Those living in the US might have noticed that cannabis acceptance has been catching on fast. Recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, and CBD is legal nationwide.
Part of the reason for the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis is people’s increasing understanding of the substance. In truth, there hasn’t been much research into marijuana or its effects due to the strange legal limbo that currently makes up US marijuana policy.
While legalization is gaining traction on a state-by-state level, the federal government still considers marijuana illegal (1). It’s also listed as a schedule 1 drug, which describes a highly addictive substance with no medical applications.
This makes it difficult to study cannabis, so not only do people know little about it, but they’re learning very slowly. One of the most groundbreaking things discovered about cannabis is the existence of cannabinoids, the most famous of which are CBD and THC.
The following article will go into more detail about the various cannabinoids and how they interact.
A Brief History
Both CBD and marijuana come from the Cannabis Sativa plant, which most likely evolved somewhere in or around the steppes of Asia (2), in what is now Mongolia, and Russia.
Marijuana first appeared sometime around 10,000 BCE, which, coincidentally, was also when early humans first began practicing agriculture. The first evidence of humans using marijuana dates to around 3000 BCE. Evidence shows up again a few centuries later, this time in Mesopotamia and other parts of the Middle East.
Thus began mankind’s long history with the cannabis plant. The plant spread and people in the world over used it for thousands of years. The Americas, in particular, have a very interesting history with cannabis (3).
Cannabis, Europe, and Colonialism
Marijuana was a late arrival to Europe, showing up in Central and Western Europe not long after the fall of the Roman Empire. However, marijuana influenced European cultures somewhat differently than other cultures.
Marijuana’s primary use was for medicine in its earliest days. Its mind-altering qualities only showed up in about 500 BCE
The Europeans grew it for its fibers, which they used to make ropes and various fabrics. Since the Europeans had so little use for cannabis as an intoxicant, the intoxicating compounds within the plant weren’t present in significant amounts.
It wasn’t until the Age of Exploration when Europeans rediscovered the intoxicating effects of cannabis. They then gave it to slaves to keep them from rebelling. This practice carried marijuana to the Caribbean and it ended up in Mexico at some point.
In what would become the United States, farmers were harvesting hemp, a form of cannabis used to make various goods, before the Revolution. This carried on until the 1790s when the invention of the cotton gin (4) made cotton a more profitable and efficient crop than hemp.
While some did use recreational cannabis in the 1800s, it took until the early 1900s for Americans to see cannabis as a means of recreation on a large scale.
The Mexican Revolution, Race Relations, and Harry Anslinger
America’s story with marijuana starts south of the border, in the first decades of the 20th century. 1910 saw the beginning of a long, bloody conflict where the Mexican people began rising against dictator Porfirio Diaz.
As with most wars, the conflict in Mexico created a large number of refugees, who crossed into the US to escape the war. With them came a new substance, known as marijuana, and it caught on like wildfire.
The sudden influx of Mexican immigrants led to fear and racial tensions among white Americans, and several states began to outlaw marijuana. However, it was still legal at the federal level.
Enter Harry Anslinger, a man who possessed many of the qualities of successful people back in the day. He was intelligent, determined, and racist. He also happened to be in charge of the Federal Narcotics Bureau after 1930.
Seeing this new substance catching on like wildfire, especially among immigrant and African-American communities made him mad. Unfortunately, it also gave him the perfect scapegoat. By targeting marijuana, Anslinger could punish these communities. He popularized the word ‘marijuana’ to make the substance feel foreign.
Anslinger launched a smear campaign (5), claiming that marijuana created ‘reefer madness’, making otherwise good people violent. It also supposedly caused sexual promiscuity and encouraged race-mixing.
7 years after taking office, Anslinger convinced the government to sign the Marijuana Tax Act into law, effectively outlawing the substance. In the 1950s, he played a major role in getting the Bogg’s Act passed, which put minimum sentencing laws into practice.
