SPECIES: cannabis sativa
(What I wished I would have known when I first embraced cannabis as a medicine.)
Before this post starts to turn you off based on its technical feel, please let me reassure you that it will be worth your while, to read further.
Especially, if you want to start pulling more medicine out of your favourite herb; cannabis.
Cannabis has approximately 480 different components. Those consist of 111 known cannabinoids, over 100 known terpenes, and over 100 known flavonoids. The cannabinoids are components that most people associate with the psychoactive component referred to as THC or, tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD, which stands for cannabidol, which is prized for its pain relieving qualities without producing any psychoactive effects.
Please note that THC and CBD are only 2 medicinal cannabinoids. There are 109 more, just as important, plus hundreds more terpenes and flavonoids. These are responsible for cannabis’ very distinct flavours, tastes and colours. All the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids work synergistically to augment our body’s own endocannabinoid system. This triad powerhouse of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids is fondly known as the “entourage effect”. Often, your method of ingestion determines the strength of the plant medicine and the duration or how long the effects will last in your body.
In my opinion, smoking is the least efficient ingestion method. On average you can pull about 25% of the available medicine out of your plant material by choosing this form. Vaping dry herb and using it to make a tincture pulls out about 46% and an edible can pull out almost 60%. There is always some loss from one molecular form to another.
Once you have dry herb in hand, you are basically in possession of a plant that can change from its raw form, into 2 completely different molecular forms, each more potent than the one before.
(With that said, I am in no way, knocking the raw form of cannabis. Many of us, using the plant medicinally, greatly value its raw form as a “Super Food” and it offers many benefits to our health in its raw form.
The second molecular changes occur when heat is added. If we only look at THC, the psychoactive component, for example, it changes from its raw form: THCA to the molecule known as 9-THC. This process is called decarboxylation and refers to the lost of carbon dioxide.
When a person smokes cannabis or vapes it, they are “decarboxylating” the THCA molecule and changing it into the psychoactive molecule, 9-THC, as they go.
(Now, remember that I told you that smoking cannabis only pulls about 25% of the available medicine out of the plant.) Smoking might be the least efficient ingestion method, but it is the fastest.
Most people feel the medicinal effects of smoking almost instantly. This is a huge benefit for someone who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or for someone suffering from anxiety attacks. In both these cases, we would want to give the suffers” instant relief” and would be quite willing to give up efficiency for quicker symptomatic reduction and restored system balance.
The effects of vaping tend to be felt in about 10 to 15 minutes. This is a great option for those who don’t want to smoke. Vaping generally adds more control to the experience. It’s definitely easier to administer the medicine because you can ingest it one inhalation at a time, without wasting your plant material. This brings a whole new meaning to the adage: “up in smoke”, when you think about it.
When a person wants to make an “active” edible containing cannabis, they must decarboxylate their raw plant material first. One way you can do this is by baking it in an oven, in a covered casserole dish, at 240 degrees F for 30 minutes. This will change the THCA molecule, (its raw form) to 9-THC, (its psychoactive form).
Once you have successfully decarbed your plant material, it is now ready to be turned into an oil infusion, a tincture or baked goods, like a cookie, for example.
When a person eats a medicated edible or medible, as they are often referred to, another molecular change occurs. The edible travels all the way through the digestive tract, from the stomach, to the small intestine, then to the large intestine, then to the liver, where it is mixed with pancreatic enzymes and converted to 11-THC.
11-THC is ten times stronger psychoactively, than 9-THC and is the longest lasting. Often lasting 6 to 8 hours. This makes it phenomenal for anyone who has an increase in their pain level while they try to sleep or for those who suffer from insomnia or need longer lasting pain or symptom regulation.
This ingestion method takes the longest amount of time until the medicinal effects are felt. Often taking up to 2 hours. This is very important to note, because it is one of the biggest reasons why people can “over medicate” and breach their personal comfort level. An hour after they eat, they think their edible isn’t working, so they eat another one, then an hour after that, they are just starting to feel something and they want to increase the feeling of ” bliss” they are feeling, so they eat another one and before you know it, in 2 hours time, they have ingested three doses, and now are securely locked on their couch, wondering if they are in fact, going to die. (Not to worry, nobody has ever died, you just have to wait it out. You can also eat vitamin C rich fruit or drink a glass of orange juice to reduce the “high” and minimize the sensation that you aren’t in control.