Medical Marijuana Basics

Beta Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Caryophyllene specifically imparts a peppery, woody aroma and is present in cloves, cinnamon leaves, and black pepper. It has also been useful as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and in protecting the cells lining of the digestive tract.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the dozens of different types of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD is known to relieve convulsions, inflammation, anxiety and nausea—many of the same therapeutic qualities as THC—but without making people feel “stoned.” In fact, CBD can actually counter some of the effects of THC. After decades in which only high-THC cannabis was available, modern breeders are now developing strains with higher CBD content for medical use. The reduced psychoactivity of CBD-rich cannabis may make it an appealing treatment option for patients seeking anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-anxiety and/or anti-spasm effects without disconcerting euphoria or lethargy.


Cannabinol, or CBN, is one of the dozens of different types of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBN is mildly psychoactive, decreases intraocular pressure, seizure occurrence, and is generally attributed with a sedative effect.


Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with receptors in the mammalian brain and nervous system. There are three different kinds of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, which the human body produces naturally; phytocannabinoids, which are found in cannabis and some other plants, such as echinacea; and synthetic cannabinoids that can be manufactured in the lab. There are as many as 85 different types of phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, though an exact number is not known. In most cases, people drop the “phyto-” and simply refer to phytocannabinoids as cannabinoids. Interestingly, the cannabis plant doesn’t directly produce the most well known phytocannabinoids—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). In reality, the plant produces tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), which require the process of decarboxylation to yield the chemical compounds THC and CBD. Heat and time are the two elements that cause decarboxylation to occur. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ notoriety as it produces the most psychoactive and intoxicating effect. However, there are several other cannabinoids that have medical benefits, but with less of an intoxicating effect as THC, such as CBD and cannabinol, or CBN. Other, lesser known cannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerivarin (CBGV), cannabichromevarin (CBCV), cannabidivarin (CBDV), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).


Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant indigenous to central Asia and India. It is often biologically classified as having a single species, Cannabis Sativa, with three distinct varieties: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. However, some consider the three varieties as distinct species within the Cannabis genus. Cannabis has been harvested and used by humans since before recorded history. Herodotus mentions the psychoactive properties of “hemp-seed” in his Histories, published in 440 BC, while the earliest archaeological record of man’s use of cannabis dates back 10,000 years to the island of Taiwan. While cannabis is well known for the psychoactive effect its flowers can have on people who consume them, it also has a long history of being used for industrial and medical applications. The cannabis plant was once the largest industrial crop in the world, though when used in industrial applications it’s known as hemp. The cannabis plant’s fiber can be used to produce textiles, paper, and clothing, while its seeds can be pressed to produce hemp oil. The varieties of cannabis grown for hemp do not contain the same chemical components—primarily tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—as those cultivated for their psychoactive and medicinal qualities. Between 1850 and 1937, cannabis in the United States was used as a medicine for more than 100 separate conditions, from insomnia to headaches or nausea to menstrual cramps, according to the U.S. Pharmacopeia. While smoking dried cannabis flower is currently the most well-known form of consumption, its form as a medicine was most often as a tincture, which could be found in every doctor’s handbag prior to the 1930s. However, due to its use as a recreational drug and a campaign of misinformation and propaganda (this is the “reefer madness” period), the U.S. Congress in 1937 made the cultivation, sale, or possession of cannabis illegal. The American Medical Association at the time protested the change in law.


Concentrates are manufactured by separating the trichomes, which are the glands that produce cannabinoids, from the cannabis flowers. The trichomes are then processed into a relatively solid paste or block that represents a concentrated dose of the cannabinoids produced by that plant. Concentrates can be somewhat powdery or more solid and sticky, depending on exactly how they were processed.


A clone is an exact genetic reproduction of a single parent plant produced through asexual reproduction. Clones are produced by taking a cutting from the parent plant and allowing it to take root. Cloning allows growers to cultivate cannabis that is consistent in its cannabinoid and terpene makeups.


Decarboxylation is a chemical process, triggered by heat and/or time, that transforms raw forms of cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) into the cannabinoids that most consumers are after, namely tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).


A dispensary is a retail location licensed within a state-legal medical cannabis program to sell cannabis and cannabis-derived products to patients.


Edibles refers to an edible product in which cannabis or a cannabis-derived product, such as hash oil, is used in the preparation and/or cooking of that product.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of cannabinoid receptors that exist in mammalian brains and nervous systems. These receptors interact with cannabinoids, both the kind that the body naturally produces and those that are found in cannabis and some other plants.


Extraction is the process of removing favorable compounds from a plant, while leaving behind the undesirable remnants. Extraction has been used for millennia. It is the process used to obtain essential oils and, in its simplest form, to make tea or coffee. In cannabis, extraction methods are used to remove the phytocannabinoids and terpenes and leave behind the plant matter. This extraction process allows processors to create products such as concentrates and cannabis oil.


Hemp is the term used for cannabis plants, often low-THC varieties, cultivated and harvested for industrial purposes, including the production of clothing, textiles, paper, or even plastics.


Humulene is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Humulene is present in hops and is what gives beer its “hoppy” aroma (in fact, humulene gets its name from hops’ Latin name, Humulus lupulus). It’s also present in sage, ginseng and Vietnamese coriander and has been used as an anti-inflammatory.


Hybrid refers to a cannabis plant that has been bred by crossing Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa plants in an effort to generate a strain exhibiting phenotypes of both species.


