There’s a reason marijuana has been popular among physicians for centuries; more than one, actually, but for the sake of brevity, we’re only going to talk about two of them – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, that occur in marijuana leaves and are responsible for providing the lion’s share of the plant’s recreational and medicinal effects.
What are cannabinoids?
Did you know – there are three variations of the cannabis plant? Cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, and cannabis ruderalis, sometimes referred to as hemp. Of these plants, there are many varieties (over 800, by last count) and each contains a percentage of either THC, CBD, and in some cases, both.
You find that most strains are higher in THC than CBD, except for ruderalis, which usually only produces CBD (and is very rarely used for human consumption, although it has been converted into material products like clothing, paper, and toiletries, as well as being bred for its medicinal CBD content).
Most people believe that these two popular cannabinoids exist in the plant from the moment int germinates from seed into tiny seedling, but they are actually by products of acids (THC-A and CBD-A, most commonly) which are broken down by a process called decarboxylation, a process that makes the molecule more compatible with our body. Decarboxylation occurs when marijuana plant material is exposed to high heats for prolonged periods of time, and during the drying and curing process.
Why are THC and CBD so special?
Chemically, cannabinoids mimic neurotransmitters that are produced by our own bodies, which is why they react so readily with our endocannabinoid system (one that was discovered while researchers were studying the effects of cannabinoids on the human body). THC binds with receptors throughout the brain and body, and CBD encourages more active uptake of existing molecules. This may be one of the reasons CBD is not psychoactive, like THC, although most receptors that accept the neurotransmitters influenced by CBD are located throughout the body and not in the brain.
Marijuana Munchies: You may have had the pleasure of discovering the unique high of a marijuana-infused edible, but did you know that the whole plant is consumable? Proponent Dr. William Courtney believes that, along with beneficial THC-A and CBD-A, raw marijuana plants contain all the vitamins and nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy human body. If you’re willing to endure the bitter flavor, that is.
The fundamental difference
You’ll find a lot of people, particularly those who aren’t familiar with cannabinoids and CBD, discuss THC like it’s the be all and end all of the plant. We know better, especially since over 80 different cannabinoids have been isolated and considered unique and beneficial in their own right. THC’s popularity is derived from its hallucinogenic property – high doses can deliver euphoric effects, and have been known to boost mood and sociability. It can also make you feel “spaced out”, a common concern and one of the many reasons the plant as a whole has been classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. THC can cause diminished focus and mental acuity, among other things. It’s not recommended to drive or engage in difficult activates when consuming THC.
This is where the usefulness of non-hallucinogenic CBD comes into play. This compound, almost always produced in much lower quantities per plant, can provide similar feelings of relaxation without the trippy “high”. For this reason, it has become a popular option for patients and even physicians, who are more comfortable prescribing a natural medication that has little to no negative side effects and is suitable for patients of all ages and walks of life.
Although CBD can effectively block the uptake of THC when both are present, breeders have begun to take note of the medical community’s desire for products that won’t potentially result in hallucinogenic effects and are developing medical strains that contain only CBD. Case in point, Charlotte’s Web was engineered for a young girl, Charlotte Figi, who suffered nearly 300 grand mal seizures a week. It’s a pure CBD strain, most often available as a concentrated oil, (it’s widely known that THC consumption by those under the age of 25 can have detrimental effects on the brain).
The law prefers CBD
You’ll no doubt have noticed the countless articles and opinion pieces popping up all over the net regarding marijuana and its legal status. Marijuana advocates have been in favor of legalizing cannabis use (both recreational and medical) across the board, but only a handful of states have done so, with great success we might add.
The American government is hesitant to reverse their federal position on the classified substance, since there’s still a wealth of research to be done into the long-term effects of cannabis on our health.
The good news, however, is that even state-level governments who have been strict on recreational marijuana use are loosening the belt on medical cannabis use, even if only allowing CBD-rich products (typically called medical marijuana) with little to no THC, or products derived from hemp. This is a grey area, and serves as a stop-gap solution until more evidence is brought forward about the many benefits and clinical applications of this all natural and much beloved plant.
When you’re planning your own cannabis garden find the best quality cannabis seeds by shopping online with Pacific Choice Seed Bank. We carry hundreds of popular seed strains, from traditionally recreational to potent medical and beyond.