Thinking that cannabinoids, especially high levels of THC, are the only medicines in the cannabis plant is thinking as as foolishly as the people who believed that smoking it would make people violent, wanting to rape and kill. Really, it is. There are so many important constituents in this plant, and they all work together. But just as the War on Drugs has brainwashed so many people on our planet into thinking cannabis is bad, cannabis proponents have also created their own myths and false thinking regarding what it is in the plant that makes so many people feel better and be healed. While there are few definitive answers yet, the science world is taking this on and we are learning more every day.
I am a medical cannabis educator, not a scientist. I try to find as much as I can take in about cannabis medicine and pass it on. And I’m constantly learning. As a cannabis clinic consultant I see many patients who are not at all educated on what they are using, and get this statement more other that any other… “tell me what strains have the highest percentage of THC?” This used to drive me crazy, but now I just try to mention that the highest THC may not be what you are looking for, and try to start a discussion on what else is in the plant’s flowers that may be working for a particular patient.
Yes, there ARE people who need mass doses of THC, but this one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis medicine is as crazy as accepting all the pills that the pharmaceutical companies throw at us. Why would anyone follow that concept? It isn’t all about the THC, people. Not by a long shot.
As a Certified Aromatherapist I learned a lot about plant constituents. The chemistry is amazing. Cannabis plant constituents go much further than the cannabinoids and the more recently talked about, terpenes. I’m really glad that terpenes have hit the spotlight, but check out all the lesser medicinal constituents present in cannabis. I also learned that more isn’t necessarily better, and a little bit of anything in chemistry can change everything.
Alcohols: Antispetic, antiviral and uplifting. Many of the terpenes we learn about are actually terpene alcohols. Examples found in cannabis, linalol, terpineol, borneo;
Aldehydes: Aldehydes are often present with plants that have a lemon scent. Generally speaking, aldehydes have sedative effects and antiseptic uses. Cannabisativin and anhydocannabisativin are aldehydes in cannabis. (Say those names three times fast!)
Esters: Characteristics include fungicidal and sedative effects. Esters are responsible for the sweet, fruity aroma of some cannabis strains. The ester names will not be familiar, so I’m not even going there. But I will say that these esters have a very low boiling temperature and will disappear quickly.
Ketones: Ketones may be used for respiratory conditions because they can aid the flow of mucus and congestion. They are also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Triterpene ketones are found in cannabis roots, and the roots have been used for many ailments in many cultures for thousands of years. Some ketones are very dangerous, but many are harmless, like those that can be present in cannabis.
Oxides: Oxides are oxygenated terpenes, meaning they have more oxygen in their carbon chains than just plain terpenes. The most important oxide in cannabis may be cineol oxide. This important chemical is an expectorant and is also being researched as an important chemical to treat Alzheimer’s because it enhances memory. Another is caryophyllene oxide, a powerful anti fungal, and anticoagulant. It is spicy, sweet and woody in it’s aroma.
Here is what I found regarding the numerous constituents of the cannabis plant. Cannabis sativa L. is the botanical name and Latin binomial of hemp. There are now 483 different identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in cannabis. The most distinctive and specific class of compounds are the cannabinoids (66 known), that are only known to exist in the cannabis plant. Other constituents of the cannabis plant are:*
sugars and related compounds (34)
nitrogenous compounds (27 known)
non-cannabinoid phenols (25)
fatty acids (22)
simple acids (21)
amino acids (18)
simple esters (12)
simple alcohols (7)
Our cannabis research father and the man who discovered THC in cannabis, Raphael Mechoulam, and many other cannabis research scientists believe that all these components of the cannabis plant are likely to exert some therapeutic effect, more than any single compound alone.** Now, with this said, how can anyone claim with any certainty that it’s the THC content alone that is helping/healing them? If you think this way you are really cheating yourself of the possibilities.
I want to add one more thing that will probably loose me friends and cause a ruckus. Smoking cannabis for your health problems is only a quick fix. Vaping isn’t too much better. I don’t say this because I’m down on smoking. Hell, I’m a smoker of cigarettes and cannabis, I enjoy both, and people who smoke cannabis with some regularity and also smoke cigarettes are less likely to end up with lung cancer than those who use tobacco and don’t smoke cannabis. I say this because so many of the medicinal constituents of the cannabis plant are lost when you smoke or vape. If you want to get serious about your whole plant medicine, you should be sure you are consuming ALL those goodies available from the plant. Eat it. Create oils at low temperatures with it. Use it raw in food prep. Vape at low heat. Use it as a topical. Use it in suppository form. There are many ways to consume cannabis besides smoking, and this is the future of cannabis medicine. It isn’t all about the THC. The miracles are in the whole plant, and we should preserve as much of it as we can when we consume it for our health. As more research unfolds we will all be able to better hone in on the best strain for our ailments. In the mean time, unless you are absolutely sure you can’t utilize anything but high THC strains, shop around and see if other strains may work well for you. You should also do an internet search on what strains are best to treat your ailment(s), because the information we can get from other patient’s experiences is a very good place to start. There are so many strains to choose from.