Indica refers to Cannabis indica, the Latin name for one of the species of cannabis plant. Cannabis indica is a bushy plant that can grow to between three and six feet tall. Its leaves are dark green, sometimes tinged with purple, and shorter and broader than those if its cousin, Cannabis sativa. Indica is a strong smelling plant with a “stinky” or “skunky” smell. The smoke of Indicas is generally thick and more prone to cause coughing when inhaled. Indicas are the traditional source of concentrates. The Cannabis indica medicating effect is most often described as a pleasant body buzz. Indicas are great for relaxation, stress relief, and for an overall sense of calm and serenity. Cannabis indicas are also very effective for overall body pain relief, and often used in the treatment of insomnia. They are the late evening choice of many patients as an all-night sleep aid. A few pure indica strains are very potent in THC and will cause the “couchlock” effect, enabling the patient to simply sit still and enjoy the experience of the medicine. Conditions that indicas may provide relief for are pain, anxiety, neuropathy/neuralgia, menstrual cramps, glaucoma, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, asthma, AIDS, epilepsy, IBS, gastric disorders, arthritis (osteo and rheumatoid), multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, ALS, migraines, hyperactivity, insomnia, ADD, and more.


Inflorescence is the complete flower head of a plant, often composed of a cluster of flowers arranged on a stem. This is the proper biological term for the flowers of the cannabis sativa plant.


Limonene is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Limonene, not surprisingly, is present in large amounts in lemons and other citrus fruit. It has been found to treat acid reflux and can also be used as an antianxiety or antidepressant.


Linalool is a type of terpene found in cannabis plants. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Linalool is present in lavender plants and some citrus trees, and has been found therapuetic as an anesthetic, anticonvulsant, analgesic, and for antianxiety.


Marijuana is a slang term for the cannabis plant and/or the dried flower harvested from the plant.


Myrcene is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. While pinene is the most common terpene in nature, myrcene holds the honor of being the most common terpene found in cannabis plants. Myrcene is also present in mangoes, lemongrass and hops and can be used as a sedative sleep aid, and muscle relaxant.


A phenotype is the expression of an organism’s observable characteristics and traits based on its genetic code, environmental factors, and the interaction between the two. A cannabis plants’ phenotype includes its height, color, smell, and resin production.


Pinene is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Pinene is the most common terpene in the world. It is present in pine trees and rosemary, and is used as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, bronchodilator, and memory aid.


Ruderalis refers to Cannabis ruderalis, a species of the cannabis plant. Compared to Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, Cannabis ruderalis is rare. It is much smaller than its cousin species, rarely growing over two feet tall. It is also distinct from its cousins in that it’s “autoflowering,” meaning it will begin to flower based on maturity and regardless of light cycle, the technique cultivators use to keep indica and sativa plants in extended periods of a vegetative state. Ruderalis usually has a low THC content, but can have high CBD content.


Sativa refers to Cannabis sativa, the Latin name for one of the species of cannabis plant. Cannabis sativa is a tall, slow to grow and mature plant that typically has long, thin leaves that may vary in color from light green to dark green. Sativa flower buds are long and thin and turn red as they mature in a warm environment. In cooler environments, the buds may be slightly purple. Sativa plants smell sweet and fruity and the smoke is generally quite mild. The stalks of Cannabis sativa plants are a source of fiber for rope and other products. The Cannabis sativa medicating effect is often characterized as uplifting and energetic, and is mostly cerebral. Sativa users typically experience a feeling of optimism and wellbeing, as well as a good measure of pain relief for certain symptoms. A few pure Sativas are also very high in THC content and are known to have a hallucinogenic effect. Sativas and Sativa-dominant hybrids are often a good choice for daytime medication. Conditions and symptoms that Sativas may provide relief for are psychoactive conditions, social anxiety, mild depression, fatigue and others.


Cannabis plants come in different strains, or varieties, that cultivators breed in search of distinct traits, or phenotypes.


Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds that imbue plants with their distinctive aroma and flavor, including in cannabis. The most common terpene found in cannabis is myrcene (which can also be found in mangoes and lemongrass). Other common terpenes found in cannabis include pinene (pine needles and rosemary), limonene (lemons), linalool (lavender), humulene (hops), and caryophyllene (cloves and black pepper).


Terpinolene is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Terpinolene is commonly associated with coriander and has an aroma of pine, anise, lime, and herbs. It has been used as an analgesic, digestive aid, and in pain reduction.


Terpineol is a type of terpene found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are chemical compounds that impart aroma and flavor to plants throughout nature. Terpineol is commonly associated with mugwort and has an aroma of citrus, wood, and lilac. It has been used as a calming aid, antibacterial, antiviral, and immune system booster.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to by its acronym, THC, is one of as many as 85 cannabinoids that can be found in the cannabis plant. It is by far the most famous cannabinoid because it is the one that produces cannabis’ psychoactive effects. It was the first cannabinoid to be identified and isolated, which occurred in 1964.


A tincture is a process of using alcohol or glycerin to extract cannabinoids from the plant into a liquid form. Tincture preparations have a similar effect as eating marijuana but the onset happens more rapidly and wears off more quickly. Tinctures can be taken under the tongue or mixed into water or other beverages.


Trichomes are the glands of the cannabis plant that produce its cannabinoids and terpenes. Under a microscope, they appear as resinous hairs that cover the floral calyxes and bracts of mature female cannabis plants.