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Cannabinoids 101: What Makes Cannabis Medicine?

January 22, 2014

We live in ironic times: a plant that’s been labelled criminal and dangerous is providing unrivaled relief for a variety of symptoms and conditions. Cannabis strains bring a colorful variety of medicinal effects, but when confronted with the question of how consuming marijuana could possibly be good for you, not everyone knows how to respond.

This brief look at cannabis chemistry is meant to arm you with a basic knowledge of how cannabis affects the brain and body. Not only will you better understand your medicine, you’ll be able to educate others about why cannabis can truly be an effective remedy for patients suffering a myriad of ailments.


Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana by state

What are Cannabinoids?

One hefty word that belongs in every medical marijuana patient’s vocabulary is cannabinoid. Cannabinoids (e.g., THC and CBD) are the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that provide relief to an array of symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. These work their medicinal magic by imitating compounds our bodies naturally produce, called endocannabinoids, which activate to maintain internal stability and health. To put a complex system simply, they mediate communication between cells, and when there is a deficiency or problem with our endocannabinoid system, unpleasant symptoms and physical complications occur.

When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids bind to receptor sites throughout our brain (receptors called CB-1) and body (CB-2). Different cannabinoids have different effects depending on which receptors they bind to. For example, THC binds to receptors in the brain whereas CBN (cannabinol) has a strong affinity for CB-2 receptors located throughout the body. Depending on a cannabis product’s cannabinoid profile, different types of relief are achievable.


A list of major cannabinoids in cannabis and their effects

This concept is the cornerstone of cannabis as medicine, and the results are so promising that these cannabinoids have been synthesized for legal prescription use. Some synthetic cannabinoid medications include Marinol, Nabilone, and Rimonabant. While these synthetic forms are effective, research shows that herbal cannabis contains a far wider variety of therapeutic compounds.

Cannabis contains at least 85 types of cannabinoids, many of which have documented medical value. Products and strains have been developed to deliver larger doses of different cannabinoids, so knowing which types best treat your symptoms is a handy piece of knowledge to bring to your next dispensary visit.

The below wheel serves as a resource to determine which cannabinoids may help treat symptoms associated with mood, eating/gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders, pain, sleep disorders, and other medical conditions. Click on the infographic for an enlarged version.

  • Dennis5150

    Does anybody have any experience with treating Trigeminal Neuralgia (also called: tic douloureux) with cannabis ?

    • Curkri

      Unfortunately I have no personal experience with this condition. However Pain and Muscular spasms seem to be the main problems with this condition. Cannabis, particularly Indica strains, are highly effective at relieving Pain & Relaxing muscles. I have used several strains in the past that seems to almost immediately relax muscles in the face.

      Ultimately I would strongly advise giving it a go, there doesn’t seem to be many better alternatives anyway! … ‘Granddaddy Purple’ or the classic ‘Northern Lights’ might be good strains to start with! Good Luck 🙂

      • I wish you all the luck, Elk. Your question has helped me tremendously.

    • Frank Meade

      Check out the SCENAR technology. When used correctly I have read where the SCENAR can really help in the situation of Trigeninal Neuralgia. Please note if you go the SCENAR route the pain may increase a little before you find relief. SCENARs can be quite expensive. I use the DENAS line of SCENARs which are more affordable.

    • Lindsey Rose

      I do! I’ve got atypical TN, so my symptoms aren’t consistent. I’ve tried several strains, both THC and CBD prominent. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a strain that consistently helps. (But that also has to do with several external factors ie. consistency of product)

      That being said, here are a few thoughts to share:
      – In my personal experience, stress is the largest contributing factor in an increase of flare ups. THC boosts my mood and improves my ability to tolerate the pain. However, strains with a high percent THC tend to heighten levels of anxiety, contributing to potential stress, so I find hybrids with a high percent of CBD are the best.

