Cannabis, or marijuana, is a complex plant that has psychoactive and medicinal elements. It contains more than 480 naturally occurring ingredients, including at least 65 unique chemical structures called cannabinoids found in the actual plant.
What are some of the other components, you ask? Read on to find out:
Otherwise known as “THC,” this is the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you high, comprising up to 30 percent of the cannabis plant. THC doesn’t naturally occur in its active form, but rapidly converts from THC acid (THCA) when burned in a cigarette or heated in cooking, in a heat-propelled reaction called decarboxylation. Not much is known about THCA, but experts have found that is an effective therapeutic agent that has been used to reduce pain, relieve nausea and stimulate appetite.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most popular and well-known ingredient in cannabis. Prevalent in hemp varieties of cannabis, it actually lacks any noticeable psychoactive effects and works in concert with THC to decrease any of its psychoactive effects. If taken by itself, CBD is a pain reliever that has anti-inflammatory properties and is effective at reducing the frequency of seizures, mitigating anxiety and improving wakefulness. Unfortunately, most marijuana that’s sold to consumers has significantly lower levels of CBD because growers tend to selectively breed out the enzyme in order to produce more mind-altering levels of THC.
The third most common cannabinoid is Cannabinol, or CBN, which is a byproduct of the chemical breakdown of THC after the plant is exposed to oxygen or heat. Though it lacks the strong psychoactive and medicinal qualities of THC and comprises less than one percent of cannabis, even a small amount of the CBN can have a significant, sedating effect.
Recent studies have reported on the potential medicinal value of Cannabigerol, or CBG, another ingredient that only amounts to about one percent of cannabis. For instance, studies have shown it to delay the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, as well as reduce cancer cell growth in mice.
In addition to cannabinoids, marijuana contains over 100 terpenoids, which produce the unique aroma and flavor of marijuana. Researchers believe that terpenoids may also display therapeutic effects, as well.
Interestingly enough, however, there are different types of cannabis, and marijuana users have reported experiencing different highs and medicinal effects for each. This is largely due to the different chemical concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenoids in every type of marijuana.
Additional Reading: Let’s Clear the Air About Secondhand Marijuana Smoke
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