What are cannabis strains?
From a treatment perspective, cannabis is rich in potential. That fact is perhaps best illustrated by the breadth of strain options available to patients. From varieties that possess absolutely no psychoactive properties, to others that have upwards of 30% THC, the plant is incredibly robust. For that fact, perhaps, cannabis has become a significant alternative therapy option for millions of people across the globe.
The names – Afghani, Sour Diesel, Kush, Strawberry Cough, Sour Diesel – are, quite literally, as varied as the properties they possess. These strains contain a different terpene profile and cannabinoid distribution, for instance 20% THC and 3% CBD, and every variety induces in patients and consumers a unique set of effects.
Where one strain, say Sour Diesel, has a fuel-like smell and stimulates activity, another, Kush, effectuates a powerful sedative quality. Because of the extreme versatility of the strains – literally thousands – available to modern cannabis consumers, the plant has grown its loyalty exponentially over time, as more and more strains have been bred.
Cannabis products will almost always come with at least three pieces of identification: cannabinoid content, grouping, and strain name. The individuality of each strain remains the same even as a concentrate, making understanding the basic difference between varieties something of a pre-requisite to navigating an online or retail cannabis experience.
In the context of group name, cannabis strains are typically categorized along the lines of sativa, indica and hybrid. While some experts argue these groups are culturally, not scientifically, relevant, the fact remains that almost all cannabis products list the strain as either an indica, sativa or hybrid. Though the notion that indicas possess one set of properties, and sativas another, is something of an exaggerated fact, there is nonetheless some truth to distinctions.1
While indicas are notorious for possessing sedating qualities, sativas generally provide a sense of euphoria. Hybrids, as the name would suggest, have both characteristics, with the strain usually being dominant in one or the other group. Cannabis products will usually list the strain as sativa, indica, or hybrid. Knowing that one typically induces a low, one a high, and the other a mix of the two, makes an informed purchase that much easier.
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Cannabis has been used by cultures the world over – from the hunters and gatherers of China, to the philosophers of ancient Greece – for thousands of years. With its roots in the Himalayan mountains, the cannabis plant has spread across the globe, its seed carried on the wind, often without the help of human hands.
The truth behind the viability and efficacy of medical cannabis is these days a reality in many countries across the globe. Legal for medical purposes in most Western nations, including the U.S. and Canada, cannabis has found a fanbase among politicians, physicians and patients alike across the globe. In fact, it is almost a rarity to find a place where medical consumption is outlawed, which is quite remarkable given how recently developments in this area have taken shape.
Undoubtedly, the practical applications of cannabis breeding are limited only to a select group of growers. The end user, similar to a consumer at a grocery store, may not be particularly concerned with the agricultural practices or distribution channels responsible for bringing the product they buy to market. But cannabis is somewhat unique in this respect, as the plant’s backstory is critical to an educated consumer experience.
The final part of the post-harvest process is one the most important of all stages of cannabis cultivation. An easily overlooked step, curing the product is significant for a range of reasons, including cannabinoid and terpene development. Thus, while many people think the potency, taste and smell components of cannabis flowers conclude when the plant is cut, this is actually not the case.
The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) are the rules that govern Canada’s medical cannabis program. Instituted in the summer of 2016, the ACMPR outline the particulars of patient access, the principle role of licensed producers (LPs), and the transitional provisions added to, and subtracted from, the country’s former regulatory systems.
Introduced by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau shortly after the Canadian prime minister’s improbable election victory in the fall of 2015, the Cannabis Act was recently approved by the Senate. If, as is projected, Bill C-45 becomes law, Canada will become the first G7 nation to legalize recreational cannabis at the federal level.
In addition to the two most studied cannabinoids, THC and CBD, there are over 60 other cannabis molecules that have been isolated by researchers. While the list of clinical applications for particular cannabinoids remains short – CBG, CBC, CBN, and a handful of others – the prospect that others will produce therapeutic results is promising.
Perhaps the primary advantage of a cannabis treatment is the diversity of products currently available to patients. Outside of whole flowers, cannabis concentrates constitute a breadth of options for medical cannabis users. From organic solvent-less extraction to intensive extraction processes, concentrated cannabis products like oil, rosin and tinctures may soon represent the majority of the products patients use to medicate.
The variety of cannabis strains available to contemporary users is extensive. From strains low in THC and high in CBD for medical use, and strains potent in THC for recreational use, the list of available varieties has a little something for everyone. While it would be next to impossible to list the thousands of cannabis strains, it is important to have at least a working definition of some of the world’s most popular varieties.
