You may be looking to use Cannabis or a Cannabinoid-infused product for a specific purpose. Many people consume Cannabinoids for relaxation, meditation, fun, and even pain management. The good news is, you can now find products containing a variety of Cannabinoids, each having a unique effect; you're not just limited to THC products!
While there is no "right" way or "wrong" way to go about buying your weed product, here are three things to consider next time you're visiting a Cannabis store or purchasing a cannabis product online:
1. "Indica" & "Sativa" Effects Are Social Constructs
Cannabis is not so black and white
Unlike what most people are led to believe, whether a product is labelled "sativa" or "indica" has very little to do with the experience you end up getting from consuming Cannabinoids. This (over-simplified) dichotomy is especially irrelevant when ingesting infused edibles; what is more important is the dosage and profile of various Cannabinoids.
The perceived effects from consuming Cannabis products are mainly based on:
Cannabinoid Profile - Various combinations of THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, CBDV, THCV, etc. Cannabis flowers tend to have more complex Cannabinoid profiles than infused products, which are usually made with distillate or purified Cannabinoids. A product containing both CBD and THC will feel different than one with THC alone.
Cannabinoid Concentration - Potency expressed as a percentage (%) of milligrams in one gram (mg/g). Cannabis flowers have varying concentrations of Cannabinoids based on the plant's genetic makeup and which part of the plant the flowers were harvested from. Infused products also come in different levels of potency. A higher dose of THC will feel different than consuming a lower dose of THC.
Method of Consumption - These include ingesting and inhaling, among others. Some variables include dosage accuracy, bioavailability of Cannabinoids, and onset time. Methods of consumption are expanded on in the next section below.
Consumer's Biochemistry at time of Consumption - The greatest variable is each individual user, taking into consideration things like age, metabolism, blood pressure, dopamine production, diet, mental health, etc.
Consumer's Experience - Someone who has consumed Cannabis products frequently may experience different effects from a particular product or formulation than someone consuming that same product for the first time.
Placebo Effect - Sometimes, you end up feeling the way you tricked yourself into feeling.
Other Ingredients - Some products contain other ingredients like caffeine or melatonin, which have additional effects on the mind and body.
2. Method of Consumption Matters
How would you like to consume today?
The main two methods of consuming Cannabinoids include ingesting and inhaling. You can also apply Cannabinoids topically, consume sublingually, or use a suppository. Each method of consumption has varying dosing accuracy, onset time, and bioavailability.
1. Dose Accuracy: Ingesting and using sublingually (under the tongue) are the most accurate in terms of determining the actual dosage consumed. These methods of consumption are also great for microdosing. Inhalation is the least accurate form of dosing; it’s more difficult to determine the dose consumed when smoking Cannabis.
2. Bioavailability of Cannabinoids: When consuming Cannabinoids the “true dose” is the amount of Cannabinoids that actually enter the bloodstream to produce a biological response and cause expected effects. Ingesting has the lowest bioavailability of about 15% of the dose consumed while inhalation has the highest bioavailability of about 40%.
3. Onset Time: This is the amount of time it takes to feel anticipated effects, whether immediately or within hours, depends on the method of consumption. When ingesting Cannabinoids you can expect a longer onset time while inhaling brings about effects almost immediately.
Some of these factors may be more important to you than others. Perhaps you don't want to vape or smoke so that generally leaves you with the option of ingesting an edible, which takes some time to kick in. Or you don't care about the dosage amount—you just want to feel a certain way.
What's important is that you learn what works best for you and that usually begins with understanding the main differences between Cannabinoid effects and consumption methods.
3. There's More to Cannabis Than Just THC
Exploring all Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are chemicals produced by Cannabis plants and can be extracted from Cannabis plant material. Cannabinoids mainly include CBD, CBG, CBN, and THC but there are many more! Cannabinoids are extracted from Cannabis plants, refined, and used to infuse products like oils, gummies, and balms.
Each Cannabinoid will trigger a unique effect when interacting with our Endocannabinoid system, largely depending on the dose of each Cannabinoid and the individual's biochemistry at the time of consumption.
All Cannabinoids can be psychoactive, or affect the mind, depending on the dose taken. Below, you can find more information on some of the most common Cannabinoids found in cannabis products, both intoxicating and non-intoxicating.
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is the primary chemical responsible for most of the psychotropic effects associated with cannabis. Due to THC’s infamous euphoria-inducing side effect, stress relief is one of its common uses. When a person consumes THC, dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, modulated by the Esystem, become more active and release more dopamine. The increase of dopamine leads to a feeling of well-being and sense of pleasure. Medically, THC has been used widely for pain, sleep and appetite management. Too much THC in one’s system, however, can cause increased heart rates and feelings of paranoia; a larger dose of CBD is thought to help mitigate potential discomfort from THC overdose. When ingested orally, Δ9-THC may convert to a more potent Cannabinoid 11-hydroxy-THC.
Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC) is comparable to delta-9-THC but with a lower psychotropic potency.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is the most abundant Cannabinoid found in THC-rich cannabis varieties. THCa is produced by cannabis flowers but must be decarboxylated to Δ9-THC to activate the psychotropic effects associated with cannabis. This is done when heating/igniting or through the extraction process. Using raw THC-rich cannabis flowers in tea or smoothie can be one way of consuming this cannabinoid. The therapeutic value of THCa as an immunoregulatory agent has been patented.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotropic Cannabinoid with a wide scope of wellness applications. Most research is completed on the decarboxylated and isolated version of CBD. CBD is quickly becoming a popular, natural remedy for many, specifically for aiding in stress relief and relaxation. CBD used as an antioxidant was patented by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2003, but the patent has since expired.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is decarboxylated CBGa. With CBG research on the rise, consumers will soon see a breadth of CBG products on the market; here’s what you need to know: Preliminary studies show promising results of CBG acting not just as a neuroprotectant but also as a tool to help modulate the nervous system, making it a key cannabinoid in dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. It appears that CBG and CBD may also share many similar properties, showing potential for pain relief, anxiety/stress, and inflammation.
- Cannabinol (CBN) is formed through degradation when Δ9-THC is exposed to oxygen, UV light, and heat. CBN has very little psychotropic potency but may be intoxicating when taken in large enough amounts. CBN is not usually found in high concentrations in properly stored cannabis. CBN is believed to induce sleep, but research on this minor Cannabinoid is still developing.
The Cannabis plant has complex chemical expressions and those distinct chemical profiles (Cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes) will cause varying effects. Next time you're looking for a Cannabis product, take a look at the Cannabinoid profile and determine whether you'd just like to consume THC or perhaps try something new!