Cannabis Sativa L. is a species of the genus Cannabis L, which is from the Hemp family, Cannabaceae. There are several subspecies, but the two most widely recognized in regard to medical marijuana are Cannabis sativa L. ssp. sativa, and Cannabis sativa L. ssp.indica.
The subspecies sativa is more commonly referred to as marijuana, whereas the subspecies indica is more often referred to as hemp. Other than physical appearance, one of the major differences is the types of cannabinoids each possesses, as will be explained later.
Broadly speaking, cannabis has been used in various cultures around the world for thousands of years. The hemp plant itself is useful in a number of ways. The fibers contained in the stalks and stems are very strong and make excellent rope. The fibers can also be woven into textiles, and used to make paper. The history of these uses has been well substantiated through ancient artifacts and writings.
In addition to the practical use of the plant fibers, hemp seeds are highly nutritious, and were an important part of the diet of many ancient cultures, as was hemp seed oil.
Various writings from different countries and regions, spanning from before the birth of Christ to modern time, have annotated medical uses, as well as intoxicating effects of the plant.
Not long after immigrants began settling in what is now the United States, hemp crops were being grown for the purpose of making rope, sails, and clothing. By the 19th century, cannabis was being grown in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York, and Kentucky.
In part, due to countries in Europe such as England, at the time using cannabis medically, cannabis was added to The U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1850 and medical preparations containing cannabis (commonly called hashish and not marijuana) became available in the United States.
In an effort to regulate medication and combat the growing problem of individuals becoming unknowingly addicted to morphine due to the increasingly popular practice of lacing common medical preparations with morphine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. This act required manufacturers to clearly label any drug that deviated from the original formulation.
In 1914, the Harrison Act declared the sale of marijuana and certain other drugs illegal. According to an article in Time Magazine, “To get around states’ rights issues, the act used a tax to regulate opium- and coca-derived drugs: it levied a tax on nonmedical uses of the drugs that was much higher than the cost of the drugs themselves, and punished anyone using the drugs without paying the tax.”
Following the Harrison Act, states began outlawing marijuana. In 1937, the federal government made the use of nonmedical marijuana illegal with the Marijuana Tax Act. In 1942 cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia and The National Formulary. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana under Schedule 1 restrictions.
Throughout the time period in which cannabis went from being widely used by the medical establishment in the United States to being illegal to sell or possess, internationally many countries were going through similar progression of removing hashish (cannabis) from commercial trade and making its sale illegal.
Although the active components in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, were first discovered in the 1940s, scientists still did not understand how they affected the human body and mind.
In 1992 Czech analytic chemist Dr. Lumír Ondřej Hanuš and American molecular pharmacologist William Anthony Devane discovered anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter. Their research unlocked the mystery of how cannabis affects humans.
Just a few years prior to the discovery of anandamide, cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 were discovered. Together, these discoveries lead to the identification and research of the endocannabinoid system that exists in both humans and animals.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of receptors that exist in cell membranes located all over the body. Endogenous cannabinoid receptor CB1 exists primarily in the brain, nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, urinary tract, and some organs; CB2 exists primarily in the immune system and in the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands and reproductive organs. Some areas of the body contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The ECS regulates relaxation, eating, sleeping, certain inflammation responses and even cognitive function. In a nutshell, the purpose of the ECS is regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis.
This system is so critical that the body produces its own cannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters) which stimulate cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. These cannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and are referred to as endocannabinoids.
As quoted in The Discovery of the Endocannbinoid System written by Martin A. Lee, “…CB-receptor signaling modulates pain and analgesia, inflammation, appetite, gastro-intestinal motility, and sleep cycles, along with the ebb and flow of immune cells, hormones, and other mood-altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. Glucose metabolism in every cell of the human body is regulated by the endo-cannabinoid system. Formed “on demand” from fatty acid precursors in areas of need, anandamide and 2-AG impact the organism in ways that are “predominantly local and specific,” says Mechoulam. “Their actions are ubiquitous. They are involved in most physiological systems that have been investigated.”
Marijuana contains more than 400 different chemicals with at least 80 being cannabinoids, called phytocannabinoids. They have been separated into subclasses as follows, Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), Cannabidiols (CBD), Cannabigerols (CBG), Cannabichromenes (CBC), Cannabinol (CBN), cannabinodiol (CBDL), other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and other miscellaneous types.
The THC, CBN, and CBDL cannabinoids effect CB1 receptors giving them a psychotropic effect on individuals; THC has the strongest effect. In the THC subclass, there are several different cannabinoids but delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is the most well-known and researched. THC is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the “high” when marijuana is used.