The Potency of Marijuana Over Time
Throughout marijuana’s history as an intoxicant, one thing has remained almost constant. Ever since human beings discovered the psychoactive properties of marijuana, they’ve been breeding plants with ever-increasing levels of THC (6).
These levels have skyrocketed in the past decade or so. The plant that started with about 3/10ths of a percent THC content 5,000 years ago now shows up to 30% THC levels in domesticated plants.
The cannabis Anslinger was so concerned about pales in comparison to the stuff people use today.
The Science Behind Cannabinoids
Even in Anslinger’s time, few specialists believed in ‘reefer madness.’ Before the Mexican Revolution, cannabis was a common ingredient in various medicines and some people near the East Coast used it for recreation. The concept of violent reactions had never come up during that time.
By the time Anslinger’s ‘reefer madness’ campaign came along, most doctors felt they could confidently counter his claims and say that there was no link between marijuana and violence. Anslinger ignored them and took the word of the few doctors who agreed with him.
Three years after the Marijuana Tax Act passed, the world took a leap forward in marijuana research. Robert S. Cahn, a scientist from the UK, found a new type of chemical compound known as a cannabinoid (7). That same year, an American scientist discovered cannabidiol, also known as CBD.
The fascinating thing is that these compounds are unique to cannabis and related plants. To this day, doctors have found over 100 different cannabinoids, each of which comes in different amounts and functions in slightly different ways.
The Endocannabinoid System
The 1990s saw the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, a system present in all animals that responds to various cannabinoids. Our body also naturally produces some cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids.
These endocannabinoids help our brains communicate certain messages with other parts of our bodies. Like many other aspects of cannabis and human health, we still don’t know much about the endocannabinoid system.
What we do know about the endocannabinoid system (8) is that it seems to play a role in various symptoms and illnesses, which explains why cannabis shows some potential for treating these issues.
The existence of the endocannabinoid system raises some very interesting questions regarding cannabis and human evolution. How long have we been using cannabis? Did we evolve to react to it? Hopefully, the future will bring answers to some of these questions.
The communication between cannabinoids and our bodies occurs through the use of cannabinoid receptors. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2.
These types of receptors differ in where and how they function. The CB1 receptors act in the nervous system and affect most parts of our body, including the brain, the nerves, glands, tissues, and organs.
CB1 receptors are crucial in treating pain and working with THC to create a high. It also plays a role in regulating most of our body’s basic functions, such as eating, sleeping, digesting, and reproductive functions.
With so much of the body regulated by CB1 receptors, what’s left for CB2 receptors to do? CB2 receptors regulate the functions of the immune system. This means that many of the medicinal properties of cannabis involve CB2 receptors.
Scientists are studying the CB2 receptors and the cannabinoids that activate them to make more efficient medications. The two types of receptors are similar enough and intricate enough that it’s difficult to study them separately, which only adds to the existing difficulties of studying cannabis and the endocannabinoid system.
THC, CBD, and the Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is a term that describes the interactions between CBD and THC, as well as other cannabinoids. It was first proposed in 1998 by Raphael Mechoulam (9), an Israeli chemist working at a college in Jerusalem.
Like many chemicals, cannabinoids tend to interact with each other and with various types of medicines.
Some of the most interesting examples of the entourage effect occur when CBD and THC interact. THC describes a cluster of closely-related compounds but often stands for Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Though THC allows the user to get high, it can also cause some unfortunate side effects such as anxiety. However, taking THC and CBD together often lessens the severity of these symptoms.
Some suspect that this occurs because CBD takes up some space in the same receptors as THC. This means that less space is available in these receptors for THC, and therefore its effects are not felt as heavily.
Regardless of what the scientific reason for these interactions is, we’ve known about it for some time. People have used THC for a few decades to treat symptoms caused by chemotherapy. However, it was quickly found that it caused heightened fear and anxiety.
Studies have tested a mixture of CBD and THC at treating pain in cancer patients. Not only did the combination relieve pain better than pure THC (10), but it produced less-intense side effects as well. When it comes to THC vs CBD or other cannabinoids, there shouldn’t be a contest.
