Cannabis Reactions

People often react very differently to cannabis consumption. For many, it’s a relaxing, even meditative experience, while others often feel anxious and paranoid. Some find a small, light dosage effective. Others need high quantities of extremely strong cannabis to feel any effects at all. So why do our reactions vary so widely? Today, we’ll explore a few fundamental components of our reactions to cannabis consumption.

The Endocannabinoid System

Our bodies process the cannabis plant through the endocannabinoid system. This system helps us maintain homeostasis. It works by producing endocannabinoids, natural chemicals that help our bodies with bioregulation. Endocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system play a crucial role in regulating a variety of biological functions, including our reaction to chronic stress, nervous system functions, and even our body’s response to cancer.

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Image Source: http://www.cell.com/trends/endocrinology-metabolism/fulltext/S1043-2760(15)00140-X

Cannabinoids are chemicals naturally secreted by the cannabis plant. They mirror the endocannabinoids produced by our body, and interact with the endocannabinoid system in a similar manner. These interactions help cause the plant’s psychoactive effects and therapeutic effects.

THC vs CBD

One of the most well known cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This cannabinoid is primarily responsible for the high we associate with the cannabis plant. It also stimulates appetite, can reduce muscle spasms and vomiting, and relieves pain.  For some, THC can cause anxiety. Understanding your sensitivity to THC can help you better regulate the psychological effects you experience, and help you deal with any feelings of anxiety or paranoia.

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Image Source: http://www.weedist.com/2014/07/kick-paranoia-enjoy-cannabis-high/

You may also be familiar with cannabidiol, or CBD. Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not cause any psychoactive effects. It does, however, produce a wide variety of therapeutic benefits. Early research shows that it may be effective in treating several particularly difficult diseases, including multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder, and Crohn’s disease. It can also reduce anxiety, and may strengthen the painkilling effects of THC.

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Image Source: http://theleafonline.com/c/science/2014/08/cannabinoid-profiles-crash-course-cbga/

While THC and CBD are naturally found in the highest relative quantities of all the cannabinoids, it’s important to remember that there are over 100 different cannabinoids, and they all have different effects. Cannabinol, or CBN, for example, can induce sleep and help relieve pain. Additionally, because everyone has a different endocannabinoid system, different consumers experience some effects more strongly than others.

Other Factors

Cannabinoids are not the only factor at work in our reactions to cannabis. The essential oils of the cannabis plant, called terpenes, can alter the kind of psychoactive effects experienced, as well as what therapeutic benefits result.

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Image Source: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/infographic-what-are-cannabis-terpenes-and-how-do-they-affect-you

Psychological factors are also important. How comfortable you feel with your environment, your mood while consuming cannabis, and what you expect to feel can alter the intensity of psychological effects and whether or not you experience anxiety. Gender may also be a factor — recent research indicates that women may be more sensitive to THC than men. As we explored today, we all experience cannabis differently. So take your time, and find out what works for you.

 

 

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Know Your Type: Cannabis Classifications

If you’re familiar with cannabis basics, you may have heard of two common terms used to describe different types of weed: indicas and sativas. These terms refer to two different species of marijuana, cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. Indicas and sativas look, smell, and taste different. Indicas tend to grow shorter and stockier, while sativas grow taller and thinner. Indica bud may have a purplish appearance.

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More fundamentally, these differences refer to the plant’s easily observable traits, or its phenotype. While they do correlate with certain effects — indicas are known for their stoney body highs, sativas for their more cerebral high — we’ll have to dig deeper to get a better understanding of what lies behind the many psychoactive effects and therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant.

Phenotypes, Genotypes, and Chemotypes

We mentioned that a cannabis plant’s phenotype — its easily observable traits — tends to correlate with certain effects. But correlation doesn’t imply causation, so what causes those pleasing, therapeutic benefits that we associate with marijuana? To get a better understanding of what some of those causes may be, we’ll have to explore two additional terms: genotype and chemotype.

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A genotype is a living being’s genetic makeup. While phenotype refers to external, observable traits, genotype refers to the genetic, internal blueprint that a being inherits from its parents and ancestors. A genotype outlines the set of possible characteristics that a being could have or pass on to its offspring.

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Image Source: http://www.honest-essential-oils.com/eobbd-essential-oils/botanical-definition/

While a plant’s genotype refers to its genetic makeup, its chemotype refers to its chemical makeup. That is, what chemical compounds are most prevalent and in what combinations.