Some other effects of THC include feelings of panic, anxiety and fear (paranoia), hallucinations, increased heart rate, trouble concentrating, decreased ability to perform tasks that require coordination, and decreased interest in completing tasks. For some users, it can heighten agitation, anxiety, insomnia and irritability or cause deep depression. Addiction occurs in approximately one in ten individuals.
Reportedly, some positive effects of THC include pain relief, suppresses muscle spasms, increases appetite, and reduces vomiting and nausea. These positive effects could prove helpful for people suffering with diseases such as Aids/HIV, MS, ALS, Crohn’s Disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, epilepsy and seizures, and cancer treatment.
CBD (cannabindiols) do not have any psychoactive effects as they work solely on the CB2 receptor. The list of positive effects is long, and includes many of the same positive effects of THC such as pain relief, suppresses muscle spasms, and reduces vomiting and nausea (without the psychoactive effects of THC).
Some of the reported benefits of CBD include reduces inflammation, reduces anxiety, protects nervous system degradation, promotes bone growth, tranquilizes (used to manage psychosis), reduces seizures and convulsions, and many more.
While a lot of research on cannabis has been done over the years, much more is needed to fully understand just how it can be used medically. Since cannabinoid receptors exist all over the body, and affects cellular function, learning how to use cannabis to treat medical conditions without causing new problems requires much more research. Many studies have concluded that cannabis is more harmful than helpful, and should not be used medically. Safety for children and seniors has not been determined. Marijuana should not be used during pregnancy.
Careful and exact dosing needs to be made by a physician to avoid possible avoidable side effects. For example, while the cannabinoid CBN aids sleep, relieves pain, and suppresses muscle spasms, it does have some psychoactive effects, as well. For someone suffering with fibromyalgia, the doctor may prescribe CBD, CBN, and/or THC. THC and CBN both cause psychoactive effects and will show up positive on a job-related drug test.
There are several ways that medical marijuana may be used. The leaves and buds can be smoked, inhaled (with a vaporizer), ingested in food or tea, or a pill or oil may be prescribed. Currently, there are two synthetic forms of prescription marijuana, which are Dronabinol, which is a synthetic equivalent of THC, and Nabilone, which is a synthetic analogue of THC.
Cannabis indica (hemp) has naturally low levels of THC and high levels of CBD. Cannabis sativa naturally has a higher level of THC and lower level of CBD. Some subspecies have been developed to have differing amounts of THC, so knowing which one you are getting at the dispensary is critical. Testing of individual batches of cannabis would be necessary to be certain that what you are getting has the appropriate levels of the cannabinoids prescribed by your doctor.
There is a lot of debate as to whether smoking cannabis is harmful in the ways that smoking cigarettes is harmful. Since the cannabinoids are fat soluble, using a vaporizer is questionable as to its effectiveness. However, both of these methods provide faster results than any form that has to be broken down in the stomach.
Hemp CBD oil is becoming more popular with those seeking relief from certain health issues because it is easy to obtain and use, and is legal in all 50 states. Most preparations are low in THC, eliminating the psychoactive effect, and is less likely to show up positive on a drug test; most companies state that the risk is low but will not guarantee a clean test.
If you are looking to improve your health without worrying about seeing a doctor, knowing which cannabinoids you should be taking and whether it is legal, try adding hemp seeds to your diet. Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil contain a notable amount of CBD, only trace amounts of THC, and have many qualities that make them an excellent addition to your diet.
Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil provides your body with plenty of protein consisting of all 20 essential amino acids; a healthy balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids; GLA (gamma linolenic acid); soluble and insoluble fiber; minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc; and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, D, and E.
GLA and GLA-rich foods have been known to help with balancing hormones, ADHD, breast pain, diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, obesity, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin health and allergies. GLA and omega 3 also lowers inflammation and supports the immune system, helping to protect against cancer.
There is no doubt that some people have received life changing benefits from being properly treated with marijuana prescribed by a doctor, but the overall safety and long term efficacy is hotly debated by researchers and doctors due to the fact that cannabinoids affect the body on a cellular level across all systems. If you have a serious condition that you think may be helped by medical marijuana, look for a doctor who specializes in it.
If you simply are wanting to improve your quality of life without a prescription, try adding hemp seeds and hempseed oil to your diet. For others looking for help with symptoms from more serious health conditions, discuss with your doctor whether CBD hemp oil is appropriate for your condition.
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