Other Cannabinoids and the Entourage Effect
If the entourage effect works like many believe it does, there could be countless other effects that we haven’t studied thoroughly. Unfortunately, with people focusing so much on THC and CBD, it’s not often that scientists study any of the other cannabinoids.
The result is that we know very little about these other compounds. We do know a bit about what they do, though. CBG, short for cannabigerol, seems to play a role in the psychoactive effects of THC, although it doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects itself.
CBG functions by interacting with receptors in our brain and making it more sensitive to the effects of another cannabinoid known as anandamide. It also helps manage pain, as well as regulate our sleep cycle and appetite.
Cannabichromene, often shortened to CBC, is a cannabinoid that helps with regulating pain and digestion and can help treat neuropathy, certain types of pain, and digestive disorders.
Cannabichromene could prove particularly important in the future because it seems to be the compound responsible for much of cannabis’ cancer-fighting properties. Isolation limits the effect, though, and the entourage effect enhances it.
CBGV is short for cannabigerovarin, which is another type of cannabinoid. You’ve likely noticed by now that most cannabinoids have pain management properties, so it should come as no surprise that CBGV does as well. It also seems to help with certain skin conditions, cancer, and a few other issues.
Much like with CBC, CBGV works best when paired with other cannabinoids.
Criticisms of the Entourage Effect
Though the entourage effect has a decent amount of evidence to back it up, it’s still technically a theory. The most common criticisms of the entourage effect cite mixed results in certain studies and claim the ‘entourage effect’ isn’t consistent enough to be real.
Some believe that the entourage effect seems too good to be true. After all, shouldn’t something which compounds the positive effects of marijuana also compound the negative effects?
Given the sheer amount of factors involved in cannabis use, it’s hard to get a definitive answer. It’s also possible that the entourage effect could compound some negative aspects of cannabis. Either way, scientists need to do more research.
Cannabinoids interact with more than just each other. Terpenes are a type of chemical compound present in plants that create a plant’s scent and determine how creatures react to them.
Most people have likely seen terpenes in action without really knowing it. Flowers use them to create a scent that attracts bees, hummingbirds, and other creatures so that they drink nectar, accidentally gather pollen and unknowingly transfer it to other flowers.
Anybody who’s ever smelled an artificial scent, such as air freshener, eaten food with some artificial flavors, or used some topical medications has also encountered terpenes. People also filter out some terpenes and use them to make turpentine, hence the name.
While some of the biggest sources for terpene are trees, particularly pine trees, cannabis also contains quite a few of them.
Terpenes and Medicine
Much like cannabinoids, terpenes also boast some incredible medical properties, such as increasing cancer resistance, reducing pain and swelling, and fighting anxiety and depression.
We use terpenes in some medications and therapies already, but when combined with cannabis, they often lead to more powerful effects or help mitigate some of the unwanted ones.
This makes sense when we consider the natural function of terpenes. They’re important compounds present in the immune system of plants. Just as they aid our bodies in various aspects of health, they also aid the plants they came from.
The Sweet (And Sour) Smell of Bliss
Marijuana isn’t known for a particularly pleasant smell, but the natural smell of marijuana is subject to change. As new combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes emerge, new smells emerge with them. For instance, certain strains of marijuana come with their own very interesting smells, some of which are a lot more pleasant than others.
Among the most pleasant smells are various citrus flavors such as lemon and mango. Then there are strains like lemon skunk, which smells a bit better than marijuana’s natural scent, but still has obvious traces of it.
There are also a lot of less-than-pleasant flavors, including cat urine, dog feces, and diesel. Why would anyone want to try marijuana that smells so awful? A lot of the stinkier strains are quite powerful and will leave an impression on more than just the nose.
A lot of these smelly strains also help with anxiety and depression. These are the most common mental illnesses in the world, with anxiety affecting over 40 million adults (11) in the United States alone. This equates to over 10% of the population. This doesn’t include minors, 7% of whom have anxiety.
Depression, meanwhile, affected over 20 million people in this past year, which is about 8% of the population. Roughly 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and of those who have depression, half also have an anxiety disorder.
