All About CannabisAbby
Over millennia, the Cannabis plant has proven itself to be a valuable ally. This plant not only provides nutrient rich food, strong building materials, and fuel, (amongst some benefits) it is most noted for its ability to provide effective therapeutic relief to a plethora of symptoms and dis-eases, both acute and chronic, that has recently drawn the public’s attention to this ancient, sacred, and revered plant medicine.
Here are some basic facts about Cannabis as a medicinal plant, as well as integral points to keep in mind when looking for high quality, safe, and effective medicine at a credible medical cannabis dispensary.
The cannabis genus comes in 3 varieties of species:
1. Cannabis Sativa: Mind- uplifting, energizing, euphoric, creative, day-time
2. Cannabis Indica: Body- relaxing, calming, sedating, night time
3. Cannabis Ruderalis: Hemp. Low THC.
Cannabis is composed of over 84 known chemical compounds called Cannabinoids, which are responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body when used together. Cannabinoids work synergistically, in that they work together to provide the best relief and positive therapeutic effects. It is when these compounds are isolated and synthesized, do we see extreme reactions to the manufactured compound, resulting in adverse responses to the medicine.
When using whole plant therapy, cannabis is safe for two main reasons:
1. The different properties of the many cannabinoids complement each other and work synergistically. For example, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), well known for its psychoactive properties, is complemented by Cannabidiol (CBD), identified as an effective anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety. In higher ratio’s of CBD to THC, we can nullify psychoactive properties while providing functional daytime symptom relief.
2. The Endocannabinoid System, receptor sites for cannabinoids found all over the body (most notably in the immune system and in the brain), has a negative feedback loop built in naturally to prevent overdose and addiction.
See Pregnenolone Can Protect The Brain From Cannabis Intoxication M. Vallée, et al. Science 3: January 2014: Vol 343 no. 6166 pp. 94-98
Lab Testing is Crucially Important and Absolutely Necessary
It is crucially important to know the concentration of Cannabinoids in any given whole plant medicine to achieve the desired effects both therapeutically and especially when using cannabis for treatment.
This is one of the reasons why lab testing the medicine is absolutely necessary. The other reason is to ensure there are no potential contaminants on the plant before rendering it into medicine.
For example, a mother of a child with epilepsy is using non-psychoactive CBD Concentrated Oil to quell her son’s seizures. She purchased the oil from a local dispensary and this batch tested at 35% concentration. She has titrated her son’s dosing to a point where she has successfully abated his symptoms. When she is almost out of the medicine, she goes back to the dispensary and is then sold a new batch of oil testing at 41%. She will need to fine-tune the volume amount of oil she gives her son to achieve the same desired effect.
Cannabis Therapy is an Individual Experience
It is important to note that Cannabis related therapies are completely subjective, in that, everyone will respond to the cannabinoids with their own unique body chemistry. Body weight is not a definitive indicator as to how much cannabis is to be consumed or applied for a certain individual. Instead, it is recommended that a self-titrated (self-monitored), ‘low and slow’ approach is taken when beginning any cannabis related therapy.
The Negative Side-Effects of Cannabis
In high doses of THC, cannabis can produce some uncomfortable side-effects when too much is present in the system. In extreme cases, this could produce reactions including: relaxation and sedation, slowed cognition and coordination, nausea, tremors, vomiting, increased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, migraines, panic attacks, paranoia and heart palpitations.
How to Avoid:
1. A ‘low and slow’ approach
2. Using whole plant therapy
3. Being prepared in advance (ex. CBD Capsules and/or Vitamin C Powder in warm water, which counteracts psychoactivity in THC)
4. Being mindful of dosing and counteractions (ex. cannabis and opiates)
As mentioned earlier, there are over 84 known cannabinoids, and research is underway to find out more about all of the various and wide spread benefits of these chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant.
The most commonly known Cannabinoids include:
- THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol): Euphoriant, analgesic (anti-pain), anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiemetic (anti-nausea), anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, appetite stimulant, bronchodilator, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer.
- CBD (Cannabidiol): Anxiolytic (anti-panic, anti-anxiety), analgesic (anti-pain), antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-convulsive, anti-depressant, antiemetic (anti-nausea), anti-ischemic, bone stimulant, immunosuppressive, and neuroprotective.
- CBN (Cannabinol): Oxidation, sedative, antibiotic, anti-anxiety, antiemetic (anti-nausea).
