History of Cannabis
The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545 cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. In North America cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown on many plantations for use in rope, clothing and paper.
Cannabis is dioecious, meaning it comes as separate male and female plants. Male plants are taller and thinner and have flower like pods which contain the fertilizing, pollen-generating anthers. The female plant is darker and shorter and has short hairs protruding at the end of the bracteole pods.
Cannabinoids are responsible for marijuana’s effects on the body — and the reason users get high. They’re also the reason why medical marijuana works to alleviate so many symptom-related ailments.
The cannabis plant, also known as marijuana, contains over 500 natural compounds. Cannabinoids happen to make up at least 85 of those compounds, according to recent research. And while some cannabinoids are psychoactive, others are not.
In the early 1990s, scientists discovered the link between cannabis and feeling high.
Your brain creates its own set of cannabinoids — similar to those found in cannabis — via the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system, named after Cannabis sativa, is responsible for many important functions, such as appetite, sleep, emotion and movement.
Cannabinoids work by interacting with specific receptors. These receptors are located within different parts of the body, such as the central nervous system and immune system.
Cannabinoids activate two types of receptors: CB1 receptors, located within the nervous system, the brain and nerve endings, and CB2 receptors, located within the immune system.
When marijuana enters your body, THC activates the endocannabinoid system by attaching to cannabinoid receptors. As a result, your reaction time slows, memory is affected, and judgment is impaired. Because of where CB1 receptors are located in the brain, you begin to feel high.
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive constituent contained in the marijuana plant. Cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in certain areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception.
THCa (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is found in fresh, undried cannabis, but progressively decarboxylated to THC with drying and espically under intense heat such as smoking or vaporizing cannabis.
CBD has tremendous medical potential. This is particularly true when the correct ratio of CBD to THC is applied to treat a particular condition. CBD acts as an antagonist at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, yet it has a low binding affinity for both. This suggests that CBD’s mechanism of action is mediated by other receptors in the brain and body.
CBDa, similar to THCA, is the main constituent in cannabis with elevated CBD levels. CBDA selectively inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, contributing to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects.
CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that is produced from the degradation of THC. There is usually very little to no CBN in a fresh plant. CBN acts as a weak agonist at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, with greater affinity for CB2 receptors than CB1. The degradation of THC into CBN is often described as creating a sedative effect, known as a “couch lock.”
CBG, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, creates antibacterial effects that can alter the overall effects of cannabis. CBG is known to kill or slow bacterial growth, reduce inflammation, (particularly in its acidic CBGA form,) inhibit cell growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth. It acts as a low-affinity antagonist at the CB1 receptor. CBG pharmacological activity at the CB2 receptor is currently unknown.
CBC is most frequently found in tropical cannabis varieties. CBC is known to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, inhibit cell growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth. The effects of CBC appear to be mediated through non-cannabinoid receptor interactions.
THCV is a minor cannabinoid found in only some strains of cannabis. The only structural difference between THCV and THC is the presence of a propyl (3 carbon) group, rather than a pentyl (5 carbon) group, on the molecule. Though this variation may seem subtle, it causes THCV to produce very different effects than THC. These effects include a reduction in panic attacks, suppression of appetite, and the promotion of bone growth. THCV acts as an antagonist at the CB1 receptor and a partial agonist at the CB2 receptor.
Like THCV, CBDV differs from CBD only by the substitution of a pentyl (5 carbon) for a propyl (3 carbon) sidechain. Although research on CBDV is still in its initial stages, recent studies have shown promise for its use in the management of epilepsy. This is due to its action at TRPV1 receptors and modulation of gene expression.
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Terpenes are a large and varied class of hydrocarbons (made up of hydrogen and carbon), produced by a wide variety of plants and also, some insects. Terpenes are referred to as terpenoids when denatured by oxidation (like being dried and cured) or chemically altered by some rearrangement of the carbon skeleton. They are the main component of any plant resin or essential oils and play many important roles in the plant kingdom- from deterring insect predation, protection from environmental stresses and vitally, as chemical building blocks for more complex molecules, like cannabinoids, certain hormones, vitamins (Vitamin A), pigments and sterols.
Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and every strain tends toward a unique terpene type and composition. Not unlike other strong-smelling plants and flowers, the development of terpenes in cannabis began for adaptive purposes: to repel predators and lure pollinators.
Most common terpenes found in cannabis: Mrycene, linalool, limonene, alpha and beta pinene, trans-caryophyllene, menthol, terpinolene, humulene, caryophyllene oxide, ocimene.