Also Known As
Marijuana, Mary Jane, Weed, Pot, Grass, Herb, Ganja, Bud, Nugs, The Devils Lettuce
Cannabis as we know it, is the dried and cured flower of the cannabis plant notorious for it’s potent psychoactive effects when consumed. The principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is just one of hundreds of cannabinoids and other known compounds in the plant. Other notable potent and psychoactive compounds include such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
Human consumption of cannabis and it’s use in rituals dates back at least 5,000 years based on archeological evidence and historical texts. Wether it was commonly or widely consumed for its mind altering abilities is debated, it was commonly employed by shamans and medicine men/women with cannabis seeds being referenced in original Chinese Herbal Medicine texts. It’s most prominent use though was for its fiber, which was used to make strong and reliable clothing, rope, and sails.
At least three species are recognized: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis with cannabinoids ratios varying widely throughout different species and even amongst the same species.
Since the early 20th century, cannabis has been demonized and stigmatized leading to a long battle with its legality and use. Recent years however have seen many countries move towards more relaxed laws around Cannabis as the war on drugs has consistently failed to produce any desirable or positive results for society and the governments pouring money into combating its use.
How It Works
The most psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant is commonly referred to as THC, but is specifically delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The most potent and psychoactive THC compound is 11-hydroxy-tetrahydrocannabinol but is only found in very small quantities. All the other cannabinoids of the plant do posses some psychoactive qualities though not as potent and lasting as good old regular THC, but do play a prominent role in the beneficial healing qualities found within the plant.
THC alters mood and cognition through its ability to bind on the type 1 cannabinoid receptors, inhibiting cellular activity and communication processes that typically regulate the central nervous system. THC also indirectly increases dopamine release, similar to other psychoactive compounds, which can lead to deep hallucinations, paranoia, etc. CBD compounds counteract some of these effects by modulating receptors in the central nervous system to bring balance and calm to its activity.
The endocannabinoid system, found in many mammals, produces its own so-called cannabinoids as a direct opposition to cortisol, it’s secretion, and function in the body. This receptor system is meant to down regulate neuronal activity and bring the body to a balanced state, so it is not surprising that consuming rich amounts of cannabinoids would have a very similar effect on the consumer.
How It Feels
Subjective effects include sedation, appetite enhancement, immersion enhancement, creativity enhancement, increased sense of humor, increased music appreciation, and euphoria. The effects of cannabis can vary widely depending on dose, strain & form, preexisting tolerance, and set and setting.
Notably, it can either strongly suppress or enhance anxiety depending on the individual. Higher doses are reported to produce mild-to-moderate hallucinogenic effects such as visual hallucinations, conceptual thinking and time distortion as well as a greater risk of anxiety, paranoia, and delusions which are found with more heady, sativa strains of cannabis..
How microdosing it feels: Cannabis in microdose form has been found to be helpful for a wide variety of physical ailments: chronic pain, nausea, inflammation, indigestion, fibromyalgia, PTSD-associated insomnia, even nightmares. But it also helps with mood: It can boost interest in one’s surroundings, creativity, happiness, and focus, while also combating stress.
There is evidence that cannabis is moderately habit forming with long term, heavy use and increased tolerance. Prolonged cannabis usage requires the user to consume higher doses of the substance to achieve a common desirable effect, and reinforce the body’s metabolic systems for synthesizing and eliminating it more efficiently. With this comes the risk of withdrawal symptoms as the body’s previously saturated cannabinoid system cannot properly regulate neural activity and metabolism.
Tolerance to many of the effects of cannabis develops with prolonged and repeated use. This results in users having to administer increasingly large doses to achieve the same effects. After that, it takes about 1 – 2 weeks for the tolerance to be reduced to half and 2 – 3 weeks to be back at baseline in the complete absence of consumption.
Cannabis produces cross-tolerance with all cannabinoids, meaning that after the consumption of cannabis all cannabinoids will have a reduced effect. The mechanisms that create this tolerance to THC involve changes in cannabinoid receptor function and expression.
Cannabis is not known to cause brain damage, and has an extremely low toxicity relative to it psychoactive dose. There are relatively few physical side effects associated with acute cannabis exposure. Various studies have shown that in reasonable doses in a responsible context, cannabis produces little to no negative cognitive, psychiatric or physical consequences.
It is advised that those with severe pre-existing mental conditions should not ingest cannabis due to the way it strongly amplifies the user’s current state of mind and emotions. The prolonged usage of THC and other cannabinoids may also increase one’s disposition to mental illness and psychosis, particularly in vulnerable individuals with risk factors for psychotic illnesses .
Smoking itself is a toxic and inflammatory activity, so long term consistent use of smoked cannabis will eventually have a detrimental effect on oral hygiene and respiratory health.
How To Microdose Cannabis
Microdosing cannabis is not as common in comparison to more traditional psychedelic substances, but the healing potential mirrors that of its more potent cousins.
The ingestion methods and access to lower dose products may greatly vary depending on where individuals are located. Some prefer to take small puffs of a vaporizer, but doses are inconsistent and can be unpredictable in their effects. Oils and tinctures with relatively low dosages (less than 5mg/ml or 200mg/oz).
The ideal dose to start with is a 1:1 THC to CBD blend at a 1mg dose, accomplished by filling ¼ of a dropper with a 5mg/ml cannabis oil product. Place the oil under the tongue and hold it there for at least 15 to 30 seconds to allow for the cannabinoids to absorb into the veins under the tongue. The dose will still be a rough estimate and can still lead to a varied dose, but the effects should not be overwhelming.
Lucky individuals may have access to gummies or other edible products that doses are extremely low and allow the consumer to predictably control the dose they are taking. Ingesting cannabis through the digestive tract will produce significantly different effects in comparison to cannabis when it is ingested through inhalation or the sublingual veins.
The Latest Science
Most of the recent literature around the benefits of Cannabis focus mostly on it’s ability to treat pain and physical discomfort in a wide variety of patients. These are typically smaller doses of around 5-10 mg with a THC to CBD ratio of about 1:1, as recent research has shown that higher doses of both THC and CBD may increase pain sensation, especially when taken in isolation.
The most exciting ongoing studies include the use of cannabis based products as a substitute for opioids, providing a possible means to be a tool in and addiction therapists toolbox to pair with other therapies that are currently available. HIV patients may also greatly benefit from cannabis as they can frequently experience neuropathic pain that is hard to treat without prescription pain killers.
Cannabis is also showing promise as a topical muscle relaxant to treat temporomandibular syndrome, commonly referred to as TMJ, cause by tense jaw muscles. The relationship between nervous tension, general anxiety, muscle tightness, and subsequent pain can all be targeted by cannabis, but its ability to act locally on muscle groups as a topical therapy makes it accessible to a much larger population.