Cannabis Types

As noted above, indica and sativa refer to different phenotypes of the cannabis plant. More accurately, they refer to different phenotypic expressions. The plant’s genotype is what outlines the possibilities of what it can taste, smell, look, and feel like, and its phenotype is what actually shows up. That means that even if a plant has a strongly indica-like appearance and smell, it may still be storing some sativa genetics, or vice versa. This can lead to unexpected effects. With the ever-expanding range of hybrid strains out there, mixed genetics are also becoming more and more common, and mixed effects along with them.

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Image source: http://www.bestfriendsamsterdam.com/wp-content/uploads/indica_vs_sativa.png

Chemotypes in cannabis refer specifically to its THC versus its CBD content. These are two of the better-known cannabinoids, one of the main “active ingredients” in cannabis. Cannabis comes in three different chemical variations, or chemotypes. Type I refers to the so-called “drug type”, meaning that its high THC to low CBD ratio induces psychoactive effects, as well as other therapeutic benefits. Type III refers to the “fiber” or “non-drug type”, also often called hemp, because its high CBD to low THC ratio means that it induces little-to-no psychoactive effects, although it can still offer many therapeutic benefits. Type II is a sort of intermediate.

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A hemp field. Photo credit: Barbetorte – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7558724

While these basic chemotypes are helpful for understanding some of the effects a particular strain may have, it is important to remember that there are at least 85 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and that they produce different therapeutic benefits. Cannabinoids are not the only factor at work, either. Terpenes, the essential oils of the cannabis plant that give it particular smells, also play an important role in cannabis’ psychoactive effects and therapeutic benefits.

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Image source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/leafly/content/cannabinoids-101-what-makes-cannabis-medicine/PLUe6NdETsirqg7Y9Hkf_Cannabinoid-Wheel-(Final)—English.jpg

We hope this breakdown has helped you understand what you’re getting with any one strain, and will help you find what works for you.

Cannabis Ingestion Methods: Dabbing

In our previous two posts, we covered two of the more common methods of consuming cannabis: smoking and vaping. Today, we’ll be moving in a newer and more powerful direction: dabbing.

What is it?

If you have heard of dabbing, you probably know something about its potency. For cannabis, the word ‘dabbing’ comes from ‘dab’, as in, “A dab’ll do ya”. Dabbing has much stronger effects than either smoking or vaping. Dabs hit considerably harder, and they tend to last much longer, too.

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Image source: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/how-to-dab-cannabis-concentrates

Part of the reason dabs are so potent is because of what they are made of. Dabbing refers to a particular way to consume extracts, also called concentrates. These products are so strong because they have high concentrations of cannabinoids — what might be considered the main ‘active ingredient’ in weed. They are produced when solvents strip away much of the cannabis plant itself, but leave large amounts of the cannabinoids behind (and hopefully some terpenes, too).

How do you consume them?

Dabs are consumed using a dab rig. This contraption usually looks something like a bong (though not always). To smoke from a dab rig, a ‘dab’ of extract is lowered onto a super-heated nail — this is where one would find the ‘bowl’ when smoking flower from a bong.

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Image source: https://www.smokecartel.com/pages/infographic-anatomy-of-a-concentrate-rig

The extreme heat of the nail causes the concentrate to vaporize, rather than combust. The consumer then breathes the vapor in from the pipe. Combined with the already highly concentrated cannabinoid content, this method tends to hit harder than just about any other.

Dabbing vs other methods

The main difference between dabbing and smoking or vaping is that dabbing is simply stronger. That does not mean, however, that your tolerance or how high you want to be are the only factors at work. For those with severe medical needs, such as chronic pain or severe nausea, dabbing may be the only method capable of delivering effective relief.

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Additionally, a high cannabinoid content does not exclusively mean a high THC content. Many concentrates focus on high CBD content instead, and some shoot for a more balanced cannabinoid profile, creating different therapeutic effects and serving different medical needs. Of course, whatever your preference, it’s important to be sure that you know what works for you.

Cannabis Ingestion Methods: Smoking

With the sea of cannabis consumption options the average weed consumer faces today, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or how. That’s why here at Substance, we’re offering a quick guide to all the basic info you’ll need to get started. In our last post, we covered vaping. Today, we’ll be covering an old but reliable method: smoking your weed.

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For the purpose of this article, smoking will refer specifically to smoking flower, or bud. This would be the ‘weed’, ‘marijuana’, or ‘ganja’ that probably springs to mind when you think of cannabis. We will cover smoking concentrates, often called dabbing, in a later post.

The Basics

Before we talk about the method itself, let’s discuss the effects. Smoking has a near immediate onset. You will begin feeling its effects almost instantaneously, and it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to set in at the most. However, smoking is not as long lasting or as intense as other intake methods. The effects should last between 1 to 2 hours, and should be milder than edibles or dabbing.

