You may not be aware, I certainly wasn’t, that each and every one of us has our own, unique endocannabinoid system (ECS). This article will break down some botanical basics to understand how to fully maximize cannabis use in your lifestyle. Class is now in session for Cannabis 101!
Now you may be thinking, “but I don’t even smoke weed so why would understanding cannabinoids be beneficial to me?”. Well cannabinoids, along with terpenes, are typically directly associated with cannabis and/or medical marijuana.
However, whether you partake in cannabis use or not, you still have an endocannabinoid system, and you still consume terpenes everyday! Let’s take a closer look.
Cannabis 101: Understanding Cannabinoids
To put it simply, a cannabinoid is an active constituent found in cannabis. Now there are different types of cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are plant-based cannabinoids that we find in cannabis, such as CBD or THC, and must be ingested/inhaled to feel any benefit or effect.
Whereas the endocannabinoids are those found in the brain, organs, immune cells, glands, gut and connective tissues that work to interact with the exogenous cannabinoids in a synergistic fashion. (1)
Cannabis 101: Cannabis Dosing
Cannabinoids are best utilized when taken in the smallest dose possible to provide the greatest benefit. When cannabis consumers overconsume, they may experience a “biphasic effect” in which a higher dose produces less of an effect, while a small dose might produce a greater one.
It’s important to reset your ECS every so often to keep it running efficiently when you’ve reached the point of excess consumption with little to no benefit by fasting from cannabis for 48 hours, but we more on this later. (1)
Each cannabinoid starts off in its acidic form (i.e. CBDA or THCA), and must be decarboxylated (i.e. heated) in order to activate its compounds for function. The acidic forms are considered inactive. There are several ways to decarboxylate depending on the delivery method of choice.
The acidic forms produce little to no effect, but there is growing research in individuals who are highly sensitive to the active compounds, and may find relief with its acidic counterparts, such as a CBDA tea in which you simply steep raw cannabis flower/bud in hot water. (2)
Cannabis 101: CBD vs. THC
Growing in popularity, you’ve probably been hearing these terms tossed around as often as hockey scores. Here we’ll break down the differences between the two most popular cannabinoids as each has its own effects, but work best when used together, known as “The Entourage Effect”.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is gaining much more recognition in the healing space for virtually any type of individual since it produces little to no psychoactive effects (non-impairing) on its own, but has the potential to assist in many symptoms and conditions. CBD can potentially help with (2):
- Muscle spasms/spastic disorders
- Tension headaches
And as you’ll hear everyone in the industry say, “Start low, and go slow”, and to add to that “but don’t be afraid to go all the way” (5,14). Cannabis use is highly individualized, and may take weeks of trial and error before discovering the perfect dose and type of cannabinoid therapy for you.
Be patient, and don’t give up! Click here for dosing protocols, guidelines and tips.
In clinical trials, CBD has produced more “alertness” in individuals, such as clear-headedness, sharpness in thinking and feeling more awakened/focused, and is, therefore, helpful to reduce some of the psychoactive effects of THC.
Hemp vs. Cannabis
Both hemp and cannabis belong to the Cannabis sativa L plant family. The difference between the two really lies in the THC content, and that amount affects its legality, and potential for psychoactivity.
Hemp-derived CBD should contain no more than 0.3% THC (if grown properly without cross-contamination since it is a bioaccumulator), making it federally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, but take caution that you could still test positively for THC on a drug screen.
On the other hand, CBD from cannabis could contain up to 30% THC, making it federally illegal. (6)
CBD derived from hemp can be a great option for children, the elderly and pets since there is no impairing effect associated with its use.
It’s also a great starting point for anyone new to cannabis looking to experience the therapeutic effects without diving right into some of the more mind-altering compounds found in THC.
Sometimes known as the “fun one”, the most popular phytocannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is responsible for psychoactive and euphoric properties, but in addition to natural medicinal benefits.
