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Medical Cannabis Science

Cannabinoids: The chemical compounds found in cannabis that interact with receptors (CB1 & CB2) in the brain and body to produce a variety of effects. There are over a hundred known cannabinoids, but the two most common are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

  • THC (Intoxicating): Due to the counterculture surrounding cannabis as a result of the war on drugs, THC has been widely popularized among cannabis users for decades. To the same extent, it is also driven the stigma surrounding this counterculture. That said, recent studies have proven that THC has proven highly effective in dealing with a number of medical conditions, especially chronic pain and depression.

  • CBD (Non-Intoxicating): CBD is becoming more popular and available due to the recent Farm Bill legislation. It is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is highly effective in combating dyskinesia, anxiety, and inflammation, to name a few. While CBD took a back seat over the years of criminalized cannabis, research has shown that when combined with THC, the synergistic effects of the cannabinoids produce the most effective medical benefits. There are numerous over-the-counter options for CBD, but they are not tested as rigorously the products available on the Maryland Medical Cannabis market.

Terpenes: Produced naturally by many plants, cannabis included, terpenes give each strain of marijuana its distinct aroma and flavor profile. They also play a large role in the medical and psychoactive effects. Understanding the terpene content of any product is a great way to anticipate its effects.

  • Pinene: The most common naturally occurring terpene, it is a main contributor to the cannabis plant’s trademark piney aroma. It is also found in many conifer species as well as herbs such as sage.

    • Medicinal Value: anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator

  • Myrcene: Described as earthy and musky, this terpene is prevalent in most all strains of cannabis and is known to enhance THC uptake in the body. Myrcene is also found in mango, hops, thyme and citrus.

    • Medicinal Value: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, sedative

  • Caryophyllene: Known to have an aroma that is peppery, woody and spicy, this is the only terpene proven to interact with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies through the CB2 receptor. Also found in basil, oregano, pepper and cinnamon.

    • Medicinal Value: : anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-spasmodic, sleep aid

  • Limonene: Common in Sativa varieties, it is associated with elevated mood. It can also be found in the citrus rinds, juniper and mint. Limonene has a unique ability to quicken the absorption of other terpenes in the body.

    • Medicinal Value: anxiolytic, anti-depressant, gastroesophageal reflux, anti-fungal

  • Linalool: This terpene’s hallmark is its floral scent, reminiscent of sharp and sweet wildflowers. It is also found in lavender, laurel, birch and rosewood. It has calming and sedative properties and can help relieve anxiety.

    • Medicinal Value: analgesic, anti-epileptic, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety

  • Terpineol: Due to its pleasant aroma of lilac and flower blossoms, it is often used in cosmetic products. It is frequently found in higher concentrations alongside pinene, which may mask its scent.

    • Medicinal Value: antibacterial, anti-anxiety, immunostimulant

  • Terpinolene: Having a piney aroma with notes of herbs and wildflower, this terpene is a useful insect repellent. It is also found in rosemary, sage and cypress. Terpinolene has been shown to exhibit anti-cancer and tranquilizing effects.

    • Medicinal Value: sedative, anti-proliferative

  • Ocimene: Found in a wide variety of botanicals, it is known for its sweet and woody scent. Plants use ocimene to defend themselves against pests in nature. It is also found in mint, parsley, pepper, basil, orchids and kumquats.

    • Medicinal Value: anti-fungal

  • Humulene: Another strong contributor to the earthy aroma of cannabis, this terpene is also present in hops and coriander. Humulene can act as an appetite suppressant and offers potent anti-inflammatory abilities.

    • Medicinal Value: anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, analgesic

  • Geraniol: Creating a delightfully sweet smell akin to roses, this terpene is present in geraniums, lemons and tobacco and is often used in perfumes and other cosmetics. It is also an effective mosquito repellent.

    • Medicinal Value: neuroprotective, anti-fungal, anti-fungal, anti-tumor

Endocannabinoid System: The human endocannabinoid system has two types of receptors that can uniquely receive the THC, CBD and other cannabinoids found in cannabis. The CB1 & CB2 receptors impact our physiological processes affecting pain modulation, appetite, memory, anti-inflammatory response and other immune system responses. These receptors are found on cell surfaces and they are present in everyone. However, given that each person’s body is different, there are a wide range of reactions to these cannabinoids.

Although our bodies produce their own molecules that interact with the CB receptors (endogenous), the molecules found in cannabis (exogenous) are also perfectly engineered to interact with these same receptors.

  • CB1: Receives THC molecules - These receptors are concentrated in the brain, central nervous system, and scattered throughout other bodily tissue. They mediate many of the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis.

  • CB2: Receives CBN and CBD molecules - These receptors are found in peripheral organs and cells associated with the immune system throughout the body. The highest concentration of these receptors is in the gut.

Consumption Methods

Flower - The most common form of cannabis made from the dried buds of the cannabis plant, it is the least concentrated of the available products. There are three distinct plant varieties: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis (rare). Indicas are often used to bring relaxation, ease pain and assist sleep while Sativas can provide energy, focus and a creative spark. Dried cannabis flower is most commonly inhaled as smoke or vapor from a pipe, joint, bong or vaporizer.

Extracts - Under the umbrella of cannabis extracts falls any product procured through an extraction process. Solvents such as butane, CO2 and ethanol pull compounds from the cannabis plant, creating products that have a concentration of cannabinoids. Dabbable products like wax, shatter, sugar and budder fall within this category and are popular for their clear flavors and high THC and CBD content.

Tincture - Liquid cannabis extract is used by patients looking for dosage control and fast-acting effects without the health risks associated with smoking. Most commonly, alcohol is used as the solvent (any proof greater than 80 can be used effectively), but other fat-soluble liquids can be used as well, such as vinegar or glycerol. Generally, three or four drops of the tincture are placed under the tongue, where it is absorbed into the body rather than being swallowed and digested. When ingested, tinctures are immediately absorbed in an empty stomach but require time to process through the liver, reducing dosage control.

Digestible - Any tablet, capsule, food or beverage infused with cannabis and consumed orally to go through the digestive process. This activates another form of the THC molecule, making it stronger and longer-lasting.

Topicals - Cannabis-infused creams, lotions and balms are absorbed through the skin for localized effects. While most topicals are not considered intoxicating, there are transdermal options which can break the blood brain barrier and have intoxicating effects in high doses.

Use cases for medical cannabis

We have collected various studies and reports related to the medical benefits of cannabis on our Research page. As new research is made public, we will continue to build our library.