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Can Cannabis Help Save the Bees?

Hemp could be a vital life line for bee populations struggling in nutrient scarce environments, and can support at least 16 different species of bees, according to a recent study. 

Titled “The Bee Community of Cannabis sativa and Corresponding Effects of Landscape Composition,” the study found that while hemp doesn’t produce nectar, it “produces an abundance of pollen during a period of floral dearth in agricultural landscapes,” meaning it has the potential “to sustain agroecosystem-wide pollination services for other crops in the landscape.”

A bee on a cannabis plant
A bee on a cannabis plant (Shutterstock)

The researchers, whose study appeared in the February issue of Environmental Entomology, found that hemp supports 16 different species of bees. 

While the phenomenon of “colony collapse” appears to have abated somewhat, it is difficult to overstate the importance of bees to the environment and the sustainability of our food sources. Around 84% of crops grown for human consumption depend on pollination by bees and other insects, and bees are responsible for pollinating countless fruits and berries eaten by a wide variety of birds and mammals, forming a key component to the food chain.   

The report also examines the nutritional stress caused to bee communities by the loss of habitat due to agricultural land use change, and that in such areas “industrial hemp offers a unique floral resource to bees.” 

This is because hemp flowers late in the summer, “releasing an abundance of pollen during a period of native and agricultural floral dearth,” according to the study. 

bee on cannabis flower
The researchers found that hemp supports 16 different species of bees. (Shutterstock)

They found that the height of the hemp plant was of particular importance, and that it “was strongly correlated with bee species richness and abundance for hemp plots with taller varieties attracting a broader diversity of bee species.” 

In addition, they found that hemp plants located in areas with moderate agricultural cover were more likely to support a more abundant population of crop pollinators and “the number of wild bees visiting hemp declined as the proportion of agricultural cover in the landscape increased.”

Data for the study was collected in the summer of 2018 at 11 hemp farms in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The researchers visited each site on four separate occasions for 20 minutes each, using dry ice to freeze and capture bees spotted visiting hemp flowers. Each of the 355 bees captured by the researchers were cataloged, and they constitute a total of 16 different species of bees. 

Hemp’s ability to support bee populations means that growers and policy makers should  “consider risks to bees as pest management practices are developed for this crop,” the study’s authors conclude.

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How Cannabis Molds, and Why That’s a Bad Thing

Cannabis may be a wonder plant but it’s also prone to its own unique challenges. One of those challenges is the omnipresent threat of mold. 

Mold is a type of a fungus that thrives in warm, humid climates — or in other words, the type of environments that are perfect for growing cannabis. It can thrive on cannabis plants that haven’t been properly grown, cured or stored.

Consuming moldy marijuana can make you ill, particularly if you are a medical cannabis patient and have a compromised immune system. Here’s how you can learn to spot mold and what you can do for your plants if that’s the case.

The mold problem

Inspecting moldy cannabis. (Shutterstock)

The presence of mold in cannabis is a lot more common than you might hope. In 2017 researchers from the University of California, Davis Medical Center teamed up with Steep Hill Labs to test 20 cannabis samples from dispensaries across the state.

Dr. Land’s team found evidence of pathogenic bacteria and fungi including Aspergillus mold, Mucor and Botryotini fungus. 

“We were a little bit startled that 90% of those samples had something on them, some DNA of some pathogen,” Steep Hill Labs’ Dr. Donald Land PhD said in an interview at the time.

Conditions that lead to mold

Mold loves to thrive in warm, humid conditions. It also loves the damp areas that can occur when cannabis is stored in the dark, isn’t properly dried, or ventilated as a lack of air circulation can help spores thrive. 

How to identify moldy cannabis

The best way to spot mold is to make yourself familiar with the most common types of mold that affect cannabis plants. These include:

White powdery mildew

This type of mold looks like a white powder that often dusts the leaves of cannabis plants. It can look like a glimmering of trichomes to the untrained eye, which is why you’ll want to get your hands on a magnifying glass or microscope to confirm. 

To the untrained eye, some mold can appear similar to glimmering trichomes.

Botrytis (gray or brown mold)

Another common type of mold expresses itself as a discoloration of the cannabis plant, typically in the cola. This type of mold is usually grey or brown in color. If you notice a healthy plant with a drooping cola this is a good indication there’s mold present. 

Web-like fungi

You may also encounter a cobweb like structure forming on your plants, generally brown, white or grey in color. 

Mold seen on a marijuana flower. (Shutterstock)

Slimy mold

Some mold can also take on a slimy appearance that makes the plant look rotted. It may also create dark spots, generally brown or green, in your plant.

Other signs include yellowing/drooping leaves or discolored roots. You can also spot moldy marijuana by smelling it as mold can smell like a harsh, ammonia-like odor. Mold can also be spotted with a UV-A blacklight.

What to do when you spot mold

It may be hard to hear but the best thing to do when you spot mold is to throw out your plants. You’ll also want to make sure the infection hasn’t spread to nearby plants. 

You can always opt to cut the moldy section away and hope for the best, but given the potential health risks associated with mold it’s best to chalk it up to a loss and move on.

Health risks of mold

Some mold can make the plant look rotted. (Shutterstock)

Coming into contact with mold can have a wide range of effects on your health. These include:

  • Cough or asthma-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Brain fog/memory difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Sinus and lung infections in people with compromised immune systems 

Preventing mold

The best way to deal with mold is to prevent it. This can be done by ensuring you have:

  • A high quality air filtration system set in place
  • Dehumidifiers 
  • Fans
  • A temperature/humidity monitor to maintain even temperatures
  • Spacing plants out to avoid crowding
  • Watering appropriately 
  • Pruning plants as necessary (defoliation)
  • Ensuring cannabis is fully cured before sealing it in airtight jars
Always ensure your cannabis is dried and cured before storing it in a jar. (Shutterstock)

You can learn more about how to properly store cannabis here.

Testing for mold

Testing for mold varies depending on your location. Some states including Maine, Nevada, and Colorado rely on yeast and mold count testing (TYMC). This process determines a maximum yeast and mold count threshold that must be met for the sample to pass. California also tests for species-specific strains of Aspergillus mold by running cannabis DNA samples through PCR (polymerase chain reaction testing). 

Cannabis horticulture authority Ed Rosenthal recommends that labs implement DNA based microbial testing methods such as PathogenDx, qPCR or DNA microbiome sequencing to “…provide the necessary scientific rigor to ensure compliance with pharmaceutical standards.”

In other words, if you grow your cannabis in a well-ventilated environment and cure it well, there’s little for you to worry about. Want to be 100% safe? If you’re not growing your own, buy from a licensed dispensary and consult your strain’s certificate of analysis to view its microbial testing. 

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6 Medicinal Plants That Pharmaceuticals Can’t Replace

Modern pharmaceuticals — based on rigorous, peer-reviewed research and state-of-the-art developmental methods — make up the vast majority of the medicine used today. But they have not managed to eliminate the time-tested natural remedies that have been trusted across the world for eons. 

Here’s a look at six trusted, natural remedies that have stood the test of time.

Turmeric

Turmeric has historically been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional medical system popular in India since antiquity.
Turmeric has historically been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional medical system popular in India since antiquity.

While most people in the West know it as the spice that gives curry its deep yellow/orange hue or as the key ingredient to the “golden latte,” turmeric has for thousands of years been a medicinal herb used for a variety of ailments, mainly in the Indian subcontinent. 

The turmeric plant is related to ginger and like ginger, it’s the turmeric rhizome (the underground plant stem) which is used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. The root is full of compounds called curcuminoids, including the principal one, circumin. 

Turmeric has historically been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional medical system popular in India since antiquity. It is believed to provide relief from a litany of conditions, and research suggests it can help alleviate oxidative and inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. 

In addition, a 2006 research study found that in a control population of elderly Asian participants, those who “occasionally” or “often or very often” had significantly better Mini-Mental State Examination scores (a cognitive tool) than those who “never or rarely” ate curry. 

Turmeric can be easily added as powder directly in food or drink, and using the fresh turmeric rhizome to brew tea is also a popular remedy for the common cold and other similar illnesses. 

Primrose Oil 

Evening primrose has been used to treat a variety of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, asthma, and more.
Evening primrose has been used to treat a variety of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, asthma, and more.

Known as “evening primrose,” this Oenothera grows across North America and is known for its yellow flowers and its use as a natural health supplement.

For hundreds of years it has been a food and natural remedy used by indigenous people in North America, and the oil produced from its seeds is used to treat a variety of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, asthma, and more. 

It has been especially popular as a remedy for women’s health issues, and clinical studies have shown that it has therapeutic potential for PMS, hot flashes, gestational diabetes, and cervical ripening. Another study performed on multiple sclerosis patients found that the oil “had a significant effect on several important aspects of life quality such as the increase of cognitive function, vitality, and overall life satisfaction.”

