Why Survivors of Sexual Violence Choose Cannabis to Heal

Sexual violence—which includes rape and any other unwanted sexual experience—is a significant problem in the United States. About one in three American women, and one in six American men, have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. Intimate partner violence is a scourge in the US as well. In 2015, the Center for Disease Control reported that one in four women, and one in ten men, experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. (It should be noted that the term “intimate partner violence” includes psychological aggression as well, such as name calling, insulting, or humiliating.)

I’m a survivor of intimate partner violence and sexual violence, and I’ve been consuming cannabis for almost eight years. Ironically, my physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend was the first person I ever consumed cannabis with. Now, the plant helps me manage the PTSD symptoms his violence created.

For most of my twenties I lived in prohibition states, where trustworthy budtenders and access to legal, budget-friendly, and high-quality cannabis simply wasn’t a reality. But now that I live in California—where buying cannabis is a legal, safe, and socially acceptable errand—I’m doing everything in my power to shine a light on all the ways cannabis can help trauma survivors live their best lives.

And I’m not alone.

I recently spoke with the following people on the topic:

  • Ashley Manta, creator of CannaSexual, sex and cannabis coach, and a multiple sexual assault survivor
  • Caitlin Flynn, a Seattle-based writer and rape survivor
  • Dr. Carrie Cuttler, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Washington State University
  • Dr. Dustin Sulak, the founder of Integr8 Health, a medical practice in Maine that follows over 8,000 patients using medical cannabis; Healer.com, a medical cannabis patient education resource; and Cannabis Expertise, a continuing medical education curriculum

How Trauma Changes the Brain

“Sexual abuse and other types of intense trauma can change the body’s communication pathway between the brain and the adrenal glands,” Dr. Sulak says. “This usually results in overactive adrenal function, producing excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can result in increased blood pressure and blood sugar and increased adrenaline,” Dr. Sulak says these changes can also impair the immune system’s ability to respond to acute and chronic infections, and have a negative impact on digestion, sleep, focus, learning, and more.

“After long periods of overactive adrenal function, the glands can also start to malfunction, resulting in adrenal fatigue—a primary component of chronic fatigue syndrome and sexual dysfunction,” Dr. Sulak says. He adds that trauma survivors have been found to have problems with neurotransmitter signaling as well, especially when it comes to the neurotransmitters serotonin and glutamate, both of which correlate with hyperarousal (excessive fight-or-flight response) and re-experiencing traumatic memories (two of the three domains of PTSD symptoms—the third is avoidance).

Dr. Sulak says excessive glutamate signaling can also reinforce the neural pathways that are most problematic for survivors. “When we practice a new skill, like knitting for example, and get so good at it that we can do it with little thought, that type of learning is accompanied by structural connections in the brain’s neurons that create something like a knitting superhighway,” Dr. Sulak says.

In trauma survivors, this can happen with the pathways that cause feelings and behaviors related to anxiety and panic. “We don’t want those pathways to be superhighways that are used every day,we want them to be there only for emergency use.”

How Cannabis Can Help

Dr. Sulak relayed that cannabis often works by suppressing excessive activity in the body. “If the fight-or-flight branch of the nervous system is too activated, cannabis can help bring this back to normal. If the neural pathways related to trauma are being overused, cannabis can turn them down or turn them off. And it does this best in areas of the brain related to memories and emotional responses, because those areas have very high levels of cannabinoid receptors.”

Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. They’re part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Even without using cannabis, our bodies are already using cannabinoids to help manage some of the health problems that plague survivors the most.

“Our brains produce endocannabinoids, which function like THC to correct many of the alterations in brain and body function associated with trauma,” Dr. Sulak says. He adds that a recent study discovered that people who have mutations in the genes that code for components of the endocannabinoid system have a higher likelihood of developing anxiety disorders, of which PTSD is one.

“Conventional pharmacologic treatments for PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms leave a lot to be desired. Cannabis, on the other hand, is one medicine that, when used correctly, can achieve all these goals: improve mood, reduce anxiety, promote restorative sleep, and suppress nightmares,” Dr. Sulak says. “It’s truly a holistic treatment … In my nine years of treating thousands of patients with cannabis, I’ve seen the most consistent, satisfactory response for reducing or eliminating trauma-related nightmares, and restorative sleep is essential for healing.”

Beyond symptom relief, Dr. Sulak says cannabis can actually promote the long-term healing process after trauma. Studies on human subjects have shown that the compounds in cannabis, both THC and CBD, can enhance our capacity for “fear extinction,” a scientific term for what happens in the brain when therapy (or just everyday life in a safe and loving environment) helps a trauma survivor change their response to stimuli that would have previously triggered symptoms like anxiety, panic, and flashbacks. “The cannabinoids literally promote the kind of brain changes needed to release limiting patterns of thought and behavior,” he explains.

The Research on Cannabis and PTSD

“I’m not a trauma expert by any stretch of the imagination,” Dr. Cuttler tells me. “What I can say is that cannabis has demonstrated some beneficial effects in the treatment of PTSD. Cannabis helps to improve sleep and reduce nightmares in people with PTSD, and it also seems to facilitate memory extinction—so helping survivors extinguish those traumatic memories,” she says.

Research in Dr. Cuttler’s Health and Cognition Lab focuses on illuminating the potentially beneficial and detrimental effects of chronic cannabis use and acute cannabis intoxication. Her current and recent work focuses on examining links between cannabis use and mental health, physical health, stress, and cognition.

In 2018, Dr. Cuttler and her team conducted one of the first official studies to track the self-reported effects of different cannabis strains and doses on cannabis consumers. The study found that consuming cannabis made people less anxious, stressed, and depressed.

But there’s still much to learn. Statistics show that women actually have double the rate of PTSD than men, yet the bulk of existing trauma research focuses on male combat veterans. Moreover, a study on Gulf War veterans found that sexual assault is more likely to lead to PTSD than combat.

“Clinical trials give us our best evidence and there really haven’t been very many, or very good, clinical trials looking at the use of cannabis for mental health purposes, and we just need far more of those,” Dr. Cuttler says. “The scheduling of cannabis as a Schedule I drug in the US makes it very difficult to research legally, which has really stalled the progress of our research.”

Best Practices for Daily Cannabis Consumption

Dr. Sulak recommends consuming a combination of CBD and THC each morning and afternoon as a baseline treatment. He adds that survivors should be mindful of how their doses make them feel—the goal is to reduce symptoms without causing impairment, decreased motivation, or increased avoidance behaviors. “The CBD:THC ratio of this baseline treatment can vary, but 1:1 is a fine place to start.” Dr. Sulak says if that ratio is too impairing, consumers should try switching to a higher CBD ratio. “Inhaled cannabis can then be used during the day, at the lowest effective dose, to control breakthrough symptoms.”

Regarding inhalation, Dr. Sulak says the best method is using an herbal vaporizer that heats up your cannabis flower without burning it. “This allows users to try several varieties of cannabis and find what works best for them.”

Dr. Sulak recommends not using inhalation as the only delivery method though, due to its rapid onset and short duration of action. “Patients who do this often end up chasing their symptoms around (waiting until the anxiety recurs before a subsequent dose) instead of preventing the symptoms. Remember, it’s important to avoid using those trauma pathways so that they stop acting like a superhighway and become more of an old country road with grass growing through the blacktop.”

Survivors on Their Relationship With Cannabis

Ashley Manta is a multiple sexual assault survivor whose first assailant was a cannabis consumer. “I was 13 and the person who assaulted me was using cannabis at the time,” Manta shares. She was strictly anti-cannabis for nearly a decade afterward. “I associated cannabis with getting assaulted. Even smelling it would set me off.” Manta says she didn’t want to be around weed—and had a lot of bias and judgement toward people who used it—until she had her first consensual cannabis experience at age 23.

“All of my cohorts in my philosophy program were stoners, because of course. I picked a group of them and I was like, okay, these are people that I respect and they’re amazing and my professors even smoke weed. What am I missing?”

That experience changed Manta’s mind about cannabis, but it wasn’t until she moved from Pennsylvania to California in 2014 that she was able to experiment with all the healing properties the plant has to offer. “When I found Foria, the THC-infused oil, that was the first time I was ever able to have penetrative sex without pain since my assault. So that was a big game-changer for me.”

When Manta named her rapist on the internet in 2015, she says cannabis was one of the few things that helped her keep it together. “My PTSD was so horrifically triggered by that experience that I was having panic attacks. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even think about sex. Cannabis was actually the thing that allowed me to get through the panic attacks, that let me sleep at night and helped me start to feel comfortable in my body again.”

These days, she incorporates cannabis flower into her sex life as well. “My boyfriend and I just had marathon sex all day yesterday and we stopped at various points to smoke a little bit of Galactic Jack. He really likes that,” she says.

Manta used to take antidepressants and Xanax, but she says safe and legal access to cannabis has enabled her to take care of herself without having to rely on pharmaceuticals. “If I get panicky, I have things that I reach for that are cannabis derived. I have tinctures, I have pens, and as my tolerance has grown, I dab more. But even just a couple of puffs of something that’s really heavy and grounding can be enough to take the edge off of my pretty constant anxiety.”

Manta consumes cannabis daily, and she believes anyone who might be suffering from PTSD, regardless of the cause, should have safe and legal access to the plant. “Whatever it is that has caused you trauma, I think cannabis is beneficial and I think people should have access to it as easily as they have access to any other kind of medication that helps you function.”

Flynn, who first began experiencing symptoms of PTSD and an eating disorder when she was in middle school, couldn’t agree more. “I think it should absolutely be made accessible to survivors and anyone who would benefit from it, whether it’s physically, mentally, or both,” she says.

The Soothing Effects of Cannabis on Multiple Symptoms

Flynn was hospitalized for an eating disorder seven times between the ages of 13 and 24, then experienced early-age corporate burnout in 2015. “I moved from NYC to Seattle for a fresh start, but I was raped the next summer, so that triggered a lot of really severe anxiety and some of my eating disorder symptoms started to come back,” Flynn shares.

“I was only sleeping two or three hours per night and I was really struggling to just keep my head above water.” Flynn’s psychiatrist kept increasing her dose of Valium just so Flynn could function, but she was really worried about its long-term effects on Flynn’s brain. “She made it clear that it was a temporary solution until we could find a long-term treatment plan to address the underlying issues. I have an addictive personality, and addiction runs in my family, so that was also a concern.”

