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Cannabis is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Getting the experience you want begins with knowing how cannabis works— and it’s not just strains and formats, either.
The low down on the high
Cannabis contains a variety of powerful compounds, which interact with your endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce a broad range of effects, everything from increasing appetite (munchies, anyone?) to decreasing pain. The two most important are terpenes and cannabinoids, which work together (in what’s called the entourage effect) to affect the ECS.
Hard to pronounce, but easy to understand
Cannabinoids are compounds that interact with the ECS. You’ve heard of two of the most common—THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol)—but there are more than a hundred known today, each of which lends its own effects.
The primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, it contributes to the high you feel, it also may help to reduce nausea, pain, and inflammation
A non-psychoactive compound that may help relieve pain, inflammation, and anxiety
Often associated with a woody, spicy aroma, this terpene can work as an antifungal and antibacterial.
One of the “Big Three” terpenes best for pain relief. A bronchodilator, this helps keep your lungs feeling free and clear.
Linalool is known to have both anti-anxiety and sedating effects, depending on the level of concentration.
Myrcene can facilitate the flow of chemicals in the brain, thereby increasing the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes.
The real magic makers
Terpenes are aromatic oils that give cannabis its taste and smell, as well as contributing to its therapeutic and medicinal effect. You’ll recognize many of them not by their name, but by the other places you’ve found them—in the items you use every day. You can explore some of the most common below.
Not as hard as it sounds
Put plainly, a cannabis “strain” or “cultivar” is a variety with its own unique characteristics—often due to the unique mix of cannabinoids and terpenes they contain. Some produce balanced effects, while others lean in one direction.
Plants are bushier
Leaves are short & wide
Dark green color
Plants are skinnier
Leaves are tall & thin
Light green color
Let’s start with the basics, here’s how to talk the toke:
A pipe for smoking cannabis (usually made of glass) that uses water to cool and diffuse smoke as it’s inhaled
Put plainly, it’s the “bud” of the marijuana plant, containing the highest concentration of active cannabinoids
The person working at your local dispensary, revered for their knowledge of cannabis (yeah, we said it)
Cannabis concentrates are the product of distilling down the most desirable parts of the plant—removing the impurities leaving behind the cannabinoids and terpenes
A word that’s often used to describe cannabis that’s sticky, stanky, and with a high quality
Edibles are food products infused with cannabis oil or butter, they can range from gummies, and chocolates to drinks, and capsules
A cross between two or more strains of cannabis, often producing its own effects
Growers talk about a plant’s phenotype, its physical characteristics (like height, color, configuration of leaves, etc.)
A marijuana cigarette that can be purchased pre-rolled from a dispensary; you might also call it a joint
The glands on cannabis that give it its fuzzy look, and where many of a plant’s cannabinoids are produced
Cannabis tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts that can be administered orally, sublingually, or mixed in foods or beverages
Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions and balms, they are a great way to get the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis without getting high
We’d love to keep trying!
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