The Cannabis Plant

Members of the Cannabis genus are leafy, flowering plants that are native to Central Asia but have been transported throughout the globe. The plant has been around for millions of years in some form or another and has been used by humans for at least 5,000 years. It tends to be robust and grows effectively in both natural and controlled agricultural settings.

Historically botanists have disagreed as to the number of species in the genus Cannabis, yet there is now general agreement that the three principal cannabis species are C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. Each has its own distinct look, chemical characteristics and uses.

Cannabis plants grow quickly and can be harvested on accelerated timelines, particularly in controlled agricultural settings. Depending on the species and strain, Cannabis has five, seven, or sometimes nine leaves that are dark green and sometimes purple hued. The plant produces a flower at the tip of the stem and the base of the leaves. The flower — or bud — have the most powerful concentrations of chemicals that activate receptors within the endo-cannabinoid system. These naturally occurring chemicals are called cannabinoids and can be psychoactive or non-psychoactive.

While cannabis is most commonly associated with THC products (either smokable flower or edibles), it is actually an extremely versatile crop. Hemp fibers are produced from specific cannabis plants that are low in the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp stalks can produce strong fibrous material used for clothing, lines and sails for ships, among other purposes. Its seeds are used as protein rich food, and from those seeds oils are extracted and used for various purposes too.

Few people are familiar with the word “cannabinoid,” but every person who has used marijuana has experienced the effects of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. These chemicals interact with the human body in ways that cause specific sets of reactions.

Whatever one feels when using cannabis-excited, mellow, funny, confident, paranoid, hungry, pain-free-one feels this way because cannabinoids are modulating your nervous system. Cannabis plants contain dozens of these chemicals, but just one or two are commonly known: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is the psychoactive component that contributes to making the user feel high. CBD, on the other hand, is often associated with medical marijuana, especially treatment for conditions such as epilepsy. CBD has been found to have anti-convulsive and anti-spastic properties that can relax muscles and regulate the brain in ways that can prevent minor and major seizure events. CBD acts in a variety of ways, also possessing anti-inflammatory and other properties.
The way cannabinoids interact with the human body is quite interesting and is actually a modern medical discovery.
In 1988 a pharmacology researcher named William Devane and his colleagues discovered something interesting: the human body is built to assimilate cannabinoids. There are receptors in the brain and throughout the nervous system that are sensitive to cannabinoids and activate, or inhibit, chemical responses in reaction to the presence of cannabinoids. This system was coined the “endocannabinoid system”. What's more, subsequent researchers identified "endogenous cannabinoids,” molecules the human body produces naturally that interact with endocannabinoid receptors; when external cannabinoids such as THC or CBD from the cannabis plant are present, they work with the endogenous molecules and the body's own receptors to produce a variety of regulatory effects within the human body.