Although she’d tried cannabis in high school and college, Flynn says she wasn’t a fan of the plant before moving to Seattle. “I have asthma and I’m a now-retired dancer, so I don’t like to smoke—and it just never really did much for me or my mood when my friends were passing around a joint.” Even after moving to Seattle, she never went looking for weed until she was asked to cover the opening of a high-end cannabis dispensary. “While I was speaking with their budtenders my interest was piqued,” she told me.

“They gave me some samples to try based on what I told them, and I couldn’t believe how much it helped with my anxiety, PTSD, and insomnia. I talked to my psychiatrist about it and she said that it would be a better long-term solution than Valium.”

Flynn says moderation is key for her, so she consumes cannabis infused edibles only on an as needed basis. “When I’m going through a rough patch, I definitely rely on it more, but I’ll also sometimes go a week or two without feeling like I need to use cannabis,” Flynn says.

A Note on Cannabis and Consent

As a survivor and someone who studied sexual violence prevention for a long time, Manta said she had a lot of concerns when she first started consuming cannabis on a regular basis. “Because the hard line among sexual violence educators is that you don’t mix substances and sex regardless, ever, ever, ever—no alcohol, no weed, no pills, nothing. With cannabis, there’s room for nuance. So what I’ve come up with is to negotiate before you medicate.”

Manta said it’s important to have a conversation with your partner about why you want to get elevated before getting intimate, and what kinds of products you’re using if it’s a product that’s going to get you high. “If you’re using CBD only or topicals or things like that, then it doesn’t impact consent. But if you’re going to be doing something that has a high feeling associated with it, it’s something that you want to have a conversation with your partner about in advance,” Manta advised. “Don’t get stoned at a party and hookup with somebody you just met. Get their phone number and text them the next day and then make plans.”

Leafly logo

This article written by Elizabeth Enochs was originally posted on Leafly.com.

Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1

Cuttler, C., Spradlin, Spradlin, A., and McLaughlin, R.J. A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect. Journal of Affective Disorders, 235, 198-205, 2018. 

Smith, D. R., Stanley, C. M., Foss, T., Boles, R. G., & McKernan, K. (2017). Rare genetic variants in the endocannabinoid system genes CNR1 and DAGLA are associated with neurological phenotypes in humans. PloS one, 12(11), e0187926. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187926

HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

NAVIAGTE

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CBD for anxiety

A pounding heart, sweaty palms, racing thoughts: For those living with an anxiety disorder, these unwelcome symptoms can make everyday life feel debilitating.

One in 13 people around the world live with an anxiety disorder, making them the most common mental health disorder worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For those living with anxiety, finding a safe method for managing symptoms is a critical concern.

Quick-acting anti-anxiety medication, such as Xanax and Valium, may offer instant relief but can become addictive. Long-range anxiety medications, such as Prozac, may help reduce symptoms over time, but don’t work for everyone.

Enter cannabidiol, better known as CBD. CBD has recently captured the spotlight as an alternative or complementary treatment for anxiety.

CBD: Snake oil or powerful anxiety treatment?

Clinical research on CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders has proliferated in recent years with accumulating evidence pointing to its therapeutic potential.

Although most studies on CBD are preclinical and use animal models, clinical studies using human participants are now emerging.

In a double-blind study from 2019, 37 Japanese teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) received 300 mg of CBD oil or a placebo every day for four weeks. The teens were assessed with surveys used to diagnose and measure SAD symptoms. The anti-anxiety properties of CBD reduced symptoms aligned with the disorder, providing relief comparable to Paroxetine, a drug commonly used to treat the condition.

Interestingly, in the follow-up, nine of the seventeen teenagers who received the CBD intervention also declared that they had decided to seek some form of treatment. Teenagers with SAD rarely seek help due to the stigma surrounding the condition and for fear of interacting with therapists.

A 2019 retrospective case study reviewed outpatients at a mental health clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado. Forty-seven of the patients sampled had expressed concerns about anxiety. Over three months, the majority of patients were given 25 mg of CBD daily in addition to treatment.

After the first monthly assessment, 79.2% of patients experienced an improvement in anxiety. After two months, 78.1% of patients reported a further improvement compared with the previous month.

However, there were also patients who reported that the symptoms of their anxiety worsened after taking CBD—15.3% felt their anxiety had become exacerbated after the first month and 19.5% felt their anxiety had worsened further after the second month.

Another study, done in 2018, also suggests that CBD may heighten anxiety. It included a small sample of individuals with paranoid traits and found that CBD exacerbated anxiety among some of the participants. Anxiety was measured through symptoms such as cortisol concentration, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure.

These contradictory findings may be due to factors such as small sample sizes and variations in dosing. CBD is a bidirectional medicine, which means it can cause opposing responses at different doses. We’ll delve deeper into this below.

How should I consume CBD for anxiety?

If you’re curious about using CBD oil as a tool to help manage your anxiety, education is critical. Understanding the pros and cons of the various ingestion methods can help you determine which form of consumption best suits your needs.

tinctures and oils represent a quick, easy, and accurate way to consume CBD. Most tinctures contain CBD in an alcohol base. CBD oils contain CBD extracts infused into a carrier oil, such as coconut or hemp seed oil.

Tinctures and oils are taken using a dropper, which allows you to easily measure intake. The cannabinoid rapidly enters the bloodstream when taken sublingually—results can kick in as quickly as ten minutes and last up to three to four hours.

CBD vape oils can be vaped using a special pen that vaporizes the oil. At present, the safety of vaping has come under intense scrutiny. A serious lung condition known as VAPI, or EVALI, has hospitalized more than 2,000 people and led to the deaths of 42. The federal Centers for Disease Control has found that most cases have been linked to the use of illicit-market THC vape cartridges tainted with vitamin E oil (tocopheryl-acetate).

CBD vape cartridges purchased in legal state-licensed cannabis stores are highly regulated, while CBD cartridges purchased from other sources are completely unregulated. Proceed with caution when considering any vaping product in an unregulated environment.

edibles CBD can be added to almost every food under the sun. While super easy to consume in this form—and often delicious, particularly as gummies—it may take an hour or more before results are felt.

What’s more, the oral bioavailability of CBD can hinder CBD absorption—when you consume CBD orally, it has to pass through your gastrointestinal tract before it is metabolized by the liver. As a result, a limited quantity of CBD makes it into the circulatory system.

It’s important to also note that the FDA has recently deemed food containing CBD illegal. You’ll have to get CBD edibles in state-licensed adult-use markets.

smoking provides an almost instantaneous method for enjoying the effects of CBD. Smoking sends the cannabinoid directly to the alveoli of the lungs, and from there, CBD molecules enter the bloodstream for rapid absorption. However, measuring your CBD intake can be tricky when you smoke, and the act of smoking itself can cause lung inflammation.

Dosing CBD for anxiety

If you read the studies cited above, you’ll notice that the dosing varied significantly between them. The teens in the Japanese study were provided with 300 mg of CBD daily, while the outpatients in the Colorado study received 25 mg. Why such a large discrepancy in dose?

As most scientists and clinicians will readily admit, there is no universally recommended dosage for CBD, and, to date, there haven’t been any large-scale clinical trials to inform dosage guidelines. In addition, the FDA is still learning about CBD—such as its cumulative effects on the body—before it decides on how to regulate it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean CBD is unsafe. Existing research already suggests that it appears to be a safe, well-tolerated treatment. If you’re interested in experimenting with CBD to manage your anxiety symptoms, aim for an informed, cautious approach to dosing (which is always a good idea). Below are some dosing considerations.

General dosing tips

Some basic factors that you should consider when devising a CBD dose include:

👉 body weight

👉 metabolism

👉 concentration of CBD

👉 severity of your anxiety

The concentration of CBD varies between products, and is generally expressed as milligrams (mg) per container.

Once you know the potency of the CBD product you hold, you can use a dosage calculator or an app such as Accugentix to help settle on your perfect dose. Dosage calculations can provide a recommended dose in milligrams based on your body weight and the severity of your symptoms.

Your unique body chemistry also affects how you respond to CBD. Some individuals metabolize medicine faster than others, which can be attributed to genes or lifestyle. If you know that you metabolize medication quickly, it’s possible that you may benefit from a higher dose.

Bidirectional effects

CBD may do different things at different doses, a phenomenon known as bidirectional effects. Overstimulation of the body’s endocannabinoid system may exacerbate symptoms instead of alleviating them.

Additionally, high levels of CBD, such as 300 mg, have been known to promote sleepiness and relaxation. Conversely, low levels of CBD may create an elevating response, inciting wakefulness and alertness. The best way to avoid unwanted bidirectional effects is to follow the adage: start low, go slow.

Start low, go slow

Titration refers to the process of adjusting the dosage of a medication to get its maximum benefits without adverse effects. CBD has been shown to be safe even when taken in high doses (300-600 mg), nonetheless, it’s advisable and more cost-effective to start with a low dose and increase it incrementally, observing how you feel as you go.

This method forces you to pay attention to subtle changes in your body as it responds to the medication. Everyone’s optimal dosage and tolerance is unique, and this process allows you to get acquainted with yours.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, a cannabis medicine expert at Healer, offers educational resources for novice and seasoned cannabis users alike to find their optimal dosage.

Talk to an expert on medical cannabis

If you’re still feeling unsure and you live in a state where you can safely converse with a health professional about CBD, consider scheduling a consultation. Some cannabis dispensaries also have medical experts on hand who can provide you with sound advice and dosage recommendations.

Leafly logo

This article written by Emma Stone was originally posted on Leafly.com.

Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 12, 825–836 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

Hundal H, Lister R, Evans N, Antley A, Englund A, Murray RM, Freeman D, Morrison PD. The effects of cannabidiol on persecutory ideation and anxiety in a high trait paranoid group. J Psychopharmacol. 2018 Mar;32(3):276-282. doi: 10.1177/0269881117737400. Epub 2017 Oct 31. PMID: 29086614.

Nobuo, Masataka. Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology 10, 2466 (2019). DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466    

Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

NAVIAGTE

EXPLORE

Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Your Body: Learn More About Your Medicine
LJG 2021

written by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock

reviewed by

Hannah Sadock, MS

LJG 2021

written by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock

reviewed by

Hannah Sadock, MS

Much of the recent scientific discoveries revealing the relationship between cannabis and our bodies involve the developing awareness and researched effects related to cannabinoids. This chemical compound is confounding researchers and patients alike. Naturally cannabinoids are found in only two places: obviously cannabis, and invertebrate animals- including mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. 

