-term Memory
-- Reddening Of The Eyes
-- Dry Mouth
-- Reduced Motor Skills
-- Feelings Of Paranoia Or Anxiety
The History of Marijuana Usage
With its iconic place in modern culture and ongoing debates about its legalization, it’s easy to believe that marijuana has only recently become popular.
But in history, marijuana usage dates back as far as 3,000 BCE. Cannabis was used by ancient civilization in religious and spiritual rites – especially rites of passage.
The first usage of marijuana actually had nothing to do with spiritual rites.
“One of the earliest recorded instances of cannabis use comes from a prehistoric site excavated at Yangmingshan, near Taipei, on the island of Taiwan. Dating to between 10,000 and 3000 BC, pottery shards of the Tapenkeng culture were discovered, into the clay of which had been impressed pieces of hempen cord as decoration.”
Numerous other discoveries of hemp cord were found across Asia, including in the Yellow River basin dating to around 5,000 BC and in Hunan and Hebei provinces in China.
The Chinese used cannabis as one of the principle crops. In fact, it was mentioned in an ancient Chinese text called The Book of Songs, where the writer explained that cannabis was one of the six crops commonly planted in agricultural areas across China. The ancient Chinese primarily used cannabis to make hemp cloth and there are limited mentions of its use as a psychoactive compound.
Interestingly enough, hemp also played a critical role in the warring between Chinese states. Chinese warlords would use hemp rope to string their bows. Wars were fought over ancient Chinese hemp fields.
However, the first mention of marijuana being used as a psychoactive substance were not until 600 BCE, when an obscure Chinese text mentioned marijuana in an offhand way: a Taoist priest “dismissively recorded that cannabis was used by shamans to predict another deity.”
By the second century AD, ancient China had the most advanced medical system in the entire world. They did not appear, however, to use marijuana for any medical purposes.
Aside from the ancient Chinese, both Buddhists and Sikhs took a liking to marijuana throughout history. “Cannabis was revered by Buddhists”, according to Martin Booth’s text. And despite the fact that Sikhs were forbidden from consuming intoxicants, they were known for drinking cannabis tea to celebrate the birth of the religion’s founder, Guru Nanak.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that governments started cracking down on marijuana usage in nations around the world.
At that point, the fate of marijuana was forever changed. It went from being an obscure spiritual plant commonly known as “Indian hemp” grown in exotic parts of the world to a cash crop with huge potential.
The United States started banning marijuana in 1906 (it was first outlawed in DC). South Africa (1911), the UK (1920s), and Canada (1923) followed closely thereafter. A near-global ban on marijuana took place in 1925 at The Hague, which hosted the International Opium Convention. That convention banned the export of marijuana (officially described as “Indian hemp”) to all countries that prohibited its use.
Today, laws are slowly starting to change back in favor of marijuana usage. Marijuana supporters claim that it was only a matter of time before marijuana was legalized: marijuana is the world’s most widely consumed drug in the world, and in democratic countries, every marijuana user over the age of 18 has a vote. The people get whatever they vote for.
What’s the Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp?
Cannabis, marijuana, and hemp are three terms that are often used in similar contexts. So what’s the difference between the three?
First, cannabis and marijuana are two terms that are often used interchangeably: both terms refer to the psychoactive plant product that comes from various cannabis plants.
Some people will, however, use the term “cannabis” to refer to different types of cannabis plants, including cannabis sativa, cannabis sativa forma indica, and cannabis ruderalis.
A lot of people get confused when talking about hemp versus marijuana. Both terms are popular names for the cannabis plant – but they have one key difference.
Hemp contains no THC, which is the psychoactive component of cannabis. It’s a non-psychoactive plant crop commonly used to make cloths and fibers.
5 Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
1) THC Content
As we already learned, hemp contains no – or very little – THC, which is the psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis.
A typical strain of marijuana has between 5% and 20% THC. For a plant product to be classified as hemp, it typically needs to have less than 0.5% THC content. Canada, for example, has set a maximum THC content for hemp at 0.3%. Plant products with a higher THC content than 0.3% are classified as marijuana.
2) CBD Content
Typically, hemp has a higher CBD content than marijuana plants. New studies have also shown that CBD can reduce the unwanted side effects of THC, which can make hemp even less psychoactive than marijuana.
3) The Way It’s Grown
Hemp and marijuana are cultivated differently – and not just because one is legal and the other is not.
