With all the buzz, misinformation and controversy about cannabis in the last few years, it’s easy to get confused or just plain worried about using this herb yourself. But you shouldn’t be. This super herb can have so many natural benefits!
The History of Cannabis Use
Hemp is possibly one of the earliest plants to be cultivated and has historically been used by both ancient and modern cultures to make rope, fabric, paper, and for recreational and medicinal use. The recorded use of cannabis dates back to at least the third millennium BC, and most likely it was used even further back in our history based on archaeological findings. Cultivated first in the ancient East, cannabis also has an ancient history of ritual and medicinal use around the entire world. Here are just a few examples:
- Ancient Egyptians would use medicinal cannabis to treat many different issues, from pain to eye infections.
- In ancient India, cannabis was prescribed to help ease the pain of childbirth.
- The ancient Greeks used dried cannabis leaves to treat nosebleeds and soaked the green seeds in warm wine to help ease inflammation.
- Ancient Islamic cultures used cannabis as a diuretic and to help with digestive issues.
- By the 1800s, medicinal cannabis was introduced into Western medicine, where it was commonly used to treat muscle spasms, stomach cramps or general pain.
So we can see, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this special plant has a long history of not only being used recreationally for it’s calming effects, but it has also been widely used to treat many, many different issues. Let’s get into WHY this herb has been so loved throughout history.
What is cannabis, really?
The cannabis plant is actually a dioecious species, which means that there are both male and female plants that rely on each other for pollination.
Male plants are hemp plants, which is where we get CBD, and these plants won’t get you that famous ‘high’ feeling. Historically, hemp has been used to make clothes, paper, rope, shoes—all kinds of things.
Female plants are where marijuana is sourced. It’s from the female plants where we get nutritious hemp seeds, and the place we find THC.
The Benefits of Cannabis
While you might think people only use cannabis to achieve the controversial feeling of being ‘high,’ cannabis has so many potential benefits! This super herb has so much more to it than it’s psychoactive effects.
- Pain and Inflammation: For some, cannabis can be used to help reduce chronic pain by having a positive impact on neuronal transmission in brain pathways that control feelings of pain.
- Anxiety: Cannabis may help regulate your body’s stress response, meaning feeling less stress and anxiety + a boost in mood.
- Sleep: Some people also find that chronic sleep issues by taking cannabis shortly before bed.
- PTSD: For sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, cannabis can offer them some relief from their symptoms.
- Fun: The most controversial, of course, cannabis can be consumed specifically to achieve that euphoric ‘high’ feeling it’s so famous for.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how and why cannabis has so many amazing uses.
THC and CBD
Cannabis plants can also be used to make other products we know and love! Nutritious hemp seeds, cannabis essential oil, and moisturizing hemp seed oil all come from cannabis plants, but THC and CBD are the most well-known.
THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, or chemical pieces of the cannabis plant. Fun fact: Your body actually creates it’s own cannabinoids (yes you read that right) but we’ll get into that in a second. First, let’s look at these famous pieces of cannabis.
- THC: Produced in the buds, leaves and (sometimes) the stalk of the marijuana plant, when inhaled or consumed in high enough doses THC causes the infamous feeling of being ‘high.’ This is the reason for cannabis’ mixed reputation and rocky legal status.
- CBD: Sourced from industrial hemp, CBD doesn’t produce the same ‘high’ feelings as THC, but has many other benefits and is legal to use, even in states where THC is illegal.
But how do THC and CBD work? First you need to understand a little thing with a big name: your endocannabinoid system.
Your Endocannabinoid System
First, let’s get one thing straight – everyone has an endocannabinoid system, whether you use cannabis or not. The endocannabinoid system has been part of the human body since the beginning of time, but was only discovered by scientists in 1988.
Your eCS exists throughout your whole body, impacting a huge range of bodily functions. Appetite, pain, mood, memory, your nervous system, immune system, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, digestion, respiration, stress levels…when your endocannabinoid system is healthy, your body holistically works better. When it’s unhealthy, problems can happen.
