If you’re one of the people who needs cannabis regularly for medical purposes, you should know that the wonderful healing substance dismissed by the government as “weed” is made of a number of compounds known as cannabinoids, which all have different effects on the human body. If you’re someone looking out for a good time…stick around, you might learn something too!
MMJ = THC + CBD + (Other cannabinoids) + (terpenes and terpenoids)
THC (technically, it’s delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, but there’s no need to get formal with friends) is the part that gets people high, which consists mainly of relaxing you, heightening your senses, making you think that time is going slower, and giving you the munchies. For certain people, it can cause anxiety or paranoia; it can also kill pain to an extent and is anti-inflammatory.
CBD (Cannabidiol) goes along with THC like brother and sister in the cannabis plant. It moderates the high by reducing the body’s response to THC, helps make you less anxious, and relaxes the mind as well as the body. CBD is what many people with physical ailments are looking for to reduce anxiety, pain, inflammation, and nausea. CBD also functions as an anti-convulsive and anti-psychotic, and has been shown to be effective against neuropathic pain, which is generally harder to treat than “normal” pain.
Both THC and CBD have been proven individually to work against cancer…but because cannabis is illegal in most countries, nobody has been able to do the same kind of studies using cannabis itself, where presumably they might work much better when they’re working together. And by preventing studies, governments can say, “See, it’s not proven medicine!” Thousands of patients have used cannabis to fight cancer, but it’s not “proven”. Sigh.
Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts
It turns out that cannabis is a complex plant indeed — there are anywhere between 60 and 120 cannabinoids alone in the plant itself, plus hundreds of terpenes and terpenoids that all contribute their own effects to the mix — and it’s the total mix of them that has the safest, best and most natural effect on people. That’s similar to the way that organic food has a healthier effect on most people who eat it, even though it’s “technically” exactly the same as food grown with dangerous fertilizers and pesticides. And that’s why none of the synthetic cannabinoids whipped up in a laboratory have yet proved nearly as effective on people as a few good tokes of weed!
Here’s the interesting thing. For decades, marijuana breeders have worked to increase the THC levels of their plants in an attempt to get people as high as possible. That ended up being good for some people and bad for others, since that led to a reduction in CBD. Now, with cannabis being looked at more seriously as a medicine, CBD has regained the interest of researchers, who have managed to create a number of strains with high CBD.
Now, I’ve only heard of four or five high-CBD strains, and only used a few personally. This stuff is still hard to get. So in the interest of spreading healing and cheer and knowledge, I’m going to talk about all the ways of increasing your CBD effective yield no matter what kind of strain you have.
How To Get More CBD
According to a well-known NorCal expert named Baker Buck, the leaves of a plant have more CBD than the buds. I’ve made tinctures and capsules with leaves alone, but also from stems, branches, and even roots. These tend to give a much stronger body effect than is typical from random strains. You can get the same effect by using stems and leaves, rather than bud, for cooking or making QWISO hash.
But wait, there’s more. It turns out that Dr. William Courtney (a so-called “pot doctor” who actually does serious research on the matter) recommends eating raw leaves to many people for medical reasons. He also talks about juicing the leaves (use one of these) to get the essence without the stomach upsets that can come from the leaves themselves. And of course, eating or juicing marijuana, or carefully cooking with it, will guarantee that you get virtually complete availability of all the important compounds in it. Heck…smoking it is going to burn out half the good stuff at random…it’s about the worst way to consume it there is!
And that brings us to the third way of increasing your CBD intake. If you have a vaporizer with a digital temperature readout, you can actually decide to “boil off” the THC and leave the CBD alone¹. THC will begin to boil and vaporize at only 150° to 157°C (302° to 315°F), while CBD waits until somewhere around 160° to 188°C (depending on who you believe), which corresponds to 320° to 370°F. So if you set your vaporizer to 160°C/320°F, your THC will be vaporizing…you can inhale it or wait for it to dissipate. After the cannabis changes color to brown, you can crank up the temperature setting above 188°C/370°F and now inhale the CBD, with far less of a “high”. You’re essENTially now performing fractional distillation…it’s the same way they make fine brandy…and gasoline!
This is great in theory, but in practice it will not be effective with most strains, because virtually all cannabis available, even in dispensaries, has 1% CBD or less (usually a lot less). So, unless you’re experimenting with an actual high CBD strain, you’ll just end up burning off a lot of THC and end up with nothing much at the end, unless you use a larger amount of cannabis than usually necessary. Deliberately using AVB in tinctures, edibles, or capsules will easily demonstrate this effect without wasting anything, since AVB already has had much of the THC removed, and you’re recycling it anyway!
Marijuana generally comes in two basic types: Indica and Sativa. Sativas tend to have a higher THC:CBD ratio, and indicas generally have more CBD than sativas, though again both types usually have less than 1% CBD in any case. It’s the “other” components: the terpenes, terpenoids, and minor cannabinoids (0.1% or less) that influence the type of high you get, in combination with the CBD:THC ratio. All this combines to make sativas more likely to cause anxiety or paranoia, whereas indicas are usually used to treat anxiety or paranoia! But dosage plays a big part in this as well; keep the dosage down, and you’re less likely to have a bad time.
This adverse side effect of anxiety comes from THC, and that’s most evident when looking at Marinol, the only form of “medical marijuana” sanctioned by the Federal government at this time for prescription use. I put “medical marijuana” in scare quotes there because Marinol is not even made from cannabis; it’s pure synthesized THC (in sesame oil caplets). And, because it’s not moderated by CBD (as it would be in the natural plant), Marinol often causes users severe anxiety or worse: at least four people have died from using it.
But many of the high CBD strains around, for whatever horticultural reason, are actually sativas. Harlequin, which is generally available at SPARC, is 6.5% THC and 8.5% CBD. I’ve also gotten some Omrita RX3, which (according to Abby on the MassSpec) is just 5.5% THC and an astounding 10% CBD. It usually takes two hits of cannabis on my MFLB for me to start feeling any head effects; with Omrita it took 4 hits to feel that (makes perfect sense by the THC percentage). It doesn’t make me feel “numb” at all, but all pain just magically…goes…away.
¹If you use a more basic vaporizer, like I do, you can get the same effect by using your ABV/AVB (the residual weed left over after vaping) for cooking. It’s had the THC removed already.
Revision 1.1 – 18 March 2013
Revision 1.2 – 21 March 2013 (recover from data loss)
Revision 1.3 – 28 May 2013 (noticed the neuropathic pain stuff was lost)
Revision 1.4 – 27 March 2016 (clarified that it’s not the CBD in indicas that makes you calmer)