Cannabis articles

The ABCs of Cannabis


There is a lot of buzz surrounding the cannabis industry as well as confusion about marijuana, it’s recreational use and medical use. Here are some of the basic facts that will help clarify some of the confusion. 

First, “marijuana” is a slang term for cannabis that became popular in the late 1930s, so the two words are interchangeable but marijuana is often used to describe recreational use. Cannabis refers to the plant Cannabis sativa L. and from this C. sativa plant the two main species are hemp (aka industrial hemp) and plain old cannabis (aka marijuana), which isn’t plain at all, but is very old.  Each plant species has distinct characteristics.

Hemp, which grows very tall, has thousands of industrial uses from paper, clothing, biodegradable plastics to food and biofuel, possesses a limited variety of constituents and contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), thus does not produce the characteristic “high” associated with cannabis. Medicine made from hemp mainly contains cannabidiol (CBD) and a lot of hemp material is required to produce a small amount of CBD oil.

Recreational and medical cannabis come from a shorter plant that has a rich variety of constituents: 1) cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, THCa, etc), 2) terpenes (limonene, myrcene, etc), and 3) flavonoids. When used for recreational purposes, THC is the cannabinoid of interest as it produces the psychoactive effects and current recreational varieties have been bred to contain as much as 25-28% THC as compared to the varieties of the 1960s which had about 3-5% THC.  Yikes, this isn’t what they smoked at Woodstock!  Recreational cannabis is now very potent and as a result the other cannabinoids are found in much smaller quantities. When cannabis is used as medicine, THC still plays a role, but in very small amounts. 

Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most prevalent cannabinoid, is often the star because it is not psychoactive (doesn’t get you high) and is reported to be anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, neuroprotective, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), analgesic (relieves pain), anti-spasmotic and anti-convulsant. Other minor cannabinoids are found in small quantities and are thought to possess their own medicinal benefits while promoting a synergistic effect with THC and CBD, termed “the entourage effect”. The entourage effect describes how cannabinoids, used together, have a greater beneficial effect than when used separately.  

There are many methods for consuming cannabis. Oral ingestion is among the most common mode and includes oil preparations, alcohol tinctures, capsules and edibles like mints and chocolates. Oral ingestion provides symptom relief for a longer period of time, but also takes longer to feel the effect. Caution should be used when consuming edibles.

Inhalation of vaporized oil or dry flower is another method that delivers the cannabinoid medicine for a quick onset. Vaporizing heats the oil to the point of vaporization rather than burning it and thus produces a cleaner and safer option to smoking. Topical application in the form of balms and lotions is popular among arthritis sufferers and provides local relief in the area of application and generally avoids systemic effects. Smoking is generally not recommended because the byproducts of combustion are a source of unhealthy particles that are not healthy to inhale. 

Sometimes a combination of two or more methods will provide the best relief, but it will involve trying different products and combinations.  As always, start with a low dose (half the recommended amount on the package) and go up slowly.

Disclaimer: The information is intended to be educational and is not a prescription or guarantee of health outcome.


Making Sleep a Priority


Too many of us take sleep for granted. It’s often the first thing to go when we are crunched for time and some people even see getting by on little sleep as a badge of honor. Sleep is one of those areas where our ancestors had it figured out better than we do currently in our modern world. There are a few keys to sleep success which are collectively referred to as “sleep hygiene”:

1. Consistent sleep-wake schedule

2. No screens (TV, phone, tablet, e-reader) an hour before bed

3. No caffeine after mid-afternoon

4. No alcohol within 3 hours of going to sleep

5. Be active during the day

6. Keep bedroom quiet, as dark as comfortable and temperature cool ~68 

7. Get sunshine (10-15 mins) shortly after waking up in the morning

Just think, 10,000 years ago our hunter-gatherer ancestors probably went to sleep in their cool, dark cave not long after the sun went down and awoke when the sun came up. They were active all day, hunting, gathering, walking and playing with no screens, caffeine or alcohol to throw off their rhythm. That is how we humans were wired then and that is how we are wired now. Our body’s circadian rhythm is essentially a 24-hour internal clock that coincides with the sun’s schedule of day and night. Many of our modern advancements (electricity, tech gadgets, handy bottles of wine, cars and public transportation, city life, etc.) disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and we are left with sleepless nights. 

Insomnia is generally defined as poor quality and quantity of sleep. It includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep all night or waking up way too early and not falling back to sleep. Many reach for sleeping pills as a quick fix, but they don’t work for everyone and they can come with unwanted side effects, so why not try a more natural approach first. Cannabis offers a natural solution that helps many people regain control of their sleep. Sleep issues are among the top three reasons people seek cannabis therapy. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis has long been used as a sleep aid. Cannabinol (CBN) is another cannabinoid found in small amounts which also can help promote sleep. 

How to use cannabis for sleep depends on what the particular sleep issue may be. A person who has trouble falling asleep, may benefit from a small amount (2.5-5 mg) of orally ingested THC, an hour before bedtime.  I like, Kiva’s Terra Bites (chocolate covered blueberries) at 5 mgs THC each, Breez mints (5 mgs THC each) or Petra mints (2.5mgs THC each). There are also various tinctures that may contain CBN as well as THC, that are formulated specifically for sleep. Doses are different for each person, so some may need more or less. Starting with a low dose and slowly increasing until an effective dose is found can take days or weeks. Some cannabis tinctures may be labeled “indica” or “sativa” to identify the strain variety. Indicas tend to be sedating and better for sleep, while sativa varieties may make the mind more active and should be avoided if sleep is the goal. 

