Much has been made recently about a specific variety of cannabis known as Charlottes Web. There was a young epileptic girl in Colorado named Charlotte Figi who benefited from oil high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produced from the minimally psychoactive cannabis strain.
There are other cannabinoids that have health benefits as well, cannabigerol (CBG) is a new favorite. CBG-rich cannabis has been found to help people with stomach and GI problems. CBG on its own has no psychoactive effect. Most of the 80-plus cannabinoids that have been identified don't either. There is an astounding number of cannabis strains and each has its own chemotype or chemical composition. So how does a patient begin to chose from the offerings at their local dispensary?
First we need to highlight what is unique about cannabinoids and then we will address the role of the terpenes (essential oils) found in cannabis. On a molecular level, cannabinoids are colorless, odorless and full of hydrogen. Packed full of it. Every other psychoactive substance known is rich in nitrogen. To us hippies, nitrogen is plant food--poison, not medicine. The presence of Nitrogen is why other drugs are so toxic. The high comes from poisoning yourself and changes the function of your central nervous system (CNS)-the part of the brain that regulates breathing and heartbeat. If you do drugs over and over, your body's functions slowly shut down.
The brain activity related to a cannabis high is peripheral. It does not affect the CNS regulation of breathing and heartbeat. That's why no one dies from cannabis us -- it just promotes creativity and free thinking. Too much is still a bad thing, through just like cheeseburgers will make you fat if you eat too many, but all in all we all need cannabinoids in our bodies and minds for optimum function. Remember all that hydrogen in cannabis? What else are we told to consume a lot of that is rich in hydrogen? Maybe ... H2O? Yes water. Easy right? Simple stuff.
So our bodies apparently need a lot of hydrogen to function properly. It promotes the processes that regulate our bodies' systems. Why does it do this? All mammals have an endocannabinoid system in their brains and bodies. We have receptors that the cannabinoids and some terpenoids bind to, starting a cascade of biological process. We need other nutrients, lots of them (some in tiny, tiny amounts), but we need a lot of hydrogen to maintain homeostasis.
I mentioned terpenes, (essential oils), note the word essential. So if cannabinoids are colorless and odorless, what accounts for all the variety of smell and flavors found in this useful plant? Terpenes. Oils. Each plant variety has it's own unique profile of essential oils. These are found in cannabis and other healing plants.
Below are some common essential oils, their smell, and a list of their health effects:
• Myrcene: earthy, green, nutty. Potent pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic it has antidepressant effects and it affects the permeability of cell membranes allowing optimum function.
• Limonen: -citrus. Anti-bacterial, anti fungal, anti cancer. Antidepressant effects.
• B-Caryophyllene: black pepper, clove. Binds to CB2 receptors and has anti inflammatory effect.
• Pinene: pine rosemary, sage, eucalyptus. Memory aid, antiseptic
• Terpineol: floral. Sedative
• Borneol: menthol, camphor. Sedative
• Linalool: floral, lavender, cancer treatment, calming
• Pugleone: minty. Aids memory
• Cineole: eucalyptus. Pain, aids circulation
When I help a patient choose the correct strain, we use a systematic method. We talk about their health condition and reaction to strains used in the past. We try to match the patient with the correct cannabinoid profile in regards to how much THC they desire. We consider other cannabinoid content and how it might benefit the patient. Then last, we have the patient smell the product options that make sense for them so they can make a personal choice.
Our bodies know what they need, our subconscious knows, and it is not always the same for each individual. What your body needs today could change over time. We need the full spectrum of oils and cannabinoids in small amounts for our bodies to function properly, so often the best results are achieved by changing strains on a regular basis using the same method outlined above during each visit to your local dispensary.