The Remarkable Genius of Cannabis Chemistry:
6 Basic Biochemical Functions that lead to Dozens of Health Benefits
It turns out that the most sophisticated pharmacological chemists on our planet are not the men in white coats in the labyrinthine laboratories of multinational big pharma companies. They are plants. They've been at it for a really long time (500+ million years!) and are REALLY good at what they do. The marijuana plant in particular has a Nobel Prize level genius in it's chemistry.
Cannabis strains contain a HUGE array of biochemically active molecules. Not just the infamous THC that creates the mental high, but dozens of other forms of cannabinoids, hundreds of terpenes, thousands of other related compounds that all have their own unique flavors, effects, and mechanisms of action and all interact with each other in very complex pathways. When all these are combined in their unique alchemical formulations by a given strain, it creates an elixir with a potent synergistic effect on body and mind.
And, perhaps most importantly, with virtually NO negative side effects, something our mere human lab chemists have yet to figure out.
Generally speaking, cannabis' overall effect could be described as "REBALANCING." If something is overactive, whether this is neurological or inflammatory or cancerous cellular growth, or even obsessive behaviors, cannabis can help bring it back into balanced homeostasis. There are a few different ways marijuana goes about this, and we can distill its health benefits down to 6 basic mechanisms of action that can be used in a variety of medical circumstances.
1) Anti-Inflammation: This is perhaps one of the best researched mechanisms of action for marijuana. Our own endocannabinoid system largely acts as a mediator between our nervous and immune systems. The CB2 Receptor is widely distributed throughout the entire body and especially in the immune system, which in turn calms hyperactive inflammatory responses. Unregulated inflammation is the culprit behind an entire host of diseases and syndromes, many of which have found relief through the medical use of cannabis. These include autoimmune diseases like Cron's disease, Lupus, and Leeunweck's Disease, and other inflammatory conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
2) Inhibiting Seizures and Spasms: Various cannabinoids have been found to have an inhibitory effect on the glutamate circuits in the body. Glutamate is a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter, and if it doesn't get turned off it will just keep on firing, creating seizures, spasms, and other uncontrollable actions. By exerting a calming, inhibitory effect on glutamate circuits in the brain, cannabis has been shown to provide virtually instant relief in certain circumstances that were impossible to treat otherwise. This general mechanism, like it's anti-inflammatory properties, has wide applications to a wide variety of medical conditions that share this similar underlying issue of hyperstimulated neurons. Medically verified examples include epilepsy, behavioral outbursts in autism, tremors and shaking in Parkinson's Disease, and painful spasms in Multiple Sclerosis.
3) Anti-Cancer: CB2 Receptors are found on virtually every single cell in the body. Cancer cells show a dramatic increase in these receptors, so when CBD is in the system, cancer cells are stimulated to a much higher degree than normal healthy cells. This higher degree of stimulation activates pathways in the cancer cells that lead to cell death and the destruction of the tumor. The healthy cells continue on their merry way. Think of it as if the cancer cells have turned their CBD microphone all the way up to 11, to the point where they start getting horrific feedback that causes their eardrums to explode in a process called apoptosis. The regular cells listening to CBD at a reasonable volume calmly receive the information, and continue living their happy cellular lives.
4) Insulin Regulation: Marijuana's effect on appetite is humorously well-known, and this is mediated largely through its effect on insulin and glucagon release in the pancreas, which are modulated by CB1 and CB2, respectively. These are master the hormones of metabolism and blood sugar levels, and is revealing in anecdotes of stoners eating tons of delicious food yet not gaining any weight. Medically, cannabis has been shown to decrease insulin resistance, improve blood sugar control, and improve BMI. These have led to real results people have had in managing diabetes, eating disorders, managing the debilitating effects of chemotherapy, and even managing weight. That's right, marijuana has been shown to keep you THINNER.
5) Vasodilation and Blood Pressure: Glaucoma is another prominent target for medical marijuana. Glaucoma caused by a buildup of pressure within the eyeball that eventually pinches the optic nerve and causes blindness. This mechanism reveals another broad benefit of cannabis chemistry. It turns out that THC actually acts to simultaneously lower blood pressure and increase vasodilation. This is how it helps to relieve the pressure in the eyes that creates glaucoma. And this same mechanism of action has been shown to help with other related underlying causes, conditions like high blood pressure, headaches, and even asthma attacks (provided you're not smoking the medicine, of course)
6) Neuroprotection: Cannabis' value in neuroprotection stems from a combination of its previously mentioned effects. By inhibiting glutamate, in prevents excitotoxicity, a phenomenon of neurons being so stimulated that they die from overload. By inhibiting neuroinflammation, it protects the brain from damage by endogenous inflammatory processes. And by its effects on the cardiovascular system, it helps to decrease the amount of pressure in the brain that can cause pain and trauma while simultaneously bringing in more oxygen and nutrients. With this whole-brain rebalancing effect, it is no real surprise that marijuana use has been shown to reduce risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Dementia, and even help mitigate the damage caused by strokes.
Clearly there is some very complex and beneficial biochemistry going on in the cannabis plant, and we're learning more all the time. One major difficulty with all these wonderful health benefits, is that some of them work against each other. In many instances CB1 and CB2 pathways actively turn each other off. Different cannabinoids selectively work on specific receptor subtypes within different body systems, so without the correct choice of chemical profile, you may not be getting the benefits you need.
The real trick, then, is picking the right strain for your needs. Different strains have different profiles of compounds, each with its own unique taste and effect, which are conveniently chemically related. Thus, a discriminating and educated palate can tell from the flavor profile, determined by the terpenes and flavonoids, what the overall effects are. Science and Art!
So how do you find out what is best for you? Enter your email address below and we'll send you our free Ganja Guide eBook with a complete breakdown and review of 50 different strains to look for in your local dispensary! We'll even include recommendations for specific medical conditions!
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