Elderberry

The liquid extract made from the plant's berries is said to be active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses.
The liquid extract made from the plant’s berries is said to be active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses.

For thousands of years, the fruit and flowers of Sambucus Nigra have been used as a food and also a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. It was even mentioned  as a natural remedy in the writings of Hippocrates in Ancient Greece. 

The liquid extract made from the plant’s berries (known as “elderberry) is “active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses,” and it has gained heightened popularity in recent years as a cure for the common cold. 

Research published in 2016 has shown that it is effective in shortening the duration of the common cold when tested on international air-travelers. A previous study published in 2004 found that “elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza,” but it also highlights the need for further confirmation in a larger study. 

Liquid elderberry extract is also believed to be effective against herpes simplex virus. 

Cannabis

Cannabis flower
For thousands of years people have used cannabis not only for medical and recreational use but also to make oil and wearable fibers. (Shutterstock)

Since antiquity, mankind has used the marijuana plant to treat a wide variety of ailments and just to feel better as well. This herbaceous flowering plant grows across the world and has for thousands of years been used not only for medical and recreational use but also to make oil and wearable fibers

Commonly known as marijuana, the plant is most known because of the psychoactive properties of its chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is one of at least 113 compounds in the plant which are called cannabinoids. The intoxicating qualities of THC can also help patients dealing with nausea, stress, sleep impairment, loss of appetite, and a wide variety of other ailments. 

Marijuana is effective because cannabinoids like THC can activate the endocannabinoid system, which exists in all vertebrates and helps regulate crucial functions such as sleep, pain, and appetite. There is a growing body of research showing how cannabis and cannabinoid treatments can be medically beneficial and dozens of countries around the world recognize its medicinal value.

In recent years, an entire industry has developed around cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that is used to treat a variety of ailments, including pain, anxiety, and neurological disorders like epilepsy, to name just a few. CBD products are sold today as wellness products in countries around the world.

Ginger 

One of the most common historical uses of ginger has been to alleviate nausea and vomiting, including during pregnancy.
One of the most common historical uses of ginger has been to alleviate nausea and vomiting, including during pregnancy.

Like turmeric, ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome (commonly referred to as “ginger root”) has a long and storied history as a traditional medicine. It is from the same plant family as turmeric and is grown worldwide for use as a spice and natural remedy, especially in Asia. 

The main active ingredient in ginger is the oil gingerol, which “is known to exhibit a variety of biological activities including anticancer, anti-inflammation, and anti-oxidation.” 

One of the most common historical uses of ginger has been to alleviate nausea and vomiting, including during pregnancy. It also has a long history as an effective remedy for seasickness

A 2010 study found that daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger “resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury.”

Ginger is often consumed in powder form, in juices, or as a tea prepared by boiling fresh ginger rhizome. 

Echinacea 

Echinacea has gained popularity as a treatment to prevent and fight the symptoms of the common cold and influenza.

Echinacea is a genus of flowering plant from the daisy family, which grows in North America in areas east of the Rocky Mountains as well as in Europe. 

Indigenous peoples in North America traditionally used the leaves, stalk and roots of the echinacea as a form of medicine, for everything ranging from external treatment of wounds to toothaches, sore throats, and stomach cramps.

In modern times, it has gained popularity as a treatment to prevent and fight the symptoms of the common cold and influenza, and a 2010 clinical trial found that while it “did not make a large impact on the course of the common cold,” echinacea use did trend “in the direction of benefit, amounting to an average half-day reduction in the duration of a week-long cold.”

Some research has surmised that extended use of echinacea (more than four months) could overstimulate the immune system, though one 2012 study found that treatment using echinacea for four months appeared to be beneficial and did not induce health risks that should preclude recommending it as a natural remedy.

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How To Read A Certificate of Analysis (CoA) for Cannabis

Determining the ideal strain of cannabis can be tricky, which is exactly why Certificates of Analyses are so important. A Certificate of Analysis (CoA) is a document provided by a third party (generally a lab) that analyses the various compounds found in your cannabis. This can include outlining a strain’s cannabinoid and terpene profile as well as testing for other crucial factors like pesticide residues or heavy metals. You can also find other information in a CoA such as manufacturer information, testing method used, and batch data. 

While not all manufacturers are not required to provide CoAs, you may be able to find them available online. Your local budtender may also be able to point you in the right direction. Some products even have scannable QR codes that link directly to a CoA report. You can get CoAs for many different cannabis products including flower, tincture and even edibles.

Transparency and Impartiality

The ultimate function of a CoA is to ensure a product’s content matches what was advertised. As such the first element to consider when reading a CoA is who the test was conducted by. This information can be found at the top of the first page.

You should always check to ensure the company who performed the test is not the original manufacturer as this is the best way to ensure independence and impartiality.

Understanding potency

You can determine potency by evaluating the concentrations of each cannabinoid present in the sample. 

Most CoAs will list cannabinoids in a column on the far left. This column may be labeled, “ID,” “Analyte,” or even just the name of the cannabinoids themselves. Both major cannabinoids (THC or CBD) as well as “minor” cannabinoids like THCA are reflected here.

To the right of this column you’ll find potency results. Potency is determined by measuring the concentration of cannabinoids present in terms of total percentage by weight (mass). This can also be expressed as cannabinoid concentration in milligrams (mg) and may be featured in a column titled “Conc” (short for concentration).

One quick note on how THC and CBD levels are reported. Most labs don’t heat cannabis samples before testing them, so the THCA has not yet been converted into THC, a process called decarboxylation. Usually, labs will only predict the THC levels that will be in the final product should it be decarboxylated completely. For example, in the examples below, the lab has multiplied the THCA levels by a conversion factor to account for the decarboxylation process, predicting what the THC levels will likely be even though the majority of it is still THCA.

Terminology

You may also spot a few specialized terms in a CoA. These include:

BLQ

Short for “below level of quantification,” this term is used to denote concentrations so small they do not meet the qualifying threshold for cannabinoid content.

LOQ

Short for “limit of quantification,” this is the smallest concentration that can be accurately quantified.

LOD

“Limit of detection,” or LOD, is the smallest amount of cannabinoid(s) that can be detected by the instrument.

Loss on drying

Many CoAs also provide information on the water content of a strain. This can be expressed as “moisture method,” “moisture content” or “loss on drying.” Loss on drying tests for the percentage of water content in the final product.

Contaminant Analysis Terminology

This analysis tests for the presence of any possible contaminants. A few common ones to look out for include:

Microbial contaminants

Generally bacteria, mold, or even yeast. Predetermined contaminant limits are established for each, i.e. “(Limit: <500,000 CFU/g)”. Most test results simply list “pass,” “fail,” or “absent” as results.

Aflatoxins

Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by certain types of molds or fungi. Aflatoxins are very dangerous and may be potent carcinogens, which is why you definitely want to ensure your cannabis has no aflatoxins in it. 

Testing for aflatoxins is mandatory in Canada under the Cannabis Act. In the United States, testing for Aflatoxins is contingent on the state you live in — some require testing while others do not. 

Heavy Metals

Many CoAs also test for the presence of heavy metals as cannabis, particularly hemp, can be a bioaccumulator. These can include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead. Any amounts of heavy metals present will be listed here.

Pesticides

CoAs often test for a variety of pesticides or plant growth regulators (PGRs) commonly used on cannabis.

Residual solvent screen

You may also encounter the term “residual solvent screen” on some CoAs. This term tests for the presence of any solvent left over from the extraction process. Common solvents include butane, ethanol or hexane. This is relevant for extracts, including oils and vapes, but not dry flower.

What to look for in a contaminant analysis

Limits for each type of contaminants are established. For instance under “heavy metals” some CoAs will list heavy metal limits as 1.5 PPM (parts per million). Some analysis may list limits as PPB (parts per billion). A corresponding section will list pass/fail results.

You should always ensure that your cannabis has passed all of the tests for contaminants (“pass”). You’ll also ideally want samples that list “ND” (none detected) under heavy metals. Three classes are used to denote the level of danger associated with each solvent. You can learn more about what to look for in solvents here.

Microbial levels are a little more tricky. Some countries, like Canada, require licensed producers to establish safe microbial limits. In the United States, microbial limits are up to the states themselves, if they set any. You can find more information about microbial levels in the US via this guide produced by the Cannabis Safety Institute.

Examples

East Fork Cultivars is an Oregon based, organic CBD farm. They provide detailed CoAs for every batch of each strain that goes to market. 

Here’s a report for their latest batch of CBD-rich Ringo’s Gift. Testing information pertaining to the lab, batch number and analysis date can be easily located at the top of the report. The CoA then dives into a section on potency. Eleven different cannabinoids (“analytes”) are analysed, with their concentrations reported on the right-hand side as percentages. A subsequent section on “safety” states pesticides are within limits. The report then dives into a detailed terpene profile and pesticide breakdown. Limits are determined based on a simple pass/no pass basis.