THC works somewhat differently than CBD because it interacts with two ECS receptors known as CB1 and CB2. Due to the action of these cannabinoid receptors, THC can then mimic the activity of the endocannabinoids, further contributing positively to health, physiology and neuroplasticity regulation. (2,3)
Much like our own, unique ECS, THC is very individualized and will affect different people in different ways. When taken in the proper doses (avoiding overconsumption/intoxication), THC can provide the following (3):
- Neuron protection
- Cellular growth promotion (for tissue repair)
- Changes in mood, coordination and perception
In addition, THC can also assist in relief from (2):
- And more
Pairing and dosing are critical components to proper cannabis use. This will be discussed in much more detail later on, but as a basic rule of thumb, when first trying cannabis, stick to a 1:1 CBD-to-THC ratio.
If you feel too much psychoactivity or want to experience virtually none of it, increase the CBD ratio to something like 20:1 or 30:1. This is also a good method if you’ve gotten too high, take more doses of CBD to help to level off the effects of THC. (2,3,6)
We’ve discussed a lot of science so far (and there’s lots more to come), so let’s pause for a fun break to talk about the more anecdotal “side-benefits” of cannabis. While sometimes considered hallucinogenic, cannabis can also provide incredible mental clarity when dosed properly.
Ask any avid cannabis consumer, and they’ll tell you that they’ve solved the world’s problems or discovered the meaning of life while high. I joke around all the time that I’m 100x more philosophical when I’m stoned, but can never usually remember those super profound thoughts! (the one downside to cannabis).
This is where a creative journal could really come in handy. In the past, I tried to journal on my own, on blank paper when I was feeling super philosophical, but without any direction, I didn’t get much down on paper.
However, there are now lots of creative journals available with pre-planned activities to get your creative juices flowing! Sometimes creativity doesn’t come purely on its own, and some minimal guidance can be very useful for creative thinking.
Or if you’d like to be more active, whether you’re feeling energized or in need of a recharge, Dr. Dustin Sulak has some excellent wellness activities that pair wonderfully with cannabis to enhance your overall experience. Give a few a try, and see how it effects your mood, focus and energy!
Cannabis 101: The Entourage Effect
Now that recess is over, let’s get back to it. “The whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts”, and those parts include cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. You’ll find lots of different products out there, such as distillates/isolates or full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products. (6)
Distillates/isolates separate the cannabinoids and are typically CBD-only, and do not contain any of the synergistic cannabinoids (i.e. THC), terpenes, or flavonoids. However, cannabis works most effectively and efficiently when all of its components are utilized together. (2,3,6)
Broad-spectrum products have all of the plant’s components described above, but without any THC. Full-spectrum products are exactly like broad-spectrum except with, you guessed it, THC.
Therefore, in order to observe the greatest possible benefits of this plant (based on individual tolerance), broad- or full-spectrum is the way to go.
If your state is not yet recreationally legal though (we’re getting closer to getting all 50 on board!), then hemp-derived distillates/isolates will be your best bet.
Broad-spectrum is great if you don’t want to experience any psychoactivity while yielding the greatest medicinal benefits possible, while full-spectrum will likely produce the greatest medicinal effect of all three options. (6)
Cannabis 101: Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a physiologic system that was previously unknown to researchers for years, but soon became a critical component in understanding health and healing of all mammals for regulation of sleep, mood, pain and appetite.
It contains three major components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors (CB1 & CB2), and enzymes, FAAH and MAGL, which break down the endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), respectively. (2,3,6)
The ECS is also known as the endogenous cannabinoid system since these cannabinoids are produced within the body (endogenously). Inversely, the cannabinoids we consume either via ingestion or inhalation are considered exogenous (outside the body) cannabinoids. (1)
Cannabis 101: Endocannabinoids
Endocannabinoids are found in the brain, organs, immune cells, glands, gut and connective tissues, and while they each perform a distinctive function, they all have the same goal of maintaining homeostasis.
The ECS already produces compounds that respond to injury and illness, and can control “excessive activity”, such as muscle spasms and nerve excitement (2,3,4). Pretty critical system considering most have no clue of its existence or how to optimize it.