Marijuana has been bred over generations to maximize THC content. This is done by selecting female flowering plants that yield budding flowers at the flowering stage of their life cycle.
Hemp plants, on the other hand, are primarily male. They also don’t flower buds at any stage in their life cycle. Over centuries of selective breeding, hemp plants have been chosen for their desirable ability to grow tall as quickly as possible.
Cannabis is illegal to produce in the United States in any form, and both hemp and marijuana are classified as Schedule 1 drugs under the American Controlled Substances Act.
Countries outside of the US have a more relaxed approach to hemp: it’s grown and fully legal in 30 countries around the world, including China and Canada. It’s also legal to import hemp into the United States, which is why you still see hemp products on store shelves across America.
Most countries don’t have the same relaxed view when it comes to marijuana, however, as it is illegal in most countries around the world.
After millennia of cultivation, hemp and marijuana now differ significantly from one another in terms of genetics. It all comes down to how the crops were viewed by ancient civilizations:
-- Ancient civilizations prized tall, fast-growing plants they could use to make clothes, textiles, and armor, which is why cannabis crops with those desirable characteristics were selected and used over time in agriculture
-- Spiritual healers and shamans, on the other hand, wanted to maximize the psychoactive effects of cannabis, so they selected and bred plants with more psychoactive effects (something we now attribute to THC)
Cannabis Indica Versus Cannabis Sativa
Some of the world’s leading cannabis researchers (yes, that’s a real academic field) now believe that early separation of cannabis crops led to the formation of two distinct types of marijuana:
-- Cannabis Indica
-- Cannabis Sativa
These “types” are thought to be two different species. Today, they’re frequently interbred to produce new and creative “hybrid” strains.
So what’s the difference between indica and sativa? The two species produce different effects:
-- Sativa: Leads to an uplifting, energetic sensation and can produce cerebral, spacey, or hallucinogenic thoughts in the brain. It’s ideally used during the day.
-- Indica: Produces a relaxing and calming effect that is best suited for night use. Can also create a body buzz or “couch lock” effect”.
It’s thought that these effects are caused by the ratio of CBD to THC. Indica plants are thought to have a high THC:CBD ratio, while sativa plants are thought to have a high CBD:THC ratio.
The two species of plants also have a totally different appearance. Sativa plants are tall, loosely branched, and have longer, narrower leaves. They can reach heights of up to 20 feet and are typically grown outdoors.
Indica plants, on the other hand, are typically grown indoors and have short, dense branches with wider, more thickly-grown leaves.
Of course, due to interbreeding over the years, there’s been frequent cross-contamination of traits. Some indica plants lead to sativa-like effects, and vice versa.
Cannabis Supplements and Products Available Today
Cannabis products have been available for decades. But due to recent medical studies and media attention, the cannabis supplement and product industry is booming.
Today, you can buy a wide range of oils, creams, supplements, products, candies, and foods made with cannabis or a cannabis extract. Here’s a sample of some of the products available today:
Cannabis oil is the fastest growing cannabis product on the market today. Every month, it seems like a new cannabis oil study is getting published, and the majority of those studies seem to be in favor of using cannabis oil for medical purposes.
There’s a difference, however, between cannabis oil and CBD oil. Some cannabis oils are made primarily from THC. The oil described in this article has a potent 72% mixture of THC with 11% CBD, for example.
CBD oil, on the other hand, has little to no THC, which has made it the more popular compound to use on children. Some parents give CBD oil to their children to reduce the risk of seizures, for example.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on CBD oil. One study involving 75 children showed that 33% of the patients were able to reduce their seizures by more than half. However, 44% of the children involved in the study experienced “adverse effects” after taking CBD, including increased seizures. Only three of the patients showed improvements in brain wave tests, which is the primary medical measure of seizure activity.
Cannabis Extract Creams
Cannabis creams typically use the power of cannabidiol to relieve pain across the body. One cannabis cream manufacturer called Kush Creams describes how the process works:
“Your body’s receptors are divided into two different types of responders cb1 (the euphoric) and cb2 (the medicinal). Your cb1 receptors are found mainly in your brain, responding to the thc. But your cb2 receptors are mainly found in your skin cells, spleen cells, stomach, liver, bones and immune cells and respond to the cbd and cbn cannabinoids. These non-pyscho-active cannabinoids are where the pain relieving qualities of cannabis lie; the anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, pain relieving properties of cannabis. When one is trying to find the pain relieving qualities of cannabis and smoking it, it is only a euphoric distraction….as your brain does not have cb2 receptors…your skin does!”