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There are of course many ways to smoke. For any method, it’s important to grind your weed ahead of time. This will allow your weed to be as potent as possible, and will help you easily load and prepare it.

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Rolling

Joints, jays, spliffs, and blunts might be the most commonly known smoking methods. These all refer to different forms of marijuana cigarettes, so to speak.

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Image Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Roll-a-Marijuana-Joint

A joint or a jay is rolled with the same paper as a hand-rolled cigarette. It usually contains a crutch, that is, a small piece of stiff paper used to hold the joint together. You can purchase crutches made for hand rolling cigarettes, or you can make them from whatever you have on hand, such as a strip of a business card or cardboard paper. A joint or a jay will only contain cannabis.

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Image Source: https://cannabistutorials.com/how-to-roll-a-blunt/

A blunt, like a joint, only contains cannabis. However, it is rolled using special tobacco paper. Blunts generally do not use a crutch.

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Image Source: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-a-spliff-and-why-would-you-smoke-one

A spliff, on the other hand, mixes tobacco with the weed itself. A spliff is also rolled with the same paper as cigarettes, and looks identical to a joint, except for what’s inside. While some may prefer a nice jay for the purely cannabis-based high, others prefer to spliff their weed to add a tobacco buzz and help cut costs.

Bowls

For those more keen on smoking their weed in bowls, there’s pieces and bongs. A piece is a small glass handheld pipe used for smoking marijuana,

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while a bong is a sort of glass water pipe.

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Of all the above methods, a bong is probably the most potent. Of course, everyone’s system is different, so be sure to take your time and figure out what works for you.

Bud Basics

For those of you new to cannabis, what’s inside of any variety of ganja can be a bit overwhelming. To help you navigate the sometimes seemingly endless array of weed-related jargon, we’ve prepared an intro for you on the primary source of all your favorite cannabis products: bud, or flower.

What is it?

Bud is the literal flower of the cannabis plant, thus why you may hear it called both bud and flower. It contains weed’s active ingredients: cannabinoids and terpenes.

bud

Cannabinoids and the ECS

Cannabinoids are the chemicals secreted by the cannabis plant. Most people are familiar with the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as it plays a primary role in cannabis’ psychoactive effects (it gets you stoned). However, there are actually at least 85 cannabinoids, each with a variety of psychoactive effects and/or therapeutic benefits. Cannabinoids interact with your body via the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.

THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC

The ECS is endogenous to the human body. Your body produces its own version of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids. These help your body maintain homeostasis. How cannabinoids interact with your ECS and the endocannabinoids it produces will help determine both what kind of high you will get and what other therapeutic benefits the plant might yield.

Terpenes

Terpenes are the essential oil of the cannabis plant. They’re what give each variety of bud its own distinctive smell. Terpenes affect the way in which cannabinoids interact with your ECS. They can alter your high, or provide additional therapeutic effects.

Inforgraphic courtesy of Leafly. Find the original image and full article at: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/infographic-what-are-cannabis-terpenes-and-how-do-they-affect-you/

Species

Cannabis intended for human consumption comes in two different species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. The third species, Cannabis ruderalis, contains too little cannabinoids and terpenes to be of much interest for cannabis consumers. These species refer to the plant’s phenotype — its easily observable traits, such as its appearance, smell, etc. Generally, sativas are known for their cerebral effects, and indicas for their soothing body effects.

illustration of the three types of the cannabis or marijuana plant - indica, sativa, ruderalis

However, since indica and sativa refer to the plant’s external, easily observable traits (and not its cannabinoid and terpene composition or its genetic makeup), it’s hard to say the exact effect of a cannabis plant of either species. Further, most cannabis today is some combination of the two, often referred to as a ‘hybrid’.

Strains

The strain of any cannabis plant refers to its genealogy (its parents, grandparents, etc.) A plant’s strain will tell you if it is an indica, sativa, or a combination of both. They are also generally indicative of its cannabinoid and terpene content, although this varies considerably from grower to grower.

Bud from the 'Blue Magoo' strain of cannabis.
Bud from the ‘Blue Magoo’ strain of cannabis.

We hope you’ve found this intro helpful. Keep an eye out for further introductory posts on different cannabis products and ingestion methods, and don’t forget to stop by Substance soon to put your weed knowledge to work!

Cannabis Supplements: Caring for Your ECS

As you may know, the effects of cannabis are due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is the system by which cannabinoids, the chemical compounds secreted by the cannabis plant, interact with the human body. The ECS helps the human body maintain homeostasis, meaning that it remains constant, well-regulated, and healthy.