Known as the “bliss molecule” in Sanskrit, anandamide affects pleasure, mood and reward centers, while 2-AG has protective effects for neurodegenerative diseases/conditions and cranial injuries.
For example, there have been studies done on “knock out” mice in which these poor little guys were stripped of all anandamide, feeling every pain sensation possible.
Thanks to their sacrifice, this discovery helps explain why some experience fibromyalgia or other chronic pain sensations over time as anandamide levels start to decrease. (4)
Cannabis 101: Cannabinoid Receptors: CB1 & CB2
Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) are activated by cannabinoids found in both cannabis, hemp and foods. Each receptor resides in and affects different areas of the body. Interestingly, different cannabinoids act on certain receptors, while some don’t act on them at all. (3)
Everyone has a unique pattern and network of receptors in the brain, and depending on where these receptors are located, you may be programmed for more of a reaction than others.
For example, CB1 is only activated in the presence of THC meaning that a CBD-only distillate/isolate or a broad-spectrum product would not activate CB1. However, the acidic form, THCA, will not activate either CB1 or CB2. (3)
CB1 receptors can be found in the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. CB1 is an excitatory neurotransmitter that gives the brain the “green light” for neurotransmission, and drives energy production. (3)
CB2 receptors can be found in the immune cells, gut cells and every organ in the body. CB2 is significantly activated when trauma to the brain is experienced, and these receptors start to spike to initiate the inflammatory response. (3)
The highest levels of CB2 are found on the T cells (immune system’s killer cells), helping to explain how cannabis can combat disease. (2,3)
Certain terpenes, such as beta caryophyllene, activates and binds CB2 for pain management, another example of combining terpenes and cannabinoids for maximal therapeutic outcomes.
Cellular Machinery: FAAH & MAGL
Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) is an enzyme that breaks down anandamide to regulate the ECS, and may balance anandamide and 2-AG to maximize ECS activity. FAAH molecules are present on neurons, astrocytes in the brain, and on immune cells like lymphocytes and macrophages. (3)
CBD actually inhibits the release of FAAH, increasing anandamide levels, therefore increasing its interaction with the CB1 receptor to start to reduce inflammation and control pain.
Although CBD has an indirect binding effect and cannot bind to CB1 on its own, its inhibition of enzymatic activity is what allows for it to be a useful therapeutic tool in inflammatory management. (3)
Monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) is the enzyme responsible for breaking down 2-AG. Inhibiting MAGL allows for more 2-AG, which facilitates brain injury repair, enhances short-term, synaptic depression, and allows for more 2-AG to get to the brain injury site. (3)
Cannabis 101: ECS Deficiency
An endocannabinoid system (ECS) deficiency is typically characterized by low levels of endocannabinoids, or missing or defective receptors, that can contribute to the onset of chronic diseases.
Chronic stress can deplete the ECS, while overusing cannabis (i.e. biphasic effect) may disrupt the typical functioning of the ECS. (2,3)
According to Dr. Ethan Russo, the concept of ECS deficiency is based on the theory that low levels of endocannabinoids might manifest into chronic disorders, such as neurotransmitter diseases (i.e. Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s), or depression due to suppression of serotonin and norepinephrine.
Therefore, much like any other system in the body, you need to work diligently to maintain homeostasis in order to keep your ECS functioning properly. Try to engage in creative activities or find ways to decompress so that your stress does not negatively affect your ECS. (7)
Oftentimes, conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines and seizures, are closely associated with an ECS deficiency. (7)
Cannabis 101: Understanding Terpenes
Terpenes are natural compounds found in both cannabis and food that provides aroma and flavor, along with therapeutic effects when paired properly. There are over 150 terpenes, each with its own, unique profile which offers different benefits. (2,3,6)
You can smell many terpenes very readily in both (cannabis) flower/bud, food and essential oils. For example, lemons, oranges and limes are filled with limonene, while your favorite lavender essential oil has linalool in it.
Essential oils are a great way to incorporate more terpenes into your environment with 0% chance of any psychoactive effect. Simply smelling aromatics can create a sense of calm and relaxation.
