The resinous crystallized glands on cannabis plants are known as trichomes and contain contain copious cannabinoids and terpenes, which are natural essential oils found in cannabis plants and act as physiologically active secondary metabolites.
The most resin is found on the flowering bud of the female cannabis plant. Trichomes are vital since they contain the active ingredients of cannabis in the form of cannabinoids and terpenes.
CBD for cannabidiol
THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol
There are over one hundred known cannabinoids in all types of cannabis. The two most researched and well-known entities are the psychoactive delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule that provides the famous cannabis “high”, and cannabidiol (CBD) is another cannabinoid, which provides multiple beneficial symptom relief without euphoric effects.
One of the primary reasons for using cannabis flower is that it is unprocessed: with dried cannabis flower, the trichomes are intact and remain on the plant; trichomes are of particular interest since their aromatic properties have similar activity to cannabinoids.
Research suggests that when combined with cannabinoids, terpenes possess the potential to amplify the herb’s medicinal properties.
THC and CBD act as specialized and natural receptors found in the body known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The term “cannabinoids” broadly applies to the natural phytocannabinoids (chemical compounds organically found in the cannabis plant) and endocannabinoids (endogenous compounds which are automatically produced by the body) to make up the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The ECS acts as a biological balancing mechanism in the body (or homeostasis). The onset of effect varies depending on the form of administration, which alters THC and CBD entry into the bloodstream for symptom relief. Through different methods of administration, varying levels of THC and CBD will be available in the body. The two most common methods for consuming cannabis are: inhalation (smoking or vaporizing) and ingestion (prescription synthetic capsules or edibles).
Forms of Administration
There are a broad range of options for routes of administration which patients can choose from based on individual lifestyle choices:
Cannabis can be smoked or vaporized
Ingested in food or beverages (these edibles can be home-cooked and prepared as “infused” cannabis combined with fat-soluble cooking mediums such as salt-free butter or coconut oil or with a prescription patients can orally administer capsules)
Absorbed sublingually (under the tongue i.e. lozenge)
Used topically (applied locally to the skin on affected areas of the body i.e. creams, lotions or ointments).
Historically, smoking cannabis for symptom relief involves applying heat to activate THC (for psychoactive effects) and CBD (for therapeutic benefits).
The chemical process known as decarboxylation is how cannabinoids are activated with direct heat or slowly over time. As opposed to a traditional smoking apparatus, vaporizers indirectly heat cannabis in a chamber of the device; temperature settings can be adjusted so that vaporizing the cannabis avoids overheating it to combustion or burning. This form of administration enables patients to inhale unadulterated active ingredients of cannabis that are free from any tar, carcinogens, or other irritants contained in smoke or in simultaneous tobacco use.
Depending on the form of administration, the onset of action and duration of action will vary—a very important factor to consider when counseling patients on frequency of use—in addition to considering the overall potency of the cannabis, the patient’s previous tolerance and lifestyle factors.
Safety profiles have not been established for other potential forms of cannabis delivery including: transdermal, rectal and sublingual forms; these options may minimize potential risks experienced with common methods of cannabis administration. Clinical research focusing on cannabinoids in cannabis has led to several FDA-approved medications that contain synthetic cannabinoid(s) in pill or liquid form.