Beginners Guide to Cannabis
While cannabis may seem like a topic strictly for “lazy stoners,” there’s actually a lot of science behind it. Here’s our beginners guide to cannabis.
Talking about cannabis strains can be tricky, so let’s take it from the top. There are two types of cannabis plants – hemp and marijuana. In this post, when we say “cannabis,” we really mean “marijuana.” Hemp is super low in THC and is used for purposes like clothing, construction, and food. Marijuana, on the other hand, can have THC content upwards of 35% and is used for medical and recreational purposes.
Cannabis (remember: the “marijuana” side of cannabis is what we’re talking about here) generally branches off into two categories: sativas and indicas. The plants look different, produce alternate effects, and are grown in unique ways.
Sativas are tall with narrow leaves. They typically have longer flowering cycles compared with indica strains, and in warmer climates. Sativas produce energizing, euphoric effects – more of a “head high.”
Indicas are tall and stubby (we mean this with love). They have shorter flowering cycles than sativas and thrive in colder climates. (Fun fact! Indicas commonly have hues of purple due to being harvested in colder temperatures). Indicas are relaxing and sedating – more of a “body high” that leaves you feeling in-di-couch (get it?)
Some background info: the cannabis plant has over 100 known chemical compounds, called “cannabinoids.” The most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol – THC – and cannabidiol – CBD.
THC is the cannabinoid most associated with getting you stoned. And while THC is associated with medicinal properties (such as appetite stimulation and glaucoma relief), it’s CBD that’s really known for its therapeutic effects, such as pain management, less inflammation, and anxiety reduction. CBD also has no psychoactive effects.
There’s definitely a need for more research on individual cannabinoids and the effects they can have on the human body, but other known compounds include CBG, which is also known to treat glaucoma, and CBN, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and sedative properties.
Like cannabinoids, there are several types of terpenes that give a cannabis strain its particular effects. Terpenes also contribute to the plant’s aroma and flavor, giving each strain a unique profile of tastes and effects.
Limonene, for example, smells how you would imagine – like lemons and citrus. It’s known to help relieve stress and make users feel happy, and is most common in sativa strains.
Myrcene, on the other hand, has a more musky, herbal scent. It’s known for its sedating and relaxing effects, so it may not surprise you that it’s commonly found in indicas.
How you ingest cannabis is totally up to you, though the most common form is smoking. People smoke cannabis out of glass pieces, like bowls, bubblers, and bongs. Buds can also be ground up and rolled into a paper – called a joint – or a tobacco leaf – called a blunt. When cannabis is smoked, effects are usually felt in about 20 minutes and last for a couple of hours.
Besides smoking, cannabis can also be taken orally – usually in the form of a capsule, tincture, or infused food/drink. Cannabis reacts with the body differently this way, with THC metabolizing in the liver rather than the blood stream (like it does when smoked) to create an uber type of high. Effects won’t kick in for 60 to 90 minutes, but effects can last up to 12 hours – so be prepared!
Cannabis can also be applied topically to the skin, usually in the form of a lotion or gel. Topical applications don’t get you high, but they’ll help with muscle aches, soreness, and targeted pain management.
Overall, there’s a lot to learn about cannabis – and a lot more still to be discovered. Leave us a comment to let us know what your favorite strain is, and why!