Each terpene is derived from a natural compound, and may be enhanced by pairing more sedative terpenes, such as limonene and myrcene, together if looking for a more sedative effect.
Or perhaps you got a little too high? Terpenes can also be used to reduce your high, such as pinene or beta caryophyllene. If you’ve gotten yourself too high from the terpenes in cannabis, you can help reduce your high by incorporating terpenes from food. (3)
Depending on what effect you want from your cannabis or foods, choose the appropriate terpene profile and pair it accordingly. To increase/alter the therapeutic effects, you can either pair cannabis terpenes with other cannabis terpenes, or cannabis terpenes with food terpenes.
Below we will break down each of the more popular terpenes and what effect they provide along with cannabis strains and foods containing each terpene. Plus the strain names are so fun!
But before we begin, drop by the shop to snag your free terpenes download and follow along!
Found in citrus fruits, limonene offers anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-reflux effects with a more sedative sensation. If you’re looking to heighten its effects, then pair limonene with other sedative terpenes, like linalool and/or myrcene.
In fact, limonene is most beneficial when in combination with linalool and myrcene. If you’re feeling a bit too sleepy, then add some pinene or beta caryophyllene, or chew on a peppercorn. (2,3,6)
Limonene-containing cannabis strains (8)
- Berry White (17% THC)
- Quantum Kush (19% THC)
- Do-Si-Dos (20% THC)
- Wedding Cake (22% THC)
*in addition to the sedating properties of limonene, the THC content will also significantly contribute to the overall sedation/hallucinogenic profile.
- Essential oils (food-grade only for oral consumption – aromatic essential oils should never be ingested)
Present in lavender with a lavender-like aroma, linalool offers pain-relieving, anti-convulsant, antispasmodic and anti-anxiety properties with a soothing effect that promotes relaxation and calm.
If you’re looking to increase its effects, then pair linalool with other sedative terpenes, like limonene and/or myrcene. If you’re feeling a bit too sleepy, then add some pinene or beta caryophyllene to offset some sedation. (2,3,6)
Linalool-containing cannabis strains (9)
- Zkittles (19% THC)
- Do-Si-Dos (20% THC)
- Kosher Kush (22% THC)
- Scooby Snacks (23% THC)
*in addition to the sedating properties of linalool, the THC content will also significantly contribute to the overall sedation/hallucinogenic profile.
Found in lemongrass and the botanical brother of cannabis, hops, myrcene provides fruity/earthy and clove-like aromas to promote pain relief, sedation, muscle relaxation, and anti-inflammation.
If you’re looking to elevate its effects, then pair myrcene with other calming terpenes, like limonene and/or linalool. If you’re feeling a little drowsy, then add some pinene or beta caryophyllene to offset some sedation. (2,3,6)
Myrcene-containing cannabis strains (10)
- ACDC (14% CBD / 1% THC)
- excellent option for children, the elderly or those looking for sedation with little to no psychoactivity
- Agent Orange (15% THC)
- Grape Ape (17% THC)
- OG Kush (18% THC)
- Kosher Tangie (21% THC)
*in addition to the sedating properties of myrcene, the THC content will also significantly contribute to the overall sedation/hallucinogenic profile.
As the most abundant terpene found in nature, pinene is derived from pine trees, and gives an obvious pine-like aroma. I always like to pump up the pinene around the holidays for a Merry “Lit”mas (see what I did there?).
Pinene creates a more awakened sensation compared to some of the other, more sleep-inducing terpenes, and works to boost memory and relax constricted airways while providing anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects.
If you’re ever feeling a bit too rundown, whether from other terpenes or just the stress of the day, add in a bit more pinene to wake you up and offset some of the more sedative properties. (2,3,6)
Pinene-containing cannabis strains (11)
- Purple Punch (19% THC)
- Mimosa (19% THC)
- Slurricane (21% THC)
- MAC (22% THC)
- Pine nuts
Found in black pepper, cloves and several herbs, beta caryophyllene is a major terpene found in hemp seed oil that acts like a cannabinoid as a full agonist, binding to CB2 without stimulating CB1. (3)
Due to this receptor stimulation, this terpene is useful for inflammation, nerve pain relief along with antifungal, antimalarial and gastroprotective properties. If you’re ever feeling too “elevated”, beta caryophyllene is one of your best defenses to help bring you down a little faster.