- THCV (Tetrahyrdocannabivarin): Analgesic, euphoriant, anti-convulsant, and bone stimulant.
- CBG (Cannabigerol): Anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-fungal, analgesic (anti-pain), anti-cancer, anti-depressant, bone stimulant, and reduces interocular pressure
- CBC (Cannabichromene): Anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-fungal, analgesic (anti-pain), anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-insomnia, bone stimulant and anti-migraine.
Cannabinoids, Terpenes and Healing Synergy
Cannabinoids and terpenes (flavor and fragrance found naturally in the plant), have been found to interact synergistically with each other, treating pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). See Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Ethan B Russo, British Journal of Pharmacology: 2011: Vol.163 pp. 1344-1364
The most commonly known Cannabis Terpenes (smells and taste) are:
- Limonene: Lemon
- Alpha-pinene: Pine
- Beta-Myrcene: Hops
- Linalool: Lavender
- Beta-Caryophyllene: Pepper
- Caryophyllene Oxide: Lemon Balm
- Nerolidol: Orange
- Phytol: Green Tea
Finding the Right Medicine
When deciding to use cannabis for either short-term symptom relief or long-term supplement or treatment, there are many different forms of cannabis based medicine’s to choose from.
Short-term symptom management/relief options include vaporization (using dried cannabis, concentrated oils, and refined extractions), topical lotions, capsules, medicated edibles, tinctures, and suppositories.
Long-term supplemental therapy and treatment options include capsules, whole food infusions (ex. Infused Coconut Oil), suppositories, and concentrated oils.
With any of these approaches, for optimal health, one should ultimately make their own choice as to what is best for the body, rather than blindly following the advice of an ‘expert’. This requires time for personal research, reviewing scholarly and peer reviewed articles about Cannabis and the symptom and/or dis-ease being addressed. The body has its own natural intelligence, and a deeper part of healing involves making informed decisions, while empowering the individual to guide their own path towards health and healing.
Finding the Right Dispensary
Here are some key points to consider when looking for high quality, safe, and effective medicine at a credible medicinal cannabis dispensary:
1. Philosophy and Core Values
At the heart of any dispensary, especially a compassion club society (not-for-profit organization), it is important to review their philosophy and core values to begin to gain a sense of what their truest intention are.
The best core values and philosophies include: ‘patients over profit’, ‘high quality’, ‘safe’, ‘lab tested’, ‘medicinal cannabis’, ‘sustainable’, ‘locally sourced’, ‘small batch’, ‘pesticide free’, ‘vegan fed’, ‘organically and responsibly grown’, ‘consciously harvested’, ‘organic/non-GMO ingredients’.
2. Quality over Quantity
How a cannabis plant is grown will ultimately determine the overall effectiveness of the medicine. It is important to note that many growers currently grow for a high yield, indicating their intention of profit over patients needs. Growth hormone, questionable growing methods, and unknown chemicals are added to these plants during their life cycle to ensure they ‘weigh in’ and produce a high profit.
Always ask how your medicine is being grown. If the dispensary does not know, it is a clear indication that they are not mindful of the medicine they are providing medical patients, potentially causing harm to the body and mind.
Instead, look for ‘small batches’ grown expertly and mindfully by someone with years of experience. Depending on the cannabis strain, many factors are involved when producing the highest quality for that one strain, including external environment, watering and nutrient cycles, humidity, and interaction with other species (humans/animals/other cannabis strains).
One will be able to tell the quality of the medicine simply by looking at it, smelling it, and tasting it. This will give insight into how it was grown, under what conditions, and if it has been contaminated at all during its life cycle.
With dried cannabis for example, check for powdery mildew, brown spots, and spider mites. If found, this indicates poor growing conditions and neglect. DO NOT USE!
If intending on inhaling cannabis for relief, look for a clear burning white ash, a smooth taste (coughing or peppery notes in the back of the throat indicate the plant has not been flushed of its fertilizer properly before harvest and can also cause ‘jitters’ and ‘paranoia’), and take time to notice the effects (anywhere from 1-4 hours).
Ideally, cannabis should be cured and stored properly, ensuring its quality is maintained until consumption.
3. Lab Testing
As mentioned earlier, quality testing is imperative to ensure medicine is clean, safe, and effective.