Sativa and Indica
The facts about how cannabinoids, terpenes, and differences in strain affect how marijuana behaves, and how the entourage effect comes into play are complex. Things get even more complicated when we consider the different types of cannabis plants: Indica and Sativa.
What’s immediately apparent about Indica and Sativa is that they look very different. Sativa is a much taller plant with smaller leaves, while Indica is shorter, with bigger leaves.
This likely has to do with the native regions of Indica and Sativa. Sativa is native to East Asia, which is a climate with thicker vegetation. Thus, the average plant must be taller to get sunlight.
Indica, on the other hand, comes from India, hence its name. While India does have a few jungles, a lot of it is shrubs, grasses, and occasional trees, so cannabis there doesn’t have to grow very tall to have access to sunlight.
For Health and a High
One of the most significant differences between Indica and Sativa is their cannabinoid composition. When people think of marijuana, they’re likely thinking of Sativa. Sativa has a high concentration of THC.
Meanwhile, Indica tends to be higher in CBD. Even so, the difference isn’t significant. The amount of CBD in Indica is only slightly higher than the amount of THC.
This is also true for Sativa, which is usually higher in THC but not always. Many also believe that Sativa and Indica give different kinds of high. Sativa supposedly makes the user much more energetic and boosts their mood.
People claim that Indica has a more calming effect. It helps lessen pain and makes you hungry. For this reason, many claim that it’s best taken before bed.
Keep in mind that most of the evidence supporting the difference between the effects of Indica and Sativa is purely anecdotal. There is no scientific evidence that any difference exists yet.
The Wonderful World of Hybrids
Indica and Sativa are the two major varieties of marijuana, but they’re not a monolith. People can and have mixed the two varieties to create hybrids.
Making a hybrid involves more than just mixing ingredients from two different strains. Indica and Sativa plants have to be cross-bred to create a hybrid. This process is fittingly known as hybridization.
Hybrid is a bit of a muddled term at this point because people have bred and crossbred marijuana to a point that pure Indica and Sativa no longer technically exist. The closest we get today are Indica-dominant and Sativa-dominant strains.
Creating a Hybrid
The process of creating a hybrid is an interesting one. Breeding an Indica plant and a Sativa plant is only the first step in the hybridization process. Growers will do this several times until they breed a plant that has whatever traits the breeder is looking for.
Once the breeders have an acceptable plant, they’ll rebreed it with one of its parent plants. This helps to ensure that the desired traits are abundant enough to keep showing up in desired generations. This process is then repeated through a few successive generations before cannabis hits the market.
An Indica and Sativa blend is not the only type of hybrid, though it is the most common type. There are also hybrids made from two different strains of Indica or two different strains of Sativa.
A significant aspect of the entourage effect has to do with how the patient takes the medicine. There are several different ways to take cannabis, from smoking to edibles and even topicals.
Administration of cannabis interferes with its effects in a strange way. Primarily, the administration determines how quickly the cannabis takes effect. The fastest-acting method of taking cannabis is smoking20.
Smoking cannabis delivers the THC to your lungs and blood, and from there it’s a quick trip to the brain. You begin to feel the effects of cannabis within minutes, but it won’t be at its most potent until a half-hour later.
The reason for the delay is that while smoked cannabis reaches the brain quickly, there’s still the rest of the body to get to, and that takes time. It’s also important to note that while the high from smoking weed is quick, it’s not very intense compared to other methods of administration.
Nearly everybody in the country, and perhaps more, have heard at least one joke about pot brownies in their lifetimes. The prevalence of jokes like this is a sign of just how popular edibles are.
People who have taken edibles describe their high as more intense than that of smoking cannabis. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that our liver processes edibles, converting the THC into an enzyme that crosses the brain/blood barrier much faster and often makes the user much higher.
The second reason mostly has to do with impatience. It often takes a while for the high from an edible to kick in. Most people wait a full hour before feeling anything.