The cannabis plant is an enigmatic species. By any agricultural standard, it is one of the hardest crops to cultivate, perhaps because of its therapeutic properties. Over the years, breeding practices have multiplied both the number of strains available and increased the diversity of terpene and cannabinoid profiles present in those varieties. Where cannabis tested on average of 4% THC in 1995, a study in 2014 found the average cannabis strain tested at 12% THC.
For some, breeding cannabis is nothing short of an artform. These graduated growers, often coined breeders, have woven the tapestry of contemporary cannabis. These passionate breeders, who operate the world over, are responsible for nearly every cannabis variety currently available to consumers and medical patients.
The endocannabinoid system is found in all vertebrate animals and even some invertebrates are reported to have an ECS. According to some reports, the number of endocannabinoid receptors in the human body is greater than all of the other neuromodulatory systems combined, including serotonin and dopamine. In other words, the endocannabinoid system is critically important to maintaining health and homeostasis.
Given most plant-derived cannabinoids are highly fat-soluble - meaning that they bind to fatty tissues throughout the body and remain stored for a longer time - it may take cannabinoids more time to leave a person. This process depends on a number of factors, including the administration route, body composition, and the state of the organs that are involved in the absorption, storage, metabolism, and excretion of the cannabinoids (i.e. the gut, body fat, liver, and kidneys).
There are a number of things that should be taken into consideration when considering discussing medical cannabis with your physician. The first is to prepare yourself with knowledge before going in to speak with your physician about medical cannabis, as the lack of preparation would be the fastest way to end the conversation even before it begins.
Before one can begin to grow cannabis plants, it’s important to understand the basics of starting materials. Without either seeds or clones, it is impossible to flower cannabis plants. Thus, establishing a concept of how to achieve the goal of growing cannabis at home can be invaluable to cannabis cultivation.
Depending on a few factors, getting to the point of flowering cannabis plants can either be easier or much harder when propagating clones. For anyone who can access clones, sometimes called cuttings, either from their own plants or from one of the few companies that sell them, this is by far the best method of growing out cannabis plants.
The contemporary cannabis space is rife with new innovations, yet there are a number of factors that presently prevent patients from fully accessing the range of products available to them. Specifically, because federal laws in many countries prevent the use of cannabis in any form, research in the area has been hindered. Where cannabis is legal for medical use, there are often strict rules on what products patients can purchase.
For two particular reasons, there are few topics being explored in the cannabis space more exhilarating than the endocannabinoid system. First, for a lack of research in the area, medical schools have almost exclusively omitted the system from the curriculum. Second, as drug policies have evolved, researchers have been allowed to study the system, and its inherent connection to cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Like any prescribed medication, the therapeutic indications of cannabis are limited and have the potential for adverse effects if used improperly or abused.
Constituting roughly half of the post-harvest process, trimming is a word that causes most industry professionals to shudder. An arduous and tedious offshoot of the cultivation equation, trimming is both a necessary and, mostly, rigorous aspect of the process. Also, it is a parcel that involves a number of parts.
When cannabis plants enter into the flowering cycle, it can certainly serve as a time to rejoice. After weeks, perhaps even months, of rooting and vegetation, the plants can now begin to bud and, thereby, produce the viable cannabinoids and terpenes that lend cannabis its sensory and therapeutic characteristics.
Setting up a homegrow borders on the rigorous and the rudimentary. While it’s not particularly easy to select the proper lights, fertilizers, substrates and location to grow cannabis at home, there are myriad resources available to help homegrowers along in the process. What isn’t so cut and dry are the many small themes and safeguards – from fire prevention to proper ventilation – that need to be considered when getting started.
Few could have imagined the fate of recreational cannabis only a number years ago. The support for, and power behind, the cannabis movement has been an objectively impressive push. From basements and back alleys, and secret compartments and jail cells, cannabis has climbed like a phoenix to claim respect and retail shelves. More than ever, cannabis is being looked on by the corporate world as a sound investment, and an entire industry has formed around one enigmatic plant.
The trajectory that cannabis has taken in the last 20 years is nothing short of revolutionary. From a culture that once existed on the fringe of society, cannabis has transformed into a veritable industry that is projected to generate billions of dollars. Along the way, it has also shifted the perspective and perception of non-believers like a revelation, and has become the subject of significant scientific and commercial interest.
Setting the stage for the final aspect of the cultivation process begins with properly drying cannabis. For anyone familiar with the plant, it’s almost inevitable that they have come across wet flowers, also known as buds, or have wondered whether freshly harvested plants can be consumed. The answer to the latter is, simply, no. And, while possible, it’s not recommended to consume sobbing wet flowers either.
