If you don’t live under a rock, then you know what Cannabis is: the most widely used “recreational drug” in the world, besides alcohol. It has been a subject of focus in light pop culture, dark drug wars, and every area in between. We all know that it’s technically illegal and that it can get you high, and the assumption is prevalent that the latter has resulted in the former, but this is not so.
Cannabis is not illegal because it can get you high, but because in the 1930s, big industry lobbied the government to outlaw hemp in any form because it directly threatened their long-established business models with its extremely-efficient applications in paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, paint, biofuel, agriculture and animal feed, building materials including insulation, and medication among others. So what is Cannabis, and why is it so useful? Let’s explore…
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant that has three subspecies: Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis. The first two species are generally referred to as Marijuana, and have been bred over time to have higher concentrations of THC, which is the cannabinoid that produces the “high” when consumed. The third species, Cannabis Ruderalis, is a small wild weed that has low levels of any cannabinoids.
Hemp refers to members of a subspecies of sativa that have less than 0.3% THC. That is the defining characteristic, but it can have a high concentration of CBD which actually inhibits the effect of THC on receptors in the brain. (More on these cannabinoids below.) The word Hemp is only used for Cannabis plants and products that have no meaningful amount of THC, and some governments even regulate the use of this word. Hemp is notable primarily because it consists of a fibrous material that is stronger and cheaper to produce than cotton, has greater insulatory properties than fiberglass, more tensile strength than steel cables, and can grow in nearly any non-arctic environment.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemicals found within the Cannabis plant that have some sort of effect on the endocannabinoid system found in all mammals. Endocannabinoid simply means “cannabinoid inside”; that’s right, your body and every mammalian body produces cannabinoids and has an innate system that responds to them. Found primarily in the central nervous system, digestive system, and immune system, we are discovering more and more about the cannabinoid system in your body every day. What we know so far is that there are over 113 different cannabinoids, two different kinds of receptors, and an infinite number of functions that they serve. Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short, has a number of effects on the body in addition to producing a high, including strong anti-inflammatory properties.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, CBD for short, is a wonder of nature to say the least. It is not psychoactive in the basic sense, which means CBD doesn’t make you high. It’s also a different compound than THC, so it won’t show up on a drug test either. CBD is extracted from the leaves and flowers of cannabis plants, and once it’s isolated from the rest of the plant, it can be incorporated into a plethora of other products, from sublingual oils, to gummy bears and even topical anti-inflammatory lotion.
By regulating the productions of signals in your cells, acting as an antioxidant, and activating several different types of receptors in your body, CBD is able to exert a number of therapeutic effects with NO negative side-effects yet discovered. Combine all of these factors, and it becomes clear that CBD is ultimately an immunostimulant, and has been found to have substantial capacity for treating the following symptoms and diseases:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- hepatitis C
- kidney disease
- multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- post-concussion syndrome
- residual limb pain
- rheumatoid arthritis
- seizures, especially those characteristic of epilepsy
- Tourette’s syndrome
- traumatic brain injury
- ulcerative colitis