Notes from the Medical Cannabis Podcast Episode 1
The article below contains the important take-aways and essential notes from Episode 1 of the Medical Cannabis Podcast: A Beginner’s Guide. It is an introduction to the Cannabis plant, and it’ll help you get familiar with terms like cannabinoids, THC, CBD and also some tips on starting medical cannabis.
It is hosted by my friend Dan (a nutritional advisor) and myself (Tim – a pharmacist) and our goal is to provide basic information about medical cannabis for beginners and seniors.
You can press the big GREEN triangle above to listen to the podcast episode right here.
Cannabis is a fascinating natural plant that originated in Central Asia. It was spread and cultivated by humans around the globe.
References vary on the botanical classification of the Cannabis plant but most of the time it’s thought of as having three main subspecies: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis.
But it is Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica that are primarily used for medicinal purposes.
We won’t get too worried about these names though because as you’ll see, we are more concerned with the biochemical components of the plant, and not the name.
Cannabis is interesting because it has both male and female plants. The flowers from the female plant (also called buds) are the most desired part of the plant for medical and recreational purposes.
The cannabis plant produces unique chemicals called Cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are the chemicals that have an effect on our body when we consume the plant.
References also vary on the exact number of cannabinoids, but it is believed that there are over 100 different cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis plant.
Because they are cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, they are more appropriately called phytocannabinoids. Phtyo- is a prefix meaning plant.
Quick Review — Plant-derived phytocannabinoids are the cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis plant that have an effect on our body.
What’s fascinating is that there’s not only a large variety of these phytocannabinoids, but that they can have vastly different effects on our body!
For example, the most well-known phytocannabinoid called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short) can cause intoxication at higher doses or in people who don’t usually use Cannabis. Whereas other phytocannabinoids, do not cause intoxication.
You do not have to get high or get stoned to use cannabis as medicine.
THC is said to be psychotropic: it can distort our perception and mental processes. But it is used medically to treat nerve pain, muscle spasticity due to Multiple sclerosis, as an appetite-stimulant and as an anti-nausea and anti-emetic (which is a drug to prevent nausea and vomiting).
Remember, that even though it’s the most well-known, it’s only one of a hundred different phytocannabinoids.
Another phytocannabinoid that is gaining in popularity and media attention is Cannabidiol (better known as CBD). For more in-depth information on CBD you can check out my article entitled “What is CBD?”
CBD is interesting because it is not psychotropic. CBD is not intoxicating. It will not get you high or stoned.
People use CBD for many reasons including as an anti-inflammatory, to help calm anxiety, and there is a prescription medication in the USA called Epidiolex (which is a CBD-rich cannabis extract) that is labelled for use to help prevent seizures in two severe forms of epilepsy.
Interestingly, the phytocannabinoids do not have a smell.
People reading this may say “What! Cannabis definitely smells.” But it’s another component of the plant called Terpenes that give Cannabis its smell. Terpenes are like the essential oils of the plant.
The terpenes found in cannabis include:
Pinene: which smells like pine trees and may help offset THC’s effect on short-term memory
Limonene: smells lemony or like citrus and may help elevate one’s mood
Linalool: is also found in lavender and may have a relaxing, calming effect
It’s the terpenes in Cannabis that make some varieties of Cannabis smell very different from other varieties. They are the reason why some varieties smell fruity, while another variety may smell earthy or skunky.
Terpenes and medicinal properties?
What’s cool is that the terpenes themselves may have medicinal properties.
For instance, myrcene may help with sleep.
Linalool may help people relax. Aromatherapy often involves lavender to promote relaxation.
And research by Dr. Ethan Russo suggests that terpenes may increase, or attenuate the phytocannabinoids effects on our body. So they may help the phytocannabinoids work better.
Over the years humans have created a large assortment of Cannabis varieties with varying amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes in each variety.
So with over 100 different phytocannabinoids and ten of the most common terpenes – each at various levels – you can see there is a huge amount of possible varieties of Cannabis.
Varieties of Cannabis are often called strains. Though many doctors and scientists want to change this terminology to be “chemical varieties” or “chemovars.” I’m not too sure if that change in terminology will catch on though…I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Analogy to Help Understand Different Varieties of Cannabis
We will use tomatoes as an analogy that may help you understand what we mean by different varieties of Cannabis.
We usually just say “tomatoes” but if you go to the grocery store you’ll see there is a large variety of tomatoes. There is Beefsteak tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Hothouse tomatoes, vine tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and on and on. They all have different characteristics, yet they are all “tomatoes.”
Summary to Understand the Cannabis Plant
The take home message is that Cannabis is an umbrella term with a huge number of chemical varieties (or strains) under that umbrella. And each strain will contain different phytocannabinoids at different amounts, as well as different types and amounts of terpenes.
So each variety can potentially have a completely different effect on you…even at the same dose!
This is a very important point because it means if one particular cannabis product (derived from a particular cannabis strain) doesn’t work for you…it doesn’t mean that all Cannabis products won’t work for you.
Perhaps you need to use a product with different amounts of the cannabinoids or terpenes in it, compared to the one you are currently using.
Being Specific about your Medical Cannabis
If you are going to use something as medicine, it is important to know what is in it, and how much is in it.
You wouldn’t just say “Yeah I took a pain pill once and I didn’t like it.” That provides next to zero information.
What kind of pain pill was it? Was it an anti-inflammatory, was it an opioid? And what particular drug was it? If it was an anti-inflammatory, was it Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac, etc… And if it was Naproxen, what strength was it and how many did you take? Was it 250mg Naproxen or 1000mg? How long did you take it for? One dose or several months? As you can see all these details are important to actually figure out what went on.
Documenting your Medical Cannabis journey with a Journal
If you and your doctor decide you should start medical cannabis then make sure you document what products you use, how much THC and CBD is in each dose, and how it is making you feel.
Remember to always “Start Low and Go Slow” because everybody responds to cannabis differently. Just because your brother-in-law uses X mg of a product, that doesn’t mean that dose will be right for you.
I hope this has helped provide a basic level of background information about the Cannabis plant and medical cannabis in general.
Check out Episode #2 where we explore “why” cannabis can work as a medicine. How does it interact with our body?
Please leave some comments below, and if you get a chance please leave a review of the podcast on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. It will hopefully help more people find our show so they can learn about medical cannabis too.