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How Do Cannabinoids Really Work?

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Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

How Do Cannabinoids Really Work marijuana doctors

How Do Cannabinoids Really Work?

In nature, there are chemical compounds that just work with the human body.  They provide wellness benefits because our bodies evolved to make use of the natural resources around us at some point in the evolutionary chain.  For nutrition, for pain relief and health and wellness.

Cannabinoids are precisely like that. But many people do not understand how or why cannabis works.  What types of strains are better for specific health conditions? Or relaxation and stress relief?  As you know, there are a lot of different effects caused by cannabis.  And some have the potential to heal both physical and mental health conditions.

What Are Cannabinoids (CBD)

There are over two hundred currently known cannabinoids.  You may be familiar with one of the most prevalent cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  The cannabis used inside psychoactive edibles, concentrates, tinctures, and of course, smokable flower.   

Another well-known type of cannabidiol is CBN.  If you have ever taken THC and found the urge to reach for your favorite cereal box, you are acquainted with the effects of CBN or cannabidiol. Individuals who have appetite disorders or nausea induced appetite loss may choose cannabis with a high CBN level.  It stimulates the appetite and is often used for patients with Cachexia or in hospice care.

CBD is non-psychoactive. That means that after vaping or consuming CBD (oil, edibles, hemp cigarettes) that you do not get a body or head “high.”  The CBD level is so low (legally under the 0.03% level in most states) that it is virtually impossible to get intoxicated.

What is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

Because it is not intoxicating, you can find legalized CBD products everywhere. Some products like CBD vape oils and tinctures are processed using a carbon dioxide extraction.  This method helps separate the oil in a high-pressure extractor, at a low temperature.  The lower temperature helps extract more oil from the hemp plant.

Both hemp and marijuana are relatives and in the same plant species (cannabis).  However, the marijuana flower is propagated to get a higher level of THC.  Hemp is the natural state of the cannabis plant, that has not been engineered to maximize THC levels.  It is low to almost no THC level plant.

Quality CBD oils are extracted from stalks, leaves, and hemp flowers or buds.  Where the hemp flower develops into little clusters is called a “cola.”  Male and female hemp plants are grown outdoors and together, to encourage cross-pollination.  That helps create a higher volume of seeds.  

Hemp seeds are used as an all-natural dietary fiber found in many health foods and beverages.   Seeds from the hemp plant are also used in topical creams, cosmetics, and other products.

What Strains of Cannabis Are ‘High’ in Cannabinoids?

If you are looking for help to manage pain and inflammation, your local dispensary can help.  They will list the available strains that have the highest levels of CBD, accompanied by THC.  Depending on your wellness needs, the dispensary may recommend a 1:1 ratio (CBD/THC) or cannabis with a higher CBD level and a 3:1 or higher ratio.

Some of the best-selling and most popular strains of cannabis that are high in CBD levels include:

  • Sweet and Sour Widow
  • Stephen Hawking Kush
  • ACDC
  • Sour Tsunami
  • Pennywise
  • Cherry Wine
  • Super Lemon Haze
  • Elektra

Some patients prefer the wellness benefits of potent cannabinol, without the “high.”  One of the advantages of using CBD oil is that it can be safely used during the daytime.  It does not present a safety risk for patients (consult with your physician).  They can work, drive, and go about daily activities uninterrupted when using CBD oil.  And they may achieve relief from symptoms like pain, inflammation, headaches, hypertension, anxiety, and depression. 

Are Cannabinoids More Effective With THC?

Using CBD during the day makes sense, if you work outside the home, or if you are active. However, that does not mean that patients are limited to only CBD. If you have qualified for medical marijuana, you have another legal option that you can use at home, for symptom relief.

Patients who have chronic pain may choose types of medical marijuana that are high ratio CBD. The terpenes in those types of cannabis can provide some relief, depending on the patient, age, weight, and health conditions.Some studies suggest that CBD + THC together is the most effective for symptom relief.  This is known as the “entourage effect.”  The combined phytocannabinoids work better together (terpenes and terpenoids). This is why you will see medical marijuana tinctures and edibles formulated from strains with a 1:1 or higher ratio of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol.


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