Every person has their own relationship with cannabis. While science is only just now uncovering the secrets of the endocannabinoid system, it is abundantly clear from anecdotal evidence that cannabis is highly effective in alleviating, and potentially eliminating, many diseases and disorders.
Harnessing the full power of cannabis begins with our community developing a greater understanding of how cannabis works within our bodies. Smoke Reports offers free tools for patients to be able to track their personal experiences with cannabis by potency, form, and genetic origin.
Choosing Your Cannabis: Personal Preferences
Humans are all unique, and our relationships with cannabis need to be treated as such. When it comes to recreation, medicine, and spirituality, only you can determine exactly what makes you happiest, and best eases your pain. You know how much ibuprofen you need when you sprain an ankle, or how much wine you should drink at a dinner party.
These are personal decisions based on your physiological responses, and can be expanded to the type of wine you most enjoy, or the brand of pharmaceutical you prefer. Cannabis works in the same way, although the responses of our endocannabinoid system are far more complex than the physiological responses from other recreational or medicinal drugs.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are terpene-derived molecules that interact with receptors throughout our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Although more receptors are suspected to exist, there are currently two known cannabinoid receptors related to the ECS. Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB-1) is thought to be most prominent in the central nervous system, while cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB-2) is associated with the peripheral nervous system, as well as the immune system, the gastrointestinal system, and portions of the brain.
These two receptors react differently to cannabinoids, and the response of a single receptor can vary based on the ratio of distinct cannabinoids present in the body. This is an important fact to keep in mind as we navigate the information surrounding medical cannabis.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most well-known cannabinoids available. THC is the molecule responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD is typically not psychoactive and has been shown to help with a number of medical conditions. However, there are over eighty different cannabinoids, and the large presence of THC and CBD is due to extensive breeding over the last several generations. These cannabinoids are responsible for the recreational, medicinal, and spiritual benefits of cannabis. On that note, our individual endocannabinoid systems prefer different ratios and concentrations of cannabinoids depending on the situation.
Some people may feel very energetic when consuming high amounts of THC, while others may prefer a large concentration of THC when going to bed. Some people find that CBD is particularly effective for their inflammation, while a fellow patient may claim that equal amounts of THC and CBD is the most effective. One of the key points to remember as you consider your relationship with cannabis is that only you can know for certain which ratios of cannabinoids best suit your needs.
Phenotype and Chemotype: A Better Way to Classify Cannabis
Individual organisms can be defined by chemical and observable characteristics unique to that particular plant. A single set of characteristics represents a phenotype, and even plants from similar genetic backgrounds can produce a variety of phenotypes, as the chemical composition of an organism depends on subtle collaboration between dominant genes and the environment.
When applied to cannabis, phenotypes (strains) are not necessarily a reliable measurement for medical efficacy. This is because cannabinoid content can vary immensely between individual plants for a number of reasons related to both genetics and growing conditions.
A more responsible approach to measuring cannabis reactions is to assess chemotype ratios. Single plant organisms produce varied amounts of the different cannabinoids, so it is rather difficult to find a strain that universally produces your desired mix of THC, CBD or beyond.
As more cannabis producers and collectives lab test their products, the chemical compositions of cannabis products are becoming more readily available for patients. The practice of lab testing gives patients the empirical data necessary to accurately measure their personal reactions to different doses of cannabinoids.
Understanding Cannabis Beyond Indica and Sativa
The cannabis information being passed around the community rarely takes into account the fact that we all have unique endocannabinoid systems, and each of us responds differently to cannabis phenotypes and chemotypes. The consumer language that currently exists for cannabis does not adequately reflect the medical potential available from this plant. We often oversimplify cannabis, describing our reactions as either uplifting or sedative, and referring to this dichotomy as “sativa vs. indica.”
These terms refer to a much-contested taxonomy that is certainly no basis for anticipating effects, and yet doctors and budtenders both subscribe to this oversimplified classification method. Therefore, it is left to us as a community to educate ourselves on the medical potential of the various chemical characteristics found in cannabis, and then apply that information to our personal physiological responses.