Cannabis extract cream is designed to be applied topically to your skin, where it’s absorbed into the skin and relieves pain at the site. According to cannabis cream manufacturers, popular benefits of cannabis extract cream include relief from all of the following conditions:
-- Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
-- Back aches and general pain throughout the body
-- Deep muscle pain
-- Anxiety and stress
-- Pinched nerves
-- Burn and scar aftercare
The cream is typically made by reducing marijuana buds to form a thick oil, and then adding that botanical oil into various creams and compounds.
Cannabis foods come in all shapes, sizes, and verities. Most of these foods are made in the same way: you replace normal butter in the recipe with a weed-based butter called cannabutter or bud butter.
Making cannabutter is straightforward: you melt butter into a saucepan, add ground marijuana buds to the melted butter, simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, then wait until small bubbles start to form on the surface. Then, you strain the butter into a container using a metal strainer to remove the ground buds, pressing against the ground buds with a spoon to squeeze out as much cannabutter as possible.
In terms of ratio, a good rule is that 1 pound of butter (4 sticks) can absorb 1 ounce of cannabis. However, you can safely increase the dosage to 2 ounces of cannabis for every 1 pound of butter.
Some of the creative foods using cannabutter and other marijuana food ingredients include:
-- Space Cakes
-- Marijuana Tea Or Weed Tea
-- Brownies And Cookies
-- Cannabis Honey
-- Hundreds Of Different Types Of Dips, Spreads, Drinks, Snacks, Candies, Extracts, And Full Meals
There’s even a website called http://www.thestonerscookbook.com/ where you can learn how to cook with weed and share your best weed recipes with a community.
Possible Benefits of Cannabis
No matter how you’re consuming it, marijuana has been associated with some powerful benefits, including all of the following:
-- Treat Glaucoma: Glaucoma increases pressure on the eyeball, which eventually damages the optic nerve and leads to loss of vision. Marijuana usage can help relieve that pressure and reduce loss of vision over time.
-- Reduce Risk of Epileptic Seizures: One study from 2003 examined how epileptic rats reacted to THC. That study showed that the THC in cannabis was able to rid rats of seizures for about 10 hours. It’s thought to work by binding to the brain cells that control excitability, thus promoting a feeling of relaxation.
-- Control Symptoms of Dravet Syndrome: In Sanjay Gupta’s documentary “Weed”, he interviewed a family who was giving their 5 year old daughter regular doses of medical marijuana that was low in THC but high in CBD. That daughter had a rare condition called Dravet Syndrome and the only way to control the seizures caused by the syndrome was to use high-CBD marijuana. In “Weed”, the little girl was able to decrease her seizures from 300 per week to just 1 per week.
-- Anti-Cancer: CBD turns off a gene called Id-1. That gene encourages cancer cells to make copies of themselves, which is how cancer spreads throughout the body. One study from 2007 claimed that CBD turns off these cells and can help prevent cancer from spreading. Other studies have suggested that the compounds in cannabis – beyond just THC – can actually kill cancer cells.
-- Reduce Anxiety: Marijuana users often claim the drug can act as a sedative in low doses and is non habit-forming (unlike other pharmaceutical sedatives). As a result, it’s an ideal anti-anxiety treatment.
-- Reduce Progression of Alzheimer’s: One 2006 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics found that THC can reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that THC slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking an enzyme in the brain. Amyloid plaques kill brain cells and lead to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
-- Reduce Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis: Sufferers of MS often claim they can reduce their painful symptoms by using marijuana. In one study involving 30 MS patients, researchers observed that patients didn’t respond positively to other MS treatments, but after smoking marijuana for 5 days, they reported experiencing less pain.
-- Many Other Benefits: Marijuana usage has also been linked to better metabolism, reduced symptoms of lupus, relief from arthritis pain, and reduced symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases in various studies.
One of the problems with analyzing the medical benefits of marijuana is that only 6% of studies on marijuana have analyzed its medicinal properties. This is primarily because researchers – particularly in the United States – have to “wade through an enormous amount of federal red tape to do so, and they’re not always successful” according to Business Insider.
Nevertheless, as views change and more states legalize marijuana every year, it will inevitably become easier and easier for researchers to scientifically prove the medical benefits of cannabis.