Already sounding too sciency? Here is the thing- cannabis chemistry is meant to arm you with a basic knowledge of how cannabis affects the brain and body. So the better you understand your medicine, the more effective the remedy. Let’s make sense of this together… 

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds made up of 21 carbon atoms in a 3-ring structure. They bind to receptors throughout the brain and body. Aside from being the most mispronounced word in cannabinoid science- “kuh–nab–uh-noid”- they comprise approximately 100 of the 500 chemical compounds in cannabis, working together to provide a wide range of psychological and physiological effects.

Cannabinoids are neurotransmitters exerting their effects by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells. The effects of cannabinoids depend on the targeted area of either the body or brain. They mediate communication between cells, allowing for immediate response to deficiencies or problems in our endocannabinoid system and halt unpleasant symptoms and physical complications. Simply put, cannabinoids activate receptors to maintain internal stability and health. 

While most cannabinoids are not intoxicating themselves, combinations of their presence can influence how each affects you. Different cannabinoids connect with or influence different receptors to produce different effects to achieve homeostasis or balance. 

Different Types of Cannabinoids

Now that we know what cannabinoids are and how to pronounce the word (😉), let’s break down the different types. Cannabinoids are produced not only in the cannabis plant but also in our bodies and they can be engineered in a lab. Crazy right!? As you may have previously thought, cannabinoids are groups of substances found only in the cannabis plant– well, let’s be real here, as much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and their friends are important, they are not the stars of show here. Here more info about each kind:

🌿 phytocannabinoids or exogenous cannabinoids are compounds naturally existing in the cannabis sativa plant. If you know any Latin- “phyto” means “of a plant or relating to plants.” Hence the prefix relating this type of cannabinoid. Phytocannabinoids are made in the resin in the plant’s glandular trichomes on the surface of its leaves. For this reason, these cannabinoids are also referred to as “exogenous cannabinoids” as they are developed outside an organism.The plant has over 500 compounds, out of which over 100 belong to this class of cannabinoids. You may be familiar with some the more commonly occurring endocannabinoids:

🌿 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

🌿 cannabidiol (CBD)

🌿 cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) 

🌿 tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)

🌿 cannabinol (CBN)

🌿 cannabigerol (CBG)

🌿 cannabichromene (CBC)

🌿 tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

One of the essential qualities of cannabinoids making them critical to treatment of physical and mental health diagnoses are their homeostatic qualities. When consumed, cannabinoids quickly enact the endocannabinoid system by attaching to the receptors influencing a response to target a symptom(s). They interact with the properties within these chemical compounds to produce effects such as mood enhancement, pain relief, anxiety decrease and stimulation of appetite. 

👤 endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids are cannabinoids produced inside the body. When adding the Latin prefix “endo” – meaning internal or within- we are talking about cannabinoids created in your body. Yes, your very own body makes similar chemical compounds to the cannabis plants. Endocannabinoids are on-demand neurotransmitters, which are produced when needed and can work within seconds and disappear again.

Endocannabinoids lend themselves to rebalancing the most essential systems in the body, such as activators of the immune system. They are synthesized from fatty acids and respond locally from where they were produced. Just like phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids interact with receptors to initiate a physical response. The two most commonly occurring endocannabinoids are:

👤 N-arachidonoylethanolamine – “anandamide” (AEA)

👤 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Research continues on the exact physiological mechanism promoting or triggering the binding of the receptors to the endocannabinoids. In the meantime, we will all hope our bodies maintain balance.

🧪 synthetic cannabinoids incorporate the commercial production of isolated cannabinoids and novel cannabinoid drugs made to enhance creations by nature. What am I talking about? Pharmaceuticals or cannabis-related compounds. While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition, “synthetic cannabinoids” refers to cannabinoids that are synthesized in a lab to create new medicine.

However the FDA has approved one cannabis-derived drug product: 

🧪 Epidiolex (cannabidiol) for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older.

And three synthetic cannabis-related drug products: 

🧪 Marinol / Dronabinol / Syndros is used to treat loss of appetite and severe nausea and vomiting.

🧪 Nabilone or Cesamet used for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting.

🧪 Sativex used as treatment for unresponsive spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients

These approved drug products are only available with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. As the laws and policies surrounding cannabis evolve with more research, we will undoubtedly see more cannabis derived and related medications from the pharmaceutical companies.

⚠️ In the meantime, there is also an illicit market for synthetic cannabis products to avoid the restriction placed on the legal market. These highly intoxicating and often very toxic designer drugs are sold under the names:

⚠️ Spice 

⚠️ K2

⚠️ herbal smoking blends

⚠️ synthetic marijauna 

These designer drugs are sprayed onto plant matter and commonly cause negative effects including palpitations, paranoia, intense anxiety, nausea, vomiting, confusion, poor coordination, and seizures. There have also been reports of a strong compulsion to re-dose, withdrawal symptoms, persistent cravings, and several deaths have been linked to synthetic cannabinoids. If you believe you have consumed counterfeit cannabis or CBD products and are concerned about negative effects, seek emergency medical care immediately.

In Conclusion

Phytocannabinoids from the plant mimic the naturally occurring endocannabinoids in our bodies. While synthetic cannabinoids are engineered to keep up with the natural production from plants and humans. Whether you choose to supplement your body’s natural process with cannabis or hemp, cannabinoids will continue to assist in finding balance. Just remember- as helpful as cannabis is, so is seeking professional help for any medical concern and staying mindful of the purpose of cannabis or cannabinoids use as it may indirectly postpone seeking treatment. 

Ahn K, et al. (2008). Enzymatic pathways that regulate endocannabinoid signaling in the nervous system. DOI: 1021/cr0782067

Alger BE. (2013). Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295

Atakan Z. (2012). Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 2(6), 241–254. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125312457586

Fine, P. G., & Rosenfeld, M. J. (2013). The endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids, and pain. Rambam Maimonides medical journal, 4(4), e0022. https://doi.org/10.5041/RMMJ.10129

Gomez M, et al. (2008). Cannabinoid signaling system.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633685

Gorzkiewicz A, et al. (2018). Brain endocannabinoid signaling exhibits remarkable complexity. DOI: 1016/j.brainresbull.2018.06.012

Human endocannabinoid system. (n.d.). uclahealth.org/cannabis/human-endocannabinoid-system

Lu H-C. (2015). An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. DOI: 1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028

Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93

Sarris, J., Sinclair, J., Karamacoska, D., Davidson, M., & Firth, J. (2020). Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), 24. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2409-8

Zou S, et al. (2018). Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: Signaling and function in the central nervous system. DOI: 3390/ijms19030833

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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New PTSD study finds cannabis safe, but not as effective as assumed

Preliminary results from a long-awaited study indicate that cannabis appears to be a safe and well-tolerated treatment for patients managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although researchers did not find strong signals of effectiveness.

The study, led by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the University of Pennsylvania and Sue Sisley of the Scottsdale Research Institute, was funded by a $2.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Researchers fought for seven years to obtain approval to conduct the study, and it took three more years to carry it out.

For years, many military veterans have used medical marijuana to manage the symptoms of PTSD. It has been extremely difficult to study the effectiveness of cannabis for PTSD, though, because of federal prohibition and the many roadblocks specifically established to discourage the study of the potential positive health benefits of cannabis. Sisley fought for years to get this study approved, and then struggled to obtain government-approved cannabis of sufficient quality to carry out the research.

76 veterans in the study

The study involved 76 military veterans with PTSD, mostly men between the ages of 24 and 77. Bonn-Miller and Sisley established a two-phase study; the results of the first phase were published in this week’s PLOS One paper.

In the first phase, the 76 veterans were divided into four cohorts. One group self-administered cannabis with 12% THC over three weeks. Another group received an 11% CBD product with minimal THC. A third group received a balanced THC-CBD product, with roughly 8% THC and 8% CBD. A fourth group received a placebo with almost zero active cannabinoids.

Participants were given 1.8 grams per day for 21 days. That’s about the amount of cannabis contained in two to three joints. After three weeks, the subjects stopped consuming cannabis completely for two weeks. Then they were re-randomized in the four cohorts.

No significant difference found

Researchers found little statistical difference between veterans who took the placebo and those given the THC and CBD mixtures. In fact, nearly half of the veterans who received a placebo believed they had been given active cannabis. The study’s authors cited “several confounding factors” that may have contributed to these results. 

They also wrote:

The study sample included participants with a history of cannabis use. The recruitment of active cannabis users might have increased the potential for biased responding. Given the topical nature of the current trial and its relevance for public policy on medical cannabis, participants might have been biased to report positive effects regardless of condition. Despite many participants already having experience with the drug, nearly half of those receiving placebo believed that they received active cannabis. Prior expectations about cannabis’ effects might explain why even those in the placebo condition reported larger than average reductions in PTSD symptoms after only 3 weeks of treatment.

Poor quality of government cannabis could be a factor

Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS, the organization that facilitated the study, noted that “the difference between anecdotal reports” of the effectiveness of cannabis for PTSD “and these results may be the quality of the marijuana.”

The cannabis in the study’s first part was supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has the only license in the U.S. for the production of cannabis used in federally-regulated clinical trials.

The quality and potency of that research cannabis has been a major point of contention over the years. NIDA-supplied cannabis has been notoriously awful—some of the lowest-potency and poorest-quality marijuana to be found anywhere in North America. It took years for NIDA to begin growing strains that even approached commercial grade. And even then the agency fell short. A 12% THC strain is roughly half the potency of the product sold in most medical and adult-use dispensaries in 35 states today. When the research team tested the cannabis sent by NIDA, even the 12% strain came up short. It tested at only 9% THC.

“Research quality” cannabis sparked earlier controversy

Early on in the study, criticism over the poor quality and low potency of the NIDA-supplied cannabis prompted Johns Hopkins University to withdraw from the multi-year clinical trials. Despite criticism from cannabis researchers and some Congressional lawmakers, NIDA maintains a government monopoly on all cannabis used in federally-approved cannabis research.

“Higher quality cannabis flower suitable for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is currently unavailable domestically due to restrictions on production imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration and must be imported,” Doblin said.

Moving on to the next phase of research

Sue Sisley, a medical doctor, president of the Scottsdale Research Institute and the study’s principal investigator, is moving ahead with the next phase of the study, with higher-quality and higher-potency imported cannabis. That cannabis is available to adults and patients in any of dozens of states, but federally-approved researchers can’t use it because of federal prohibition. So it must be imported from outside the United States.  

“Despite the absurd restrictions federal prohibitionists have placed on research for more than 50 years,” said Sisley, “we are squarely focused on launching further Phase 2 trials with imported cannabis of tested, higher potency, fresher flowers that will provide a valid comparison for the millions of Veterans and others with PTSD who are looking for new options.”

