Not all cannabis is created equal. Each strain contains a variety of plant chemicals called phyto-cannabinoids. The various plant based cannabinoids work together to mimic the effect of naturally occurring endo-cannabinoids found in the body. Research suggests that a deficiency in endo-cannabinoids are a source of ailments, so think of the plant as a natural source of cannabinoids - much like a vitamin supplement (Russo 2003).
The chart, left, outlines the way many of the cannabinoids work together to produce the medical effect patients are seeking (Turner et al. 1980). Since strains contain more or less of the cannabinoids people need, patients with access to the cannabis plant prefer to work directly with a specialized grower to find their perfect strain. Israeli researchers studying the effects of the plant have come to understand that these cannabinoids work together and produce an "entourage effect", one playing off another (McPartland and Pruitt 1999). Using the whole cannabis plant causes fewer psychological side effects than synthetic THC found in Marinol. Synthetic THC is known to cause symptoms of dysphoria, depersonalization, anxiety, panic reactions, and paranoia (Grinspoon and Bakalar 1997).
The endo-cannabinoid system was discovered to be a central regulatory system that restores balance and promotes good health (Mechoulam 1995).
The name suggests that the plant came first, but in fact, as Dr. John McPartland has explained, this ancient, internal signal system started evolving over 600 million years ago (long before cannabis appeared) when the most complex life form was sponges. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are present in fish, reptiles, earthworms, leeches, amphibians, birds and mammals - every animal except insects. Given its long evolutionary history, scientists surmised that the endocannabinoid system must serve an important and basic function in animal physiology (McPartland 2006).
What is a terpene (pronounced TUR-peen)?
The unique smell of cannabis does not arise from cannabinoids, but from over 120 terpenoid compounds (Turner et al. 1980). These compounds are easily extracted from plant material and are called the essential oil or volatile oil of the plant. Terpenes are produced in the trichomes, the same glands where THC is produced, comprising between 10 and 20 percent of the total oils produced by the glands. It is believed that about 10-29 percent of cannabis smoke resin is composed of terpenes/terpenoids.
FDA Disclosure: The following statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.