How Does Cannabis Work?
Cannabinoids are essential regulators of homeostasis and regeneration, reducing inflammation, modulating pain, affecting mood, memory, and cell growth, as well as, scavenging for cancer causing free radicals. As we age our cannibinoid system deteriorates, and thus our ability to regenerate our cells fails.
The natural plant has over 100 active cannabinoid molecules (some say 700). Of these, the
best studied are THC which activates CB1 receptors in the brain and gut, and CBD that acts on CB2 in the immune system. There are none in the brainstem, which is why even in massive overdose, cannabinoids will never cause you to stop breathing (unlike opiates or barbiturates for example).
CB1 receptors, those that respond to THC, are involved with learning, memory, stress,
anxiety, appetite, coordination, higher function pain, reward and addiction, sleep, movement, and nausea and vomiting. THC is particularly useful in neurological and muscular diseases, such as seizures, migraines, and fibromyalgia, and has proven helpful in glaucoma, PTSD, Tourette's Syndrome, insomnia, and certain cancers. Its gut receptors help with gastroparesis, Chron's, and Ulcerative Colitis. It is a much stronger anti-inflammatory agent than opiates or aspirin. Side effects mayinclude fast heart rate, low blood pressure, dry mouth andeyes, forgetfulness, and psychological problems such as hallucinations and paranoia.
CB2 receptors create a localized anti-inflammatory effect, so are most useful for chronic
pains, arthritis, infections, cancer, and auto-immune processes. CBD at CB2 receptors help in Alzheimer disease, Parkinson, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, seizures, pain, and certain cancers. CBD is an anti-anxiety agent, antidepressant, antibiotic, and pain reliever, and helps generate new nerve cells ni adults. Side effects ni higher doses may include increased heart rate, decreased appetite, and diarrhea.
THC, CBD, and other major cannabinoids (CBG, CBC, CBN, etc.) do not have any smell. The smells found in cannabis are created by molecules called terpenes. The cannabis plant produces
over 200 terpenoids, each with its characteristic aroma and effect. These terpenes, in concert with other cannabinoids, have their own effects. Myrcene, the most common terpene, causes sedation. It's also an antioxidant, muscle relaxant, and potent analgesic (reduces pain). It has a musty smell like hops. In contrast, pinene (smells like pine) is a stimulant which helps short-term memory, bronchodilator, potent antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and has antitumor activity. Limonene, giving lemons their smell, increases the effects of both THC and CBD, and has its own antidepressant, anti-
inflammatory, anxiety, digestive, and anti-tumor activity.
Each variant of cannabis has its own specific components and effects. You may have to try
different strains until you find one that works well for your issues.
Philip Leven, MD
Long Beach, MS