The physiological impact of marijuana
It’s no secret that humans love cannabis, but why? And how does cannabis work? Although the calming, bliss-inducing, pain-relieving effects of weed might feel like magic, there’s serious science at play behind the scenes—and it has everything to do with your endocannabinoid system.
Huh? What’s an ‘endocannabinoid system’?
It’s a network of receptors located in your brain and along your nervous system, and it’s not unique to you: Every human on Earth is lucky enough to have an endocannabinoid system.
Well, these receptors regulate our appetite, immune system, mood, motor coordination, sleep, sense of pain, and perception of reality. And phytocannabinoids—the compounds in the cannabis plant—turn on these receptors, allowing us to influence how we feel.
Yeah, our biological connection to cannabis cannot be denied—and different phytocannabinoids have different effects on us. You’ve probably heard of the phytocannabinoids (commonly known as “cannabinoids”) CBD and THC, but cannabis flowers also create:
- CBG, which has analgesic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-tumoral, and sedative effects
- CBC, which offers anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-depressant, neuro-protectant, and sedative benefits
- CBN, which boasts anti-convulsant, antibiotic, analgesic, anti-bacterial, and sedative effects
- THCA (the raw form of THC), which has anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anticonvulsant properties
- … And many, many more. In total, there are more than 80 phytocannabinoids in each cannabis flower.
The biggies, though—at least in modern culture—are CBD and THC. Healing CBD (short for cannabidiol) is packed with anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, antispasmodic, anti-depressant, anti-tumoral, and neuro-protectant powers. Unlike its fun cousin THC, however, CBD is not psychoactive.
Tell me more about THC!
THC is the psychoactive compound you get when you apply heat to THCA: It’s the phytocannabinoid that makes you feel loopy, giggly, euphoric, munchy… i.e., high. Different cannabis strains contain varying combinations and levels of THC, CBD, and all the other cannabinoids—which means distinct strains will activate your endocannabinoid system in their own unique way. Some will make you feel calmer, some will make your feel more energized…
Hold up. Strains?
Cannabis strains are nothing more than different varietals of the cannabis plant. As a result of their particular phytocannabinoid and terpene combinations (we’ll get to terpenes in a minute), consuming any given strain will make you feel some type of way. The two varietals you’re likely most familiar with are indica and sativa.
Indicas are known to make you calmer and more comfortable. They can give you a body high—or a ‘bedtime buzz’—relieve pain and stress, and induce sleep.
Sativas, meanwhile, encourage creativity, stimulate cerebral engagement, and can make you feel euphoric. For these reasons, sativas are usually encouraged for daytime use.
Makes sense. So what’s a terpene?
Terpenes, like cannabinoids, are chemical compounds in cannabis plants (and all plants, for that matter). Terpenes contribute to the aroma and flavor of different cannabis strains and work in tandem with cannabinoids to enhance their impact on the endocannabinoid system. Some terpenes you might hear about (and their associated tastes) are myrcene (earthy, musky), a-pinene (you guessed it, pine), b-Caryophyllene (woody, herbal), limonene (citrus), linalool (lavender), and nerolidol (floral). In addition to comprising the complex flavor profiles in different cannabis strains, terpenes also provide a whole host of health benefits, ranging from bronchodilation to memory retention. And, of course, many hybrid strains are bred to offer specific aromas and therapeutic effects.
Um, hybrid strains?
What do you get when you cross a sativa plant with an indica plant? That’s right, a hybrid. Over the years, genius cannabis growers have figured out how to crossbreed their top plant species to develop super strains that retain the most desirable traits from both parents.
Is crossbreeding safe?
For sure. Have you ever eaten seedless watermelon? Do you love your pug chihuahua mix (i.e., chug) puppy? Of course, you do. Growers and breeders have been developing hybrids for centuries. Not only are cannabis hybrids common, they also represent some of the best
But what are the potential side effects?
While some people experience negative short-term effects (especially if they didn’t consult their local cannabis advisor about their individual needs and are enjoying somebody else’s stash), those effects are mild. We’re talking temporary hunger, lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, and dry mouth. And because Verano’s cannabis is cultivated with exacting standards and meticulously tested, you can rest assured that the product always matches what you read on the label. Worst case scenario: You’ll need to chug some water or order some emergency nachos.
I’m down with nachos. Anything else I should be prepared to feel when I consume CBD, THC, or both?
Another excellent question! Cannabis reactions vary from person to person, and as you now know, your cannabis experience will also greatly depend on the ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes therein.
But in general…
Isolated CBD can make you feel:
Physically relaxed (like a ‘body high, but you’re clear-headed)
Less anxious and/or less depressed
More comfortable in your body (less physical pain)
Ready for sleep
Sativa-Dominant THC, in combination with invigorating terpenes like a-pinene and limonene and a lower ratio of CBD, can make you feel:
Less anxious and/or less depressed
Indica-Dominant THC, in combination with tranquilizing terpenes like linalool and myrcene and a higher ratio of CBD, can make you feel:
Deeply physically relaxed (a ‘body high’)
Ready for sleep
At the end of the day, everybody’s different, and it might take some trial and effort (and some helpful guidance from a cannabis advisor) to find the strains and products that work best for you.
Sweet, I’m ready.
Nice! Hit up your local dispensary, where an expert cannabis advisor can direct you to the right strain for you. And feel free to ask us any questions that come up.