What is medical cannabis? - Dr Rav, Holistic Family Physician And Health Educator

What is medical cannabis?

Cannabis sativa is the botanical name of a plant woven into the fabric of human civilization for the past 5000 years, used for a variety of purposes. There are two distinct types of cannabis plants – hemp and marijuana, both with medicinal properties. Hemp is a multifaceted plant containing less than 1% THC (the most psychoactive cannabinoid). Hemp is bred for its oils and topical ointments with CBD (the most medicinal cannabinoid) as the main therapeutic component; for fiber used to make paper and clothing; and for high-protein food. The most valuable parts of hemp plants are the stalks and seeds.

Marijuana is a highly complex plant containing greater than 1% THC and is used for the medicinal and psychoactive effects of its cannabinoids and terpenes contained in the flower of the plant.

Marijuana contains more than 100 different cannabinoids and approximately the same number of terpenes (the chemicals creating the fragrance and flavor of the different strains of marijuana). Nearly all of the cannabinoids and terpenes that have been studied have been shown to have medicinal effects.

There are 3 major strains of marijuana:

  • Sativa, often higher in THC, more psychoactive and energizing;
  • Indica strains typically have lower amounts of THC and are more relaxing;
  • Hybrids consist of approximately a 50:50 blend of S:I or 60:40/I:S or 60:40/S:I. These are the most effective strains for pain relief.

Given the number of cannabinoids and terpenes you can easily see why there are an almost infinite number of strains of marijuana, each with a unique combination of cannabinoids and terpenes, all of which fall within the 3 major categories of S, I, and Hybrid. Technically they’re all Hybrids, but the vast majority are either S or I-dominant. Although in the past this designation of S and I has often been a measure of the amount of THC, as research continues it is increasingly apparent that it is the terpene content and not the amount of THC that determines whether the strain is more energizing or more relaxing.

CBD, Cannabidiol, is not psychoactive, and is highly effective for relieving pain; reducing inflammation, anxiety, panic attacks, muscle tension, and the frequency and severity of seizures; enhancing sleep; and for killing cancer cells. There isn’t a pharmaceutical drug in the world with such a wide array of therapeutic applications.

It can be produced from either hemp or marijuana plants. CBD from hemp is legal in all states and is sold on the internet and in a rapidly growing number of health food stores. CBD made from marijuana, containing more than 1% THC, must be purchased from a medical dispensary.

THC was the first discovered (1964) and most studied of all the cannabinoids, and is the most psychoactive. THC has a number of medicinal effects including: decreased pain, inflammation, and nausea; kills cancer cells; and increases energy, appetite, and feelings of love for yourself and loved ones.

THC triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, the neurotransmitter producing feelings of pleasure. Dopamine contributes to the psychoactive effect. The “high” refers to a higher level consciousness. While in this state of heightened awareness, and with intention, patients are able to significantly relieve pain, reduce their dis-ease, and heal their lives. After nearly 5 decades of practicing medicine, I believe cannabis is the most powerful holistic healing herb on the planet.