Our Endocannabinoid System/Major Cannabinoids

Everyone has an endocannabinoid system (acts as a re-uptake inhibitor of endogenous neurotransmitters, or those produced by the body).  Neurotransmitters help maintain homeostasis (stability/balance among brain chemicals) in the body.  Other well known neurotransmitters are dopamine and seratonin.

The endocannabinoid system has three major components:   The endocannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes (break down endocannabinoids after they are used).

Cannabis (and all its cannabinoids) affect the endocannabinoid system, particularly THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, and also CBD, a non psychoactive component.

Most of us know what THC is, the most well known cannabinoid.  (This is a cannabinoid not produced naturally by the body).  However, many of us don’t fully understand the benefits of CBD – or other minor cannabinoids.

CBD can be used to help regulate your own body’s endocannabinoids and to do so without creating an intoxicating effect.  Two major cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2.

Anandamide and 2-AG are the two major endocannabinoids produced naturally in the body.  THC is the psychoactive plant cannabinoid produced by Cannabis. All three of these cannabinoids can activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, although each one has a different potency at each receptor.

CBD receptors are found on cell surfaces. CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain and central nervous system and to a lesser degree, in other tissues.  CB2 receptors are mostly in peripheral organs, especially cells associated with the immune system.

CB1 receptors interact with THC, producing the HEAD buzz.

CB2 receptors interact throughout the body, like the immune system, or more associated with the BODY.

But enough science (for now).

Some of the more well-known cannabinoids are THC, (tetrahydrocannabinol), which has definite therapeutic properties (such as anti nausea effects) and CBD, (cannabidiol), which is  tolerated in greater quantities in the body.

Lesser known cannabinoid are:

THCA, is the acidic parent of THC found in the raw cannabis plant.  When exposed to heat, sunlight, or time, the THCA in the harvested plant will convert to THC.  THCA is non-psychoactive and is particularly useful for reducing nausea, reducing seizures, reducing muscle spasms, and fighting tumor and cancer cells.

CBDA is the acidic parent of CBD found in raw plant.  CBDA converts to CBD when it is exposed to heat, sunlight, or time.  Like THCA, CBDA is non-psychoactive. CBDA is also great for reducing nausea, reducing inflammation, and fighting tumor and cancer cells.

CBN (cannabinol) is a breakdown product of THC.  As harvested cannabis ages, THC will gradually be converted to CBN.  CBN is known to be particularly useful for aiding sleep, and also good for reducing pain and muscle spasms.

CBGA is actually the precursor molecule that is turned into THCA and CBDA as the cannabis plant develops, so it is found only in tiny amounts in the mature plant.  In the harvested plant, remaining CBGA converts to CBG with exposure to air and light.

CBG (cannabigerol) is useful as an antidepressant, a muscle relaxant, an antibiotic and antifungal agent, and as a blood pressure reducer.

CBC (cannabichromene) is also found only in tiny amounts in the cannabis plant.  CBC has pain reducing, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-cancer effects

THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) has been found to suppress appetite and can aid weight loss, and also has antiseizure effect.

Although these are the major 7 cannabinoids, there are many other beneficial minor cannabinoids.

Look for a future post on these minor cannabinoids and also terpenes (*YAY*, one of my favorite topics).

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Buying Medical Marijuana: What To Ask

Like myself, many people don’t know where to begin once they get their medical marijuana card.   Finding what works for YOU will be a work in progress – and will likely be so for most people, at least for awhile.  But don’t get discouraged!

There are so many questions a person asks themselves before making their very first purchase – but there’s very little information actually available.

I am hoping I can share some of the things I learned, from the time I got my card until now, and hopefully make the process a little easier for someone.

There are questions on how to find a decent Dispensary, what kind of products do I need to be looking for, what are the different types of cannabis, what are cannabinoids, what’s the difference between them, what are terpenes and what role do they play in the endocannabonoid system (and what IS the  endocannabinoid system anyway?)

You’ve taken the first step:  you have your medical marijuana card….YAY!

NOW WHAT?

The first thing you need to do is define your specific health issue(s) and then decide on which dispensary you wish to visit .

Most people like to shop close to home but I discovered that’s not the most important criteria.

I prefer to shop at a dispensary that has many, many positive reviews and a lot of good feedback.   I also want to visit a dispensary that has a large variety of products in various forms (bud or raw cannabis, edibles, tinctures, capsules, concentrates, etc.),  not to mention the paraphernalia that may go with it.

In selecting a good dispensary, I prefer one that is willing to provide me with educational material, not just a goodie bag of rolling papers, a lighter, clip, etc., as a bonus 🙂

The one generally accepted principal in starting your medical marijuana journey is “low and slow” (low dosage with slow increments).

Weedmaps and Leafly are great sources for locating a dispensary near you and showing you what products they carry (their “menu”),  not to mention comments from patients and feedback.

As a chronic pain patient, I always ask 4 questions:   If purchasing CBD, is it hemp derived or cannabis derived?   Is the product full spectrum (combination of various cannabinoids) or an isolate (CBD ONLY)?   What is the ratio of CBD to THC (the major cannabinoids in cannabis, with THC being responsible for the psychoactive effects)? Is the THC that’s present in the product a sativa variety, an Indica variety, or a hybrid?

Generally speaking, a sativa variety is more energizing and creates a euphoric feeling.  Indica strains tend to produce a more sedated feeling and the “couch-lock” effect.   Indica strains are used more for sleep, pain, & nighttime sedation.  Hybrids are crossed between a Sativa strain and an Indica.  Hybrids can be a good choice for daytime pain management.  However, these are general statements.  Each patient reacts differently to various strains.  The choice is YOURS and often a matter of trial and error.

In addition to these FOUR main questions, I also like to know whether the product is organic and want to see the lab test results.

For example, if looking for a long lasting product to help you sleep, you probably will want an Indica-based product,  possibly a capsule, which ideally may be labeled with what strain of the Indica is used in that product.

Smoking the raw cannabis lasts the least amount of time  but also works the quickest .    Edibles last the longest but care must be taken not to over consume.   They also take the longest to work because they must go through the entire digestive tract.

More on the other forms of medical marijuana to come!  Also, a 101 on terpenes, the endocannabinoid system and MUCH more!