PTSD widespread in veteran communities

According to MAPS, about 6% to 10% of the general population, and up to 31% of U.S. veterans, have experienced some form of PTSD. Veterans groups advocating for more access to cannabis, meanwhile, are applauding the newly-published study.

“MAPS and Dr. Sue Sisley deserve a medal for the absolute intentional dysfunction they overcame to complete this study and publish its findings,” Sean Kiernan, president of the Weed for Warriors Project, said in an email to Leafly. “All someone has to do is look at the lack of quality cannabis provided by the Federal Government’s monopoly, NIDA, to understand our Government is not taking our healing seriously.”

“When science tells us cannabis is safe,” he added, “common-sense should tell everyone, cannabis is an amazing substitute for opioids, and other legal accessible substances that carry with them the side effects of addiction, overdose, and suicidal ideation. Is it any wonder why millions prefer cannabis over deadly pharmaceuticals and other harmful substances?  It simply is a safer substitute.”

Establishing cannabis as safe

Dale Schafer, a California attorney who specializes in cannabis law, and a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, pointed out that studies such as the MAPS clinical trials are necessary if there is ever to be federal approval of cannabis use for PTSD.

“However, for the multitude of veterans, and average citizens, suffering from PTSD, Stevie Wonder can see that cannabis is medically helpful and thousands of years of use show an incredible safety profile,” he told Leafly. “Let’s move quickly to Phase 3 so veterans can work with the VA directly and not have to play games like cannabis is radioactive.”

Leafly logo

This article written by Bruce Kennedy was originally posted on Leafly.com.

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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EXPLORE

Hannah Sadock

written by

Hannah Sadock, MS

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock

written by

Hannah Sadock, MS

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

The potent smelling buds known for their psychoactive properties have recently entered into the field of medicine due their simplistic plant anatomy. Easy to reproduce and pollinate, the production of medicinal plants has increased the adaptations of new strains available as treatment. The reason for cannabis’ acceptance and influencing popularity stems from the increase in research suggesting an untapped hidden potential within the plant’s anatomy. 

Cannabis’ still holds a skeptical view within the public sector, which is a valid reason for persons to shy away from modern medicine’s advances. Though for some, specifically researchers and physicians, education has sprung awareness towards a plant-based formula. As cannabis may follow a similar anatomical structure of the common plant, their parts’ functions and features hold significantly different properties that target health symptoms, serving as value in the medical community.  

Of course, the plants all share basic characteristics, such as leaves, stems, and branches, though much like humans, at birth, plants are assigned a biological sex eventually developing specific reproductive organs. To achieve the harvesting of buds from the plants, it is critical to remember both male and female plants are essential to the reproductive cycle and production. Without them, buds will not form leaving you with a nice house plant with a single purpose for decoration. So get ready to learn because we will be targeting:

🪴 cannabis in science 
🪴 connections to the hemp plant
🪴 different species of cannabis
🪴 plant’s reproduction process
🪴 sex specific plant atamony 
🪴 structure and function of plants
🪴 roles of female vs male plants
🪴 role of pollination 
🪴 the role of budding 
🪴 creation of new strain
🪴 differences between CBD and THC 

🪴 cannabis in science 
🪴 connections to the hemp plant
🪴 different species of cannabis
🪴 plant’s reproduction process
🪴 sex specific plant atamony 
🪴 structure and function of plants
🪴 roles of female vs male plants
🪴 role of pollination 
🪴 the role of budding 
🪴 creation of new strain
🪴 differences between CBD and THC 

Cannabaceae- It’s All in the Family

In botany, the Cannabaceae plant family includes the cannabis, hemp, hops (yes, those hops used to make beer) and other related genuses of flowering plants. 

The naming of a plant includes two parts: 

        🪴 genus refers to a larger group of plants such as flowering
        🪴 species is a smaller, more specific type, breed or species found in the same genus

The flowering cannabis plant produces three different types of species aptly named:

🌿 Cannabis Sativa can grow fifteen-feet high making it more suited for outdoor growth to reach its maximum potential. It also grows best in higher temperatures and humidity levels. This may be a concern for mold and other issues but tend not to decrease its popularity due to its higher yield of psychoactive components.

🌱 Keep in mind, Hemp (aka that CBD stuff you see everywhere) is a type of Cannabis Sativa. In accordance with the UN Narcotics Convention, the US federal government classified “industrial hemp” in the 2018 Farm Bill as cannabis containing no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC- the principal psychoactive constituent) by dry weight. As defined by this law, hemp is being bred to produce minimal levels of THC. 

🌿 Cannabis Indica is a stocky plant, typically growing no higher than 3 to 6 feet tall. This makes it more conducive to growing indoors. Cannabis Indica plants flower fast and present thicker foliage and broader leaves. Cannabis Indica plants tend to have an earthy smell and taste and are often more pungent. This type of plant tends to be tolerant of colder temperatures and relative humidity.

🌿 Cannabis Ruderalis aka “ditch weed” lacks psychotropic effects and is mostly used for breeding hybrids as a source of producing auto-flowering traits. It grows relatively short, reaching a maximum height of approximately two feet. Originating in Siberia, Cannabis Ruderalis is accustomed to colder climates. It has a short life cycle and blooms quickly. 

Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant

Cannabis plants share the same structure and function of other plants. While there is nothing quite like cannabis, the plant itself shares various aspects that are similar to other plants including their look, smell, and texture. Other plants contain similar chemical components making them all natural healers. So that you can differentiate your medicine, let’s be sure to explain how cannabis is unlike any doppelgängers.

The basic parts of the cannabis plant and other common plants include: 

🍃 roots of the plants serve as the base structure, grounding the plant by spreading for nutrients within the soil, allowing them to grow tall to withstand environmental factors. To flourish, ample space is needed for the roots to spread, ensuring sufficient supply of nutrients throughout the root system such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and water.

🍃stems are the main support structure of the cannabis plant. They transport fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the plant. The stem provides a foundation to give fan leaves access to the light they need to facilitate growth and carries the weight of heavy colas.

🍃branches act as the ‘support beams’ for the leaves as they bare the weight of the growing buds, keeping the plant tall and adaptable to crop weight.

As for the cannabis plant itself- each part of the plant serves a purpose and while the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. Knowing its parts can inform your experience and appreciation of it. Here’s what you need to know:

🍃 fan leaves are the leaves you see as ways seemingly the universal sign for this plant. Responsible for photosynthesis, they are the main source of energy production for the plant with large leaves located along the main stem and branches to absorb light from the sun and transfer it into energy for growth.

🍃 sugar leaves are found throughout cannabis colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar. Sugar leaf trim can be used to make edibles or concentrates.

🍃 nodes are the intersections of stems and branches in plants. that harvest crops and are the location of determenting sex specific organs. Nodes can hold leaves, offshoots, and are where cannabis plants begin to grow either male pollen sacs or female pistils. 

Okay now it’s time for the birds and bees…or the plant’s sex organs. Let’s start with female specific organs, as they are critical. Only female cannabis plants produce flowers and contain multiple structures and functions responsible for reproduction. Actually since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds, male plants are often killed off in effort to cultivate plants for consumption. These are the parts of the cannabis plant responsible for reproduction and development: 

🍃 bract is an essential feature of reproduction in the female flower. In between the nodes and underneath the sugar leaves of the cola (bud) is the bract. The small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male marijuana plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod.

🍃 calyx is what it’s all about- it is the actual bud itself composed of small sugar leaves, tear-shaped nodules, and pistils. It is also where the highest concentration of trichomes can be found.

🍃 pistil is what many describe as the colorful “hairs” that poke out from the bud. They first appear as white and then morph to orange, red, and eventually brown. Pistils are found only on female plants, and function to capture the pollen from a male. Some attribute the bright orange pistils to better quality cannabis but they actually contain very few trichomes.

🍃 cola is the main part of the flower, at the end of a female plant’s stem is composed of many small floral clusters. The cola is the plant’s offspring, and contains bracts, stigmas, trichomes, and sugar leaves. 

🍃 stigmas are female sex organs that look like small wispy hairs sticking out of the female bract. The thin hairs that extend from a female’s bract to catch male pollen. 

🍃 trichomes are hairlike appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create the chemical compounds that give the plant its unique features and effects. Trichomes give cannabis buds a crystal-like sheen and make them sticky.

The Process of Pollination 

Cannabis plants require this form of pollination to produce offspring. Similarly to human reproduction, cannabis plants have their own genetic sequence or DNA, which allows the crossing of different characteristics within the same species, increasing genetic diversity- aka new strains. The cannabis plant requires cross pollination which is reliant on wind, animals, insects, and people to transfer the pollen from the male to another female plant. For cannabis reproduction to be successful, cross pollination must include:

👉🏽 male and female plants of same species 
👉🏽 pollen produced by male plants is carried to female plant
👉🏽  insects increases genetic differences by leaving tracks of pollen on stigmas of other plants 
👉🏽 stigmas collect the grains of pollen at the top of female flowers
👉🏽 multiple transfers of pollen to the stigma, thanks to nature, influences genetic diversity
👉🏽 genetic diversity increases medicinal modalities

Conclusion

The cannabis plant is complex, as it requires a cross pollination process to reproduce within its species and subspecies. Each species and subspecies within cannabis’ family of classification have their own unique characteristics contributing to the creation of medication. The cannabis strains consumed today are a result and combination of the structures of cross pollination between a male and female cannabis plants. With a better understanding of the complexity behind Cannabis sativa and its sister species, we can appreciate what nature undergoes to produce one of the most intricate modern medicinal plants used worldwide.

Andre, C. M., Hausman, J. F., & Guerriero, G. (2016). Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Frontiers in plant science, 7, 19. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2016.00019

H.M.G. van der Werf, J.E. Harsveld van der Veen, A.T.M. Bouma, M. ten Cate, Quality of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) stems as a raw material for paper, Industrial Crops and Products, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1994, Pages 219-227, ISSN 0926-6690, https://doi.org/10.1016/0926-6690(94)90039-6.

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/What_is_Pollination/birdsandbees.shtml

https://nationalholistic.com/understanding-the-cannabis-plant-physiology

Magalhães PJ, Carvalho DO, Cruz JM, Guido LF, Barros AA. Fundamentals and Health Benefits of Xanthohumol, a Natural Product Derived from Hops and Beer. Natural Product Communications. May 2009. doi:10.1177/1934578X0900400501

McPartland, J.M., Guy, G.W. Models of Cannabis Taxonomy, Cultural Bias, and Conflicts between Scientific and Vernacular Names. Bot. Rev. 83, 327–381 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12229-017-9187-0.

