Cannabis is a plant that is used for recreational, medicinal and industrial purposes. It can be processed and ingested in many different ways, some conventional (joints, brownies) and some unconventional (see: apple bongs). There are also many different types of cannabis plants, and they’re all full of terpenes and cannabinoids. Wondering what those are and what they do? Read on!
The Cannabis Plant
Like corn, lettuce and peas, cannabis is an annual plant, meaning it lives and dies within one season if grown outdoors. The plant has two sexes, male and female, but it’s largely the female plant that’s harvested for the cannabinoids it produces. The cannabis plant has been bred over millenia for fibre, oil and cannabinoids in large volumes—so at this point it’s basically impossible to find a cannabis plant untouched by domestication.
Hemp is the type of cannabis produced for industrial purposes and for its cannabidiol, the anti-inflammatory cannabinoid better known as CBD that’s used increasingly for therapeutic purposes. In general, hemp produces very little THC and has non-euphoric health effects. Its various parts, from seeds to stalk, are used for a diverse range of products, including clothing, topical oitments, health-care products. Hemp seeds are found in health stores and can be sprinkled on yogurt and salads. As a crop, hemp is more environmentally friendly than many others because it requires less water to grow and doesn’t need pesticide.
There are three types of cannabis plants: indica, sativa and hybrids of the two. Cannabis sativas and indicas are differentiated based on the time they take to flower and the size of their leaves.
These are the reddish-orange hairs that peak out of the buds of a dried female flower, which can be white or even purple when the plant is growing. reproductive organs, which collect pollen from the male plant.
If you look closely at a cannabis bud, frosty crystals called trichomes. Under a microscope, they resemble a hair with a ball at the end. The bitter-tasting trichomes protect the leaves, stems and calyxes from insects, fungus, UV rays and even animals.
The calyx is the petal base of the cannabis flower green on female plants and white-green on male plants that is the first part to form in the flowering stage. It works as a leafy protective layer full of trichomes that produce THC and other cannabinoids.
Cola are the tight groupings of female flowers or buds that are used to smoke dried cannabis. Also known as the atypical bud, the main cola assembles at the top of the plant, where it has the most access to light. Smaller colas are usually found around the stem and branches of the cannabis plant, and are considered to be of lesser quality than the main cola.
Cannabis seeds are at the rudimentary stage of a cannabis plant’s growth cycle. They need
to be germinated in order to grow. This is when the seeds are hydrated and the initial root and shoot emerge from the seed coat. Cannabis plants produce seeds after a male plant pollinates a female plant.
They’re produced as a result of pollen landing on the stigma, the red hairs on the plant’s flower. Pollen tubes emerging from pollen grains travel down the stigma and style after pollinating, growing down into the flower’s ovary and fertilizing it.
The seeds can be consumed as a nutritional product, since they are high in fatty acids. Although their seed coats may be covered in significant amounts of cannabinoids after touching the flower, they don’t seem to produce cannabinoids in the seed itself.
Hemp plant seeds are light coloured, marijuana plant seeds are intermediate in colour and wild cannabis seeds are very dark. If you have a collection of seeds from one plant, choose the darker seeds because seed health is associated with darker colour.
What’s the difference between Indica vs Sativa?
The main types of cannabis plants (indica, sativa, hybrids) are commonly believed to have distinctive effects. While the plants are different in physical appearance and growth cycles, there is no scientific evidence that proves cannabis strains elicit specific results. This means that the effects largely associated with sativa, indica and hybrids are entirely anecdotal.
This bushy, stout plant sprouts wide leaves. Indica-dominant plants tend to grow faster and bear larger quantities of flowers than sativa plants. Indicas are reported to have more relaxing, sedating effects than sativas, sometimes producing “couch-lock”—which is exactly what it sounds like. A good way to remember this is that “indica” sounds like “in-dacouch.”
The sativa plant grows taller than the indica plant, and sprouts narrow, wiry leaves that are a lighter shade of green. These plants require more light and take longer to grow and flower. Sativas are commonly reported to have more energizing, uplifting effects than indica-dominant strains.
A hybrid plant has been bred from both an indica and a sativa, and may exhibit features of each. Most cannabis is hybrid, but can be sativa-dominant, indica-dominant or have closer to a 50:50 ratio of sativa to indica.
What are cannabinoids?
Effects of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are a group of closely related chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, which mingle with the brain’s receptors, leading to a range of physical and mental effects. While THC is the most famous cannabinoid, there are others that evoke different effects.
Cannabinoids You Should Know
Cannabinol isn’t as potent as THC, though it still elicits a psychoactive effect. It’s a byproduct of THC after it’s been exposed to light or heat. According to Steep Hill Labs, CBN appears to be the most sedative cannabinoid. It’s also shown to have promising effects on increasing appetite, which is important for people with health issues or undergoing medical treatments like chemotherapy.
