We're celebrating 4/20, the day stoners throughout the world celebrate by voraciously consuming marijuana in all its smokable, edible, topical, and who-knows-what-else forms. In honor of the holiday, The ANY Magazine is publishing a series of articles that celebrate marijuana and its many uses.
There’s actually a whole lot more to marijuana than reefer madness. Look, we have no problem with someone getting a little high, the same way we'd never judge someone drinking a glass or two of wine at the party- just don't drive home! But, when it comes to pot, there's actually a ton of uses that have nothing to do with getting stoned. Part of the issue with debates about its use and safety is that many people don’t realize which compounds they’re actually speaking about, because there are at least 60 found in marijuana. These compounds are known as cannabinoids, and they work by attaching to our brain receptors, the same way that natural cannabinoids in our body, called endocannabinoids, do.
There are two cannabinoids that make a big difference in the effects of the weed you're consuming. One creates the high that got Nancy Reagan all up in arms, one acts as a great anxiety reducer, and both are natural pain-killers. Let's get down to the nitty gritty.
Toke That THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, creates the psychoactive high (i.e. hallucinatory effect) that’s so often portrayed in movies and TV. It’s also the stuff that can make smoking pot really unenjoyable for those of us who suffer from anxiety (oh hey!). Unfortunately, the criminalization of pot probably had a big impact on the amount of THC found in the typical marijuana strain sold on the black market. In the past two decades, “street market” pot has been selectively bred to be much higher in THC, probably because most people seeking it out wanted a recreational “high.” This is a bummer, because some great health effects of marijuana are found in another cannabinoid, CBD, and a mix of the two can often provide the best mental and health effects.
This is not to say that THC doesn't have its own great health effects, though; a legal, synthetic THC that's on the market right now is used with great success as a treatment for nausea from chemotherapy, and studies have shown pure THC may reduce the the production of cancer tumors, and slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
Now I Know My CBD
Cannabidiol, or CBD, another cannabinoid found in marijuana, actually reduces the psychoactive effects of THC, and studies have shown that it can be extremely effective at treating anxiety disorders. Plant strains high in CBD can be amazing for treating pain, making it the darling of medical marijuana lobbyists. And for good reason, as high CBD strains have been shown to help patients with pain from multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis; as an appetite stimulant for patients with HIV; and as a treatment for childhood epilepsy.
Hip to Hybrids
Importantly, many of the most exciting health effects work best when THC and CBD work in tandem. Sometimes, in the quest to make marijuana legal, people focus heavily on pure CBD as the answer, but unfortunately, the science just isn't that cut and dry. Often times, a mix of CBD and THC can be the perfect treatment for an ailment.
Legalization of marijuana in some states has made it possible for scientists and growers to experiment with a lot more strains to figure out blends that can help patients with very specific needs. For patients dealing with chronic pain, a blend of equal THC and CBD can be perfect, as there’s a great reduction in pain, but the THC acts as a stimulant to keep the patient alert, so they can go about their day. For a patient suffering from social anxiety, a blend of THC and CBD can be calibrated to give them anxiety relief with enough energy to socialize. The same goes for veterans suffering from PTSD; a recent study showed an average 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms after smoking medical marijuana.
So there you have it! Turns out pot strains are not one size-fits-all. But, if you find the right proportions, the benefits can be pretty awesome.