Candian based Aurora also provide certificates of analysis for their strains. Here’s one for their Blue Dream varietal, dubbed “Ambition.” 

Like East Fork’s CoA, this CoA also begins by listing relevant lab and manufacturer information up top. Overall potency of cannabinoids (“total THC equivalents”; “total CBD equivalents”) is listed first, expressed as a percentage of overall weight. The report then dives into minor cannabinoid concentrations before analyzing terpene content. A contaminant analysis follows along with notes on details of testing.

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How to Choose a High-CBD Cannabis Strain

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 140 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It’s currently of great interest to many researchers and patients thanks to its wide range of therapeutic benefits. While we’re still discovering just how extensive those are, we know CBD can:

One way to maximize CBD’s therapeutic potential is to smoke or vaporize cannabis strains that are high in CBD. Prospective patients can also revel in the fact that some strains have been developed exclusively to treat a particular type of patient or condition. 

Patients seeking relief from a wide variety of conditions may want to consider using high CBD strains. Some of these conditions include PTSD, epilepsy, diabetes, pain, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), inflammation , migraines and even cancer

Knowing which CBD flower is right for you, however, can make all the difference. 

What to consider when selecting CBD flower

Hemp vs higher THC strains

One of the first things to consider when searching for your “just right” CBD flower is its THC content. As the legality of CBD is still in flux this largely depends on your location. 

In locations where narcotic varieties of cannabis aren’t legalized you may be able to access hemp. Hemp and cannabis flowers are, incidentally, the same thing; the only differences are that the amount of THC in hemp is regulated, the botanical structure varies, and narcotic varieties have higher cannabinoid and terpenoid concentration. In the United States hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC¹² while it’s no more than 0.2% THC in the EU¹³. Some countries also offer exemptions such as the UK, which has allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis to those with an “exceptional clinical need” since November of 2018.

If you’re able to access cannabis flower with a little THC in it — and tolerate THC well — it’s ultimately to your benefit. This is thanks to the “entourage effect” which states that cannabinoids have a greater synergistic effect when used together¹⁴. 

You’ll ultimately encounter a range of different THC to CBD ratios as you test out various strains. And because everyone’s chemistry is so different you’ll probably have to experiment a little to find what works for you. Many patients find a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD to be helpful while others prefer ratios with less THC like a 20:1 CBD to THC. 

Terpene profiles

Another element to carefully consider when selecting CBD flower is its terpene profile. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds within cannabis that give different cultivars their  distinct effects. For instance the popular strain Blue Dream is often thought to have creative, energetic effects, likely due to its high content of Pinene and Limonene. Pinene is a terpene known for its focused cerebral properties while Limonene is sometimes referred to as “nature’s antidepressant” and can have euphoric effects.

Being able to examine a cultivar’s terpene profile is the most reliable indicator of how that flower will affect you. You can also use a flower’s terpene profile to help you select the right strain for you.

You can search for terpene profiles of popular CBD flowers online. 

Sourcing/Consistency

Industrial hemp is often considered to be a good way to begin experimenting with cannabis as its cannabinoid content is fairly mild. Narcotic hemp, on the other hand, will be far more potent than your standard industrial varieties.

Patients should also strongly consider the consistency of their source when selecting CBD flowers. Environmental conditions can create huge variations in batches, so much so that while one batch may be medicinal the next may not be as successful. 

“It’s difficult to make predictions on cannabinoid concentrations by variety name. A variety grown in Oregon is likely to be very different from the same variety grown in Colorado because there are so many factors that influence which cannabinoids and terpenes are produced…the amounts vary depending on the humidity, exposure to UV light, whether it’s grown indoors or outdoors, when it is harvested, etc.”

-Dr. Patricia Frye, Chief Medical Officer at HelloMD

One good way to keep track of consistency is to get a certificate of analysis (CoA) for your CBD flower. A CoA is a lab result that will break down the various concentrations of cannabinoids and other compounds in the plant. You can then use this as a baseline, tracking any changes in batches carefully as you note differences in effect. This is also why medical products need to be consistent as small changes in a batch’s cannabinoid/terpene profile can result in different effects for patients.

Popular Strains High In CBD

ACDC 

A Cannatonic phenotype, ACDC is beloved by patients on account of its high CBD and low THC content. This is typically expressed as a staggering 20:1 CBD to THC ratio. The East Fork Cultivars version of this strain contains up to 6% terpenes. You can view the CoA for the latest batch here.

THC content: <1%
CBD content: 16-18%
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Caryophyllene, Bisabolol
Medicinal benefits: Inflammation, pain, anxiety, stress.

Avidekel 

Produced by Tikun Olam, Avidekel is a CBD-rich strain with almost no THC. It’s the brand’s most researched and awarded strain that can be used during the day or at night. 

THC content: < 1%
CBD content: 16-19%
Terpene profile: Beta-Myrcene, Alpha-Pinene, Limonene, Beta-Pinene, Guaiol
Listed medicinal benefits: Tikun Olam suggests that patients with Crohn’s disease and other digestive disorders, arthritis, autism, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, migraines, pain & inflammation, and seizures may find relief using Avidekel.

Sour Tsunami 

Developed by crossing Sour Diesel and NYC Diesel, this flower is one of several CBD-rich strains grown by East Fork Cultivars. It typically has a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio and contains a generous 3-5% of terpenes. View its CoA here.

THC content: <1%
CBD content: 16-18%
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Terpinolene, Ocimene, Caryophyllene
Medicinal benefits: The digital healthcare platform HelloMD states that Sour Tsunami is used to help with “seizures, anxiety, muscle spasms and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.” Leafly users report it helps with pain, stress, anxiety, depression and inflammation.

Shark Shock 

The offspring of a White Widow and Skunk #1 cross, Shark Shock is produced by Redecan and often expresses a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of CBD to THC. 

THC content:  2.0 – 5.0%
CBD content: 6.0 – 9.0% CBD
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Ocimene, Terpinolene and Trans-Caryophyllene.
Medicinal benefits: Pain, anxiety, inflammation.

Midnight

Midnight” is Tikun Olam USA’s 1:1 CBD to THC cultivar. This strain is said to be clear headed and functional, making it a good choice or day or nighttime use. Expect a typical cannabinoid content of up to 12% THC/CBD.

THC content: 8-12%
CBD content: 8-12%
Terpene profile: Beta-Myrcene, Limonene, Linalool, Alpha-Pinene
Listed medicinal benefits: Tikun Olam suggests that patients with anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, muscle/joint pain, PTSD, and tremors may find relief when using Midnight.

Ringo’s Gift 

A hybrid cross of Harle-Tsu and ACDC, Ringo’s Gift is a CBD-dominant flower that’s very low in THC. The East Fork Cultivars version of this strain typically contains <2% THC and up to 17% CBD. You can view the CoA for the latest batch here.

THC content: 0.5-1.5% THC
CBD content:  15-17% CBD
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Farnesene 2, Caryophyllene, Pinene
Medicinal benefits: Leafly users report Ringo’s Gift helps with pain, stress, anxiety, inflammation and depression.

Pennywise 

Pennywise is an indica dominant CBD-rich strain that often has a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio and is suggested for nighttime use. View the CoA for it here.

THC content: 6-8%
CBD content: 9-11%
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Selinadiene, Humulene
Medicinal benefits: Data sourced from Leafly consumers suggests patients with arthritis, PTSD, epilepsy, neurological disorders, and cancer symptoms benefit from consuming Pennywise 

Tower

Tower is Aurora’s version of the classic CBD varietal “Cannatonic”. This hybrid version is extremely low in THC and contains up to ~12% CBD. View the lab report for the most recent batch here.

THC content: <1%
CBD content: Up to 11-12%
Terpene profile: Beta-Myrcene, Alpha-Bisabolol, Guaiol, Trans-Caryophyllene, Alpha-Pinene
Medicinal benefits: Pain, inflammation, anxiety

Different Methods of Consumption

There’s more than one way to consume high CBD varietals. Aside from smoking, another way to reap the benefits of CBD flowers is to experiment with the different forms of CBD products available. Such products can include utilizing vaporizers as well as oils/edibles

Whenever you experiment with different consumption methods it’s best to always keep the entourage effect in mind. The entourage effect is a term used to denote the idea that cannabinoids and terpenes work better together rather than in isolation.
This means actively searching for products that are ideally full spectrum. A full spectrum product contains all of the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant. Other products may be broad spectrum, a term used to denote the presence of all compounds except for THC. 