Spitzer-Rimon, B., Duchin, S., Bernstein, N., & Kamenetsky, R. (2019). Architecture and Florogenesis in Female Cannabis sativaPlants. Frontiers in plant science, 10, 350. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00350

Westmoreland FM, Kusuma P, Bugbee B (2021) Cannabis lighting: Decreasing blue photon fraction increases yield but efficacy is more important for cost effective production of cannabinoids. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0248988. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248988.

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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Alternative Forms of Consumption
Angela Morrison

written by

Angela Morrison

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Angela Morrison

written by

Angela Morrison

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

If you smoke your cannabis, you’re undoubtedly familiar with bongs, joints, and bowls. However smoking isn’t for everyone and there are many other ways to medicate with cannabis. Whether you’re asthmatic and trying to save the health of your lungs, or just don’t like the smell, alternative forms of cannabis may be for you, too! 

Trying out new forms of cannabis will lead to new experiences as they interact with the body in different ways. There are plenty of reasons to shake it up with Tinctures, Edibles, RSO, and Topicals, and below I’ll get into each one…

From classic stories of homemade “happy” infused brownies to the modern sleek packs of THC:CBD gummy bears, you’ve probably heard of edibles. There’s every resource out there for homemade edible recipes to make all kinds of cannabis infused goodies from boba tea to chicken alfredo pizza. Whether you’re interested in cooking with cannabis or just eating your smoke, it’s worth knowing a bit how they are made, dosing, and labeling of edible products.

Decarbing and Cooking Edibles

If you’ve ever wondered how your food can be your medicine, it all comes down to the infusing process. Before cannabis can be infused, it has to be heated in a method known as decarbing. Raw cannabis plant material that has not been activated by heat of fire actually starts out as a non-active chemical known as THCA. Once it’s heated, THCA converts into THC offering the medicinal qualities you’re more likely pursuing.

Cannabis compounds including THC and other cannabinoids bond best with things like butter or other cooking oils. This makes fat the most essential component of infusing your food. Whether you infuse coconut, avocado, or olive oil, they will need to be incorporated into your infused food recipes. 

Eating and Metabolizing Edibles

So cook it up and get ready for a taste! But please be aware that ingested cannabis takes a different path through your body when being digested. Cannabis is first processed by your liver. Then metabolized into the blood-brain barrier, and eventually affects your mind and body. This is thought to be the defining difference of edibles and inhalation methods of consumption, and the reason edible effects can be particularly potent and long-lasting. When you take an edible, you can expect the effects to start around 2-4 hours and they can last 4-8 hours. This is all depending on personal metabolism and other factors.

The effects of edibles are somewhat renowned, but necessarily in the best light as the onset can be very delayed. This is often cause for eating more infused goodies which too often contributes to greening out- while you can’t overdose on cannabis, you can use too much. So it’s particularly important to warn of the potential adverse impacts of cannabis such as paranoia and anxiety. On a positive note- edibles offer a longer duration of pain-killing effects.

Properly dosing your edible concoctions can be difficult. This applies to edibles made both at home and commercially. Despite the appeal of packaged edibles, it has been found that many edible labels may be incorrect with their dosages. One study of 75 products from 47 different brands found only 17% had accurately labeled THC content. Please use edibles with caution.

Tinctures

Cannabis tinctures are plant material extracts dissolved into a liquid solution of solvent. Most commonly cannabis tinctures are high-proof alcohol based. They can also be made with glycerin but this doesn’t always prove to bond as effectively. Tinctures are a great choice for people who enjoy the effects of edibles but would like a low-calorie or low-effort alternative. Most notably- they have precise forms of measurement! 

Sublingual Tincture Use

The unique aspect of tinctures is the exact ability to dose and their immediate effects. The dosages are typically measured out with a dropper in 1 mL doses. If you’re new to tinctures, start low and slow with dosing. Starting with a small amount of tincture and increasing your dose with each use will allow you to manage the amount that’s best for you!

Tinctures must be taken sublingually for the most immediate effect. So open your mouth, lift up your tongue, and squirt your tincture under it. Don’t swallow right away. Instead allow the tincture to stay under your tongue for a little while…say thirty seconds. In doing this, the cannabinoids- THC, CBD, and more are absorbed into the blood system. You should feel the effects in as little as 15 minutes. 

Eating Your Tincture

Tinctures may have some natural cannabis flavor. If the taste of tinctures isn’t your thing (or if you’d prefer a longer onset), tinctures can easily be mixed into almost any food. The cannabis will enter the body in a similar process as edibles, taking around 1-3+ hours. 

No matter how you take the tincture, the effects of tinctures on you are still unique to the form. Typically a tincture’s effects will last longer than smoking or vaping, but a shorter period of time than edibles. Though the research on tinctures is limited and larger surveys need to be done, it has shown in one study of people with MS (multiple sclerosis) to manage pain, spasticity (muscle stiffening/tightening), neuropathy (nerve damage), and improve sleep. This is based on a small clinical study, testing a THC:CBD ratio oil tincture on 61 participants aged 25+ who took the tincture daily over the course of 3-4 months and rated their symptoms.

RSO

If you know anything about Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), you’re probably familiar with the mysteriousness surrounding it. There’s been a level of folklore to the story behind this type of cannabis. We’re gonna try to make sense of this curious puzzle.

The Story of Rick Simpson Oil

Rick Simpson is Canadian engineer who was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2003. Having previously explored the use of medical cannabis for another injury, Simpson created a thick cannabis concentrate, applied it to his skin topically, and soon found himself cancer free. While there’s little more research than anecdotal information about RSO, Simpson shared his methodology in creating the oil, and it has gained incredible popularity. FYI- the mystery previously mentioned was because Simpson has evaded legal ramifications of his cultivations and use of cannabis prior to legalization.

Using Rick Simpson Oil

RSO can be applied as a topical or ingested with food and drink. Mixed into food for a slow onset akin to edibles. 

RSO can similarly be held in the mouth to have a quick sublingual onset such as tinctures.

Very little research has been done because RSO is often homemade, leading to inconsistencies between the products. In general, cannabinoids (organic cannabis chemicals such as CBD and THC) do not absorb through the skin very well into the system. It may be effective for local treatment of inflammation or pain. Some preclinical studies have shown some signs that RSO can cause apoptosis, or cell death, of skin cancer topically, but substantial evidence is still lacking. 

Topicals

There is an extremely large selection of topical cannabis products, from hand creams to hydrating face mists. Many of these products claim effects that are largely unsubstantiated. But a study was done regarding topical cannabis as a treatment for inflammation-based skin diseases. This study found positive evidence that the topical cannabis extract affected chemicals and processes involved with wound healing and inflammation. Topical usages of marijuana date as far back as 1000 B.C. in India where it was used religiously and medically for, among other things, an antibiotic applied to skin infections.

Topicals are appealing for those who aren’t looking for the intoxicating effects of marijuana, but still want the full spectrum power of THC and CBD together. Typically infused salves, lotions, balms, or oils are applied to the skin for local relief of pain and inflammation. It is believed that the cannabinoids in the product will activate naturally-occuring receptors in the body that are part of the endocannabinoid system. The chemicals do not reach the bloodstream in most topical applications, which is why they lack intoxicating effects. The exception are transdermal patches, which can cause classic psychoactive effects if it has a high enough THC dosage.

Smokeless Cannabis Options

So next time you’re looking for a way to unwind with cannabis, give one of these methods a try and your lungs a break! Always ask for recommendations from your healthcare provider if you’re looking to add cannabis to your treatment, and always be truthful about incorporating cannabis.

Barrus, D. G., Capogrossi, K. L., Cates, S. C., Gourdet, C. K., Peiper, N. C., Novak, S. P., Lefever, T. W., & Wiley, J. L. (2016). Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles. Methods report (RTI Press), 2016, 10.3768/rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611. https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611

Li, J. Y., & Kampp, J. T. (2019). Review of Common Alternative Herbal “Remedies” for Skin Cancer. Dermatologic Surgery, 45(1), 58-67. doi:10.1097/dss.0000000000001622

Lim, M., & Kirchhof, M. G. (2019). Dermatology-Related Uses of Medical Cannabis Promoted by Dispensaries in Canada, Europe, and the United States . Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, 23(2), 178–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/1203475418808761

Sangiovanni, E., Fumagalli, M., Pacchetti, B., Piazza, S., Magnavacca, A., Khalilpour, S., . . . Dellagli, M. (2019). Cannabis Sativa L. Extract and Cannabidiol Inhibit in Vitro Mediators of Skin Inflammation and Wound Injury [Abstract]. Phytotherapy Research, 33(8), 2083-2093. doi:10.1002/ptr.6400

Sieber, A., Werner, K., Carera, K., Thrower, B., & Rosenthal, J. (2020). The Effects of CBD:THC Tincture Oil in Reducing Symptoms and Overall Symptom Management Medication Dosages, in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis [Abstract]. International Journal of MS Care, 22(S2). Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=15372073&AN=144209749&h=MqI0GXhGRgzpRKM/oj228EaGCPX6IjqD1ybUw6 iqIFtUWsja8Y8EBxvf9vKIaicX5g5H2MkloEd8Vp3tRGR9A==&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=15372073&AN=144209749

Vandrey R, Raber JC, Raber ME, Douglass B, Miller C, Bonn-Miller MO. Cannabinoid Dose and Label Accuracy in Edible Medical Cannabis Products. JAMA. 2015;313(24):2491–2493. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.6613

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

NAVIAGTE

EXPLORE

Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Your Body: Learn More About Your Medicine
LJG 2021

written by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock

reviewed by

Hannah Sadock, MS

LJG 2021

written by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock

reviewed by

Hannah Sadock, MS

Much of the recent scientific discoveries revealing the relationship between cannabis and our bodies involve the developing awareness and researched effects related to cannabinoids. This chemical compound is confounding researchers and patients alike. Naturally cannabinoids are found in only two places: obviously cannabis, and invertebrate animals- including mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. 

Already sounding too sciency? Here is the thing- cannabis chemistry is meant to arm you with a basic knowledge of how cannabis affects the brain and body. So the better you understand your medicine, the more effective the remedy. Let’s make sense of this together… 

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds made up of 21 carbon atoms in a 3-ring structure. They bind to receptors throughout the brain and body. Aside from being the most mispronounced word in cannabinoid science- “kuh–nab–uh-noid”- they comprise approximately 100 of the 500 chemical compounds in cannabis, working together to provide a wide range of psychological and physiological effects.