Cannabigerol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid mostly found in hemp plants. It’s proven to have potential in counteracting cancer growth. One study found CBG helped ease growth of colorectal cancer cells in mice, which in turn slowed the development of colon
Tetrahydrocannabivarin is a psychoactive cannabinoid. It’s said to be an appetite suppressant, reduce panic attacks and has been shown to potentially help relieve symptoms associated with Parkinson’s and help with diabetes.
Cannabichromene is reported to have therapeutic potential, helping with inflammation and pain, acne and even supports brain cell health, contrary to one of the popular marijuana myths.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, better-known as CBD, is another active cannabinoid found in cannabis. It’s the yin to THC’s yan. Unlike THC, it does not create an immediate euphoria, or a “high” and doesn’t bind to the receptors quite as well. It works by suppressing the enzyme fatty acid amide hydroxyls (FAAH), the enzyme that knocks out anandamide in the system. As a result, it increases the endocannabinoids naturally found in the body. Since the enzyme FAAH can’t suppress them, the body’s own endocannabinoids increase.
CBD reaches the body’s receptors associated with pain, inflammation and anxiety. It has shown a lot of promise for helping with pediatric epilepsy, which has resulted in controversy in certain countries where it is banned. A 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that children and young adults who had Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy, and used CBD, saw a nearly 23% decrease in the number of seizures.
In March 2018, the World Health Organization published a report stating that CBD had no public health risks or potential for abuse.
What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, is the best-known chemical compound in cannabis. It was first isolated in 1964 by Israeli scientists Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
THC is the cannabinoid that produces the psychoactive effects associated with ingesting cannabis – in other words, it’s what gets you high. It has the ability to change mood and behaviour and many say it has helps expand their consciousness. However, ingesting too much THC can also lead to an intense or unfavourable experience, so it’s best to follow the golden rule: start low (percentage) and go slow.
Structurally, THC is almost identical to anandamide, a naturally occurring chemical in our brains. Anandamide works as a neurotransmitter, which sends messages between nerve cells throughout the nervous system. Because THC structurally mimics an anandamide, it transforms the brain’s communication, affecting the regions of the brain associated with thought, pleasure, sensory awareness and more.
THC floods the brain’s reward system with dopamine, leading many users to feel euphoric and relaxed.
What are terpenes?
Effects of Terpenes
Terpenes are the essential oils of a plant. They give cannabis its vast range of flavours and aromas such as pine, citrus and musk.
But in addition to stimulating the senses, terpenes could also play an important role in what researchers call “the entourage effect.” The idea is that the effects of a strain depend not just on THC content, but also on its synergy with other cannabinoids such as CBD, along with its terpenoid profile.
Because of this, some medical consumers and connoisseurs are paying more attention to the terpenoid profiles of a strain as part of the selection process. They may look for strains with high levels of myrcene, for example, because they find them more agreeable.
Early research shows terpenes, which are also found in myriad non-cannabis plants, can impact physical and mental well-being. Each harvest will produce variations on its potential cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
Terpenes You Should Know
Beta-Caryophyllene and Caryophyllene Oxide
Sometimes it can be more difficult to find cannabis without caryophyllene than cannabis with it. That’s because it’s the most common terp found in pot, and it’s only more powerful when it’s decarboxylated (aka heated), which is usually what happens at some point in the consumption process. This peppery flavoured terpene has reported anti-fungal properties and could be used for conditions such as dermatitis.
Fun fact: it’s also what drug-sniffing dogs use to identify illegal products.
The aroma can bridge both floral and citrus scents, and if you’ve ever inhaled the scent of some fresh lavender, you’re already familiar with linalool. This terpene shows promise with battling anxiety and depression—remember that lavender is also soothing as aromatherapy—feeling sedated and anti-acne.
Alpha- and Beta-Pinene
These terpenes evoke a pine smell, and are the most common terpenes found in nature. Pinene can make you feel alert and, excitingly, it’s also helpful with retaining memories— which means it could help counteract the short-term memory issues THC can contribute to. Pinene is also used as an antiseptic.
This terpene smells like musk and cloves, with notes of citrus and tropical fruit. Myrcene is an anti-inflammatory and has relaxing, sedating effects. It’s also reported to be an antioxidant that works for muscle tension, sleep issues and pain. Scientists believe it could be responsible for “couch-lock”—the feeling that you just cannot possibly get up and do things after consuming cannabis. (Daytime consumers, take note!)
Limonene is found in lemons and yes, it has a lemony-citrus flavour. That makes it easy to remember—but don’t confuse it with linalool!. Limonene can elevate mood and relieve stress, treat gastro-oesophageal reflux, and it’s also reported for its antibacterial properties. But the most exciting part? Early research shows limonene can kill breast cancer cells.
Effects stated in the infographic are as repoted by Lift & Co. users.