Purchasing CBD Oil

You can purchase CBD oil online from a variety of retailers. Some of the most popular oils geared towards patients include Charlotte’s Web CBD oils, Lazarus Naturals and 

The non-profit group Center For Food Safety also recently published a hemp scoring guide. Four companies received an ‘A’ grade: Fountain of Health CBD, Green Gorilla, Palmetto Harmony and RE:Botanicals.

Purchasing Cannabis Vapes

Vaporizing cannabis flower is one of the best ways to reap the maximum health benefits to offer as this method does not rely on combustion and produces no smoke. The low temperature also preserves terpenes, providing a richer, more medicinal patient experience. 

Choosing the right cannabis vape, however, should be done with care. Be sure that every product you purchase has been tested by a third party and is free of toxins, pesticides or mold. You also want to do everything in your power to get a full spectrum product (rather than ‘distillate’). 

CO2-extracted cannabis cartridges are also ideal as these do not require a solvent and yield some of the cleanest cannabis concentrates. Avoid any products with artificial flavorings, thinning agents or preservatives as well as cartridges made with fractionated coconut oil (MCT). 

If it is available, only purchase legal cannabis, as illegal “street” cartridges are unregulated and can contain toxic compounds like Vitamin E acetate. 

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The Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis

The terms hemp and cannabis are often confused and misunderstood, particularly as cannabis and cannabis-derived products become more accessible and enter mainstream markets. Luckily, a little digging into the historical roots of the plant, mind the pun, makes everything a lot clearer. But if you’re looking for the short answer, it goes something like this:

  • Cannabis and marijuana are both used to refer to the Cannabis sativa plant.
  • Hemp, from a regulatory perspective, refers to Cannabis sativa varieties that contain very low levels of THC (ranging from 1% to 0.2%, or lower, depending on the jurisdiction). 

Now the long answer.

What is Hemp?

Traditionally, hemp was primarily cultivated for its stalks, stems, and seeds. Hemp cultivation methods, therefore, tended to channel the most energy to the stalks. The result is that hemp plants grew taller and had fewer and smaller flowers, where most cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids reside. 

More recently, however, due to growing demand for CBD products, some hemp varieties are being cultivated to produce less fiber and more potent flowers.

It can be difficult, therefore, to make a clear morphological distinction between hemp and other cannabis varieties. One way we can distinguish them, however, is by their chemical profile

  • Hemp varieties have a lower cannabinoid content compared to non-hemp varieties, and they produce high levels of CBD and trace amounts of THC.
  • Non-hemp varieties have higher cannabinoid content compared to hemp varieties, and traditionally have a high-THC/low-CBD profile. In recent years, due to extensive cross breeding, the THC-to-CBD ratio of non-hemp cannabis can vary widely.  


Though a morphological distinction between the two is indeed tricky, several botanical distinctions lie in cultivation practices

  • Cultivation: Industrial hemp usually grows as a single stalk with some leaves and branches, whereas medical and recreational cannabis (and now hemp grown for CBD) is cultivated to grow bushy with a lot of leaves and branches to encourage flowers and buds.
  • Planting density: Industrial hemp is planted densely to avoid branching and flowering. Cannabis produced for medical and recreational use, along with some hemp grown for CBD, is generally grown with more space between plants. 
  • Plant height: Traditionally, hemp, and particularly industrial hemp, grew tall, while medical and recreational cannabis grew short and tightly clustered.

Other Uses for Hemp

Hemp varieties of cannabis have been used in any number of industries throughout the ages. In China, paper and rope were made from hemp for millennia. Until the 19th century it was also used as a source of high quality canvas for ship sails.

Other than paper and fabric, hemp is also used for body care products, construction materials, livestock feed, livestock bedding, molded plastics, nutritional supplements, and more. 

Hemp can also be used to manufacture essential oils. Terpenes, which play an essential part in essential oils (yes, pun intended), are less abundant in many hemp varieties of cannabis. For that reason, Switzerland allows a higher amount of THC in industrial hemp grown there — to give farmers a competitive advantage in the essential oil market. 

Manufacturing Standards

The standardisation of medical cannabis products is a fairly new concept. A growing number of countries with medical marijuana programs have implemented control systems — mostly based on the Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices protocols — to ensure the quality and consistency of medical-grade products. That means cultivation is subject to strict oversight vis-a-vis pesticides, among other potential toxins, and requires laboratory testing to determine cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles. 

Another important challenge for medical-grade cannabis products is ensuring they are stable, meaning any given cannabis product has consistent properties and effects over time. 

Hemp-derived products usually don’t go through the same certification process and there is no standardization in the hemp-derived CBD market. One study examined 14 different hemp-derived CBD oils available in Europe, comparing the claims on their packaging with independent laboratory tests. Nine out of the 14 “had a concentration that differed notably from the declared amount.” 

This article has been updated to more clearly reflect that both marijuana and cannabis have long been used to refer to the Cannabis sativa plant. Several graphics that were unclear have been removed until they can be redesigned.

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The Cannabis Cultivation Process, Explained

With cannabis legalization quickly becoming a reality for more states and countries, a range of cannabis products have now become widely available in the cannabis market.

Over time as cannabis has become more acceptable recreationally and medically, personal cannabis plants are gaining popularity with hobbyist gardeners and of course within larger-scale operations, too. Cultivating cannabis plants can be a rewarding and hands-on way to produce your very own product to consume. 

Cannabis has spent many years in the dark, and so it is a lot harder to find gardening guides for cannabis than it is for roses or apple trees. 

Here are some facts about cannabis cultivation and what it entails.

The Different Types Of Cannabis Plants 

While the new legal status of cannabis may be intimidating, the process of cannabis cultivation is more or less the same as many other household plants. Before planting a rose, you need to decide on a strain. Cannabis is no different.

In broad terms, cannabis strains are colloquially broken down into three different varieties; Indica, Sativa, and hybrids. The prohibitive history of cannabis means that these cultivars and their breeding histories were not accurately recorded, and as such, some cannabis naming systems may not be exactly accurate.

However, Sativa and Indica can be handy descriptive terms for specific cannabis traits, and these are likely the descriptors that you will come across as a cannabis cultivator. 

Indica

Indica strains commonly refer to cannabis plants that are shorter and have wider leaves. Indica cannabis is often described as promoting feelings of drowsiness, lethargy, and relaxation, though there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. 

Sativa 

Sativa cannabis plants are characterized by thinner leaves and grow to taller heights. Sativa cannabis is known for its reduced trichome production. When consumed, Sativa cannabis is said to produce a high that is described as energetic. Again, those generalizations about Sativa are based on anecdotal and subjective experience of cannabis users.

Hybrids

Hybrid cannabis plants contain varying combinations of Indica and Sativa characteristics and in fact, most cannabis plants these days are likely a hybrid of some form.  

Thankfully,l the growth of legalization has led to the availability of genomic testing methods that are more reliable than the word of mouth of black market cannabis sellers. Data analytic tools can establish chemical profiles and identify specific genetic differences to classify different cannabis strains. 

According to research, factors such as the concentration of terpenes and THC:CBD ratios are primarily what cause variations in the psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabis, rather than the plant’s Sativa or Indica origins. 

Cannabis cultivation

Outdoor Vs. Indoor Cannabis Cultivation

As with many other household plants, cannabis can be grown outdoors or indoors, and this can have significant implications for the end product, as well as the cultivation process itself. 

Outdoor-Grown Cannabis 

Growing cannabis outdoors could be a desirable option for many as it is a familiar form of gardening that doesn’t require time spent constructing indoor infrastructure. Having an established soil system also means that your plants require less added nutrients.

The issues that are common to outdoor-grown cannabis are overwatering and weather damage. Wind and rain can degrade the active ingredients in cannabis and break branches while overwatering can lead to mold and rot. To avoid this, plants can be protected from the wind with windbreaks, covered during heavy rain and watered in moderation on an as-need basis.

Indoor-Grown Cannabis 

Indoor-grown cannabis is largely considered to create a superior product due to the higher cannabis bud yield that typically comes with indoor growing. Another reason indoor cannabis is preferred is due to the controlled nature of an indoor growth operation which allows for specific cannabis qualities to be heightened or reduced through changes to the indoor environment. 

However, this control also means that indoor cannabis requires a large amount of care, equipment, and time. Control systems for airflow, light levels, and humidity are all available at a cost, to perfectly control the environment for your cannabis plants. The options available for indoor cannabis plants don’t stop there; growers also need to decide on a method of cultivation, as the options are much more varied when plants are taken undercover. 

Hydroponic Systems

Hydroponic growing systems are commonly linked to cannabis cultivation, and there’s a good reason for it. Hydroponics involves growing seedlings in a liquid solution which has nutrients added to it daily. The benefit of this over soil is that plant roots have direct access to their required nutrients through the solution and so instead of expending energy to grow a root system, the plant is able to grow larger and produce a higher yield. It’s no surprise that cannabis gardeners turn to hydroponics, as a larger bud yield is a high priority.