When evaluating cannabis, strain names can be helpful if you have researched your favorite cannabis genetics. If you are newer to the world of cannabis, it is important to know your medicine and look for products that have been lab tested for cannabinoid and terpene content. Lab tests show both the amount of cannabinoids present within flowers or products, as well as the ratio of the different cannabinoids and terpenes present.
For example, a strain or product could be listed as having mostly THC, or mostly CBD, or could have an equal mix of both. Both the ratio between different cannabinoids and the total amount of cannabinoids (in milligrams) should be taken into consideration as you explore medical cannabis.
Medical Research Focusing on Chemotypes
One of the most helpful guides in determining a starting point for cannabis exploration is Dr. Uwe Belsching’s The Cannabis Health Index: Combining the Science of Medical Marijuana with Mindfulness Techniques to Heal 100 Chronic Symptoms and Diseases. Dr. Blesching compiles scientific studies from all over the world that demonstrate the efficacy of cannabis treatment for a hundred incredibly harmful medical conditions. The information presented gives readers an overview of cannabinoids as a whole, as well as critical information specific to symptoms and conditions.
Much of the research available shows that responses from CB-1 and CB-2 receptors do in fact mediate activity of the various physiological systems within our body, and that cannabinoids can be used to promote better health. Dr. Blesching gives patients a baseline to begin research and treatment of specific conditions by beginning to profile the cannabinoids and terpenes shown to promote healing success.
Terpenes and Cannabinoids: Synergy of the Entourage Effect
The effectiveness of terpenes alongside cannabinoids is another important piece of information often overlooked by the cannabis industry. Terpenes are organic compounds produced by plants, and are the primary components of many extracted essential oils.
Unlike cannabinoids that are only found on the cannabis plant, terpenes can be found throughout nature, and have been used by humans for centuries for therapeutic benefit. Pinene, Linalool, Cineol, Humulene, Limonene, Borneol, Myrcene, B-Caryophyllene, Phytol, and Terpinolene are just a few of the many different types of terpenes. These terpenes have been associated with the relief of inflammation, fungus, pain, cancer, insomnia, bacteria, depression, spasms, anxiety, and more. It gets better. Terpenes have recently been reported as promoting the overall effects of cannabis, working with a natural synergy that demands more scientific attention.
For instance, the cannabinoid myrcene, (found in many plants such as mangoes), has been shown to interact with CB-1 receptors to promote a more regulated uptake of THC, resulting in a longer experience for the patient. Some strains naturally contain significant amounts of myrcene, and in other cases, cannabis producers specifically create mango-infused products that encourage the synergy between myrcene and THC.
Science is only now just beginning to thoroughly investigate terpene-cannabinoid synergy, yet it is important for our community to recognize these benefits according to our personal reactions.
Further scientific research is vital for the future of medical cannabis. The United States is only just beginning to recognize the power of cannabis therapy, and federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug with no healing potential and a high risk of abuse.
Due to decades of prohibition, cannabis information is extremely disconnected, and often misrepresented on purpose. It is critical that as a community, cannabis patients, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, and legislators demand increased research to establish a better cannabis conversation.
Landraces: The Family Tree of Cannabis Genetics
Smoke Reports provides the public with a personalized recommendation engine, that gives everyone the ability to evaluate their experiences with cannabis, and explore for the most suitable options available. When it comes to finding your favorite cannabis strains, it is important to understand landraces.
Landraces are groups of plants from distinct locations all over the world. Cannabis adapts to geographical conditions in the same way that all plants and animals adapt to their surroundings, and pass the most beneficial genes onto future generations. Cannabis has many distinct landraces from many regions around the world:
- East Asia
- Indian Subcontinent
- Southeast Asia
- Middle East
- Eastern Europe
- Western Europe
- Equatorial Africa
- Southeast Africa
- North America
- Central America and Caribbean
- South America
Over the last forty years, there has been a major increase in cannabis plants traveling all over the world, and breeding with entirely different landrace genetics. Smoke Reports lists the origins of of over 5,000 cannabis strains, and gives patients suggestions based on their personal reviews of the effects and flavors felt while trying different types of cannabis.