The science of cannabis is pretty darn cool

by DGO Web Administrator

When you go to dig into the science of cannabis, you may realize that things get a little sketchy, and that there is not much real science associated with the plant. I am of split opinion on the conditions that created this situation. On one hand, I get a little bitter thinking about all the people who could have been helped by Mary Jane’s medicine over the past eight or so decades, and the about the gap in research that has opened due to the foolishness of American men in power. Then I take a deep breath (or maybe a deep toke) and thank the higher powers that I was born where and when I was. Not only can I travel wherever I want on this pretty planet and wile away the hours, buried in food and entertainment choices that my forbearers could not even conceive of, but as the weeks roll by in 2018, it appears that these knuckleheads in D.C., where weed is kind of legal… sort of, are about to get their heads on straight and legalize it. And we are going to be around to see it happen!

One area of study will almost certainly be the “entourage effect,” the concept that specific blend of cannabanoids and other compounds, which are found in a specific plant, create a specific effect – sedation and pain relief on the positive side, potential anxiety or paranoia on the negative – upon the individual ingesting it. It is the foundational theory behind our understanding of strains. The idea, along with the strain’s place of origin and certain taxonomic distinctions, also forms the division of indica or sativa. The component parts of this entourage – which include in the neighborhood of 200 compounds – is made up of the main cannabinoids, THC and (possibly) CBD, secondary cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, THCA, and THCV, terpenes, and flavanoids.

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Nature is more balanced than we are as humans, and it initially created a much different version of cannabis than we see these days. Most of the breeding over the past couple decades has involved crossing cultivars to create plants with the highest possible THC content, with almost any strain available at Ye Local Weede Shoppe approaching the 20 percent threshold. Award-winners often top 30 percent. Plants in nature, the pure landraces of yesteryear, almost never approach even 10 percent THC. The primary role of CBD within the plant, in fact, is to counterbalance and mitigate the effects of THC, creating a mellower, less overwhelming high.

Terpenes are the aromatic essential oil compounds responsible for protecting the cannabis plant from insects. They are the source of the various smells we encounter in different strains, ranging from pine, to lemon, to skunk orgy, and beyond. They also have therapeutic effects. Think of the uses of essential oils like lavender, which contains the primary aromatic component linalool. It is present in many cannabis strains.

Flavanoids, the final component of this range of synergistic compounds, are what contribute to both flavor and color, and have therapeutic properties of their own.

Next week we will look more deeply into these secondary compounds and discuss why the end of cannabis prohibition – and the burst of scientific research that will accompany it – are wildly exciting developments. Be well til then, DGO.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].

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