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Issue 17 Out Now

A Deep Dive into Cannabis

Matthew Brodeur (@mrbrodeur)

Cannabis has a long history in many countries, known to treat ailments, instill fear, and bring wealth. Despite the negative connotation, the plant was once a highly regarded herb. Originally the plant was used for medicinal and spiritual needs, yielding properties that could heal pain and replenish life energy, according to early sources. Cannabis is known for having a complex structure, holding over 500 compounds and over 100 cannabinoids.

In this article, I will discuss the history and uses of cannabis as a drug and plant. While there is research on cannabis use, it has a long way to go. With it only being legal in some states, the study of cannabis science has become stagnant due to laws and stigma. Cannabis science is crucial to understanding how cannabinoids interact with our bodies.

Between 206 BC and 220 AD, the oldest pharmacopeia came into existence. A Chinese text titled Nong Ben Cao Jing or Ben Jing. This text contained notes on the effects and uses of cannabis in early eastern medicine, along with other various herbs. The Ben Jing is said to have laid the foundation for traditional Chinese herbal medicine, a system entirely based on the use of herbs to heal various illnesses through eating, drinking, or making pastes. The presence of cannabis in the Ben Jing shows how ancient civilizations used cannabis as a medicinal and spiritual herb. The pharmacopeia also chronicles that the herb was considered noble or superior, a high class of herbs without harmful side effects and stimulating properties.

Diyahna Lewis (@diyahna22)

While cannabis mainly treats illnesses, its nonpsychoactive form, known as hemp, became heavily cultivated for textile production. Hemp makes up clothes, paper, shoes, and most items utilizing fibers. Hemp’s mass production piqued the curiosity of doctors exploring the world in the 19th century. Further research on the plant would eventually allow scientists to discover cannabis.

With cannabis science underway, the discovery of cannabinol came about, a mildly psychoactive component formed in aged cannabis. Several decades after its discovery in the 19th century, cannabinol structures were deciphered. The chemical synthesis (breakdown of its components) took place in 1940, followed by the discovery of cannabidiol or CBD. Cannabis research was at its peak when the discovery of THC delta-8 and delta-9 came a few years later.

Research has shown that cannabinoids interact with our bodily systems and cells, creating various effects on our well-being and mental state. Cannabis can affect the recovery of our bodies, the regulation of weight, and sleeping habits, and can treat pain. There is also limited research on the effects of cannabinol on illnesses like depression, making it hard to know how the substance interacts with our entire body. While cannabinoids are smoked, the body can produce its form of the compound called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are linked to the endocannabinoid system. A complex network of molecules, receptors, enzymes, and pathways, this system controls the production and response to the cannabinoids that enter the body.

As stated, cannabinoid research is still in its early stages. The experiments mainly consisted of animals and a limited amount of humans. To know the effects of cannabis on the body overall, a higher-quality study is needed. With improved research, cannabis use and its medical properties can be known and used without stigma. Societal and political factors, coupled with cannabinoid consumption being illegal, has impeeded cannabis science. The underdeveloped research around weed is to blame, with people falling into fearmongering traps like reefer madness and stories of cannabis-creating psychopaths.

Cannabis is slowly shaking its reputation and growing in the medical field again. As more cannabis research is allowed through legalization, people are gaining more knowledge of how cannabinoids can heal their bodies. The cannabis industry needs to investigate further into the interactions between cannabis and our bodies to create less stigma and shame for those who use it.

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