With Cannabis, the Benefits are a Symphony, Not a Solo

by Dr. Alexander Dix

 

Despite the palpable buzz around cannabis, a lot of folks still understandably wonder how the plant could possibly help with so many diverse ailments.

Cannabis isn’t like other medicines. An over the counter pain reliever typically has a single active compound—acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for example—and we expect those individual chemicals to serve as a silver bullet to solve our pain-related ailments.

Cannabis is more like a botanical shotgun, offering many active compounds, sometimes referred to as cannabinoids, within a single administration.

The goal is to understand which combination of cannabinoids work most effectively to treat your individual needs. Next, work out your proper dosage. Then you can begin shopping for medicated products that offer the proper bounty of these unique chemical compounds, using the method of administration that works best for you.

There are both major and minor cannabinoids. The two major cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These are the most studied and well-known, as cannabis varieties preferentially produce large quantities of one or the other to become the primary compound found in your medicine. 

Cannabis is more like a botanical shotgun, offering many active compounds, sometimes referred to as cannabinoids, within a single administration.

THC is shown to decrease pain, open the airways of the lungs, relax muscles, stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, work as an antioxidant and more. CBD is shown to decrease convulsions, decrease anxiety, decrease opioid withdrawal symptoms, and work as an antioxidant. It also decreases the psychotropic effects of THC; an increased dose of CBD actually gets you less high when consumed alongside your dose of THC, due to its ability to modulate its neurological effects.

Many minor cannabinoids appear in very small quantities but seem to have big impact when working together. These cannabinoids have both unique and overlapping effects. For instance, CBD, CBG, CBC, and THCV all stimulate bone growth. But out of those, only THCV has the unique effect of promoting weight loss. We still have a lot to learn about these minor cannabinoids and their true potential.

It’s also important that we familiarize ourselves with the acidic cannabinoids found only in raw cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, for example, is the raw, unheated form of THC as it appears in the plant, known for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Note the THCA percentage on the label of your favorite cannabis flower. Once the plant is heated up, cannabinoids like THCA undergo a chemical process known as ‘decarboxylation,’ altering the chemical compounds and offering all together different effects. In this case, THCA becomes THC once we take a flame or vaporizer to the flower. The most important distinction to make between the two is that THCA is non-psychotropic, meaning that it won’t produce the high we’ve all come to associate with its decarbed counterpart. Raw cannabinoids offer us the potential for cannabis to be used in a whole new way, putting to bed any fear of intoxication while medicating.

So, what we do know from scientific research? Cannabis produces a variety of compounds known as cannabinoids that have health promoting effects on our bodies, including anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, bone growth promotion, reduced nausea/vomiting, appetite stimulation, pain relief, muscle spasm suppression, the slowing or halting of bacterial growth, reduced seizures, and protecting the nervous system, just to name a few.

Finding the right mix of these major and minor cannabinoids can mean better symptom relief and a more overall enjoyable experience. Scientific study around cannabis and cannabinoids has increased tremendously in recent history, and with legislation now favoring its study in an official capacity, we can look forward to uncovering an even greater understanding of this medicine.

Soon, we’ll learn about how these cannabinoids actually interact with our body. Here’s a hint— the key is a system that’s already inside each of us, known as the endocannabinoid system.  We’ll learn what it means, and how to pronounce it, in my next article.

In the meantime, I invite each of you to stop by KIP and speak with myself or a member of our Patient Care Team. We’ll help you shop a refined selection of Maryland’s best cannabis products, providing invaluable insight and step-by-step guidance along the way as needed. It’s what we call CANNABIS OPTIMIZED, here at KIP. See you soon.


KIP medical director, Dr. Alexander Dix, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist in the state of Ohio. A graduate of Northeast Ohio Medical University, Alex also earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Bowling Green State University. He turned his professional attention to the field of plant medicine after his own powerful healing experiences in Peru, where he went to study the medicinal potential of plants such as San Pedro and ayahuasca. With a newfound understanding of the benefits that remain untapped beneath their psychedelic stigma, Alex returned home to focus on the first plant medicine beginning to receive proper scientific support stateside: cannabis. Today, Alex works to promote the benefits of  a smarter cannabis culture while establishing a new framework for patient education.

 

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