Cannabinoids are neurotransmitters exerting their effects by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells. The effects of cannabinoids depend on the targeted area of either the body or brain. They mediate communication between cells, allowing for immediate response to deficiencies or problems in our endocannabinoid system and halt unpleasant symptoms and physical complications. Simply put, cannabinoids activate receptors to maintain internal stability and health. 

While most cannabinoids are not intoxicating themselves, combinations of their presence can influence how each affects you. Different cannabinoids connect with or influence different receptors to produce different effects to achieve homeostasis or balance. 

Different Types of Cannabinoids

Now that we know what cannabinoids are and how to pronounce the word (😉), let’s break down the different types. Cannabinoids are produced not only in the cannabis plant but also in our bodies and they can be engineered in a lab. Crazy right!? As you may have previously thought, cannabinoids are groups of substances found only in the cannabis plant– well, let’s be real here, as much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and their friends are important, they are not the stars of show here. Here more info about each kind:

🌿 phytocannabinoids or exogenous cannabinoids are compounds naturally existing in the cannabis sativa plant. If you know any Latin- “phyto” means “of a plant or relating to plants.” Hence the prefix relating this type of cannabinoid. Phytocannabinoids are made in the resin in the plant’s glandular trichomes on the surface of its leaves. For this reason, these cannabinoids are also referred to as “exogenous cannabinoids” as they are developed outside an organism.The plant has over 500 compounds, out of which over 100 belong to this class of cannabinoids. You may be familiar with some the more commonly occurring endocannabinoids:

🌿 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

🌿 cannabidiol (CBD)

🌿 cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) 

🌿 tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)

🌿 cannabinol (CBN)

🌿 cannabigerol (CBG)

🌿 cannabichromene (CBC)

🌿 tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

One of the essential qualities of cannabinoids making them critical to treatment of physical and mental health diagnoses are their homeostatic qualities. When consumed, cannabinoids quickly enact the endocannabinoid system by attaching to the receptors influencing a response to target a symptom(s). They interact with the properties within these chemical compounds to produce effects such as mood enhancement, pain relief, anxiety decrease and stimulation of appetite. 

👤 endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids are cannabinoids produced inside the body. When adding the Latin prefix “endo” – meaning internal or within- we are talking about cannabinoids created in your body. Yes, your very own body makes similar chemical compounds to the cannabis plants. Endocannabinoids are on-demand neurotransmitters, which are produced when needed and can work within seconds and disappear again.

Endocannabinoids lend themselves to rebalancing the most essential systems in the body, such as activators of the immune system. They are synthesized from fatty acids and respond locally from where they were produced. Just like phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids interact with receptors to initiate a physical response. The two most commonly occurring endocannabinoids are:

👤 N-arachidonoylethanolamine – “anandamide” (AEA)

👤 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Research continues on the exact physiological mechanism promoting or triggering the binding of the receptors to the endocannabinoids. In the meantime, we will all hope our bodies maintain balance.

🧪 synthetic cannabinoids incorporate the commercial production of isolated cannabinoids and novel cannabinoid drugs made to enhance creations by nature. What am I talking about? Pharmaceuticals or cannabis-related compounds. While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition, “synthetic cannabinoids” refers to cannabinoids that are synthesized in a lab to create new medicine.

However the FDA has approved one cannabis-derived drug product: 

🧪 Epidiolex (cannabidiol) for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older.

And three synthetic cannabis-related drug products: 

🧪 Marinol / Dronabinol / Syndros is used to treat loss of appetite and severe nausea and vomiting.

🧪 Nabilone or Cesamet used for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting.

🧪 Sativex used as treatment for unresponsive spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients

These approved drug products are only available with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. As the laws and policies surrounding cannabis evolve with more research, we will undoubtedly see more cannabis derived and related medications from the pharmaceutical companies.

⚠️ In the meantime, there is also an illicit market for synthetic cannabis products to avoid the restriction placed on the legal market. These highly intoxicating and often very toxic designer drugs are sold under the names:

⚠️ Spice 

⚠️ K2

⚠️ herbal smoking blends

⚠️ synthetic marijauna 

These designer drugs are sprayed onto plant matter and commonly cause negative effects including palpitations, paranoia, intense anxiety, nausea, vomiting, confusion, poor coordination, and seizures. There have also been reports of a strong compulsion to re-dose, withdrawal symptoms, persistent cravings, and several deaths have been linked to synthetic cannabinoids. If you believe you have consumed counterfeit cannabis or CBD products and are concerned about negative effects, seek emergency medical care immediately.

In Conclusion

Phytocannabinoids from the plant mimic the naturally occurring endocannabinoids in our bodies. While synthetic cannabinoids are engineered to keep up with the natural production from plants and humans. Whether you choose to supplement your body’s natural process with cannabis or hemp, cannabinoids will continue to assist in finding balance. Just remember- as helpful as cannabis is, so is seeking professional help for any medical concern and staying mindful of the purpose of cannabis or cannabinoids use as it may indirectly postpone seeking treatment. 

Ahn K, et al. (2008). Enzymatic pathways that regulate endocannabinoid signaling in the nervous system. DOI: 1021/cr0782067

Alger BE. (2013). Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295

Atakan Z. (2012). Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 2(6), 241–254. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125312457586

Fine, P. G., & Rosenfeld, M. J. (2013). The endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids, and pain. Rambam Maimonides medical journal, 4(4), e0022. https://doi.org/10.5041/RMMJ.10129

Gomez M, et al. (2008). Cannabinoid signaling system.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633685

Gorzkiewicz A, et al. (2018). Brain endocannabinoid signaling exhibits remarkable complexity. DOI: 1016/j.brainresbull.2018.06.012

Human endocannabinoid system. (n.d.). uclahealth.org/cannabis/human-endocannabinoid-system

Lu H-C. (2015). An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. DOI: 1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028

Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93

Sarris, J., Sinclair, J., Karamacoska, D., Davidson, M., & Firth, J. (2020). Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), 24. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2409-8

Zou S, et al. (2018). Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: Signaling and function in the central nervous system. DOI: 3390/ijms19030833

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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CBD for anxiety

A pounding heart, sweaty palms, racing thoughts: For those living with an anxiety disorder, these unwelcome symptoms can make everyday life feel debilitating.

One in 13 people around the world live with an anxiety disorder, making them the most common mental health disorder worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For those living with anxiety, finding a safe method for managing symptoms is a critical concern.

Quick-acting anti-anxiety medication, such as Xanax and Valium, may offer instant relief but can become addictive. Long-range anxiety medications, such as Prozac, may help reduce symptoms over time, but don’t work for everyone.

Enter cannabidiol, better known as CBD. CBD has recently captured the spotlight as an alternative or complementary treatment for anxiety.

CBD: Snake oil or powerful anxiety treatment?

Clinical research on CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders has proliferated in recent years with accumulating evidence pointing to its therapeutic potential.

Although most studies on CBD are preclinical and use animal models, clinical studies using human participants are now emerging.

In a double-blind study from 2019, 37 Japanese teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) received 300 mg of CBD oil or a placebo every day for four weeks. The teens were assessed with surveys used to diagnose and measure SAD symptoms. The anti-anxiety properties of CBD reduced symptoms aligned with the disorder, providing relief comparable to Paroxetine, a drug commonly used to treat the condition.

Interestingly, in the follow-up, nine of the seventeen teenagers who received the CBD intervention also declared that they had decided to seek some form of treatment. Teenagers with SAD rarely seek help due to the stigma surrounding the condition and for fear of interacting with therapists.

A 2019 retrospective case study reviewed outpatients at a mental health clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado. Forty-seven of the patients sampled had expressed concerns about anxiety. Over three months, the majority of patients were given 25 mg of CBD daily in addition to treatment.

After the first monthly assessment, 79.2% of patients experienced an improvement in anxiety. After two months, 78.1% of patients reported a further improvement compared with the previous month.

However, there were also patients who reported that the symptoms of their anxiety worsened after taking CBD—15.3% felt their anxiety had become exacerbated after the first month and 19.5% felt their anxiety had worsened further after the second month.

Another study, done in 2018, also suggests that CBD may heighten anxiety. It included a small sample of individuals with paranoid traits and found that CBD exacerbated anxiety among some of the participants. Anxiety was measured through symptoms such as cortisol concentration, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure.

These contradictory findings may be due to factors such as small sample sizes and variations in dosing. CBD is a bidirectional medicine, which means it can cause opposing responses at different doses. We’ll delve deeper into this below.

How should I consume CBD for anxiety?

If you’re curious about using CBD oil as a tool to help manage your anxiety, education is critical. Understanding the pros and cons of the various ingestion methods can help you determine which form of consumption best suits your needs.

tinctures and oils represent a quick, easy, and accurate way to consume CBD. Most tinctures contain CBD in an alcohol base. CBD oils contain CBD extracts infused into a carrier oil, such as coconut or hemp seed oil.

Tinctures and oils are taken using a dropper, which allows you to easily measure intake. The cannabinoid rapidly enters the bloodstream when taken sublingually—results can kick in as quickly as ten minutes and last up to three to four hours.

CBD vape oils can be vaped using a special pen that vaporizes the oil. At present, the safety of vaping has come under intense scrutiny. A serious lung condition known as VAPI, or EVALI, has hospitalized more than 2,000 people and led to the deaths of 42. The federal Centers for Disease Control has found that most cases have been linked to the use of illicit-market THC vape cartridges tainted with vitamin E oil (tocopheryl-acetate).

CBD vape cartridges purchased in legal state-licensed cannabis stores are highly regulated, while CBD cartridges purchased from other sources are completely unregulated. Proceed with caution when considering any vaping product in an unregulated environment.

edibles CBD can be added to almost every food under the sun. While super easy to consume in this form—and often delicious, particularly as gummies—it may take an hour or more before results are felt.

What’s more, the oral bioavailability of CBD can hinder CBD absorption—when you consume CBD orally, it has to pass through your gastrointestinal tract before it is metabolized by the liver. As a result, a limited quantity of CBD makes it into the circulatory system.

It’s important to also note that the FDA has recently deemed food containing CBD illegal. You’ll have to get CBD edibles in state-licensed adult-use markets.

smoking provides an almost instantaneous method for enjoying the effects of CBD. Smoking sends the cannabinoid directly to the alveoli of the lungs, and from there, CBD molecules enter the bloodstream for rapid absorption. However, measuring your CBD intake can be tricky when you smoke, and the act of smoking itself can cause lung inflammation.

Dosing CBD for anxiety

If you read the studies cited above, you’ll notice that the dosing varied significantly between them. The teens in the Japanese study were provided with 300 mg of CBD daily, while the outpatients in the Colorado study received 25 mg. Why such a large discrepancy in dose?

