What are the Benefits of Cannabis?
Cannabis has been used for medical and therapeutic purposes for more than 5,000 years. In fact, it is one of the world’s most therapeutically versatile medicines. Due in part to extensive successful outcomes for medical cannabis patients, it has been legalized in a majority of U.S. states. Because cannabis is such a complex plant, however, most of us could use a bit of cannabis education to learn about its many benefits.
Based on evidence from scientific research and the experiences of doctors, patients, and others, the state of Florida has concluded that medical cannabis may have benefits for patients seeking treatment for a variety of conditions.
What are the Different Forms of Medical Cannabis?
Cannabis is very versatile and can be consumed in several different ways, including:
Cannabis “flower” has traditionally been the most popular form of cannabis. The term refers to the leafy part of the plant (the bud). It can be smoked, vaporized, or converted into other forms such as concentrates.
There are three kinds of flower, indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, and hybrid.
Indica strains trace their heritage to cooler climates in the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, Turkey, Nepal, and Morocco. Typically, indica-dominant strains are associated with a calm, relaxing, body high. They’re generally good for treating pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Most patients prefer indica-dominant strains for nighttime use.
Sativa strains originally came from warmer climates near the equator, including Mexico, Columbia, and Thailand. They’re known for being uplifting while producing an energetic and “cerebral” high. Patients find sativa-dominant strains are ideal for daytime activities. Many patients claim sativa-dominant strains help relieve symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and depression.
Hybrid strains are simply a cross-breed between two or more indica and sativa strains. They’re often bred to bring out the best (or specific) qualities of both indicas and sativas.
While these designations remain popular, due to years of cross-breeding, most strains are in fact hybrids. Typically what we call a hybrid is close to a 1:1 ratio of indica and sativa genetics, while indica and sativa-dominants have a higher ratio of their respective designitation. For example, a Blue Dream strain may have a ratio of 60-70% sativa and 30-40% indica, making it a sativa-dominant strain.
Cannabis capsules are similar to vitamin capsules and come in soft or hard-gel varieties. They’re often available kosher-certified or vegan-based. Capsules are popular with many patients because they’re discrete and don’t carry the stigma often associated with vaping or smoking.
The term concentrate may refer to a variety of cannabis products, including vape cartridges, tinctures, or waxes.
While the terms concentrate and extract are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between the two. The differences relate to how they’re produced and how the trichomes on the cannabis plant are collected.
To learn more about concentrates and the differences between concentrates and extracts, read the following articles:
- Cannabis Concentrates: What They Are & How to Consume
- 5 Differences Between Cannabis Concentrates and Flower
When most people hear the term “syringe,” they associate it with shots or injections. Don’t worry—when it comes to cannabis, there are no needles associated with a “concentrate syringe.” A concentrate syringe is simply an applicator to administer cannabis oil distillates.
Concentrate syringes enable patients to dispense near-precision measured doses of oil-based cannabis concentrates. Concentrate syringes are incredibly versatile. You can use them to administer your medicine orally, sublingually, or as an inhalant (e.g. “vaporizing”).
If you’d like to learn more about concentrate syringes and cannabis oil distillates, read the following articles:
Simply put, a tincture is a solution made from cannabis extractions infused in a base such as all-natural MCT oil. An age-old method going back centuries, tinctures have long been used to treat numerous medical conditions and ailments.
Most patients consume tinctures sublingually by placing drops directly under the tongue. This method is the fastest and most efficient oral administration method as it quickly gets the medicine into the bloodstream.
If you’d like to learn more about tinctures, read the following articles:
- Cannabis Tinctures 101: What Are They, How to Make Them, and How to Use Them
- What is a Cannabis Tincture?
Vape cartridges are pre-loaded cartridges containing cannabis oil. They’re powered by a separate battery. Vaporizers, or “vapes” as they’re commonly called, are popular because they’re easy to use, portable, and fast-acting. Moreover, vaporizers allow patients to control dosing and easily titrate their dose as needed. Vaporizers are very popular and have become the “go-to” product for all kinds of medical cannabis patients.
If you’d like to learn more about vape cartridges and vaporizing, read the following articles:
- Marijuana Vape Pens: What They Are & How To Consume – Weedmaps
- Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Filled Oil Vape Cartridges
What are Cannabinoids and Terpenes?
Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds that can be found in cannabis (phytocannabinoids) or produced naturally in the body (endocannabinoids). More than 100 cannabinoids have been identified to date. The most prominent cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) and cannabinoid receptors to produce therapeutic effects.
Terpenes are aromatic organic compounds that can be found throughout the plant kingdom. Not only do they have potential therapeutic benefits, they’re also what give cannabis strains (and other plants) their unique smell. Terpenes are important for flavor and potentially contribute to the “entourage effect.”
To learn more about terpenes, read the following articles:
- Infographic: How Do Cannabis Terpenes Affect the Body?
- Terpenes: What Are Terpenoids And What Do They Do?
What is the Entourage Effect?
Have you ever noticed the effects of THC feel different when combined with higher levels of CBD or other compounds? That’s the entourage effect at work. The term “entourage effect” was first proposed in 1998 by Dr. S. Ben-Shabat and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam to characterize the potential synergistic effect of the active ingredients in cannabis including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Ben-Shabat and Mechoulam coined the term to describe their observation of cannabis compounds working together in concert to produce different effects and therapeutic benefits. According to Chris Emerson, a chemist and cannabis researcher, the entourage effect is “the sum of all the parts that leads to the magic or power of cannabis.”
Read the following articles if you’d like to learn more about the entourage effect:
- Dr. Ethan Russo: Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects
- Cannabis’s Entourage Effect: Why Whole Plant Medicine Matters
- Wikipedia: The Entourage Effect
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
While researchers only identified the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the early 1990s, many scientists believe it’s one of the body’s most important (if not most important) biological systems. In fact, the primary role of the ECS is to help the body maintain homeostasis (or balance) between interdependent parts of the body. The endocannabinoid system is a vital molecular system comprised of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes. This unique system helps facilitate communications in the brain and body and helps cells maintain optimal performance.
To learn more about the endocannabinoid system, read the following articles:
- An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System – NCBI – NIH
- What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Is Its Role?
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