Note that it won’t work immediately, but will lessen the duration that you’ll feel the psychoactive effects. (2,3,6)
Beta caryophyllene-containing cannabis strains (12)
- Bubba Kush (17% THC)
- Gelato (17% THC)
- Sour Diesel (18% THC)
- Pineapple Express (18% THC)
- GSC (Girl Scout Cookies) (19% THC)
Beta caryophyllene-containing foods
- Black pepper
- Many herbs
Abundant in black pepper, hops and ginseng, humulene works as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent, as well as an appetite suppressant, providing spicy and earthy notes.
It’s appetite suppressing properties make it an ideal choice for anyone who’s been betrayed by the onset of the infamous munchies and looking to enjoy the therapeutic effects of cannabis while avoiding excess calories (because let’s be honest, a munchie snack is usually never a healthy one).
Humulene also appears to be found in the presence of beta caryophyllene, and actually works in a very similar fashion with the same chemical formula, further working in synergy.
Humulene-containing cannabis strains (13)
- Candyland (18% THC)
- Headband (18% THC)
- Thin Mint GSC (19% THC) – Girl Scout Cookie
- Deathstar (20% THC)
Special thanks to Leafly for always providing accurate cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
Cannabis 101: Odor vs. Aroma
Real quick thoughts on cannabis odor. While terpenes provide the beautiful and pleasant aromas that we can smell in the raw flower/bud, smoked cannabis has a very distinct, and often unpleasant, odor.
We are no stranger to walking past someone smoking some super cheap skunkweed, but even the best quality cannabis can produce an unwanted smell, especially if you rent your residence or live in an apartment/condo/townhouse in which you’re connected to other units.
There’s enough negative stigma associated with recreational marijuana use, so let’s do our part to act as responsible, and considerate, cannaconsumers.
Disclaimer – there is no scientific evidence to this DIY home remedy – and just what I happen to do that seems to work well for me in my space. Please do not confuse any of this with medical advice for those sensitive to smoke or assume this method will work as a slam dunk should your unit be inspected by property management.
Take an empty paper towel roll and stuff it with a few dryer sheets. Take a puff of your cannabis strain of choice, then blow the smoke through the paper towel roll (if using fresh dryer sheets, it should even smell like a fresh load of laundry!).
I then also, just to be safe, spray a light water-based air freshener afterwards without any heavy perfumes.
Essential oil diffusers can also be useful in combating some of the odor produced from smoking, while air purifier machines are usually the most “aggressive” in terms of removing unwanted smells and requires a small monetary investment.
Now the method above only works for inhalation via pen, pipe, dab, vaporizer, joint, blunt or bong. Use whatever method makes the most sense for you and your space, situation and budget.
If you’re looking to make edibles at home, there are several other methods, and considerations to make, to reduce the smell, even if you have an infuser machine, since the decarboxylation process is highly odorous and can engulf the entire residence. There will be more to come on this later.
Cannabis use and education is so much more than the typical image of a hippie with dreadlocks. As you can see, while the strain names, puns and jokes are fun, “it’s actually very scientific”, and there are so many factors to consider when selecting the proper choice for you and your needs.
Now that you’ve got some general knowledge about this palliative plant, I hope that you can start to find relief in the different strains, cannabinoids and terpene pairings you may try.
Stay tuned for the next blog in honor of 4/20! Check back to find out more about the ECS, and the ways in which you can make the cannabinoid compounds and terpenes work in your favor to enhance its therapeutic effects with food/nutrient pairing and timing!
Feel free to ask any questions you may have by commenting below or visiting thepineappleexpressionist.com under Contact.
Until next time, go Pineapple Express Yourself!
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