However, this cultivation method is considered rather advanced, with water temperature, pH levels, and nutrient concentrations needing to be checked and altered multiple times a day. 

Coco Coir

Another indoor growing method that you might be less familiar with is coco coir, a soilless medium which uses coconut shells to hold the roots. The coconut shell system allows for excellent oxygen delivery to roots and like hydroponics, requires additional nutrients and water daily. Coco coir is considered an excellent intermediary growing technique, between soil and hydroponics, as growth and yield will be higher than soil but without the more challenging techniques of hydroponics. 

Cannabis growing in a greenhouse.

Greenhouse 

Greenhouses are structures with transparent walls and artificially controlled heating systems for the purposes of giving plants, in this case, cannabis, ideal growth conditions. While greenhouses can be used to introduce complicated growing systems such as coco coir or hydroponics, they can also simply be used to provide a more protected environment for soil-grown cannabis plants.

While a soil system may need to be built up in planter boxes, glasshouse soil-growing provides protection from the wind and rain, which can seriously damage plants and reduce one’s total yield. 

Planting The Seed

So you’ve decided what, where, and how you will plant your cannabis seeds, but what’s next? 

The Cannabis Cultivation Timeline

Indoor cultivated cannabis plants can have their heat, light, water, and airflow altered to ideal growing conditions, meaning that the time of year to plant is not an issue. 

However, for outside growers, the time which cannabis is germinated and harvested will depend on a few factors such as geographical location and its effects on local climate systems. Pat Goggins, editor at Leafly, summarized the timeline of outdoor cannabis growth, describing the spring equinox as a good reminder of when the outdoor growing process starts in the northern hemisphere.

The summer solstice is best for sun exposure, the fall equinox is ideal for harvesting, and drying and curing should be done well before the winter solstice. Obviously this is a rough outline, but it gives a good general overview for the timeline of outdoor cannabis cultivation.

There is a multitude of environmental factors that influence ideal germination times and growing seasons for cannabis. Cannabis plants are hungry for sunshine, and so cultivation largely revolves around a specific geographical area’s seasonal average sunshine. Seeds can be planted in March or as late as May (Spring-Summer), with buds being harvested in September through to November (Fall). Seasons in the Southern hemisphere are reversed.

The transition period from a cannabis plant’s vegetative state to the flowering stage occurs when the plant receives signals that days are shrinking sand nights become longer. So latitudinal differences may change the time a plant starts flowering based due to changes in daylight and nighttime length (e.g Washington state vs. Morocco).

Germination 

Germination will be familiar to most hobbyist gardeners as it is the first sign of growth from seeds. Germination can be achieved through different methods, such as the paper towel method, direct planting into the soil, seedling plugs, overnight soaking or through using a readymade “germination station.” 

Germination usually takes one to seven days to occur. There are claims that sativa seeds can take longer to germinate, but these claims don’t appear to be backed by any significant evidence. Interestingly, some research showed that the cannabinoid profile of seeds can affect germination success rates — THCA-type seeds showed a 100% germination rate compared to only 39% of the CBDA-type seeds germinating after six days. 

To start the germination process for cannabis seeds, either place seeds in a wet paper towel in a warm damp place until sprouting occurs or place in potting mix, water and then wait until the sprouts break ground.

Seedling 

With growth sprouting, your germinated cannabis seeds are now seedlings and once the plants look strong enough (at around 10 days of growth) and have healthy root systems, they can then be transplanted into soil or another medium. 

Bud Flowering 

After a growing period of around six to 12 weeks, your cannabis seed will now be at the flowering stage. Flowering is a grower’s first look at their cannabis end-product, as this early ‘flower’ will grow into the cannabis bud that will eventually be harvested and consumed. 

These small buds will look similar to early-stage flower buds but will start to develop small hair-like structures called trichomes, coming from the Greek word for hair. These hairs are very important as they tell you the plant is female. This is important because only female plants can produce cannabis bud.

If your early flower produces a grape-like structure, then that plant is a male and should be removed from your garden as it is useless if the aim is to produce a consumable cannabis flower. Cannabis plants can also be both male and female (hermaphrodites) and will show male grape-like structures with the typical female “hair.” Keep in mind yields from hermaphrodite plants are typically much lower than females. 

Cannabis Harvest

Cannabis buds will continue to grow for 7-11 weeks and when fully matured, will be ready for harvesting. Timing is key for bud harvesting, and trichomes are a handy indicator. Trichomes are resin-like structures that form on the outside of buds and look similar to sugar crystals.

Once most of the trichomes have changed from translucent to cloudy, the buds are ready for harvesting. Trichomes on cannabis flowers typically change from white to brown when the buds are mature and ready for harvesting. 

To harvest the buds you either cut the main stem of the cannabis plant or remove separate stems to isolate more mature buds. The removed stems will need to have their leaves trimmed, which can be done either immediately, or after drying (described below).

When done immediately, trimming will result in resin transferring to your hands and secateurs, but tends to result in a more visually appealing product. Trimming after drying also requires more drying space for the bulkier stems, but will reduce resin loss and build-up on tools. 

Cannabis Curing 

Once removed from the plant, the cannabis buds first need to dry and then cure. Drying and curing buds is an important process that ensures there is no excess moisture, this also helps to minimize the chances of molding and extends the overall storage life of the product. 

Terpenes are what give varying cannabis strains their distinct flavor and aroma. Curing is commonly reported to help preserve these flavours. These compounds are volatile and so ensuring excess heat isn’t applied to cannabis in the curing process is important to preserve an ideal flower. 

This drying process can be done in a number of ways, either over drying racks or any large area with appropriate ventilation, warm temperatures (around 20°C or 68°F), and 50% humidity to create a long drying process. 

Once dry, the buds can then be cured. This occurs by placing them in airtight containers, with one-third of the jar left for airspace. Jars must be opened at least once a day for the first two weeks of curing to check for mold and to ensure a fresh air supply. At around two weeks of curing, the buds should be dry enough that only bi-weekly checks and air-replacements are needed. Around four weeks of curing should be enough time to sufficiently dry and mature cannabis buds. 

Examining a cannabis flower.

Successful Cannabis Cultivation 

With successfully dried and matured cannabis buds, you have reached the end of your cannabis cultivation. Changes to seeds, growing methods, and harvesting techniques can all affect the quality, yield, and characteristic of the final cannabis product. 

Cannabis cultivation is similar to growing any other plant, although it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Given regulations in your area permit you to, planting, growing and harvesting cannabis is within the reach of any hobbyist gardener.

To conclude… 

  • There are different types of cannabis plants, namely Indica, Sativa, and hybrid variations. Keep in mind that the terms Indica and Sativa aren’t terribly accurate for predicting the effects of a final cannabis product.
  • Cannabis can be either grown outdoors or indoors. 
  • Indoor growth and outdoor growth in tropical countries give the most freedom with regards to germination and harvesting of cannabis, while outdoor locations in higher latitudes requires planning around seasons to maximize sun exposure and the likelihood of a successful yield. 
  • Indoor growth methods include hydroponic systems, coco coir and growing cannabis in a glasshouse. Indoor cultivation can be done at any time of year, while outdoor cultivation is common in spring for germination. 
  • After 6-12 weeks, the transitionary period from the vegetative state to flowering bud flowering begins, with harvesting following after another 7-11 weeks of growth.
  • Lastly, cannabis is dried and cured to prevent mold, increase shelf life and preserve the flavor and aroma of the final product
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The Bliss Molecule: Anandamide

In the early 1990s, researchers around the globe began investigating the human body’s network of cellular receptors that have been proven, in the decades since, to bind with the health-giving chemicals produced by the cannabis plant. In the process, these researchers learned something interesting: The human body produces its own—and almost identical—set of wellness molecules. 

Called endocannabinoids, these special molecules bind, or interact, with the same network of cellular receptors within the body that accommodates wellness chemicals from cannabis called phytocannabinoids and terpenes. These molecules have proven to provide health-giving therapeutic value for patients who suffer a wide variety of diseases and conditions.   

Made by the Endocannabinoid System

A full understanding of the potential medicinal and wellness benefits of endocannabinoids is best gained when readers comprehend the basic environment and underlying mechanisms involved when the human body produces and metabolizes these unique and seemingly beneficial molecules. 

Any serious consideration of this topic necessarily includes how endocannabinoids relate to phytocannabinoids and important patient issues, such as how those who exhibit deficiencies in their production of endocannabinoids may gain particular benefit from supplementation via their molecular cousins, the phytocannabinoids produced by the flowers of mature female cannabis plants. 

Endocannabinoid production is handled by something called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is a network of microscopic cellular receptors, also categorized as neurotransmitters, strewn throughout literally every organ and tissue of the body. It is found in not only humans but all vertebrates (including all mammals). 