The eCS is made up of three main parts: naturally-produced cannabinoids that flow throughout the body, and two different receptors: CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
- CB1 receptors are mostly located in your brain, and help regulate your moods, emotions, bodily movement, appetite, memory, pain and pleasure processing, and so much more.
- CB2 receptors are found throughout your entire body, in places like your organs like your heart, liver, kidneys, blood vessels, and bones. We mean CB2 receptors when we talk pain or inflammation.
These three pieces work together to holistically maintain whole-body wellness.
How Cannabis Impacts Your Body
That’s where cannabis comes in. This herb can help keep your body’s naturally created cannabinoids working at peak capacity, by binding its cannabinoids to your own cannabinoid receptors. Just like using vitamin C to boost your immune system, cannabis can kick-start your body’s holistic functioning. This super herb has been found to have many, many benefits when used, apart from the ‘high’ feeling that makes it so infamous.
THC, for instance, goes straight to the CB1 receptors in your brain that control pleasure, giving you that high’ feeling. It has also been reported to help with focus (yes, depending on the strain) creativity, mood, anxiety, and more.
On the other hand, CBD binds to CB2 receptors in the body and may help with issues like inflammation and pain, sleep, muscle tension, depression and so much more.
Most products containing or made of cannabis have some ratio of THC to CBD, making them differently effective and offering different therapeutic benefits.
There are so many ways to reap the benefits of cannabis!
While the phrase ‘using cannabis’ might immediately conjure up images of hippies fogging up a VW van, modern cannabis is so much more than that! Science has given us many different ways to get the benefits of incorporating cannabis into your life, without the tie-dye.
In fact, the medical benefits of cannabis are now so popular that many doctors will prescribe it for a host of different issues, like sleep, PTSD, social anxiety and chronic pain. It’s legit, I promise!
Here are some of the most popular ways to use cannabis:
- Smoking: The most traditional, well-known, and popular, way to use cannabis is smoking. By inhaling the smoke of the burning flower, the plant particulates are absorbed by your lungs, making the effect almost immediate.
- Vaporizing: Possibly the most discreet way to use cannabis, small vape pens make it easy to control your dose without some of the harmful effects smoking can have on your lungs. This is a great way to use cannabis if you’re struggling with anxiety because you can use it basically anywhere, and it takes effect right away.
- Salves, lotions & creams: Cannabis can be infused in products that are applied topically to the skin. This is wonderful for applying to areas of localized pain and is the perfect product for muscle or joint pain.
- CBD tinctures: Tinctures are usually taken orally, and can come in different flavors or strengths that let you control the amount you’re taking. Adding a dropperful of cannabis tincture to your morning tea or coffee makes a tasty way to use your tincture. Tinctures are also great for people suffering from sleep issues, try taking it right before bed to help you sleep deeply.
- Edible products: Anything from pre-packaged foods, to beverages, to homemade dishes, cannabis can be eaten to get the benefits it offers. Just remember if you’re cooking at home, infuse your fatty oils with cannabis first.
But…is cannabis legal?
The short answer to this is…maybe, depending on where you live.
CBD is legal nationally, though CBD that contains trace amounts of THC, known as broad-spectrum CBD, is still illegal in many states. THC on the other hand, is trickier. Many states still have laws making products that contain THC illegal. And some states go even further, making it illegal or legal depending on the county you live in (I’m looking at YOU, Oregon). Like it wasn’t confusing enough!
Oh, and yes, you can legally use cannabis in one state, and still be fired for not passing a drug test in another. Trace amounts of THC can stay in your body for up two weeks. It may seem arbitrary or even silly, but no one wants to lose their job.
So it goes without saying that you should be careful when exploring cannabis. Make sure, and I mean REALLY sure, that you know which cannabis products are legal where you live.
And remember, the effects of cannabis on your holistic health can be amplified by adding other natural stress and anxiety-reducing techniques to your routine, like exercise, a healthy diet, and positive thinking. Today we tip our hat to this medicinal super herb and embrace National 420 Day!
Editorial Contributor, Blendtopia