      – Get CBD in your system. Find CBD phoenix tears/oil concentrate, and take regular, ample dosages. You may not feel effects right away, and perhaps will feel a bit sleepy from time to time (but if you’ve taken any pharma-drugs to treat your TN, you won’t be unaccustomed to this). The CBD will become more effective the longer and more consistently it’s in your system. It doesn’t get you high, so you can function well enough in your day. It will literally help your nerves (if I understand correctly) by helping to improve the damaged myelin sheath of the nerve that is affected.

      I’m not a doctor, and most of my information has been accumulated from a variety of sources. I could totally be way off on the science of things, but at least I have personal experience I can offer! lol

      This is a SHITTY condition to have, so if you have any more questions or want to lament to someone who understands, stay in touch.

      All the best.

      • Jay

        Just a reply to your post Lindsey. My Dad has a combination of several different medical conditions. A list the size of my arm. Let’s say it’s very extensive. Arthritis, Heart Disease, Fibro-myalgia, Cholesterol and Diabetes. Not to mention that his immune system’s been compromised due to an infection he had some 25 years ago and was battling it with anti-biotics for about 15 years. He’s been in the hospital with kidney stones on many different occasions and had a stroke some 6 years ago because of a fall and poor diagnosis in the hospital. Obviously with all the medications he was on over the period of time, he had developed an addiction to the pain meds he was on and also suffered from depression and withdrawal.

        A little over a year ago, we were at a family reunion and was an absolutely horrible event. My Mom’s a very strong woman but that weekend, my Dad treated her like total shit. Not the same Dad we had remembered and we finally put our foot down and enough was enough. We were tired of seeing my Mom being treated so poorly that we had given my Mom the keys to the vehicle and asked her to head home and to leave my Dad at the party. It was a 150 km drive back to where they lived.

        Well, nothing short of a miracle had occurred. About 3 weeks after the incident, a friend of my Dad’s who he hadn’t seen in some number of years had suggested my Dad try this strain of medical marijuana. My Dad figured he would try it. Wouldn’t you know?! My Dad was feeling 100 % better. In fact, he had never felt so good in over 20 years. His friend hooked him up with a doctor specializing in medicinal cannabis.

        He sought the assistance of this physician and he prescribed him Phoenix Tears. What a miracle drug! This is what it’s done.

        First, my Dad’s lost 30 pounds since using it. He looks healthier. His skin tone’s back to a healthy glow.

        His attitude’s changed 100 fold! He’s not an asshole! We love to go over for visits and spend time with my parents not having to worry how my Dad’s going to feel that day!

        He no longer takes pain killers for his arthritis or fibro-myalgia. No need to since the Phoenix Tears!

        No more chronic back pain (I totally forgot to add that one to the list!)

        His cholesterol is substantially lower and his diabetes is under control. I figure that’s because of the 30 pounds he’s lost and his change in dieting. I believe it to be a factor of his mental state with the Phoenix Tears.

        He still takes meds for his heart condition but no longer needs the meds for his stroke.

        All I can say is “Phoenix Tears”! It’s a miracle drug.

        I’ve always been a sceptic regarding cannabis but until I’ve seen the effects it’s had on my Dad? I’m a true believer that the government MUST legalize it!!!

  • Elk Whistle

    Has anyone successfully used Medical Marijuana to help with their Depression out there? If so, what strain and how was it administered and how often do you use it?

    • Elk Whistle

      Thank you Tom van Tilburg for the response. Yes, I do suffer from Chronic Depression and I am not into getting high from the Cannabis as I feel impaired and unable to function clearly. So, I am trying the one puff rule as needed which is maybe once or twice a week in the evening. I also switched meds recently from Veraflaxine to Wellbutrin and maybe this will help. I know there is no cure for depression I just don’t want it to totally take over my life.

      • Pulsid

        I wish you all the luck, Elk. Your question has helped me tremendously.

      • Waridis

        Hi Elk, I realize this comment was made two years ago. I hope all is well with your depression. As a medical user for depression and anxiety myself, I wanted to ask how you felt Wellbutrin combined with your cannabis use was going. I used cannabis recreational while taking wellbutrin years ago and had negative affects on my body. After quitting pharmaceutical meds and focusing on indica-dominate strains for medical use, I found a type of relief that is similarly compared to that of a miracle.

