What Makes Cannabis Medicinal?

In order for anything to be considered medicinal, it has to be healthy to consume and provide adequate relief from an illness. Certain components of the cannabis plant help categorize it as having the ability to heal.

They include:

  • Cannabinoids
  • Terpenes
  • Organic vs. Non-Organic
It is the combination of these three components that will classify cannabis as being truly medicinal.

Here’s why.

Organic cannabis

Medicinal cannabis contains adequate amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes, and is grown organically

Cannabinoids

Playing a leading role in what makes cannabis medicinal are cannabinoids. What are they? Cannabinoids are chemical compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant, secreted in the trichomes that grow on its flowers. Once consumed, they bind to receptors in our endocannabinoid system to help regulate any problems and keep our bodies working properly. The cannabis plant contains over one-hundred different cannabinoids, the most well-known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG).

First recognized in 1964, THC is the main cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Producing psychoactive effects, it works to relieve a multitude of symptoms including:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Asthma
CBD is another cannabinoid found in high amounts in the cannabis plant. It was first discovered in 1940, although its structure wasn't clarified until 1963. Non-psychoactive, and largely known as an anti-inflammatory, patients that use it find relief from:

  • Seizures
  • Preventing the spread of cancer
  • Promoting bone growth
  • Helping to regulate blood sugar levels
First discovered in 1973, THCV is only psychoactive in high doses, and binds to receptor sites located in the immune system, brain, and other major organs. With effects that are short-lived compared to THC, but potentially stronger, THCV is somewhat hard to find as there are currently not many strains that contain high levels of it. It is used for:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Appetite Suppresion
  • Panic Attacks
  • Diabetes
CBN was the first cannabinoid identified and isolated for study in the 1930's. Formed from the degradation of THC, thus having a direct relationship with it, CBN is mildly psychoactive. It works to relieve symptoms including:

  • Cancer
  • Seizures
  • Chronic Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Psoriasis
CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid usually present in low levels, and once exposed to heat, helps form cannabinoids like THC and CBD. CBG is still being researched, but studies have found it works to relieve:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Inflammation
  • Glaucoma
As more research is done on the cannabis plant, more discoveries are being made about how cannabinoids work to help patients suffering from different medical conditions. It’s likely that the combination of several cannabinoids at varying ratios help provide the most relief, as each one has unique benefits and affects the body in slightly different ways.

Terpenes

Costarring with cannabinoids in what makes cannabis medicinal are terpenes. Terpenes are the different aromas naturally produced and given off by cannabis plants, also found in the trichomes on the flowers. Originating as a defense mechanism and as a way to attract pollinators to its flowers, over 100 terpenes have developed in the cannabis plant, with production influenced by factors such as light intensity, humidity, and temperature.

Why are terpenes important?

In addition to producing aroma, terpenes also help determine what a flower will taste like. When you hear someone say a flower smells like citrus, or tastes like vanilla, they’re describing the plant’s terpene profile. A flower’s terpene profile can help guide you to finding a strain that will work well for your unique endocannabinoid system. In other words, if you like the smell and flavor of a certain strain, you are more likely to benefit from it medicinally.

On their own, different terpenes have specific effects on the mind and body. For example, certain ones can hinder the uptake of serotonin while others may increase dopamine levels. When looking to treat an illness with cannabis, it's crucial that you understand which terpenes and cannabinoids are present in each strain, and how the particular strain will work with your body.

Terpenes also work to help cannabinoids like THC and CBD pass through the bloodstream more easily. Depending on the terpene, they will either make the effects of each one stronger or more mild. The way terpenes interact with cannabinoids is known as the entourage effect; cannabinoids and terpenes produce better results when paired together as opposed to using them on their own.