Unfortunately, this can give people the impression that the edible isn’t working, so some of them take more. When the high finally starts, it ends up being more than the user can handle, and they end up paranoid.
In the years immediately after one state legalized recreational cannabis, marijuana-related ER visits increased significantly. Edibles accounted for more than one out of every ten of these visits.
It’s important to discuss CBD when discussing issues of administration. CBD has one important advantage over cannabis in that it doesn’t cause a high, so there’s no risk of taking too much and panicking.
Due to its lack of psychoactive materials, CBD is often touted as all the benefits of cannabis without cannabis. While the entourage effect suggests otherwise, please note that CBD can still be useful on its own.
Ever since the most recent Farm Bill, CBD has been legal and the market for it is taking off.
CBD is often harvested from cannabis, but hemp is another possible source. This is most likely done so there’s less THC that could accidentally end up in the final product.
Aside from peace of mind, there’s no reason to choose one over the other. Cannabis-derived CBD and hemp-derived CBD are identical.
Edibles are one of the most popular ways to take CBD (12), and you can find it in all sorts of awesome foods. CBD companies have put CBD into chocolates, cookies, and even gummies. People seem to love CBD gummies because they get more attention than any other CBD-infused treat.
While CBD edibles are great, they’re also very slow to work. You may wait up to two hours before your symptoms start to improve. The upside is that CBD edibles have more staying power than CBD taken in other ways. An edible can work up to a full eight hours.
As the name suggests, sublingual CBD goes under the tongue and dissolves there. Sublingual CBD starts working within thirty minutes but doesn’t often last more than 3 hours.
Ideally, sublingual CBD is best suited for those who need temporary relief from occasional symptoms.
There is some evidence that CBD can treat certain skin issues, such as acne and skin inflammation. To this end, many people choose to take CBD as a topical ointment.
Topical CBD enters the body through the skin pores. Our skin contains CB receptors, so the CBD doesn’t have to go far to activate them.
The bad news is that while this method is direct, it’s hard to say if skin absorbs CBD well. Skin doesn’t absorb CBD all that well, so you may need a lot of it to provide significant relief.
CBD topicals might work fast, but they don’t vanish nearly as quickly. Oftentimes, a topical will last about six hours.
Another method of CBD delivery is tinctures. A tincture is an organic substance dissolved in a liquid or oil. In this case, the substance is CBD and the oil is usually MCT oil, which comes from coconuts.
To use a CBD tincture, one puts a few drops into their mouth and holds it there for a full minute before swallowing it. As with sublingual CBD, holding a tincture in your mouth allows the body to absorb CBD faster.
It’s not the most exciting way to take medicine, CBD does come in pill form. CBD capsules are taken the same way as edibles, but they work a bit faster.
Edibles are complex. There are several ingredients other than CBD, so there’s more to digest and process.
Capsules, on the other hand, are much simpler. They consist of CBD oil (13) in an outer covering that’s meant to dissolve quickly. It still has to go through your digestive system, though, so don’t expect results for an hour or so after taking a capsule.
Vaping CBD is a controversial subject because not everybody thinks it’s possible. What we do know is that vaping CBD comes with some serious risks.
Vaping, in general, isn’t a safe practice, because taking the ‘vapor’ into your lungs can cause irritation as well as more serious issues. That’s because people inhale more than water vapor when vaping. The resulting water vapor is mixed with other chemicals given off during the process of lighting it.
CBD for Pets
Humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from CBD. Since all animals have an endocannabinoid system, they react to cannabinoids in some of the same ways we do.
CBD manufacturers have figured this out, too, and now there’s a whole market of CBD products for pets. When it comes to pets, there are only two practical ways to administer CBD.
One option is to feed them a CBD treat. These are basic dog or cat treats with CBD mixed into them. Pet owners could also use a tincture and mix a bit of oil into the pet’s food.
Only CBD should be given to pets. Research is in its early stages, but thus far, CBD doesn’t appear to cause any harm to pets and may help with certain medical conditions.
