Cannabis Sativa* as medicine.

*(that's science's name for marijuana)

Cannabis

(Marijuana's Scientific Name)

Sativa

Ruderalis

Indica

Hybrids of these three main species are used in medicinal marijuana products.

 

Why medical marijuana?

Marijuana has been used as medicine throughout history, but its tremendous healing potential has only recently emerged as a subject of scientific study. In 1964, Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam found THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. That discovery led scientists to identify a system of "immense importance" (Mechoulam) in nearly all living things. Now known as the endocannabinoid system -- the prefix endo meaning inner, it was so named because the active compounds in marijuana resemble chemicals already produced by our bodies. 

The key to understanding why cannabis has healing effects for so many ailments lies in the similarity of the plant's molecules to our own. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (equilibrium) in living things. Because endocannabinoid molecules are so similar to phyto (plant) cannabinoids, cannabis' active compounds, such as THC and CBD, can bind to receptors we already have. In doing so, medicinal cannabis can help restore balance to the body. 

The positive effects of medical cannabis can be explained in this way:

"The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.​ With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease."   - National Institute of Health

 

The science behind using cannabinoids as medicine is so strong that certain cannabinoids have actually been synthesized (artificially made) and received FDA approval for treatment of illnesses like MS.  THC and CBD have been shown to help patients suffering from pain, nausea, sleep and stress disorders, as well as stress relief, anxiety, inflammation and epilepsy.  It is worth noting that the synthetic forms of medical marijuana often have side effects that the natural products do not. Marijuana contains at least 120 different cannabinoids (chemical compounds) and more research becomes available every day detailing how cannabinoids can be used to treat a wide range of illnesses. 

 

What is a Marijuana Strain?

A strain is a genetic variant of marijuana. Most marijuana strains can be classified as either Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica. or Cannabis Ruderalis – three variations of the same basic species of marijuana. These classes of strains tend to have very different effects on the consumer. Today we regularly see the influence of hybrid genetics that combine the varieties to create products with different health benefits.

Over the years, countless numbers of hybrid strains have been created through genetic cross-breeding programs to develop plant profiles that are meant to take the best attributes of both parent strains – you’ll only need to go to your registered dispensary to see the assortment of strains that have been created over the past decades with a variety of cannabinoid profiles. 

Each strain can be defined by a specific chemical makeup, i.e., its combination of cannabinoids and terpenoids. According to Leafly.com,the exact relationship between cannabinoids and terpenoids is uncertain, but the ineffectiveness of single cannabinoid extractions (e.g.., Marinol THC capsules) prove the significance of the synergistic effects of both compounds — often referred to as "the entourage effect." Whether terpenes increase bioaccessibility of cannabinoids or vice versa, terpenes have been connected to the flavor and aroma of the plant whereas cannabinoids are well-known to influence effects.

Dosage

The cannabis strains and genetic hybrids are the subject of ongoing research to identify their optimally effective usage for treating different conditions. The Dispensary Pharmacist will be able to help find the right product and dosage that work best for you.

Legal prescription drugs "statistically kill 100,000 people a year, (but) there are no documented deaths due to marijuana."  - Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. August 3rd, 2016 

Marijuana's safety is often described by comparing it to statistics for annual deaths caused by anything from prescription drugs to peanuts. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's drug sheet for marijuana states that zero annual deaths have ever been reported due to marijuana overdose. 

Types of Consumption

These days, a wide variety of consumption methods exist. Recently, with advancements in extraction technologies, a new form of concentrated resin has been developed as well as concentrated forms of marijuana oils that can be ingested orally, mixed with topical lotions and applied to the skin, or vaporized and inhaled. You can even take a pill that contains a very precise and consistent dose of medication, i.e. a pill with 5mg of THC and 5mg of CBD.

Here is a quick rundown of the most common types of consumption:

  • Vaporization –the extracted oil is heated until the active components vaporize, at a temperature lower than what is required for combustion, and the vapor is inhaled into the lungs.

  • Ingestion – the cannabinoids and terpenes are extracted from the flower as oil and then either ingested as-is, combined with another medium like food, or processed into pills, gel caps and other traditionally-seen medicinal forms that can enable very precise and controlled dosing experiences (edible baked goods, pills, capsules and tinctures).

  • Oral absorption – the extracted oil is combined with another medium.  The finished product is kept in the mouth while it dissolves under the tongue, on the tongue or through the inner cheek (mints, lozenges and breath strips).

  • Topical – the extracted oil is combined with a product that is applied to the skin (lotion, ointments and transdermal patches).

In Pennsylvania, it is not legal at this time to dry leaf or plant forms of medical marijuana.

DISCLAIMER

This site offers health, wellness and cannabis information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

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© Keystone Center of Integrative Wellness 2018

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