Cannabis is dispersed throughout the world, from China, to the Himalaya’s, to numerous places in the tropics. Cannabis can be used as a drug, as food, as medicine, as fiber, and oil.
Let’s go over the biology and chemical components. Now, growing marijuana can be a complicated process, and I won’t go over how to do that, but rather briefly cover some basic ecology, and what marijuana does biologically.
There are male and female plants, as well as hermaphrodite plants. They are often wind pollinated and can reach heights up to 6 meters tall. That’s 26 feet for us non-metric heathens. Wow! Females are pollinated by males and grow buds, but if you let them sit too long, seeds will form, thus creating new plants. That’s the reproduction cycle in a nutshell.
Cannabis has two main types of strains: Indica and Sativa. There is a third type of cannabis plant, Cannabis ruderalis, a low THC plant often found in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Indica is often found in the Hindu Kush region of Asia, and the plants tend to be short and stocky. The high one receives from an Indica strain is usually a lethargic high. Usually these are the plants used for their resin.
Sativa tends to be tall and lanky looking, and it grows faster than the indica strain. These are the plants that are used for hemp fibers. The sativa strain is the type that gives you an “up” high, or a high that makes one have a racing heart and sometimes gives a person anxiety.
There are two types of growing methods for marijuana. Soil growth with natural sunlight, or hydroponic growth, where the growth of the plant is controlled, such as in a green house or indoors. One would create artificial sunlight through special lamps. This is a more experienced growing technique, and usually is done for cultivating the buds.
Let’s move along to the Endocannabinoid System. The Endocannabinoid system is the system that helps the brain and body deal with marijuana intake. Discovered by Drs. Mechoulam and Gaoni, there are two receptors in the brain that handle marijuana, often referred to as CB1, and CB2. CB1 is the receptor responsible for how the nervous system reacts, and CB2 is responsible to how the immune system reacts.
CB1 receptors are found throughout the central nervous system. The cells near the CB1 receptors are linked with memory and learning. This makes sense, because they are also found in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that effects your memories and learning. The cerebellum also has CB1 receptors nearby. The cerebellum controls fine motor skills (things like eyes, hand movements). Finally, there are CB1 receptors in the cerebral cortex, which governs higher learning. This explains why some people may be able to think of grandiose things while high.
The CB2 receptors are found more so outside of the brain in immune cells, which is why inflammation and pain are lessened.
We have something in our system called an endocannabinoid, or an eCB. eCB’s are not something that marijuana creates in our bodies, mind you. eCB’s are naturally occurring molecules that are just like cannabinoids. There are two types, anandamide, and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG. These chemicals are activated when something tells them to activate. When they are activated, the eCB’s travel “backward” and “connect” with CB1 receptors, naming the eCB’s “retrograde messengers”. Endocannabinoids also regulate blood pressure, body temperature, and digestion, among other things. The eCB system also provides protection against tumor growth. Homeostatic and therapeutic properties of eCB’s, like anxiety regulation, are controlled by CB2 receptors in immune cells that manage pain perception, and reduce inflammation and things like that.
A neuron will release eCB’s to regulate its synoptic inputs, which is a process called synoptic plasticity, which causes learning and memory to happen at a cellular level. eCB’s have neuroprotection, which means that they protect themselves from overstimulation that can damage the brain cells. Overstimulation is a factor in epilepsy and strokes, meaning that these eCB’s protect against said over activity, which is what neural experts call a “pretty awesome thing to be happening,” for your brain.
In some places of the brain, the opposite happens. Neurons can become more stimulated, a process called disinhibition. With the amygdala, for instance (the part of your brain that manages fear and sense of loss and things like that), eCB’s release allows for a person to possibly move past their emotional traumas. In fact, marijuana is used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other anxiety-related ailments.
Fun Fact: The “sinking into your seat” effect is due to activity in your cerebellum, which is the part of your brain that controls motor functions.
So what we basically have is depending on where the THC is bonding at in your brain, it may either inhibit or disinhibit neuron activity, which is totally not a bad thing. Note that cannabinoids are also antioxidants and may help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Another component is cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is a component in plants, and also cannabis. It does not give a person a high, but it does act as an anti-inflammatory and blocks development of Type 1 diabetes.
For more information, be sure to check out “The Pot Book”, edited by Julie Holland at the link below.