THC should never be given to pets because they don’t tolerate it nearly as well as people. Marijuana appears to be safe for humans, and no human being has ever died from an overdose. The same can’t be said for pets.
Animals have far more severe reactions to THC than humans, to the point where it’s actually toxic to them. Lower doses of THC will only make the animal sick for a while, but they will likely recover. High concentrations of THC can kill them.
The CBD Market
CBD doesn’t make you high, but it does have one major downside. The 2018 Farm Bill may have legalized CBD, but it didn’t create an effective system of regulation.
Furthermore, with the market swelling almost overnight, the government isn’t fully equipped to monitor each company or inspect all CBD products. The fact that many CBD companies are foreign businesses that sell over the internet, and therefore can’t be prosecuted under American Food and Drug laws, complicates things further.
With so little regulation, it’s not always possible to know whether you’re getting a safe and legitimate product. There are still plenty of legitimate products on the market, though, and finding them is all a matter of knowing where and how to look.
Reading the label goes a long way towards finding a good product, especially in the case of CBD. All good CBD products come with a list of ingredients, and those ingredients will usually include CBD.
Some products might contain CBD but do not list CBD among their ingredients. Instead, they’ll mention ‘hemp extract.’
This is an issue of semantics. Depending on the legal definition of CBD, some products might not be able to legally list it among their ingredients.
Rest assured that ‘hemp extract’ is CBD. It just happens to fall short of some legal loophole.
The same cannot be said for other cannabis-based ingredients. Cannabinoids are only found on certain parts of the plant, and the seeds aren’t one of those parts.
CBD producers in the United States are not legally required to test their products for various chemicals and dangerous materials. Most companies choose not to test any of their products, while other companies will only test a few of them.
To find a company that tests its products responsibly, look for lab reports. Some companies will send their products off to an independent third-party testing lab that will fairly and objectively test them and post the results online.
If there are lab reports for a product online, the product is probably legitimate. Still, it can’t hurt to do some research on the lab and make sure they’re above-board as well. As you look through the reports, make sure the product passed the lab’s test.
Medical Marijuana and CBD: When You Should and Shouldn’t Use it
There’s been a lot of back and forth over the years regarding whether marijuana is or isn’t safe. While there are still a lot of people on both sides of the debate, the evidence mostly seems to suggest that marijuana is basically safe.
That being said, marijuana does show some significant risks in certain circumstances. Among those circumstances is driving. One should never use marijuana while driving, nor should they drive while under the influence of marijuana.
Anyone under the age of 21 should also not use marijuana. Studies have shown that using cannabis before the brain has developed fully can hinder its development. The interesting thing is that there doesn’t seem to be much danger of brain damage during adulthood.
Pregnant women should also not use marijuana, as it can affect the fetus and lead to developmental issues. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid marijuana as well because the baby can be exposed to it through breast milk.
It’s unclear what part of marijuana is affecting the development of children, so medical authorities are advising against all forms of cannabis-based products.
The Future of Cannabis
It’s impossible to say what the future holds for cannabis with any certainty, though we can guess based on current trends. Most likely, cannabis will continue its slow climb towards acceptance and more states will move to legalize it, if not the whole country.
The THC potency of cannabis will continue to rise, and CBD content will possibly continue to fall. The fate of CBD is still very much up in the air, given its recent emergence as a potential medical product.
If the US does fully legalize cannabis, it will likely cause a leap forward in our knowledge of the plant. Studies of cannabis will become far more common because legalization will make it much easier to access.
These studies may unearth more about the entourage effect or even prove the theory.
CBD and THC and the Entourage Effect
Scientists still don’t fully understand marijuana or how it affects people. What they have noticed is that the compounds in marijuana seem to work together to boost the overall effects.
This means that while CBD and THC have their own benefits, they seem to work better when they’re together. We’ve discussed this effect and how it plays into various other aspects of marijuana culture in this article.
If you want to know more about cannabis or how to live a more eco-friendly life please visit our site. If you’re in the market for CBD, we encourage you to look through some of the CBD products in our shop (14).
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