Phytocannabinoids = Mimetic Molecules

Two major endocannabinoids have been identified to date: Anandamide (often cited in research studies as AEA, arachidonoylethanolamide, or N-arachidonoylethanolamine) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (more commonly known as 2-AG). 

Research has indicated that both molecules play an important role in modulating the ECS and maintaining overall health. The concept of the optimal health of the ECS is expressed by researchers and scientists as homeostasis. This is the theoretical state of an optimally tuned ECS — including improvements in the many bodily systems that it manages. A human whose ECS is considered in homeostasis is assumed to be balanced and, thus, operating in a state of “maximum health.” 

The two major phytocannabinoids from cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the infamous molecule that produces sometimes significant psychotropic effects and euphoria in users. Despite its reputation for psychoactivity, THC also conveys a range of medicinal benefits, including appetite stimulation, reduced anxiety and depression, and even anti-cancer efficacy.

Scientists have determined that THC mimics anandamide, with both molecules providing similar effects, including emotional and psychological benefits (such as reduced anxiety), lower systemic inflammation (of benefit to literally thousands of diseases and conditions), and other significant health improvements. 

CBD is one of the phytocannabinoids that has shown a wide range of efficacy for humans and mammals, including decreased depression and anxiety, pain relief, and improvements in sleep.

Anandamide: Discovery & Investigation

In 1992, a research team working at Hebrew University in Jerusalem isolated and identified anandamide. The team consisted of American pharmacologist William Devane and Czech analytical chemist Lumir Hanuš, along with pioneering cannabinoid and terpene researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. It was Devane and Hanuš who, after discovering the ability of this molecule to improve the emotional state of patients, chose the name anandamide, which is derived from ancient Sanskrit and means “joy” and “bliss.” 

Devane and Hanuš published their discoveries in a research paper entitled “Isolation and Structure of a Brain Constituent that Binds to the Cannabinoid Receptor” that was published in the journal Science. “The structure of this compound, which has been named ‘anandamide,’ was determined by mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and was confirmed by synthesis,” reported the researchers.

In 1995, Mechoulam’s team at Hebrew University discovered a second endocannabinoid that they named 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, more commonly known as 2-AG. Together, anandamide and 2-AG have prompted researchers to further investigate the dynamics of the ECS and the critical role that it appears to play in the regulation of a variety of important bodily systems, including immune function, mood, appetite, sleep, energy level, and metabolism, cognition, skin quality, vision, motor skills, and even libido.  

The Medicinal Efficacy of Anandamide

Anandamide has been revealed through hundreds of research studies to deliver a wide range of benefits. These encompass appetite stimulation and emotional and mental improvements, including reduced anxiety and depression. This makes anandamide of special value in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pain relief, and reductions in systemic inflammation — of benefit to diseases such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.  

General Efficacy Studies

A 2017 study entitled “Metabolism of the Endocannabinoid Anandamide: Open Questions after 25 Years” investigated the overall role and underlying mechanisms involved in the production of anandamide, its interaction with the ECS, and its overall ability to improve health and treat disease. 

The study observed that anandamide plays a critical role in nearly all systems and mechanisms of the body. “Such a multifaceted ability of AEA to impact on virtually every system of the human body (and well beyond humans along the phylogenetic tree) depends on a multiplicity of receptor targets that includes…CB1 and CB2….,” concluded the researchers.  

Appetite Stimulation Studies

A 2005 study entitled “Endocannabinoids in the Regulation of Appetite and Body Weight” investigated the ability of endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG to act as effective treatments for diseases and conditions involving loss of appetite. These include wasting syndromes (HIV/AIDS), liver disease, various forms of dementia, and hypothyroidism. 

Because loss of appetite can result in malnutrition, which in turn leads to the degradation of overall bodily function and the immune system (including more difficulty in combating specific diseases), appetite stimulation is an important consideration for millions of patients and their wellness practitioners. 

Reported the study’s authors, “It is now confirmed that endocannabinoids, acting at brain CB1 cannabinoid receptors, stimulate appetite and ingestive behaviors….” The research indicated that endocannabinoids like anandamide—as well as the entire body-wide endocannabinoid system—play a role that extends beyond mere appetite control to overall energy level and metabolism. “Moreover, there is strong evidence of an endocannabinoid role in energy metabolism and fuel storage,” reported the study.   

A 2001 study entitled “Anandamide Administration into the Ventromedial Hypothalamus Stimulates Appetite in Rats” explored how anandamide may stimulate appetite in humans based on the similarities in the ECS mechanisms of humans and mammals such as rodents.

Reported the study, “Given that cannabinoids have been used clinically to stimulate appetite in HIV and cancer chemotherapy patients, there has been a renewed interest in the involvement of cannabinoids in appetite modulation.” 

This study involved the direct injection of anandamide into the brains of rats to detect the changes in “modulating appetitive behavior” that this endocannabinoid caused. In addition to identifying anandamide as an appetite stimulant, the research more clearly explained the role of the endocannabinoid system and, more specifically, CB1 receptors in appetite stimulation. 

Anxiety Studies

A 2019 preclinical study entitled “Cannabinoid Regulation of Fear and Anxiety: An Update” explored the role of endocannabinoids such as anandamide and phytocannabinoids in the treatment of psychological conditions like anxiety. The study recognized the lack of effectiveness of many traditional pharmaceutical drugs and therapies. 

The researchers surveyed available research studies and found a pattern of CBD and anandamide demonstrating “acute” anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) properties. The study revealed that cannabinoids such as anandamide regulate anxiety responses such as fear “by dampening its expression, enhancing its extinction, and disrupting its reconsolidation.”  

A 2014 study entitled “Central Anandamide Deficiency Predicts Stress-induced Anxiety: Behavioral Reversal through Endocannabinoid Augmentation” investigated how anandamide might reduce anxiety that results from environmental and psychological stressors. 

The study pointed out the anxiety-reducing role of anandamide for conditions such as PTSD. “Among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder, those with lower peripheral [anandamide] content exhibit more intrusive symptoms.” 

Interestingly, the study concluded that supplementation of the ECS may reduce anxiety levels. “Importantly, our study also demonstrates that pharmacological augmentation of [anandamide] signaling after stress exposure can reverse stress-induced anxiety, which is a necessary feature of novel therapeutics for stress-related psychopathology.” 

Depression Research

A 2016 study entitled “Endocannabinoid System: Role in Depression, Reward, and Pain Control” cited the fact that the majority of patients who suffer from depression and pain are not responsive to pharmacological treatments, “making this comorbidity disorder a heavy burden on patients and society.” 

The study reported that the specialized receptors of the ECS that bind to phytocannabinoids such as CBD and THC — and that have been shown to play a role in managing pain and depression — also feature a strong binding affinity for endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG. The research reinforced the concept of phytocannabinoids as mimetic molecules of endocannabinoids, meaning they interact with the human and mammalian ECS in extremely similar ways, often resulting in many of the same efficacies and wellness benefits.  

Reported the researchers, “Considerable evidence suggested the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in eliciting potent effects on neurotransmission, neuroendocrine, and inflammatory processes, which are known to be deranged in depression and chronic pain.” 

Pain Research

A 2010 study entitled “Anandamide Suppresses Pain Initiation through a Peripheral Endocannabinoid Mechanism” explored the ability of anandamide to act as an analgesic (pain killer) and its potential role in helping patients suffering chronic pain. 

The researchers found that anandamide was either directly or indirectly involved in multiple mechanisms of pain modulation (and potential suppression) involving CB1 receptors in the brain and CNS. 

How to Boost Anandamide Levels

Given the health benefits of anandamide, including significant potential mental and physical improvements, the issue of either producing more anandamide internally or supplementing with outside sources of this special molecule is of obvious merit. 

Plant-based molecules that enhance or mimic anandamide are produced by a variety of sources, including cacao (used to make chocolate) and black truffles. This means that people supplementing their ECS with these natural plants might gain significant health benefits and emotional support. It may also help explain the common human craving for chocolate and cacao; perhaps these people are suffering from a deficiency in their ECS, specifically in their internal production of anandamide and 2-AG.  

A research study dating back to 1996 entitled “Marijuana and Chocolate” that was published in the journal AIDS Treatment News investigated how chocolate and, more specifically, the plant cacao, produces human wellness molecules that parrot many of the cannabinoids found in cannabis, including the manner in which they interact with the human ECS. 

“Three substances in chocolate and cocoa powder may mimic cannabinoids by activating receptors or increasing anandamide levels,” reported the study. Concluded the researchers, “A practical implication of this finding is that the amount of marijuana needed for medicinal purposes may be decreased by using it with chocolate, reducing… the… cost associated with marijuana.” 

