Humankind and cannabis enjoy a long history together, with archeological evidence of interaction between the two species going back 10,000 years into the past, when hemp rope was used to make decorative impressions into pottery. As a weedy “camp follower,” the useful applications of cannabis and hemp would have been well-known to ancient nomadic peoples, who evidently traded seeds with other groups, enabling the spread of this helpful crop throughout the world. Not only was cannabis prized for its strong fibers and nutritious seeds, but ancient peoples utilized the psychoactive resin for medicine and ritual, with preserved plants uncovered in a Chinese tomb dating back to 2,400 to 2,800 years ago.
So if you’re curious about using cannabis, know that you’re taking part in an ancient tradition that immersive journalist Michael Pollan has dubbed “coevolution,” a process in which we influence the plant just as it influences us, leading to a symbiotic relationship. Pollan writes that cannabis has “adopted a strategy of tying its fortunes to humans, appealing in particular to our innate desire to alter consciousness, a desire that spans nearly every culture and historical period. In exchange, humans have gone to extraordinary lengths, often at their own peril, to help the plant grow and reproduce.”
In particular, ancient humans selected seeds from wild plants with desired characteristics, and in doing so, they bred hemp, a fibrous, low-THC variety, and cannabis, a cultivar with much more THC content, differentiating these two closely related plants over time. As cannabis plants spread throughout the world, different varieties that we know today as sativa and indica established themselves in different climates. Sativas flourished in hot, humid equatorial locales, while the shorter, bushier indicas proved hardy in colder, mountainous regions.
Today, we interact with cannabis in a variety of ways, using hemp for fiber, fuel, paper, building material and as a superfood. Hemp seeds contain essential amino acids in the optimal ratio for the human body, delivering these fatty acids in the form of a 3:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, exactly what our bodies require.
The active ingredients in cannabis are known as cannabinoids, and these molecules—THC, CBD and others—fit into receptors found throughout the human brain and body. In fact, our bodies have an endogenous cannabinoid system, which regulates all other bodily systems, helping maintain a steady state of good health called homeostasis.
When you ingest cannabis, either through smoking or eating it, you are bringing supplemental cannabinoids into your body, where THC joins with receptors in your brain to make you feel the euphoria known as “getting high.” CBD does not directly affect receptors, but it works throughout the body in other ways to reduce inflammation and anxiety without producing any euphoric feelings.
For many years, people seeking specific effects from cannabis such as sedation or energizing euphoria were advised to source indicas for relaxing and help sleeping, while sativas were cast as the more active varieties for inspiring creative works or enhancing a concert. Now, it seems that the different, specific effects of various strains are more likely to be caused by the terpene profiles of individual cultivars, with strains containing the terpene limonene providing a more uplifting effect.
Terpenes are the chemical components of cannabis that provide the characteristic aromas of each strain, and these terpenes are found in different plants throughout nature. It seems as if terpenes work with cannabinoids to provide an “entourage effect,” imbuing each cannabis cultivar with different highs as well as functional effects. As we learn more about terpene profiles through cannabis testing, we’ll be able to identity the specific effects of different cannabis strains with more certainty.
You can consume cannabis in many different ways, from smoking the flowers to eating foods infused with THC and CBD. For those who don’t want to smoke, using a vape pen provides an alternative, offering instantaneous effects without any damage to the lungs.
When you inhale cannabis, the THC and other cannabinoids get into your bloodstream within minutes, making it easy to titrate your dose and decide when you’ve reached the mood you’re looking for. When you eat edibles, the THC and other cannabinoids must travel through your digestive system, so expect effects to onset within two hours. Learn more about using edibles safely with KindPeoples’ “Go Low and Slow” campaign.
Cannabis can also be infused into topical lotions and balms, which are used for skin conditions like eczema or joint pain and arthritis. Topicals do not make you feel high, but they are effective for soothing sore muscles and reducing inflammation.
There’s a lot to learn about cannabis, so if you’re new to using it and you have questions, please send us an email or stop by the dispensary for an in-depth consultation. With so many new products on the shelves right now, there’s options that fit your lifestyle, whether you’re seeking to get high or not.