    • Joseph Conrad

      Has anyone successfully used Medical Marijuana/Hemp CDB Oil to KILL non-matasticised ‘sleeping’ Prostate Cancer?
      If so, I’d be ECSTATIC to know what strain. I suspect it would have >17% CBD v. < 25% THC.

      God & I will love you for your assistance in this instance.

      • Kevin

        Research RSO and/or FECO.

      • Unclecanabis

        Canna X is a high CND strain, we make oil from it then turn into candy bars for our cancer patients, one womad is breast cancer free now for a year.

      • Margaret

        Joseph. I know a lady named Corrie G.Yelland . She has a resource site called Phoenix Tears. She is well versed in the treatment of most all Cancers. Your prostate type for sure . Message her. She is located around Vancouver,BC, Canada. She us very reliable andcaccurate about type and streng5h of CBS OILS for Cancer. She would d3finitely be able to answer your quwstion and get you pounted in right direction with specific Strain to use, Strength and dosage . She is very good at following up with you if you keep her updated . Good luck .☮❤

    • meagan

      currently trying to obtain a medical marijuana card, recreationally using however i have found that sativas usually make me feel like actually participating in life… however i also suffer for wicked anxiety and indicas are definitely better to slow down any racing thoughts

      • Elk Whistle

        Thanks for responding. I just found out that the Hybrids have high CBD or Cannabis with a ratio of Low THC (that makes people impaired or High). In fact there is one called “ACDC” that has a ratio of CBD 21:1 THC. So, I am going to try that to help with my depression. I just got approval from the Maryland Marijuana Commission to be notified by their list when the Maryland Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are opened up.

    • cjinaz

      I was able to go completely off of Cymbalta, after 20 years of trying to quit antidepressants. I was never able to because of heroin-like withdrawal symptoms. I take cwhemp hemp oil. It’s the only brand that I trust. I went off of Cymbalta without ANY withdrawal symptoms.

      I had read that hemp oil is all three – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine enhancers/ reuptake inhibitors. I created a page on facebook dedicated to posting good info for anyone who wants to learn about hemp oil. FB made me take “CBD” off of the title.

      • Elk Whistle

        Thank you, cjinaz for the information n Hemp oil I will google it.

      • Vance

        What is FB. IM trying to get off of paxil. What do you suggest.please help. OH FACE BOOK.haha.

        • Debra Obinna

          FB = FaceBook

      • Please Suggest me.?

    • Sam Dixon

      I smoke a little super silver haze every so often (like maybe once a fortnight or so?) and it helps my depression pretty well. I find it inspires my creativity too.

      Everything feels hot and bright and yellow, like that glorious feeling when you’re laying in the sun and you shut your eyes. It’s all illuminated and I feel like soft starlit bands of beautiful magnetic energy are emanating from my body, bending and curving outwards. I see the world through childlike wonder, as though depression never really took hold of me.

      Experiences like that remind me I am capable of happiness, which -to a suicidally depressed person- is a magnificent feat. Mother herb bless us all <3

      • Elk Whistle

        Is the “Super Silver Strain” good if you are trying to have something high in “CBD: and low in THC ratio as I don’t like to feel impaired ot should I try something else?

        • Sam Dixon

          I’m afraid it’s high as hell in THC, and 100% makes me feel impaired. In a creative, beautiful ‘i have a thousand sweet ass ideas for a drawing/sculpture/political system right now’. Obviously, THC affects us all differently, but if you want something high in CBD you’d want an indica strain. Something strong like Essex Gringo perhaps?

      • Jonathonsdaddy

        I have depression issues and prefer a strain with the 1 : 1 ratio of THC and CBD .
        I also use THC edibles an hour before bed time to keeping me asleep
        at night …..

    • Kelly Brenchley-Hermann

      CBD works the best for me. Low THC high CBD strains are good for smoking.

