You are not alone if you’ve spent most of your adult life believing that cannabis is bad for you. I used to think cannabis was unhealthy, but it turns out it was my lack of knowledge and education that was unhealthy.
We have a lot to catch up on, as cannabis research and science education was restricted for the greater part of the 20th century. It’s time to take on the knowledge we need to be informed, and, if we choose, safe and educated consumers.
Cannabis was a healthy addition to my life once I took the time to understand the following lessons.
1. Cannabinoids: How cannabis interacts in the human body
Did you know your body makes its own version of cannabis? Cannabinoids are the complex active compounds in cannabis that mimic naturally occurring compounds produced by your body, in your endocannabinoid system (ECS). We didn’t learn about the ECS in school because it wasn’t discovered until 1992 when researchers were looking at how THC interacts with the human body.
There are many different cannabinoids found in cannabis, up to 100 by some reports, with the most famous being THC and CBD. These active compounds bind to the receptor sites throughout our ECS in the brain and body, affecting mood and feeling.
Recent research has suggested that if your body is not performing optimally, it may be because of a lack of naturally-produced cannabinoids in your endocannabinoid system, resulting in cannabinoid deficiency. Careful consumption of cannabis could help maintain optimal health and body function, also known as homeostasis.
There is the chance that you might get too much of a good thing, so it’s important to take your time to know your cannabis 101 and talk to a cannabis educated doctor.
2. THC vs CBD: Not all cannabis products will get you high
Want the benefits of cannabis without the high? Focusing on products lower in THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and higher in CBD (cannabidiol) may provide the solution. THC has strong psychoactive properties and CBD is non-psychoactive. While there are other active compounds in cannabis THC and CBD are the ones most identified and readily available in cannabis products in Canada, for now.
Although THC is proving to have many medical applications, including chronic pain relief, for those who are new to cannabis and are concerned about the euphoria of the high, starting out with CBD products may be the ideal solution.
The cannabis oil drops I use by Tilray have a ratio of three parts CBD to one part THC, so the CBD is three times more than the THC. It provides me with mild pain relief with minimal mind alteration other than some relaxation and increased focus.
It’s also possible to get the benefits of cannabis through topical products such as salves, lotions, massage oil, bath soak, lip balm and more. When I apply topicals, the THC and active compounds are not absorbed into my bloodstream or digestive system so I don’t feel the psychoactive properties but the pain relief I get is locally targeted.
3. Terpenes: Aromas that drive the mood and feeling
Ever wondered about the difference between sativa, indica and hybrid? Turns out it’s the aromatic flavours in each strain, called terpenes, that make each strain unique. The combination of flavors, also known as the terpene profile, drive the mood and feeling of each strain.
A sativa is usually more energetic because of the presence of the limonene terpene, a citrusy flavour also found in fruit. An indica strain, more famous for relaxation and sleep, gets these effects from terpenes such as myrcene.
A hybrid strain might have more of a balance of terpenes, but is likely dominant in one or more of the terpenes, leading it to be labelled sativa dominant or indica dominant.
Some terpenes are known to assist with relief for certain disorders, such as caryophyllene (found in herbs and spices) for anxiety and linalool (found in an assortment of plants, including birch, cinnamon and mint) for depression, so getting to know your terpenes can make all the difference when selecting the right strain for you.
4. Methods of Consumption: Different results for different intentions
Consuming cannabis does not have to mean smoking a joint, pipe or bong. There are many different ways to experiment, depending on the desired effect and personal preference.
Consuming cannabis can be a simple as applying a infused topical lotion that may provide anti-aging effects or target pain relief. Vaporizing cannabis gets quick results without the plant combustion caused by smoking. Oil drops, placed under the tongue, provide an excellent alternative to inhalation as they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Capsules and precisely-labelled edibles take longer to come into effect, but for many people offer lasting pain relief.
Finding the method that best matches your intentions and desired effects is the key to having a positive experience with cannabis.
5. Microdosing: The smallest amount for the desired effects
Understanding that I could get the best results from the smallest amount possible changed my relationship with cannabis. Microdosing is using a dose so low that it’s unlikely to produce whole-body effects, but high enough to allow the cellular response and benefits.
My low tolerance to THC means that I can test and enjoy cannabis throughout my day, using tiny amounts and without getting high. I look for products low in THC or I reduce the amount consumed as there are limited microdosing products on the market.
I might apply two to three drops of cannabis oil under the tongue, take one draw on my vaporizer or consume a low dose capsule to experiment with my optimal microdose level. Whenever I consider an edible I always dramatically reduce the suggested mg dosage and practise starting low and going slow.
Ultimately your experience is up to you, so I hope you take the time to learn and improve your overall cannabis experience. Focus first on your intentions. Are you hoping to improve your night’s sleep? Are you looking for some energy throughout the day? Using your cannabis 101 knowledge, you will be able to make better choices for your health and lifestyle.