Image Source: http://www.cell.com/action/showImagesData?pii=S1043-2760%2815%2900140-X

It was previously believed that the cannabis plant was the only source of cannabinoids. However, evidence is beginning to suggest that this may not be the case, and that there may be other ways to care for your ECS. In a recent paper, neurologist and pharmacology researcher Dr. Ethan Russo highlighted how some plants may be able to supplement the ECS. Below, we have outlined how some of these plants may help your body stay in balance.

ECS Receptors:
CB1 and CB2

The endocannabinoid system has two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and central nervous system, although they are found in other tissues to a lesser degree. CB2 receptors, by contrast, are found primarily in peripheral organs, especially in cells associated with the immune system.

Image Source: http://www.fundacion-canna.es/
Image Source: http://www.fundacion-canna.es/

CB1 Stimulators

To provide your CB1 receptors with some extra care, consider consuming frankincense or kava. Frankincense displays anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiseptic effects similar to those of cannabis. It can be purchased as an essential oil and consumed by applying to the skin, usually with the help of a carrier oil, or inhaled. Large quantities can be toxic, however, so take care when inhaling.

Frankincense, before being made into an essential oil
Frankincense, before being made into an essential oil

Kava, a root native to the South Pacific islands, can produce calming effects similar to cannabis. It is usually consumed as a tea or tincture, and can be found at most herbalists. While there were concerns over one particular preparation causing liver damage in the past, this preparation is no longer commercially available, and Dr. Russo notes that it has a long history of safe use in Polynesia.

Fijian kava ceremony, performed for tourists Image Source: Jaejay77 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50488596
Fijian kava ceremony, performed for tourists
Image Source: Jaejay77 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50488596

CB2 Stimulators

As it turns out, a variety of household items and commonly used plants may contain an agent of use to your ECS: beta-caryophyllene. Because of the way it interacts with your CB2 receptors, beta-caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found in black pepper, lemon balm, cloves, and hops (which is, of course, used to prepare beer).

Black pepper is particularly rich in beta-caryophyllene
Black pepper is particularly rich in beta-caryophyllene

These are just a few of the non-cannabis plants that may help care for your ECS. For a complete overview, check out this interview with Dr. Russo. Don’t forget, however, that nothing stimulates your endocannabinoid system like cannabis itself, so be sure to stop by Substance soon!

Lesser-Known Cannabinoids: CBN

As you may know, many of the effects of the cannabis plant are due to the chemical compounds it secretes, called cannabinoids. While almost everyone is familiar with the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, there are actually over 100 cannabinoids. Recent popular and scientific interest in the therapeutic effects of cannabidiol, or CBD, has brought long-overdue attention to some of these other, lesser-known cannabinoids. Today, we’ll be taking a look at one of them: cannabinol, or CBN.

Where does it come from?

Cannabinol is a product of degradation. When cannabis oxidizes, THCA, the precursor to THC, degrades and forms CBNA. Oxidation occurs naturally with time, or with exposure to the air.

conversions
Image Source: https://www.medicaljane.com/2013/08/19/cannabinol-cbn-will-put-you-to-bed/

For this reason, poorly-cared for and older bud will often have higher concentrations of CBNA. Upon exposure to heat or UV rays — that is, when you smoke it or leave it in the sun –, CBNA then becomes CBN.

CBN and sleep

CBN and CBN-rich strains are known for inducing sleep. For those of you with insomnia or other sleep-related problems, CBN-heavy bud could be a good solution.

http://shawellnessclinic.com/shamagazine/wp-content/uploads/insomnia.jpg

Indica and indica-dominant strains are also known for their sleep-inducing qualities. Researchers believe that this may be due in part to their tendency to have higher concentrations of CBN.

Indica Strains of Cannabis

As we explored in our last post, some non-cannabis plants may also be beneficial for the endocannabinoid system. Some may also act synergistically with cannabis and cannabinoids. CBN, for example, tends to be a more effective sleep aid when consumed alongside hops, lavender, and chamomile.

Image Source: GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=322384
A lavender flower
Image Source:
GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=322384

Other therapeutic effects

CBN is also known to be anti-bacterial. Studies have shown its potential use as a topical in treating MRSA, an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that has developed resistance to many traditional antibiotics.

Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting MRSA
Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting MRSA

It may also aid in bone-growth. Further research is needed, but it has demonstrated potential to help treat osteoporosis and aid the recovery of broken bones.

Image Source: BruceBlaus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46602308
Image Source:
BruceBlaus – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46602308

As the body of research on cannabis grows, we will likely continue to discover therapeutic benefits of CBN and other cannabinoids. Here at Substance, we hope to continue to seeing roadblocks to this kind of meaningful cannabis research removed.