Not only does high-quality chocolate derived from cacao boost the human body’s production of anandamide, it also delivers theobromine, a molecular cousin to caffeine that produces the polar opposite effect of relaxation. The study theorizes that theobromine may cause the body (specifically, the brain, where the greatest density of CB1 receptors is found) to produce greater volumes of anandamide.

A 2015 research study entitled “Truffles Contain Endocannabinoid Metabolic Enzymes and Anandamide” explored how sources outside of the human body and the cacao plant produce anandamide. “Since anandamide, a prominent member of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), is responsible for melanin synthesis in normal human epidermal melanocytes, we thought that [an] ECS might be present also in truffles,” reported the researchers.    

The study investigated the production of anandamide and “major metabolic enzymes of the ECS” by truffles (the fruiting body of fungi and a type of tuber). The researchers found the production of anandamide to be especially great in winter black truffles. They also discovered that, while truffles may produce anandamide (a component of the human ECS), they do not feature receptors (such as CB1 and CB2 in humans) or other elements of a full ECS neurotransmitter system. 

Exercise & Anandamide

One of the most effective and beneficial ways to produce more anandamide is exercise. Anandamide is synthesized internally in an effort to deal with physiological or mental stress or disharmony. Although the benefits of anandamide are multifaceted, one of its greatest values is as an analgesic. Thus, this endocannabinoid is produced in the most plentiful quantities during endurance exercise involving significant effort or time periods. 

A 2004 study entitled “Endocannabinoids and Exercise” investigated the effect of exercise on “analgesia, sedation, anxiolysis, and a sense of wellbeing.” 

“An exercise-induced altered state of consciousness has long been appreciated by endurance athletes. The effect has been well documented in the popular literature and subjected to scientific investigation,” wrote the study’s authors. The research defined runner’s high, which typically is mired in ambiguity and a lack of scientific description, relatively precisely: “The runner’s high has been described subjectively as pure happiness, elation, a feeling of unity with one’s self and/or nature, endless peacefulness, inner harmony, boundless energy, and a reduction in pain sensation.” 

The study revealed that the analgesic quality of endocannabinoids such as anandamide is dictated by the type of pain being experienced. “There are particular types of pain against which cannabinoids are particularly effective,” reported the study’s authors.  

A 2003 study entitled “Exercise Activates the Endocannabinoid System” discovered that people who exercised for a minimum of an hour produced significantly higher levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide. 

The study also concluded that anandamide is the molecule that causes the euphoria called runner’s high, not the hormone endorphin. This research is notable because it was the first to counter the idea that a runners high is produced by high levels of endorphin.

The researchers found that the body produces endocannabinoids as a means of self-healing and mitigating pain and other bodily stresses during moderate or intense exercise. Reported the study’s authors: “No other study has ever considered this possibility, which is why the results are so significant.”

For generations, the energized euphoria experienced by many people during endurance exercise — commonly referred to as runner’s high — was credited solely to the hormone endorphin (β-endorphin). Research has revealed, however, that β-endorphin is not responsible for this phenomenon (see the 2015 study “The Blood-Brain Barrier” and the 2015 study entitled “A Runner’s High Depends on Cannabinoid Receptors”).

Anandamide, however, is able to permeate the Blood-Brain Barrier to reach the CB1 receptors that are found most prevalently in the brain and CNS. When anandamide binds with these cellular receptors, it causes improvements in mood and other euphoric effects (a characteristic of obvious value to those suffering psychological conditions such as social anxiety, clinical depression, and PTSD). 

Anandamide in Short

The health benefits of endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG are being proven at an increasingly detailed and convincing level by a wealth of new peer-reviewed research studies.  

Evidence is mounting that patients who produce adequate amounts of anandamide within their own bodies — or who supplement their ECS with anandamide from outside sources or mimetic molecules from plants (such as CBD and THC) — may be better equipped to prevent or combat a wide variety of psychological and physical conditions and diseases.

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What is the Cannabis Enigma?

Here’s the way we see it: 

Cannabis has been stigmatized. Up until the past 100 years or so, cannabis was freely used as medicine around the world, as well as recreationally. It’s a safe and well-tolerated treatment, and the historical uses for the plant are many — it treats pain, nausea, muscle spasms and a variety of other conditions. You can read more about that here. 

Yet starting at the beginning of the 20th century, a series of misinformation campaigns and historical events resulted in governments and medical professionals around the world adopting regulations to reflect that cannabis was extremely dangerous and had little or no medicinal benefit. This stigma trickled down into popular culture and opinion, until cannabis was seen in the mainstream as an evil, a gateway to harder, even more risky drugs. Here’s that full story. 

Fast forward to today, and the winds of change are in the air. Research is revealing the many and varied uses for cannabis at a rapid pace, and countries around the world are reversing regulation to open medical and recreational programs. 

So the first part of the enigma is the juxtaposition of cannabis as an illicit substance, against its use as a valid, effective medicine.  

But cannabis doesn’t act like other medicines. It’s a medicine, yes, but it is complex. There are thousands of strains, each with its own complex composition of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Which means that each strain can have considerably different effects — and that’s even without taking into account the different ways that individual bodies metabolize it. 

On top of that, cannabis has this enigmatic quality of being biphasic — meaning it can have an opposite effect on the body depending on the dose. So the same strain might make you feel relaxed and calm after a small dose, but paranoid and anxious at a larger dose. 

The key here could be the endocannabinoid system, but we’re not really sure yet. Discovered in the 1990s, this system of receptors in the brain and body communicates with cannabinoids — from within the body, the plant, and synthetic sources. We know it exists, and that it plays a central role in regulating a variety of body systems, but we’re far from fully understanding how it functions. 

This part of the cannabis enigma needs research, desperately. Because it’s not just about the plant — it’s about how the plant interacts with the human body. We’re thankful for what science has revealed so far, but there’s still a way to go.

Also, cannabis doesn’t fit into the Western medicine model. Again, it is a medicine, but it’s not a medicine that matches the “take two pills and call me in the morning” mindset. Finding the right cannabis regimen for a specific condition, for a specific individual, often requires trial and error between strains and doses. It’s more like finding the right antidepressant than taking a course of antibiotics. 

This process works well if accompanied by an experienced health professional, but it’s also something that patients should take into their own hands, by educating themselves and taking responsibility for their own bodies. 

Demystifying the cannabis enigma

So what do we want to do about all this? 

The first part is about rewiring the stigma. To present cannabis as a valid, potent medicine – even though it’s still exactly the same plant that we were brought up to believe was so very dangerous. 

Alongside that, it’s up to science to demystify this enigma — and we’re here to translate that research into information that everyone can understand. 

The key is education. Health professionals and patients alike need to understand the plant and how it interacts with the human body, in order to collaborate and find what works. 

The cannabis enigma is a process — a puzzle to be unpacked within the global mindset, in international and local regulations, and within various health institutions. 

And we won’t rest until it’s solved.

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Decarboxylation: How to Activate Cannabis

As you venture into the world of cannabis, you may hear references to a chemical process called ‘decarboxylation’. If you are feeling confused about what decarboxylation means or how to utilize it, you aren’t alone. Decarboxylation comes up most often as a method to make cannabis edibles’ psychoactive effects more potent, but it actually goes far beyond a simple cooking technique for edibles. 

What does ‘decarboxylation’ mean? Well, it is a key reaction in the process of creating the cannabinoids that produce some of cannabis’ most medicinal effects. By understanding how this process works, you can better understand how to predict the effects of different cannabis options and thus use cannabis more effectively. 

Curious to learn more about this key chemical reaction? Read on to discover the science behind decarboxylation and learn how to decarboxylate your own cannabis for optimal results.

How Cannabinoids Naturally Develop and Transform 

To understand decarboxylation, you first need to understand that cannabis is full of active chemicals which cause it’s many medicinal effects. In fact, there are over 500 different chemicals identified in the plant, and more than 144 of these chemicals are cannabinoids , the compounds that are mostly unique to cannabis. Understanding the process of decarboxylation requires understanding how cannabinoids form in the cannabis plant, in the first place.  

You are probably familiar with the most commonly referenced cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and CBG, but did you know that all of these cannabinoids start off their life in another form? THC, CBD, and CBG refer to what’s called the ‘neutral forms’ of these cannabinoids. These powerfully medicinal cannabinoids are usually consumed in this neutral form, but they actually started off in an acidic form and had to transform along the way. 

This is generally how things work in botany and biology when it comes to chemical transformations. Molecules form as the plant grows, and under certain conditions, like heat, light or oxidation, these molecules morph. One chemical transforms into another, and then that new chemical transforms into the next. This cycle can go on for many iterations depending on the chemicals and the conditions. With cannabinoids, this cycle of transformation begins with an acidic precursor. 