As most scientists and clinicians will readily admit, there is no universally recommended dosage for CBD, and, to date, there haven’t been any large-scale clinical trials to inform dosage guidelines. In addition, the FDA is still learning about CBD—such as its cumulative effects on the body—before it decides on how to regulate it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean CBD is unsafe. Existing research already suggests that it appears to be a safe, well-tolerated treatment. If you’re interested in experimenting with CBD to manage your anxiety symptoms, aim for an informed, cautious approach to dosing (which is always a good idea). Below are some dosing considerations.

General dosing tips

Some basic factors that you should consider when devising a CBD dose include:

👉 body weight

👉 metabolism

👉 concentration of CBD

👉 severity of your anxiety

The concentration of CBD varies between products, and is generally expressed as milligrams (mg) per container.

Once you know the potency of the CBD product you hold, you can use a dosage calculator or an app such as Accugentix to help settle on your perfect dose. Dosage calculations can provide a recommended dose in milligrams based on your body weight and the severity of your symptoms.

Your unique body chemistry also affects how you respond to CBD. Some individuals metabolize medicine faster than others, which can be attributed to genes or lifestyle. If you know that you metabolize medication quickly, it’s possible that you may benefit from a higher dose.

Bidirectional effects

CBD may do different things at different doses, a phenomenon known as bidirectional effects. Overstimulation of the body’s endocannabinoid system may exacerbate symptoms instead of alleviating them.

Additionally, high levels of CBD, such as 300 mg, have been known to promote sleepiness and relaxation. Conversely, low levels of CBD may create an elevating response, inciting wakefulness and alertness. The best way to avoid unwanted bidirectional effects is to follow the adage: start low, go slow.

Start low, go slow

Titration refers to the process of adjusting the dosage of a medication to get its maximum benefits without adverse effects. CBD has been shown to be safe even when taken in high doses (300-600 mg), nonetheless, it’s advisable and more cost-effective to start with a low dose and increase it incrementally, observing how you feel as you go.

This method forces you to pay attention to subtle changes in your body as it responds to the medication. Everyone’s optimal dosage and tolerance is unique, and this process allows you to get acquainted with yours.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, a cannabis medicine expert at Healer, offers educational resources for novice and seasoned cannabis users alike to find their optimal dosage.

Talk to an expert on medical cannabis

If you’re still feeling unsure and you live in a state where you can safely converse with a health professional about CBD, consider scheduling a consultation. Some cannabis dispensaries also have medical experts on hand who can provide you with sound advice and dosage recommendations.

Leafly logo

This article written by Emma Stone was originally posted on Leafly.com.

Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 12, 825–836 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

Hundal H, Lister R, Evans N, Antley A, Englund A, Murray RM, Freeman D, Morrison PD. The effects of cannabidiol on persecutory ideation and anxiety in a high trait paranoid group. J Psychopharmacol. 2018 Mar;32(3):276-282. doi: 10.1177/0269881117737400. Epub 2017 Oct 31. PMID: 29086614.

Nobuo, Masataka. Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology 10, 2466 (2019). DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466    

Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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New PTSD study finds cannabis safe, but not as effective as assumed

Preliminary results from a long-awaited study indicate that cannabis appears to be a safe and well-tolerated treatment for patients managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although researchers did not find strong signals of effectiveness.

The study, led by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the University of Pennsylvania and Sue Sisley of the Scottsdale Research Institute, was funded by a $2.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Researchers fought for seven years to obtain approval to conduct the study, and it took three more years to carry it out.

For years, many military veterans have used medical marijuana to manage the symptoms of PTSD. It has been extremely difficult to study the effectiveness of cannabis for PTSD, though, because of federal prohibition and the many roadblocks specifically established to discourage the study of the potential positive health benefits of cannabis. Sisley fought for years to get this study approved, and then struggled to obtain government-approved cannabis of sufficient quality to carry out the research.

76 veterans in the study

The study involved 76 military veterans with PTSD, mostly men between the ages of 24 and 77. Bonn-Miller and Sisley established a two-phase study; the results of the first phase were published in this week’s PLOS One paper.

In the first phase, the 76 veterans were divided into four cohorts. One group self-administered cannabis with 12% THC over three weeks. Another group received an 11% CBD product with minimal THC. A third group received a balanced THC-CBD product, with roughly 8% THC and 8% CBD. A fourth group received a placebo with almost zero active cannabinoids.

Participants were given 1.8 grams per day for 21 days. That’s about the amount of cannabis contained in two to three joints. After three weeks, the subjects stopped consuming cannabis completely for two weeks. Then they were re-randomized in the four cohorts.

No significant difference found

Researchers found little statistical difference between veterans who took the placebo and those given the THC and CBD mixtures. In fact, nearly half of the veterans who received a placebo believed they had been given active cannabis. The study’s authors cited “several confounding factors” that may have contributed to these results. 

They also wrote:

The study sample included participants with a history of cannabis use. The recruitment of active cannabis users might have increased the potential for biased responding. Given the topical nature of the current trial and its relevance for public policy on medical cannabis, participants might have been biased to report positive effects regardless of condition. Despite many participants already having experience with the drug, nearly half of those receiving placebo believed that they received active cannabis. Prior expectations about cannabis’ effects might explain why even those in the placebo condition reported larger than average reductions in PTSD symptoms after only 3 weeks of treatment.

Poor quality of government cannabis could be a factor

Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS, the organization that facilitated the study, noted that “the difference between anecdotal reports” of the effectiveness of cannabis for PTSD “and these results may be the quality of the marijuana.”

The cannabis in the study’s first part was supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has the only license in the U.S. for the production of cannabis used in federally-regulated clinical trials.

The quality and potency of that research cannabis has been a major point of contention over the years. NIDA-supplied cannabis has been notoriously awful—some of the lowest-potency and poorest-quality marijuana to be found anywhere in North America. It took years for NIDA to begin growing strains that even approached commercial grade. And even then the agency fell short. A 12% THC strain is roughly half the potency of the product sold in most medical and adult-use dispensaries in 35 states today. When the research team tested the cannabis sent by NIDA, even the 12% strain came up short. It tested at only 9% THC.

“Research quality” cannabis sparked earlier controversy

Early on in the study, criticism over the poor quality and low potency of the NIDA-supplied cannabis prompted Johns Hopkins University to withdraw from the multi-year clinical trials. Despite criticism from cannabis researchers and some Congressional lawmakers, NIDA maintains a government monopoly on all cannabis used in federally-approved cannabis research.

“Higher quality cannabis flower suitable for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is currently unavailable domestically due to restrictions on production imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration and must be imported,” Doblin said.

Moving on to the next phase of research

Sue Sisley, a medical doctor, president of the Scottsdale Research Institute and the study’s principal investigator, is moving ahead with the next phase of the study, with higher-quality and higher-potency imported cannabis. That cannabis is available to adults and patients in any of dozens of states, but federally-approved researchers can’t use it because of federal prohibition. So it must be imported from outside the United States.  

“Despite the absurd restrictions federal prohibitionists have placed on research for more than 50 years,” said Sisley, “we are squarely focused on launching further Phase 2 trials with imported cannabis of tested, higher potency, fresher flowers that will provide a valid comparison for the millions of Veterans and others with PTSD who are looking for new options.”

PTSD widespread in veteran communities

According to MAPS, about 6% to 10% of the general population, and up to 31% of U.S. veterans, have experienced some form of PTSD. Veterans groups advocating for more access to cannabis, meanwhile, are applauding the newly-published study.

“MAPS and Dr. Sue Sisley deserve a medal for the absolute intentional dysfunction they overcame to complete this study and publish its findings,” Sean Kiernan, president of the Weed for Warriors Project, said in an email to Leafly. “All someone has to do is look at the lack of quality cannabis provided by the Federal Government’s monopoly, NIDA, to understand our Government is not taking our healing seriously.”

“When science tells us cannabis is safe,” he added, “common-sense should tell everyone, cannabis is an amazing substitute for opioids, and other legal accessible substances that carry with them the side effects of addiction, overdose, and suicidal ideation. Is it any wonder why millions prefer cannabis over deadly pharmaceuticals and other harmful substances?  It simply is a safer substitute.”

Establishing cannabis as safe

Dale Schafer, a California attorney who specializes in cannabis law, and a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, pointed out that studies such as the MAPS clinical trials are necessary if there is ever to be federal approval of cannabis use for PTSD.

“However, for the multitude of veterans, and average citizens, suffering from PTSD, Stevie Wonder can see that cannabis is medically helpful and thousands of years of use show an incredible safety profile,” he told Leafly. “Let’s move quickly to Phase 3 so veterans can work with the VA directly and not have to play games like cannabis is radioactive.”

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This article written by Bruce Kennedy was originally posted on Leafly.com.

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

NAVIAGTE

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Hannah Sadock

written by

Hannah Sadock, MS

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock

written by

Hannah Sadock, MS

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

The potent smelling buds known for their psychoactive properties have recently entered into the field of medicine due their simplistic plant anatomy. Easy to reproduce and pollinate, the production of medicinal plants has increased the adaptations of new strains available as treatment. The reason for cannabis’ acceptance and influencing popularity stems from the increase in research suggesting an untapped hidden potential within the plant’s anatomy. 

Cannabis’ still holds a skeptical view within the public sector, which is a valid reason for persons to shy away from modern medicine’s advances. Though for some, specifically researchers and physicians, education has sprung awareness towards a plant-based formula. As cannabis may follow a similar anatomical structure of the common plant, their parts’ functions and features hold significantly different properties that target health symptoms, serving as value in the medical community.  

Of course, the plants all share basic characteristics, such as leaves, stems, and branches, though much like humans, at birth, plants are assigned a biological sex eventually developing specific reproductive organs. To achieve the harvesting of buds from the plants, it is critical to remember both male and female plants are essential to the reproductive cycle and production. Without them, buds will not form leaving you with a nice house plant with a single purpose for decoration. So get ready to learn because we will be targeting:

🪴 cannabis in science 
🪴 connections to the hemp plant
🪴 different species of cannabis
🪴 plant’s reproduction process
🪴 sex specific plant atamony 
🪴 structure and function of plants
🪴 roles of female vs male plants
🪴 role of pollination 
🪴 the role of budding 
🪴 creation of new strain
🪴 differences between CBD and THC 

🪴 cannabis in science 
🪴 connections to the hemp plant
🪴 different species of cannabis
🪴 plant’s reproduction process
🪴 sex specific plant atamony 
🪴 structure and function of plants
🪴 roles of female vs male plants
🪴 role of pollination 
🪴 the role of budding 
🪴 creation of new strain
🪴 differences between CBD and THC 

Cannabaceae- It’s All in the Family

In botany, the Cannabaceae plant family includes the cannabis, hemp, hops (yes, those hops used to make beer) and other related genuses of flowering plants. 