Some well-known cannabis terpenes include:

  • Caryophyllene (peppery, spicy): Found in spices like cinnamon and black pepper, it is effective as an anti-inflammatory, and helps treat depression and anxiety.
  • Humulene (hoppy, earthy): Found in spices like coriander and cloves, it’s known to help with inflammation. It is also extremely effective at suppressing appetite.
  • Myrcene (earthy, musky, fruity): The most common terpene in cannabis, it can compose up to half of the terpenes occurring in a plant. Most often found in Indica-dominant strains, it is also found in plants such as hops and basil. It’s helpful for muscle spasticity and to promote relaxation.
  • Pinene (pine): Found in plants like orange peels and pine needles, it is the most common terpene on the planet. Known for anti-inflammatory properties, it helps with asthma, memory loss from THC, and also increases awareness.
  • Limonene (citrus): Has a similar aroma to fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruit. It is helpful for depression as it a mood booster and stress reliever.
  • Linalool (floral, spicy): Found in flowers like lavender and spices like coriander, it’s commonly used to help treat depression and anxiety. It also helps balance out side effects of THC and works to improve the immune system.
  • Terpinolene (smoky, woodsy): Found in plants such as rosemary and sage, it is known for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It can also help lower anxiety and help with insomnia.
In summary, terpenes have a lot of jobs to do, including:

  • Producing aroma and taste
  • Helping cannabinoids like THC and CBD pass through the bloodstream
  • Helping increase or decrease chemicals in the human body that may need regulating
By finding the correct cannabinoids that work with your body's unique endocannabinoid system, in addition to favorable terpenes for your specific needs and preferences, you are able to experience the greatest medicinal relief from cannabis. This is why trying different strains is so imperative when deciding on which one to use for treatment.

Organic vs. Non-Organic

This is a debatable subject depending on who you talk to, but an important consideration nonetheless.

To keep it short and sweet, organic cannabis differs from non-organic cannabis in one major way: how it is grown. True organic cannabis is grown in soil with beneficial microbes, under the sun, without synthetic nutrients, typically with natural pest management techniques. While you can find large-scale organic grows, it is uncommon, as it requires more time and attention in order to pull off a successful harvest. Most non-organic cannabis is grown indoors with bottled nutrients, sprayed with pesticides, and is often grown hydroponically, or without soil.

Another difference with organic cannabis is that it has a higher nutrient density, which produces higher brix levels. The brix level is the percentage of sugars present in a plant's sap. The higher the brix level, the higher the quality of the flower. As far as cannabis is concerned, higher brix means plants are healthier, have more aroma, flavor, and medicinal value, and also extends the shelf life of a flower. Non-organic cannabis may be able to achieve high THC and CBD content, however, will have lower terpene profiles when compared to properly grown organic cannabis. While THC and CBD content are important in determining the effectiveness of a strain, without the terpene profile to back it up, it is not as medicinal and the effects are short-lived.

When we try to alter growing conditions for plants, we may be able to achieve similarities, but we will most likely never be able to achieve success like nature can. If a cannabis plant, which is especially sensitive and responsive to the environment it grows in, is allowed to develop as natural as possible, it is given a chance to reach peak medicinal value. Certain factors, like light intensity and microbial activity, will help a plant produce the terpenes and characteristics that allow it to reach that status.

With food, you are what you eat. With cannabis, you are what you consume. If the cannabis you are consuming is grown with synthetic fertilizers, it can actually be harmful for you, because what is used on the plant will be passed on to the patient trying to find relief. If it’s grown organically, with infused probiotics, it can be healing.

Because it can be difficult to be certain how flowers in a jar were produced, it's wise to consider the source it came from, but ultimately, the patient will decide if a particular strain provides acceptable relief for them.

Benefits of Cannabis Over Pharmaceuticals

In short, when you are able to find the correct strain, grown organically, that has the correct cannabinoids present as well as the preferred terpene profile, you will experience the full benefits of cannabis for your particular illness. Medicinal value is not determined by how stoned a strain gets you, rather by what components, cannabinoids and terpenes, are in the strain, and how well the strain works for you.

Cannabis is made by nature, is non-addictive, and is extremely effective, often healing in ways modern medicine simply can’t. If responsibly consumed, it has little to no side effects, and can improve your daily life dramatically.

As the word spreads about the healing capabilities of this plant, more patients and professions are turning to cannabis. And one of the most noteworthy, game-changing factors about it is that it can be grown at home, allowing access to medicine and treatment like nothing before.

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about cannabinoids, terpenes, or any of the above information, please contact us.