Cannabis is an endlessly fascinating subject, but it can be a little confusing if you’re just starting to learn about it. We put together a list of commonly confused cannabis concepts to help you understand what’s in your medicine.
Cannabinoids are the major components of cannabis. These are the active compounds that offer the most dramatic therapeutic effects. THC and CBD are the most well-known, but there are at least 113 cannabinoids that we know of and further research may find even more.
Cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system. They are responsible for what we feel when we use cannabis, whether we use it medicinally or recreationally. Cannabis plants create phytocannabinoids, but our bodies create their own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system is a link between our body and our brain. It consists of both cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. When cannabinoids enter our bodies, they bind to cannabinoid receptors where they can influence how cells behave.
We have two different types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and they are responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body and they contribute to a huge array of biological functions.
Our bodies actually produce cannabinoids called anandamide and 2-AG. (There are others, but those are two we know the most about at this time.) These chemicals can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and their primary function seems to be promoting homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system wasn’t discovered until 1992, so we still have a lot to learn.
Image source: The Human Solution International
The entourage effect is the belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components work together to create something more effective than what any of them could do if taken individually.
The entourage effect is why many people prefer whole-plant medicine instead of isolating individual cannabinoids and terpenes. It’s also why people often prefer the cannabis plant to synthesized drugs like Marinol.
Flavinoids are a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects. These molecules are found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These compounds are one of the reasons the plants containing them are so nutritious.
Metabolites are smaller molecules having an important ecological function necessary for metabolism, which is the conversion in the body of one chemical compound into another. Metabolism is the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy.
Much like apples, cannabis comes in a huge variety of different strains. Different strains contain different cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals or different concentrations of these elements. Just as different strains of apples have different flavors and physical appearances, different strains of cannabis also look and taste different. However, cannabis strains can also cause a wide variety of physical effects and each strain creates its own unique experience.
The problem with cannabis strains is that they’re currently a very imprecise system. You could test three different plants labeled Sour Diesel and get three completely different results. While there are efforts being made to standardize strain names, right now the best way to know what to expect from your cannabis is to look for test results that include detailed information about both cannabinoids and terpenes.
Synergy is the interaction of two or more things to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. It’s a cornerstone of the entourage effect.
Terpenes are organic compounds in plants that contribute to their flavor, scent, and color. They also contribute to the medicinal effects of cannabis. They work synergistically with the other compounds in the plant to help create the entourage effect.
If you’d like to learn more about terpenes, we have several in-depth posts on the terpenes found in cannabis. They’re one of the building blocks of our products; we consider both their flavor and their therapeutic benefits when we design new products.
Do you have any commonly confused cannabis concepts that you’d like us to explain?
Written with Ave Guevara.