Every dispensary is responsible for testing their medicine, and should include standardized laboratory testing for contaminants including molds, spores, and pathogens, as well as cannabinoid levels and terpenoid profiles. This may add to the initial cost of the medicine, however, this guarantees quality, safety, and effectiveness of the medicine. (ex. someone ingesting oil for a compromised immune system).
Some dispensaries may take this a step further and lab-test their medicine at multiple locations to ensure accuracy and efficacy.
All lab testing should be done by a non-biased third party.
Ultimately, dispensaries should quality test their medicine beyond the lab testing (ex. sample the medicine per batch).
Any reputable dispensary should include information and education as an integral part of their intake process.
Education should include different strains of cannabis, cannabinoids, various forms of medicinal therapy, scholarly research, and encouragement to pursue valuable education within and outside of the dispensary.
Outstanding dispensaries are providing ongoing free information/education seminars to their local community, raising awareness and debunking myths, revealing scientifically quantified facts about cannabis and its applications, and encouraging dialogue within the community.
5. ‘(W)holistic’ approach
Every person is a complex organism with various individual internal and external stimuli and responses. These contributing factors must be taken into account when assisting an individual on their path to health and well-being.
These include, but are not limited to: environment, nutrition, support systems, coping mechanisms, and emotional/mental/physical/spiritual factors.
A great dispensary will offer a (w)holistic approach, that is, treating the whole person, not just the symptom, condition or dis-ease.
This could include nutrition counseling, massage therapy, acupuncture, emotional support services, mind-body therapies, energy work, restorative therapies (ex. yoga and tai chi), and ongoing resources, education, and support tailored to the individual’s needs.
6. Individual Assessments
Cannabis therapy is an individualized experience. Everyone’s body and metabolism are affected somewhat differently to cannabis-based therapies and it is important to have an individual assessment before using these types of therapies.
For example, someone who has been diagnosed as ‘bipolar’ will have an opposing effect with cannabis strains than someone who is not diagnosed with the same condition. In that, a Sativa strain (usually energizing and uplifting) will cause someone who is diagnosed as ‘bipolar’ to experience body relaxation and possibly sedation, while an Indica (usually relaxing and sedating) will produce an increase in energy and a noticeable cerebral effect.
It is also important to review current medications to ensure no interactions occur, as well as discuss previous cannabis use history (or lack thereof) to ensure confidence and safety while exploring new types of medicines.
One of the most important questions one could ask during an assessment is ‘what is your intention for using this medicine?’
This will help direct the conversation and education towards the most effective cannabis therapies for the individual.
One of the most important reasons for education to be present in any intake, assessment, or consultation is for the individual to ultimately make their own decision on how to proceed with using Cannabis as a plant based therapy, either for acute or chronic conditions.
An upstanding dispensary will encourage the individual to take time to go over the research, tune in with themselves and their ‘internal physician’ and make an informed decision reflecting their own intentions, needs and overall health.
When we empower, we support someone in standing ‘in power’. This is the next big step in overcoming a victim consciousness so commonly associated with the ‘patient/doctor’ relationship – stepping into self-actualization (becoming who you truly are, standing confident and strong in that realization, and knowing it is truth). This is where true healing occurs, and should be encouraged and supported throughout and beyond the healing process.
A dispensary in integrity knows, people come for the medicine and leave healed and healthy, for they have empowered themselves in be their greatest healer by knowing thy self completely. This is true healing.
8. Appreciation and Acknowledgement for the Sacred Plant Medicine
Cannabis has been documented throughout history as a sacred plant medicine, responsible for not only physical and mental health, but also spiritual well-being.
Cannabis cultivated with this in mind will always produce the best quality medicine, as it held in its highest regard and intentions are pure. According to spiritualists, Cannabis, also known as ‘Santa Maria’, is a sacred and revered plant teacher here to assist humanity with higher forms of learning, healing and experience. Communing with cannabis during cultivation not only produces incredible insights, but also a sacred bond and relationship between humanity and Cannabis. When harvested, the medicine is that much more sacred, medicinal, and healing for those who access it.
A great example of a dispensary that holds these values and is in integrity with the sacred plant medicine is ‘The Flower of Life Compassion Club Society’, based out of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.
They offer mail-order all across Canada and local deliveries. Assessments and consultations can be booked with them in person, over the phone, and via skype conferences. Referrals to doctors and signing authorities are also available.
Check them out here: www.cbdconnect.org