Millions of people all over the world use cannabis, but very few understand how this amazing plant can affect both their brains and bodies. In fact, people have used cannabis for more than 2,000 years to benefit their health on all levels.
Types of Cannabis
There are many cannabis strains, both pure and hybrid types that have been developed for their unique psychoactive properties. The total number of plant species within the genus is disputed. We will discuss the three recognized species, which are C. indica, C. sativa, and C. ruderalis.
Cannabis indica was first described in 1785 by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. He named it Indica because this species of Cannabis originates around India. The plant is relatively short and conical in shape, with dense branches. In its native land, it was cultivated to make hashish. It has high levels of THC. Cannabis indica is reputed to have a very relaxing effect. It can relieve pain, as well as insomnia. It's also known to relieve anxiety.
Cannabis sativa originated in Asia but has spread all over the world, due to cultivation. People have cultivated it throughout history; it has been used for its fiber, seed oil, recreation, and medicinal use. Compared to Cannabis Indica, Cannabis sativa is a lanky plant. On average, it has a lower THC to CBD ratio than Indica, and its effects are more cerebral, stimulating energetic creativity, when compared to indica's effects.
Cannabis ruderalis is native to Siberia and other areas of Russia. Traditional folk medicine used it to treat depression. It has low levels of THC. It is a short and compact plant, rarely growing taller than two feet. Ruderalis is a feral type of cannabis that has higher levels of CBD, and produces a more cerebral effect.
How Cannabis Works: The Endocannabinoid System
Both people and cannabis plants have chemical compounds within them called cannabinoids. In people, they’re called endocannabinoids. For plants, it's called phytocannabinoids. Cannabis plants have many different types of cannabinoids; the two best known are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the well known psychoactive effects of cannabis. CBD on the other hand, does not have the psychoactive effect of THC. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that CBD lowers the psychoactive effects of THC, when the ratio of CBD to THC is the same or higher.
Humans actually produce cannabinoids in their bodies through a system called the endocannabinoid system. These endocannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors found throughout our bodies. Studies suggest this system aids in protecting our nervous system, reducing stress, and improves our immune system and our overall good health.
There are two different types of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain and central nervous system. CB2 receptors are mainly found within the immune system.
When cannabis is used, the cannabinoids will interact with these receptor sites, just like the endocannabinoids our bodies naturally produce. Since the CB1 and CB2 receptor sites are found throughout the body, cannabis can produce profound changes to both our cognitive and physical well being.
The Response to Cannabis Varies from Person to Person
Everyone has a different physiological makeup; these include the cannabinoid receptor locations in the body, as well as the number of receptor sites. These vary from person to person.
This is why the same strain of cannabis will affect each person differently. Other factors that can vary an individual's experience with a particular strain of cannabis can include their gender, personality, their current health, and their age.
If you are new to using cannabis, you might start off with a very low THC variety until you know how your body and mind will respond. Consider the levels of THC to CBD in a strain when choosing your cannabis variety. Understanding the unique interaction between the human body and cannabis is helpful in making a wise choice that optimizes the benefits.