Cannabis, or marijuana, is a flowering plant, and the flowers are commonly referred to as buds. These buds contain compounds called cannabinoids, which produce the psychoactive and/or therapeutic effect of the plant. Although many cannabinoids exist, THC (tetrahydrocannabidiol) and CBD are the ones most people know; however CBN (cannabinol) is gaining popularity for its sleep-inducing effect.
THC is the cannabinoid that produces the “high”; the more THC a plant has, the stronger its psychoactive effect. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t get a user high. Patients often use low-CBD products to alleviate pain and nausea. High-THC strains generally contain less or no CBD, while high-CBD strains contain very little THC. THC and CBD combine to provide a stronger experience of the qualities of both; this is called the entourage effect. CBD-only products contain no THC at all.
The resin glands of the cannabis plant produce oils called terpenes, which give a strain its distinctive taste and smell – for example, berries, citrus fruit, or pine. Multiple plants from the same seeds can develop differing terpene profiles based on their growing environment and in how their parent genetics are expressed in each. Manufacturers of products such as vape oils often combine terpenes from multiple strains in order to offer users a customized cannabis experience. Beware of cannabis altered with industrial, lab-made terpenes extracted from other plants, though, as these are also used in vape pens to add flavor.
Methods of consumption
Methods of ingesting cannabis include smoking, vaporizing, dabbing concentrates, and eating. Dabbing or smoking concentrates offers the most immediate, and the most potent, effect. Vaporizing is a close second and is the preferred ingestion method for those who enjoy the experience of smoking but want to consume cannabis more discreetly. Edibles have the slowest onset, sometimes taking an hour or more before the patient feels the effects; budtenders caution first-time users of edibles to take it “low and slow” – in other words, eat a small amount with a low THC content, and give it time to take effect before consuming more. Because indica edibles often have a sedative effect, they’re especially useful for those who consume cannabis to treat insomnia. Sativa edibles are best consumed during the day, as they can leave people wide awake.
Other cannabis products include tinctures, made by infusing alcohol or glycerin; topicals, made by infusing oil; and concentrates, most commonly produced via butane or CO2 extraction. Patients can consume tinctures sublingually or by adding them to beverages, and topicals by rubbing them on the skin. The most popular way to consume concentrates is with a tool called a dab rig. Because concentrates tend to offer the strongest, longest-lasting psychoactive effect, they also offer the biggest bang for your buck.