Another approach for someone who can’t fall asleep because their mind won’t quiet down or they have anxious thoughts constantly running through their head keeping them awake is to take CBD. Taking CBD during the day can help calm the anxious thoughts and make falling asleep more attainable come nighttime. 

When the issue is waking up in the middle of the night and staying up for hours or not falling back to sleep at all, then a different approach may be necessary. In this instance, a vaporized product formulated for sleep (like the “sleep” vape pen by dosist) would have a much quicker onset and the dose can be determined by the person fairly easily if they wait 10 - 30 minutes between inhalations to see if they start getting sleepy. Someone new to inhalation of cannabis may find the coughing and mild, brief throat irritation off putting, but when weighed against the alternative of missing out on precious sleep, the choice becomes much easier, at least for me. Inhalation has the benefit of quicker onset (5 – 10 minutes) and shorter duration (2 – 4 hours) so you don’t wake up feeling groggy, as some report with an edible taken in the middle of the night. 

The goal is to work at improving one’s sleep hygiene which alone may lead to better, more restful sleep, but if not, cannabis can provide hope that a good night’s sleep is still within reach. 

As with any treatment, use only as needed. Sweet dreams…

Disclaimer: The information is intended to be educational and is not a prescription or guarantee of health outcome.


Growing Your Own Cannabis Medicine

Did you know that in California it is legal for adults 21 and older to grow 6 plants for their own use?  Yes, it's true, you can legally grow your own medicine, but the limit is 6 plants per household, even if more than one adult resides there.  The plants must be grown on your own property away from public view, either indoors or outdoors.  

Growing your own medicine has some major advantages.  While cannabis products can be expensive, home-grown cannabis can be quite inexpensive.  If you use raw cannabis, it contains THCa or CBDa which are the acidic forms of THC and CBD.  THCa is not intoxicating until it is heated and converts to THC.   Cannabis leaves and flowers can be juiced or added to smoothies as an easy and inexpensive way to reap the benefits of its anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, anti-nausea and immune system supporting properties.  

If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow cannabis.  It's easy and it grows like a weed - pun intended!  There are many ways to use fresh cannabis including consuming it raw in a smoothie or salad, cooking it in a crock pot with coconut oil to make a balm to rub on your skin for pain relief, steeping it as a tea or soaking flowers and leaves in pure grain or cane alcohol to be applied to achy joints (every Mexican grandma knows about that secret remedy).

I enjoy gardening and for the past two years have included some cannabis plants (6 or less) in my vegetable garden along with parsley, basil, carrots and spinach.  I use the leaves and when available, the flowers, in a daily smoothie for my 91 year old mother.  It appears to ease her arthritis pain and anxiety associated with dementia.   Since the addition of the fresh cannabis (which contains THCa) to my mom's routine, she requires less CBD for pain and no longer needs THC to help with sleep.   I have also seen reports of people managing autoimmune conditions with raw cannabis (Google -  Dr. William Courtney) and have heard leading cannabis doctors speak to the effects of raw cannabis.  

If you are getting excited to try to grow your own cannabis, remember that springtime is the time for starting the plants outdoors. (I don't have experience growing cannabis indoors, but through the manipulation of the grow lights, you can grow them indoors at any time.)

Here are my simplified growing tips:

1. Cannabis can be grown from seeds or clones (seedling that is propagated from mother plant)

2. Plant seeds outdoors in the spring in a small pot or 6 cell container using good potting soil (I like Recipe 420 by E.B. Stone).

3. Keep plants outside in a sunny location (they like conditions similar to tomato plants). Water regularly but don’t let plants sit in soggy soil. 

4. As seedling grow, transplant to incrementally larger pots until they reach a 3 or 5-gallon pot using the same type of potting soil. 

5. At some point your plant will show signs if it is male or female.

You now have a choice:

a.  Keep both sexes and your male plants will pollinate the females, creating lots of seeds, but fewer, smaller flowers. You can use the leaves of both plants in a smoothie and would have to pick out the seeds from the flowers.

b. Cull the male plants and get rid of them so you will have larger flowers with more oil (more cannabinoids) 

6.  Transplant the plants you are keeping into the ground in a sunny spot or to a larger pot.

7. During the vegetative stage, when the plants are growing bushy with lots of leaves, feed with Nitrogen-rich fish emulsion, as directed.

8. As the days get shorter, the plants will start flowering. During the flowering stage, feed with Phosphorus-rich bone meal, as directed.

9. Harvest: you can harvest the leaves and flowers anytime to get beneficial cannabinoids, but they will change depending on the stage of the plant. Early on, there will be CBGa and some THCa and later it should be more THCa and CBDa, depending on the plant genetics.

Notes: These plants are hardy and forgiving (they are weeds!) They are annuals and will have to be replanted each year, like tomatoes.

If this sounds confusing, don't worry, the plant knows what to do just stick it in the ground.  

I have grow kits for sale to get you started with potting soil, 6 cell seedling planter, nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients as well as instructions.  Contact me if you are interested  - (626) 644-8390  Spring planting time is here!!  ----Sue