These acidic precursors are similar but slightly different versions of their better known neutral forms and are usually indicated by adding an A to the end of the name. THC’s acidic form is THCA, CBD’s is CBDA and so on. The neutral forms are often considered more potent or medicinally active, although depending on a patient’s needs, they may find some acidic precursors more medicinally helpful. Both acid and neutral forms of cannabinoids can have powerful medicinal uses, but as cannabinoids shift from acidic to neutral form, they often take on new medicinal effects and benefits. 

While these changes are small when it comes to the chemical structure, it can be huge when it comes to the way these cannabinoids affect the consumer. From shifting medicinal effects to shifting the level of psychoactivity, the changes are usually quite noticeable at this level. 

CBGA: The Mother of All Cannabinoids

Interestingly, most acidic precursors in the cannabis plant also have their own acidic precursor. CBGA is a precursor for THCA, CBDA, and CBCA in addition to CBG. In the early stages of plant growth, the main cannabinoid present is CBGA, but as the plant grows and metabolizes, these shift into the other acidic precursors. For this reason, CBGA is often referred to as the ‘Mother of All Cannabinoids’. She is the first stop on all the other cannabinoids’ journey of transformation and can produce almost any cannabinoid if the conditions are right. 

Sometimes people refer to the entire class of CBG related cannabinoids this way. Others keep ‘Mother of All Cannabinoids’ as a way to refer to CBGA, and call CBG in its neutral form the ‘Princess of Pot’. She’s the only non-acidic cannabinoid to form directly from CBGA – so the title is a nice fit.  

Transforming THCA into THC

To get a better idea of how this process works, let’s look at an example. Take THC, for example, the most abundant and talked about cannabinoid in most types of cannabis. THC is the neutral form, but it starts out as CBGA and then transforms into THCA, the acidic form of this cannabinoid. When you purchase cannabis in its raw flower form, it won’t have very much THC present at all. It is the acidic form, THCA, that is actually present in large amounts. In this acidic form, THCA has some great medicinal benefits, but it isn’t psychoactive at all. THC, on the other hand, is extremely psychoactive. 

To transform the THCA into THC, a decarboxylation reaction has to take place. This can occur from heat, light, or oxidation over time, but whatever the trigger, it transforms the cannabinoid from one chemical structure to another – the acidic form to the neutral form. 

If you use inhaled methods of consuming cannabis, like vaporizing or smoking your cannabis, this process happens as you heat it to produce smoke or vapor. The heat from your flame or heating element will automatically convert your THCA into THC as the cannabinoids are heated and inhaled.

If you are eating your cannabis, on the other hand, you need to decarboxylate your medicine before consuming it. A common mistake in making edibles is forgetting to take this important step. The result is an edible that doesn’t provide the expected psychoactive effects. 

Decarboxylation is usually talked about for THC and THCA, but the other cannabinoids have their own acidic precursors, as well and also only take on their neutral forms after something has caused a transformation. CBD comes from CBDA, CBC comes from CBCA, and CBG starts its life as it’s acidic precursor CBGA. 

But the story doesn’t stop there. These neutral forms can continue to transform into what is called an ‘artifact’ or ‘product of degradation’. To continue with THC for example, if it were to be exposed to heat, light or oxidation over time it would continue to transform and may turn into CBN or Delta-8 THC, THC’s ‘artifacts’. These artifacts are also medicinal cannabinoids, but with very different effects. 

Understanding what form of a cannabinoid you will actually be consuming is an important part of understanding how a cannabis product will affect you. 

What is a Decarboxylation Reaction? 

So we now know that cannabinoids transform from one form to another via decarboxylation, but what exactly is a decarboxylation reaction? 

Well, when plants are growing, they go through a process of photosynthesis, where they gain energy from the light of the sun. One part of this process is called ‘carboxylation’ where CO2 is actually condensed into an organic molecule. From this, acidic cannabinoids are born. But these molecules are fairly unstable.

Later, during decarboxylation, the reverse happens. When exposed to light, heat, or oxidation over time, the carbon atom breaks away from the organic molecule, shifting its structure to the neutral form. 

Now that we’ve covered the decarboxylation process, you might be wondering how to use this information in your daily experiences with cannabis. Decarboxylation is helpful to understand in a variety of different contexts with your medicine but there are two that come up often, choosing cannabis products, and cooking with cannabis. 

Why Decarboxylation Matters for Picking Cannabis Products 

When you are choosing cannabis products there is a big variety of options, and one of the biggest factors you should be considering is what cannabinoids are present in your medicine. Depending on the blend of cannabinoids, you might experience a very different set of effects. 

As we discussed above, for example, a high THC product is going to be very different from a high THCA product. So, understanding what is in your cannabis is important, and test results are often available to tell you exactly what’s in the product. 

But the role of decarboxylation can complicate this. Depending on how you are planning to use the product, you might end up consuming different cannabinoids than are present in the product when tested. 

Consider, for example, the difference between getting a tincture that is high in THCA and some cannabis extract that is high in THCA. In the case of the tincture, you’d be ingesting it directly, so no decarboxylation will take place. This means that you should expect a non-psychoactive experience with lots of anti-inflammation effects

In the case of the extract, you will likely be vaping or smoking it. As you heat the extract to consume it, all that THCA will be decarboxylated and converted into THC. This will provide a strong psychoactive high and a wide range of medicinal effects. 

These are two very different experiences from products with the same active ingredients. 

The basic rule of thumb to use here is to consider whether you will be heating the product to consume it. If you aren’t heating it, the cannabinoids listed on the test results will be the ones you’re consuming. THCA will be consumed as THCA; THC will be consumed as THC; CBD as CBD, and so on. 

But, if you are heating the product to consume it, as with smoked or vaped flowers or extracts, you will more likely be consuming the cannabinoid that’s created by the decarboxylation process. The THCA originally present will actually be consumed as THC if heated. The THC present will be consumed as CBN if heated. CBDA will be consumed as CBD, and so on.  

In other words, in the case of products that will be heated, it’s usually best to have high levels of the precursor for the cannabinoid you want to consume. If it won’t be heated, as with tinctures and premade edibles, you want to find products that contain the actual cannabinoids you want to consume. 

Still, depending on the product, you might see test results with only THC, CBD or other neutral forms of cannabinoids. This can be a bit confusing because these neutral cannabinoid percentages actually refer to the amount of both the neutral form of the cannabinoid and the acidic precursor. 

Most testing labs use high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) for their tests. This method does not use heat, so samples are not decarboxylated. Still, when working with HPLC, usually labs will predict the number of neutral cannabinoids that will be in the final product should it be decarboxylated completely. So for example, to find the amount of potential THC, labs would add the THC numbers with THCA numbers that had been multiplied by the conversion factor to account for the decarboxylation process. The total number will be reported as THC even though the majority of it is still THCA. If you see results with only the neutrals listed, and it’s not already in an edible, you should assume that the vast majority of the cannabinoids are actually still in their acidic form. 

A Note on Terpenes 

For products that you’ll be heating, you might also want to consider the effect decarboxylation has on the terpenes in your cannabis. These chemicals tend to have a lower evaporation temperature than cannabinoids. So if you are trying to preserve these, lower temperatures are better. If you are vaping, you should keep in mind that temperatures over 400 C can cause terpenes to degrade into chemicals with known carcinogenic properties, so it’s best to aim for lower temperatures. 

Using Decarboxylation When Making Edibles  

The other case where decarboxylation comes up often for cannabis users is when making cannabis edibles. Decarboxylation is not a necessary step for making cannabis edibles – but it is necessary if you want to get the effects of a neutral cannabinoid. As described above, if decarboxylation is skipped when making a THC edible, it will end up being a THCA edible, one without a strong high or the normal set of medicinal effects that THC provides. This is also the case with other neutral cannabinoids. If they aren’t decarboxylated, they won’t provide their expected effects. 

To decarboxylate cannabis, in preparation for use with edibles, most use an oven to slowly heat their cannabis to the required temperature. 

To do this, first, preheat your oven. Temperatures for this can vary depending on how long you’ll leave your cannabis in the oven, and what cannabinoid you are hoping to decarboxylate. For shifting THCA into THC, a standard temperature is preheating your oven to 250 F or 121 C. 

Next, break up your cannabis into small pieces and place it on a baking sheet. When your oven is fully preheated, put the tray of cannabis in the oven and let it bake for 30-40 minutes. 

CBD decarboxylates at a higher temperature, so if you are working with high CBDA cannabis, set your oven to 280 F of 140 C and leave it in for 60-90 minutes. 

Once you are finished baking your cannabis flower, it will be ready for use with edibles. 

Now you have everything you need to know about decarboxylation and how to use it. 

While it can seem complicated at first, it’s pretty simple to navigate once you understand the basics. Now you’ll have the information you need to make informed choices about the cannabinoids in your medicine. And with a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to whip up fully decarboxylated edibles in no time!

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