The naming of a plant includes two parts: 

        🪴 genus refers to a larger group of plants such as flowering
        🪴 species is a smaller, more specific type, breed or species found in the same genus

The flowering cannabis plant produces three different types of species aptly named:

🌿 Cannabis Sativa can grow fifteen-feet high making it more suited for outdoor growth to reach its maximum potential. It also grows best in higher temperatures and humidity levels. This may be a concern for mold and other issues but tend not to decrease its popularity due to its higher yield of psychoactive components.

🌱 Keep in mind, Hemp (aka that CBD stuff you see everywhere) is a type of Cannabis Sativa. In accordance with the UN Narcotics Convention, the US federal government classified “industrial hemp” in the 2018 Farm Bill as cannabis containing no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC- the principal psychoactive constituent) by dry weight. As defined by this law, hemp is being bred to produce minimal levels of THC. 

🌿 Cannabis Indica is a stocky plant, typically growing no higher than 3 to 6 feet tall. This makes it more conducive to growing indoors. Cannabis Indica plants flower fast and present thicker foliage and broader leaves. Cannabis Indica plants tend to have an earthy smell and taste and are often more pungent. This type of plant tends to be tolerant of colder temperatures and relative humidity.

🌿 Cannabis Ruderalis aka “ditch weed” lacks psychotropic effects and is mostly used for breeding hybrids as a source of producing auto-flowering traits. It grows relatively short, reaching a maximum height of approximately two feet. Originating in Siberia, Cannabis Ruderalis is accustomed to colder climates. It has a short life cycle and blooms quickly. 

Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant

Cannabis plants share the same structure and function of other plants. While there is nothing quite like cannabis, the plant itself shares various aspects that are similar to other plants including their look, smell, and texture. Other plants contain similar chemical components making them all natural healers. So that you can differentiate your medicine, let’s be sure to explain how cannabis is unlike any doppelgängers.

The basic parts of the cannabis plant and other common plants include: 

🍃 roots of the plants serve as the base structure, grounding the plant by spreading for nutrients within the soil, allowing them to grow tall to withstand environmental factors. To flourish, ample space is needed for the roots to spread, ensuring sufficient supply of nutrients throughout the root system such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and water.

🍃stems are the main support structure of the cannabis plant. They transport fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the plant. The stem provides a foundation to give fan leaves access to the light they need to facilitate growth and carries the weight of heavy colas.

🍃branches act as the ‘support beams’ for the leaves as they bare the weight of the growing buds, keeping the plant tall and adaptable to crop weight.

As for the cannabis plant itself- each part of the plant serves a purpose and while the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. Knowing its parts can inform your experience and appreciation of it. Here’s what you need to know:

🍃 fan leaves are the leaves you see as ways seemingly the universal sign for this plant. Responsible for photosynthesis, they are the main source of energy production for the plant with large leaves located along the main stem and branches to absorb light from the sun and transfer it into energy for growth.

🍃 sugar leaves are found throughout cannabis colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar. Sugar leaf trim can be used to make edibles or concentrates.

🍃 nodes are the intersections of stems and branches in plants. that harvest crops and are the location of determenting sex specific organs. Nodes can hold leaves, offshoots, and are where cannabis plants begin to grow either male pollen sacs or female pistils. 

Okay now it’s time for the birds and bees…or the plant’s sex organs. Let’s start with female specific organs, as they are critical. Only female cannabis plants produce flowers and contain multiple structures and functions responsible for reproduction. Actually since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds, male plants are often killed off in effort to cultivate plants for consumption. These are the parts of the cannabis plant responsible for reproduction and development: 

🍃 bract is an essential feature of reproduction in the female flower. In between the nodes and underneath the sugar leaves of the cola (bud) is the bract. The small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male marijuana plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod.

🍃 calyx is what it’s all about- it is the actual bud itself composed of small sugar leaves, tear-shaped nodules, and pistils. It is also where the highest concentration of trichomes can be found.

🍃 pistil is what many describe as the colorful “hairs” that poke out from the bud. They first appear as white and then morph to orange, red, and eventually brown. Pistils are found only on female plants, and function to capture the pollen from a male. Some attribute the bright orange pistils to better quality cannabis but they actually contain very few trichomes.

🍃 cola is the main part of the flower, at the end of a female plant’s stem is composed of many small floral clusters. The cola is the plant’s offspring, and contains bracts, stigmas, trichomes, and sugar leaves. 

🍃 stigmas are female sex organs that look like small wispy hairs sticking out of the female bract. The thin hairs that extend from a female’s bract to catch male pollen. 

🍃 trichomes are hairlike appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create the chemical compounds that give the plant its unique features and effects. Trichomes give cannabis buds a crystal-like sheen and make them sticky.

The Process of Pollination 

Cannabis plants require this form of pollination to produce offspring. Similarly to human reproduction, cannabis plants have their own genetic sequence or DNA, which allows the crossing of different characteristics within the same species, increasing genetic diversity- aka new strains. The cannabis plant requires cross pollination which is reliant on wind, animals, insects, and people to transfer the pollen from the male to another female plant. For cannabis reproduction to be successful, cross pollination must include:

👉🏽 male and female plants of same species 
👉🏽 pollen produced by male plants is carried to female plant
👉🏽  insects increases genetic differences by leaving tracks of pollen on stigmas of other plants 
👉🏽 stigmas collect the grains of pollen at the top of female flowers
👉🏽 multiple transfers of pollen to the stigma, thanks to nature, influences genetic diversity
👉🏽 genetic diversity increases medicinal modalities

Conclusion

The cannabis plant is complex, as it requires a cross pollination process to reproduce within its species and subspecies. Each species and subspecies within cannabis’ family of classification have their own unique characteristics contributing to the creation of medication. The cannabis strains consumed today are a result and combination of the structures of cross pollination between a male and female cannabis plants. With a better understanding of the complexity behind Cannabis sativa and its sister species, we can appreciate what nature undergoes to produce one of the most intricate modern medicinal plants used worldwide.

Andre, C. M., Hausman, J. F., & Guerriero, G. (2016). Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Frontiers in plant science, 7, 19. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2016.00019

H.M.G. van der Werf, J.E. Harsveld van der Veen, A.T.M. Bouma, M. ten Cate, Quality of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) stems as a raw material for paper, Industrial Crops and Products, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1994, Pages 219-227, ISSN 0926-6690, https://doi.org/10.1016/0926-6690(94)90039-6.

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/What_is_Pollination/birdsandbees.shtml

https://nationalholistic.com/understanding-the-cannabis-plant-physiology

Magalhães PJ, Carvalho DO, Cruz JM, Guido LF, Barros AA. Fundamentals and Health Benefits of Xanthohumol, a Natural Product Derived from Hops and Beer. Natural Product Communications. May 2009. doi:10.1177/1934578X0900400501

McPartland, J.M., Guy, G.W. Models of Cannabis Taxonomy, Cultural Bias, and Conflicts between Scientific and Vernacular Names. Bot. Rev. 83, 327–381 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12229-017-9187-0.

Spitzer-Rimon, B., Duchin, S., Bernstein, N., & Kamenetsky, R. (2019). Architecture and Florogenesis in Female Cannabis sativaPlants. Frontiers in plant science, 10, 350. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00350

Westmoreland FM, Kusuma P, Bugbee B (2021) Cannabis lighting: Decreasing blue photon fraction increases yield but efficacy is more important for cost effective production of cannabinoids. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0248988. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248988.

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

NAVIAGTE

EXPLORE

Alternative Forms of Consumption
Angela Morrison

written by

Angela Morrison

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Angela Morrison

written by

Angela Morrison

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

If you smoke your cannabis, you’re undoubtedly familiar with bongs, joints, and bowls. However smoking isn’t for everyone and there are many other ways to medicate with cannabis. Whether you’re asthmatic and trying to save the health of your lungs, or just don’t like the smell, alternative forms of cannabis may be for you, too! 

Trying out new forms of cannabis will lead to new experiences as they interact with the body in different ways. There are plenty of reasons to shake it up with Tinctures, Edibles, RSO, and Topicals, and below I’ll get into each one…

From classic stories of homemade “happy” infused brownies to the modern sleek packs of THC:CBD gummy bears, you’ve probably heard of edibles. There’s every resource out there for homemade edible recipes to make all kinds of cannabis infused goodies from boba tea to chicken alfredo pizza. Whether you’re interested in cooking with cannabis or just eating your smoke, it’s worth knowing a bit how they are made, dosing, and labeling of edible products.

Decarbing and Cooking Edibles

If you’ve ever wondered how your food can be your medicine, it all comes down to the infusing process. Before cannabis can be infused, it has to be heated in a method known as decarbing. Raw cannabis plant material that has not been activated by heat of fire actually starts out as a non-active chemical known as THCA. Once it’s heated, THCA converts into THC offering the medicinal qualities you’re more likely pursuing.

Cannabis compounds including THC and other cannabinoids bond best with things like butter or other cooking oils. This makes fat the most essential component of infusing your food. Whether you infuse coconut, avocado, or olive oil, they will need to be incorporated into your infused food recipes. 

Eating and Metabolizing Edibles

So cook it up and get ready for a taste! But please be aware that ingested cannabis takes a different path through your body when being digested. Cannabis is first processed by your liver. Then metabolized into the blood-brain barrier, and eventually affects your mind and body. This is thought to be the defining difference of edibles and inhalation methods of consumption, and the reason edible effects can be particularly potent and long-lasting. When you take an edible, you can expect the effects to start around 2-4 hours and they can last 4-8 hours. This is all depending on personal metabolism and other factors.

The effects of edibles are somewhat renowned, but necessarily in the best light as the onset can be very delayed. This is often cause for eating more infused goodies which too often contributes to greening out- while you can’t overdose on cannabis, you can use too much. So it’s particularly important to warn of the potential adverse impacts of cannabis such as paranoia and anxiety. On a positive note- edibles offer a longer duration of pain-killing effects.

Properly dosing your edible concoctions can be difficult. This applies to edibles made both at home and commercially. Despite the appeal of packaged edibles, it has been found that many edible labels may be incorrect with their dosages. One study of 75 products from 47 different brands found only 17% had accurately labeled THC content. Please use edibles with caution.

Tinctures