Cannabis 101

What is Medical Cannabis

When people speak about medical cannabis, they’re talking about using the whole unprocessed plant or the chemicals contained within it to alleviate the symptoms of certain conditions or diseases. 

The cannabis plant is comprised of over 100 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, with each of these having different effects on your body. The two main chemicals used in the medicinal application of cannabis are:

1. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the psychoactive compound in marijuana — the element that produces the high.

2. Cannabidiol, or CBD. This substance does not produce any psychoactive effects.

Medical cannabis has a higher CBD content, so when you’re taking it, you don’t feel the euphoria that’s associated with its recreational counterpart

What are Cannabinoids

Marijuana contains more than 500 natural compounds, with cannabinoids arguably being the most significant. It’s these substances that produce pot’s effects on your body. THC produces the “high” associated with recreational weed, and CBD is the therapeutic ingredient, and the relationship between these cannabinoids and our bodies is multifaceted.

Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, but not all of them are. Interestingly, as the THC is giving you a high, the CBD is calming this effect and is producing the many medicinal benefits it offers


How Do Cannabinoids Work?

Your brain produces its own cannabinoids that are similar to the ones found in cannabis. It does this via its endocannabinoid system, which is important in terms of functions like emotion, sleep, appetite and movement.

Cannabinoids interact with specific receptors within your body, activating CB1 receptors within your nerve endings, nervous system, brain and CB2 receptors that are found in your immune system. When you ingest cannabis, the THC attaches to your cannabinoid receptors to activate the endocannabinoid system.  As CB1 receptors are found within your brain, you feel high. Although getting a rush isn’t the reason you’ll be considering taking medical cannabis, it’s true that THC does seem to provide pain relief and enhance your appetite. On the other hand, the non-psychoactive CBD seems to be an anti-psychotic that calms your nervous system, in addition to alleviating pain and improving your mood.


Medicinal Benefits

In recent years, research using medical cannabis has been conducted for a variety of disorders, there is evidence that its use can be effective for treating:

• Pain, muscle cramps and muscle spasms caused by MS or spinal cord injury

• Nausea, decreased appetite, weight loss and weakness related to cancer and AIDS

• Nausea and vomiting caused by medication or radiation therapy for cancer, hepatitis C or HIV infection and AIDS

• Chronic pain (particularly nerve pain, for example, caused by nerve damage, phantom pain, facial pain, or pain that            persists after a cured shingles infection)

• Tourette's syndrome

• Glaucoma

• Various forms of epilepsy (also in children)


We are also learning from the experiences of doctors and patients who use cannabis for the treatment of other conditions. Examples include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, migraine and cluster headaches, dystonia (abnormal muscle contractions), rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, ADHD, posttraumatic stress disorder, restlessness caused by Alzheimer’s disease, itching and brain trauma.


Medical cannabis currently does not play a role in curing these diseases, but it can reduce the symptoms they cause. Medical cannabis can also help reduce the dosage and side effects of other medicines. Your doctor can determine the conditions and situations for which medical cannabis may be a good choice.