The proverbial line between culture survey and scientific fact is no more blurred than when discussing cannabis in the context of taxonomy. For decades now, patients have purchased cannabis-based products in line with the cultural characterization of an indica as sedating, sativa as energizing, and a hybrid strain falling somewhere in the middle. But many contemporary botanists argue this distinction is unnecessary, and used merely to serve market purposes.
While cannabis has been used for thousands of yards as a therapeutic agent, its commercial viability has only taken shape in the last century. Contemporary treatment is now characterized by a plethora of products in a variety of concentrations, traditional cannabis therapy revolved around one product: tinctures.
As medical cannabis has gained acceptance as a viable treatment option over the past two decades, so too has the list of symptoms the plant has been shown to help grown. No longer is the plant merely used to treat chronic pain or extreme conditions like HIV/AIDS, it now complements nearly every therapy option available.
When discussing cannabis, it is important to remember that the line between science and folklore can at times be fickle. In the context of cannabis as a treatment, for instance, there is only one direct scientific source (THC found in ashes) that cannabis was used as a medicine, around 400 AD.
History is easily one of the most nuanced of topics discussed in the context of cannabis. Inherently esoteric, the cannabis plant has always been riddled by misunderstanding. Debate has been sparked on everything from its taxonomy to its geographic origins, and even the basic categorization of the plant has been a point of contention among cannabis researchers and professionals.
As a flurry of new products have flooded the budding cannabis market in recent years, so too have those developments come to represent a wealth of hope for medical patients, or anyone looking for an alternative therapy. Where, traditionally, cannabis was consumed by inhalation – combusting flowers in a joint or pipe – the contemporary cannabis discussion is one characterized by advancement and sophistication.
An annual plant, cannabis is propagated from seed or grown from clone, and the result is a product that can be consumed both recreationally and therapeutically. Between propagation and flowering – the onset and conclusion of the cultivation process – there is a significant step that the plant must take to properly mature: the vegetative cycle.
In the simplest of terms, cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that lend cannabis its medical and recreational characteristics. These chemicals interact with the body’s cells when consumed to produce a range of therapeutic effects. Found in the plant’s trichomes, more commonly known as crystals, cannabinoids are, in essence, the heart and soul of the cannabis plant.
Concentrates are extracted forms of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Commonly referred to as extracts, concentrates contain varying amounts of terpenes and cannabinoids, typically tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are derived from the plant for medical and recreational use.
Terpenes are organic compounds that give cannabis strains their unique aromatic qualities. Synthesized with cannabinoids in the plant’s glandular trichomes, terpenes are responsible for the smell and taste characteristics – skunky, lemony, piney – that accompany respective cannabis varieties.
Under the umbrella of the ever-evolving cannabis industry, there are more career options than ever. Where the culture once only housed a handful of avenues for generating a salary – and most of those were illicit – cannabis is a treasure trove for nearly every brand and stripe of professional on the planet. From cultivators to marketers, this budding industry seems to have a job for everyone, and schools that can help one build the necessary skillset are becoming ubiquitous.
Despite common perception, the cultivation process for cannabis doesn’t necessarily end with harvest. In fact, when the plant is cut from its stem and harvested for its vital flowers, one aspect of the relationship – growing the plant – comes to an abrupt end. While another, caring for what’s been produced, is just beginning.
A misunderstood aspect of human biology, the endocannabinoid system binds cannabinoid receptors in the mammalian nervous system. This course will examine all aspects of the system, including the fact that, to this day, it remains something of an enigma.
Unquestionably the most important aspect of the cultivation process, the flowering cycle of a cannabis plant is an exciting period for cultivators. Having planted clones or propagated seeds, and been patient through the vegetative cycle, cannabis growers can, in flower, begin to truly see the fruits of their labour.
In this article, we will explore some of the side effects that patients may or may not experience when medicating with cannabis. Side effects will include themes like dry mouth, anxiety, excessive sweating and other potential reactions to early use of medical cannabis. This is an important read intended to guide patients, not to frighten them.
Cannabis being offered as a college course could well have served as the punch line to a series of jokes just some years back. Even idealists with a penchant for forward-thinking would likely have balked at the idea of higher education ever including programs like cannabis cultivation and the basics of cannabis business. But, always one to defy the odds, the plant has found acceptance in recent years among academics, and it is now being taught as a topic of study in schools across the globe.
There is both anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that, more than merely being responsible for the characteristics of taste and smell of particular cannabis strains, terpenes are also intricately linked to many of the analgesic and recreational properties that the plant and its extracts possess.
One of the most important questions patients ask when starting medical cannabis therapy: will treatment interfere with my other medications? Let's explore cannabis as an adjunct therapy and lend some safeguards and best practices to the conversation.