    • Snoopy V

      Green Crack or Maui Waui very happy feeling, best uplifting strains in my opinion

    • Dyl Watt

      It sort of depends for me at least. I’ve found that supplementing marijuana with other healthy activities (e.g. exercise, socializing, skill development, etc.) can REALLY increase my well-being. I don’t necessarily like being dependent on marijuana for things like depression, but it certainly helps in moderation (like I wouldn’t be high all day every day). Girl scout cookies is a great strain that gives you a very happy and euphoric high. I also really enjoy Afghan kush flower. Edibles are a good bet as well, but they’re much more potent. Good views whilst smoking is always a good idea too!

    • high thc hybrid

  • CreativeDude✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ Terran

    It is more than 30 years since I smoked pot. I can speak of pot without being a recreational user. Colorado has gone a little overboard on legal pot. That is not to say pot shouldn’t be legalized, it should be. Once we are honest about medical pot, and yes that part has been established, then we need to look honestly at recreational pot. I’m all for legalizing recreational pot within fairly strong restrictions. When legalizing recreational pot we need to be open on both parts. What are the actual limits we need, and within that question how does it compare to the effects of alcohol.

    • CreativeDude✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ Terran

      If you have a job where time sense is important or hand eye co ordination is needed than do not smoke pot, If you have a job where you do not have to use your mind and can just ‘mail it in’ then go ahead and smoke pot. Do you want your surgeon to be smoking? The guy running an electrical plant? The guy who has to be alert? No, don’t let those people smoke cause someone will get hurt. Maybe you,

      • Elk Whistle

        Thanks Creative_Dude for the information. I just don’t want to feel impaired and I try to do minimal one puff as needed through my new vaporizer. I am still waiting for my new CBD Strain called “Critical Cure CBD”. although it is not the highest in CBD Ratio to THC it is worth trying as I don’t want to spend too much for something that doesnot match what I need. Will keep you posted.

  • Karen Loveland

    Anyone with arachnoiditis? What strain works best for you?

  • Joseph Conrad

    Does anyone know of a particular CBD Oil Strain effective for Killing non-metasticizing (quiet) Prostate Cancer?
    Been searching without much success. i’m not ready to go & leave my boys without me!

    Help on my search would be SPLENDID & MUCH APPRECIATED.

    • Whatley

      SCAM Alert!!! AnnCanneMed is a scam!!! stay away! they will rip you off!

  • Eleanor Ferrier

    Iam new what is best strain for anxiety depression diabetic nerve pain hopefully something for menopause hot flashes

  • John Olive

    Does any form of this medicine treat itchy skin…?

    • John William Cornett

      Yes, well produced cannabis oil “in general” when applied topically, as in a tincture etc. My wife used it to heal the itchy psoriasis she had between her fingers. It took a couple of weeks, but steady use, finally, made it go away.

  • Chris

    I’m curious about CBD tinctures. I have a job that is federally governed with random drug testing. My question is wether or not I will fail a random if I begin using CBD. I would love to have the benefits of the tinctures, but certainly not worth the risk of losing my job.

  • Mary Jo

    The CBD I am NOW using is powerful !! the testimonies are amazing … CHANGING LIVES !! Sooo incredibly grateful !!

  • Jennie Mele

    How to sensibly buy LEGAL cbd oil online? Because I got a letter saying customs has confiscated my package two times already and I’m pissed.

    • SteveO

      Cb distillery dot com and phyto dabs dot com

  • Judy Stearns

    The ‘wheel’ in the article says THCv helps with neuropathy. How do I learn which strains have that cannabinoid?

  • Billie J Kingsbury

    Any recommendation on which strain of CBD can help w/chronic debilitating low back pain

  • Molly Ranson

    Would anybody be interested doing an interview where you could tell me about your story and how you found relief? It would be greatly appreciated!

  • good information.

  • its true

  • Awesome Information

  • Is the “Super Silver Strain” good if you are trying to have something high in “CBD: and low in THC ratio as I don’t like to feel impaired ot should I try something else?

  • Thank for sharing such as great information with us.

  • Cannabis is the future of animal and human medicine. The comprehension of the health care advantages of cannabis in people is growing quickly.

  • Thanks for sharing this informaton with us

  • Thanks for sharing this valuable information with us

  • Thanks for sharing this information