Cannabis 101

Cannabis 101

Cultivating Cannabis sativa L.

Cannabis: Multi-molecule, Whole-plant Medicine 

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, pioneered cannabis research in the 1960s and was the first scientist to isolate Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Dr. Mechoulam has been conducting research on cannabis for more than 40 years.

According to Dr. Mechoulam, one can look throughout history to find evidence of cannabis being used for medicinal purposes. For example, the Assyrians used cannabis 3,000 years ago, apparently for the treatment of neurological diseases. Furthermore, the Chinese have made extensive use of cannabis medicinally throughout their nation's history.

Instead of approaching the plant as segregated from other medicinal herbs, we view cannabis as a medicinal plant whose many compounds can be incorporated into complex medicines, tinctures, and other traditional, natural remedies.

A Science-based Approach

We do not make unsubstantiated claims about our products or cannabis in general. We understand that clinical studies are needed to provide the data and analysis necessary to make health claims about any product. We do not recommend our products to treat or cure any diseases. However, we do present you with relevant cannabis research so you can make your own decision about how you may like to use our products. With that said, our products are intended to be used as dietary supplements, cosmetics, or food products.

Cannabis Sativa L.

Cannabis is a genus in the family Cannabaceae, a small family of flowering plants. Cannabis sativa L. is a species of Cannabis.

cannabis sativa taxonomy

The Diversity of Cannabinoids

Cannabis contains at least 480 different chemicals. People are beginning to realize that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration is not the sole indicator of quality or efficacy. Consequently, consumers and patients are starting to pay more attention to terpenes and other cannabinoids like Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabinol (CBN), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and even the acidic forms of CBD and THC (CBDa and THCa).

Acid Forms

Cannabis flowers do not produce THC or CBD. At a molecular genetic level, the cannabis plant converts the precursor cannabinoid Cannabidiolic acid (CBGa) to either THCa or CBDa. Cannabis flowers must be decarboxylated (or heated) to turn CBDa to CBD and THCa to THC.

Although most research is completed on the decarboxylated and isolated versions of CBD and THC, some research on CBDa and THCa exists. For example, one study found that CBDa activates the 5-HT1A receptor, showing promise as a treatment for nausea and anxiety, while having significantly greater potency at lower doses and affinity for this receptor than CBD.

Non-intoxicating versus Non-psychoactive

It’s likely that CBD is psychoactive to some degree. CBD may alter chemical levels in the brain, affect mood and emotions, and may be used to treat psychiatric conditions. For example, it would be difficult to argue, without contradiction, that CBD has anti-anxiety properties but is non-psychoactive. However, it's definitely non-intoxicating.

Most of the cannabis plant is non-intoxicating, meaning it does not cause impairment or observable psychotropic effects. CBD, CBG, CBN, CBDa, and THCa are all non-intoxicating compounds. Even delta-9 THC, an intoxicating compound in cannabis, will eventually degrade to the non-intoxicating cannabinoid, CBN, over time with exposure to light, heat, and oxygen.

Potential Synergies

The significance of the potential synergy between the different phytocannabinoids and other plant compounds cannot be overstated. For example, a recent, randomized placebo-controlled study compared THC, CBD, and combinations of each. The study found that low doses of CBD when combined with THC enhanced the intoxicating effects of THC, while high doses of CBD reduced the intoxicating effects of THC. The THC dose for this study was 8 mg. The low CBD dose was 4 mg (1:2 ratio) and high CBD dose was 400 mg (50:1 ratio). These findings are important to consider when recommending ratios of THC and CBD for both medical and recreational users. They also have implications for cannabis users with lower THC tolerances.

Unlocking the full potential of phytocannabinoids, as it pertains to pharmacology, requires more research into cannabinoids beyond THC and CBD, namely CBG, CBN, delta-9 THCV, delta-8 THC, Cannabichromene (CBC), and Cannabidivarin (CBDV).

cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis

Applications of CBD

The abundance of products containing CBD - and their multitude of claims - can be mystifying and overwhelming. The following is a breakdown of several reasons why some might use CBD if they are not using it to treat a specific condition or symptom:

  • Using CBD to compliment your THC use. CBD can amplify the positive effects that come with consuming THC (euphoria, a sense of well-being, enhanced relaxation) while also reducing the less desirable, potential adverse effects such as anxiety and paranoia. When used together, both cannabinoids work better. A 2014 study, commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Health, assessed the therapeutic satisfaction within a group of about 100 patients using medical cannabis. The study found that cannabis containing higher levels of THC and low levels of CBD is not necessarily more effective than cannabis with a balanced ratio of these cannabinoids, except for stimulation of appetite.
  • Using CBD to subdue/manage racing thoughts. CBD can help people mellow out without getting high or intoxicated. Research shows that those who use CBD are better able to cope with panic, stress, and anxiety. Maintaining a consistent, even relaxed, state of mind can allow users to maximize productivity. Two studies found CBD reduced anxiety with public speaking.
  • Using CBD to improve alertness and to facilitate better sleep. It’s possible that CBD has biphasic properties, meaning users can experience contrasting effects based on how much or how little is consumed. When consumed in small doses, users may experience increased wakefulness and enhanced positive mood. Alternately, consuming more substantial amounts of CBD may increase sedative effects and even bring about sleepiness. Studies suggest CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Using CBD before and after a workout/strenuous physical activity. Because of CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, it can be a more-natural option for relieving muscle soreness arising from exercise and over-exertion of the body. Whether using CBD in a tincture, topical, or vapor, a physically active person could benefit from incorporating CBD into their pre- and post-workout regimen.

Chicago Cannabis Company CBD products

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS), named after the plant that led to its discovery, is a crucial physiological system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. In fact, all living species have an endocannabinoid system.

The body produces its own "endogenous" cannabinoids or endocannabinoids, for example, Anandamide. Anandamide levels in our bodies can be linked to feelings of well-being and happiness. Studies show that CBD significantly increases anandamide levels in the body, making CBD a possible therapeutic agent for depression and other related conditions.

Endocannabinoids and their receptors (CB1 and CB2) are found everywhere throughout the body: in our brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, digestive system, muscular system, and immune system. Therefore, the ECS plays an important role in regulating our mood, memory, appetite, and the sensation of pain. Since the purpose of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis in our body, your overall health could be negatively affected if your ECS is compromised.

An endocannabinoid deficiency in our bodies, caused by poor diet, lack of sleep, and stress, among other things, may lead to pain, inflammation, migraines, sleeplessness, and other diseases. The ECS can be brought back to balance by absorbing and regulating plant-based cannabinoid compounds like THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, and CBC.

Cannabis Terpenes

There are more than 100 terpenes found in mature cannabis flowers. Terpenoids or terpenes, widely encountered in nature, are the fragrance molecules that give cannabis its unique aroma and flavor. Terpenes also have potential therapeutic properties, which can be amplified when combined with cannabinoids. The observed synergy between cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids is often referred to as the "entourage effect."

While terpenes are nothing new (they are produced by most plants) terpenes in cannabis can be especially beneficial because they work in unison with cannabinoids. This interaction can result in greater psychoactivity and potentially maximize the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids. According to research, terpenes may contribute to anti-anxiety, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and sedative effects.

Different cannabis varieties contain distinct ratios of cannabinoids and terpenoids; these ratios provide a meaningful profile of the plant’s genetic identity and chemical composition.

Classification Beyond Indica and Sativa

It’s important to understand that different ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes are likely to exhibit distinctive properties and, therefore, provide a better understanding of expected effects. We advocate for a classification system beyond sativa and indica, especially when it comes to labeling products in the best interest of the consumer.




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