Cannabis continues to surprise people – both skeptics and enthusiasts. However, it would be prudent to let science have the last word because basing decisions on science helps us to create a foundation of truth and knowledge, upon which we can debate on further issues ranging from ethics to philosophy.
There’s so much literature out there (most of them vague, subjective and downright wrong) that sometimes, it gets very difficult for the reader to really separate the wheat from the chaff. This post intends to clarify a few aspects of the cannabis plant with respect to the human body from a scientific point of view, namely what’s exactly inside (the outside would be the plant’s stem, hurd, root etc.) the cannabis plant that causes the human being’s bodily functions to react in different ways upon their consumption for recreational or medicinal purposes.
According to botanists, there are three species of the cannabis plant as explained below:
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Ruderalis
The main differences between the three species include their external attributes (size, shape, colour and texture) and internal attributes (varying amounts of compounds. Which compounds, you may ask? That’s explained below).
Before we begin discussing the chemical compounds present in the cannabis plant and their ‘activating’ similarities to the compounds produced by our own bodies, we need to always remember cannabis’ close interaction with the human endocannabinoid system and its relevance to the fundamental biological concept: homeostasis, which can simply be understood as our body’s regulatory mechanism to ensure that operational conditions remain neither too strong nor weak, but just right, within a perfect range of stability and equilibrium. Just like how our body best operates within the temperature range of 36.1 degree Celsius to 37.2 degree Celsius. If say, due to an external condition, this range exceeds or drops, we tend to fall ill since homeostasis has been broken.
Our body produces cannabinoid compounds called endocannabinoids while the cannabis plant produces cannabinoid compounds called phytocannabinoids. Basically, cannabinoids are the compounds that ‘activate’ the receptors (scientists say there are five receptors, but two of the most studied are CB1 and CB2) which constitute the human endocannabinoid system – which is us, human beings.
This illustrates the thought that human beings and cannabis can form a union. After all, what’re the odds that nature evolves a class of compounds in both humans and cannabis to activate the human being’s wellness system? A system that lies at the root of regulating all moods and behaviours of the human being?
The main cannabinoids produced by human beings are –
- Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamide)
- 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG)
- 2-arachidonoyl-glyceryl-ether (Noladin ether)
- O-arachidonoyl-ethanolamine (Virodhamine)
- N-arachidonoyl-dopamine (NADA)
While the actual number of cannabinoids discovered in cannabis number around 150 (out of a total of over 400 compounds in cannabis), below are the main cannabinoids in terms of how much they have been studied so far:
- CBG (Cannabigerol)
- THC (Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol)
- CBD (Cannabidiol)
- CBC (Cannabichromene)
- CBGV (Cannabigerivarin)
- THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)
- CBDV (Cannabidivarin)
- CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)
Remember, except THC, which has been studied the most, the rest of the cannabinoids are not known for their psychoactive effects, although that may have changed now, since there are new reports which say that scientists have discovered two new cannabinoids as recently as last week, in which one could possibly be much much more psychoactive than THC.