Okay. First of all, thanks for letting me wallow in the bottomless pit that is Big Pharma in ThCB #2. I have to admit, researching the myriad ways pharmaceutical drugs are effing things up was beyond sobering and I had to close the computer and walk away many times. It’s very personal for me — because for every one of those stories, I’ve met with countless patients at the bar who are seeking relief not only from pain, but side effects, decreasing effectiveness and, should they try to come off the drugs, the crippling withdrawal of opioids. The good news is: cannabis is a non-addictive, effective alternative. CBD helps by blocking the opioid reward center, making withdrawal more manageable.
Today, Newbie, let’s focus on you. We budtenders of the compassionate persuasion really enjoy our encounters with you. We love sharing the wonders of cannabis medicine, especially with you! So here are ten awesome things to help get you started on your journey with cannabis and put you In the Know!
- Sativa vs. Indica
Cannabis plants grow in two ways. They grow tall and spindly, with thin pointy leaves as a sativa plant (suh-TEE-vuh) – not to be confused with the Stevia plant, which is a plant-derived sugar substitute.Cannabis plants also grow short and stubby with broad leaves, as an indica (IN-di-kuh) plant. GENERALLY speaking, and by that I mean GENERALLY, sativa strains have an energizing, cerebral effect when smoked or vaporized. Indica strains, when inhaled, produce more of a relaxing, body high.
- Insider Tip: Remembering the Difference
The easy way to remember the difference between indica and sativa? Indica is In-da-couch. You’ll never forget again. You’re welcome, Newbie.
- You may learn things about cannabis only to unlearn them.
Cannabis medicine is an emerging field. So far there are 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated in the plant, (with some scientists guesstimating that there may be as many as 400), but we’re only really working with five of the major ones — THC, CBD, THCa, CBDa and CBN — isolated and in products thus far, with a few more waiting in the wings. So. In the grand scheme of things, we’ve only put our toe on the tip of the iceberg with regard to learning how powerful and effective cannabis medicine is. Isn’t it all just so exciting?!All this to say: don’t get too attached to the whole sativa vs. in-da-couch thing, as there are industry insiders among us who are saying we might want to rethink these designations as guide posts for cannabis effects. Why? Because some folks get sleepy with sativas; others are energized by indicas. How will we know what a strain will do if we no longer use the designations sativa and indica? Some suggest we classify them, instead, by their dominant terpenes.
- Terpenes help the delivery of cannabinoids and have effects of their own.
Terpenes are the essential oils of plants (and what give them specific odors). A single strain of cannabis may have several terpenes and smells the way it does based on the terpenes most prevalent. A skunky strain smells skunky due to high amounts myrcene, which also delivers a heavy sedative effect. Bisabolol, a fragrant terpene found in cannabis that also gives the chamomile flower its distinct scent, is used in cosmetics for its antioxidant and purported anti-aging properties. Most household cleaners contain limonene or pinene, as these terpenes have energizing, uplifting effects. Watch the next bathroom cleaner commercial on television. Inevitably, the payoff comes when the person (a woman, most often) finishes the dirty job and surveys the work with a big inhale and then… the big, satisfied smile. It doesn’t necessarily happen that way in real life, but you get the picture. These are the terps (and yes, Newbie, you may call them terps) doing their thing.
- Cannabis medicine is not a one-size-fits-all kind of medicine. There will be trials and errors. Know that you may not immediately find the perfect combination of delivery method, cannabinoids and terpenes that work just right for you. Do not give up too easily. Try different approaches.
- Keep a Journal
This probably should be in the number one spot. I always tell patients new to cannabis, after our consultation, when they leave the dispensary, they should go directly to the store and get a neat journal that they will use to track their usage. Rate symptoms before each dose. Record what is taken when, and what the effects are. Rate symptoms again when the dose kicks in.If you’re diligent about this, you’ll begin to dial in what works for you pretty quickly.
- Do not fear THC.
THC has been given a bad reputation. Yes. It is psychoactive, but at microdoses (1.0-2.5 milligrams), it’s amazingly effective for so many symptoms — pain, insomnia, depression, PTSD. It also helps stimulates appetite and is an anti-emetic (good for nausea). You have to find your dose. You may be sensitive to THC, or you may not be. You just have to explore. Do so in the comfort of your home, and elect someone experienced as a ‘spotter’ if you’re uneasy about what to expect.
- If you get too high, do these three things:
- Tell yourself that it will pass — Because it will — inhaling or sublingual delivery, within 3-4 hours; edibles, within 5-7, provided you didn’t REALLY overdo it, (see dosing under #7). Even if you overdid it, it still will pass, it just may take a bit longer.
- Surround yourself with things you love — get close to your pets, put on your favorite music or movie, curl up with a favorite blanket and pillow, and
- Go to sleep. You may have to work through the discomfort a bit, but when you do fall asleep, it will be one of the best sleeps EVUH.
- Trust your exploration.
Cannabis medicine really is about starting a new kind of conversation with your body. By using cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, you are also stimulating your own Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which works along with other systems in the body — including the immune system — to promote healing and balance, moving you in the direction of optimum health.
- Be your own advocate
Knowledge is power. Read up. Ask questions. Take classes and watch videos. Set Google alerts to receive the most up-to-date content for your specific symptoms or interests. Some good resources for learning are:
HelloMD – Create a profile to access content, including a Questions board where anyone can answer. You can also get your medical recommendation online here if you are in California (or, now, New York!) and want to get started before the mad rush of Adult Users beginning January 2, 2018.
Cannabis Reports – Has a great section on recent cannabis studies.
Leafly – Has well-rounded Cannabis 101 content.
Green Flower Media – A subscription service allows you access to excellent educational content.
Healer.com – this site was created by Dustin Sulak, D.O., a well-known cannabis doctor practicing in New England. He has video content all over the internet, including on this website, which you can access when you register. He really knows his stuff.
Go to it, Newbie! There’s no time like the present!
- Sativa vs. Indica