Every mammal has a genetically coded Endo-Cannabinoid System that helps maintain homeostasis throughout the body. The Endo-Cannabinoid System (or ECS) is an extensive network of receptors, which interact specifically with cannabinoids to regulate and maintain balance, or homeostasis throughout the body by signaling and triggering reactions within the nervous system, immune system and endocrine systems.
Many refer to this unique, perfectly designed relationship between cannabinoids and the ECS as evidence that we were specifically designed by our Creator to utilize hemp and marijuana for the significant benefits that they offer us as food and medicine. The numerous vitally important functions that cannabinoids perform are indisputable.
The primary cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana are CBD and THC, but there are other lesser known cannabinoids, including CBDA, THCA, CBDM, CBDG, CBDV, CBC, and CBN.
Cannabidiol (CBD) products containing negligible amounts of THC (less than .3%) may be legally obtained in all fifty states and Canada, without a prescription or medical cannabis license. CBD compounds simultaneously signal an:
- increase of relaxation/decrease of stress responses in the neurological system
- increase of anti-oxidative/suppression oxidative responses in the immune system
- increase of anti-inflammatory/suppression of inflammatory responses in the endocrine system
Cannabis products containing measurable amounts of THC (more than .3%) require a prescription and a medical license in states that allow marijuana for medical but not recreational use. Of course, anyone considering using treatments containing THC should to go through proper legal and medical channels and consult with a health professional, even in states that allow recreational use. And always, consult a qualified physician or pharmacist about drug-to-drug interactions. In many cases, very minute doses can be surprisingly effective, so it is generally advisable to “start low and go slow”.
CBD and THC interact with each other in different ways to optimize their beneficial impact on the body through the Endo-Cannabinoid System. For example, CBD helps to moderate or oppose THC when THC is taken in high amounts. These compounds can also work synergistically with each other, often causing overlapping and reinforce responses to restore health. in what is referred to as “the entourage effect”. For example, CBD slows and inhibits metastasis of tumor cells, while THC signals tumors to self-destruct.
Whereas CBD acts strictly as a receptor-signaling agent, THC also has the ability to bind to its receptors to regulate and limit its interaction with the ECS. Because of this binding effect, THC can cause tolerance, or a diminished responsive to continued use. Both CBD and THC can also cause “cannabinoid saturation”, which results when the ECS becomes balanced and reduces its need for CBD and/or THC with continued use.
In order to determine the optimal treatment choice, the first consideration is usually the ratio of CBD to THC contained in the product. These ratios But, the reality is that making the right choice can be quite complicated.
Because the ECS is genetically coded, each individual responds to cannabinoids in a relatively unique way, depending upon a number of factors, including each person’s rate of cannabinoid metabolism, the overall state of health, and specific health issues. Beyond these individualistic genetic differences and state of health, there are numerous factors that can determine how each person’s ECS will respond to cannabinoids, as well as their unique ‘therapeutic window’, or optimal dosing range and their reaction to them.
These factors include the:
- CBD/THC content ratio of the medicine
- terpene (essential oil) profile
- method of delivery.
The volatile essential oils, referred to as terpenes or terpenoids, found prevalent throughout the plant kingdom, give herbaceous plants their characteristic aromas. There are over 200 different terpenes found in varying combinations in any given cannabis strain.
Terpenes act specifically on receptors and neurotransmitters and can have a powerful effect on a person’s reaction to cannabis. The slightest difference in the terpene profile can dramatically alter a person’s reaction to cannabinoid medicine, even when the CBD/THC ratio of CBD/THC oil is carefully tested and controlled.
For example, myrcene is one of the most prevalent cannabis terpenes and is also found in oil of hops, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, wild thyme, lemon grass and many other plants. Myrcene is found to be anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibiotic, sedative, and anti-mutagenic. Another common cannabis terpene is linalool, also found in lavender, has been found to be anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, sedative, and anti-epileptic. Linalool also boosts the immune system as it directly activates immune cells through specific receptors and/or pathways and may restore cognitive and emotional functions via an anti-inflammatory effect. Pinene, which is also found in conifer, pine and citrus trees, is found to have anti-inflammatory, expectorant, bronchodilator and local antiseptic properties. Limonene is one of two major compounds formed from pinene. This citrusy terpene is the major constituent in citrus fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, and peppermint, as well as in several pine needle oils. It assists in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and other body tissue. It is well documented that limonene suppresses the growth of many species of fungi and bacteria, making it an ideal antifungal agent for ailments such as toenail fungus. Limonene may be beneficial in protecting against various cancers, and to help promote weight loss.
Lastly, in addition to the other factors mentioned above, the methods of delivery used for treatment will impact how the Endo-Cannabinoid System will process and respond to cannabis. These methods include smoking, vaping, sublingual drops, ingesting, topical rubs and suppositories. They also affect the interaction onset timing and duration of CBC and THC’s effect.
Most people are familiar with the Inhalation (smoking or vaping) method of delivery, which results in immediate onsets, powerful reactions, and short-term effects. This method is best for severe conditions and symptoms. Sublingual (sprays and drops are taken under the tongue) produce relatively immediate onsets but are discreet than inhaling. Cannabis delivered in this method can take effect within 15 minutes and can last 6-8 hours. Topical applications (oils, salves tinctures,) can be rubbed directly onto the skin on specifically targeted areas, such as temples, joints, skin cancers, wrists, etc. This method can result in instant relief without the risk of intoxication.
Many people choose to ingest, or eat, medical cannabis products also referred to as “medibles”.
This delivery system is the least efficient and results in the most delayed onsets. It is not unusual for ingested cannabis to take 1-4 hours to take effect. With ingestion, the effects are strongest when they are being processed through the digestive system. After this, the medicine is processed for a second time by the liver. During the second pass, the duration effect of the drug is extended, while the concentration of a drug is greatly reduced before it reaches the systemic circulation.
With all of the factors involved in how the Endo-Cannabinoid processes and interacts with cannabis, it is no mystery that fine-tuning the proper combination of CBD/THC, terpenes, and delivery system can be very complicated. For best results, the ‘no one size fits all’ approach does not work.