Cannabis use likely predates writing in human evolution (Ben-Amar 2006; Merlin 2003).
- Cannabis is believed to have originated in Central Asia. It has spread worldwide from this region. Cannabis use as both medicine, fibre and food dates back over 10,000 years (Abel 1980; Clarke & Merlin 2013; Merlin 2003; Merlin 1972; Schultes 1970).
- Cannabis seeds have been found in Japan from circa 8000BC (Tengwen et al 2017)
- Cannabis is possibly the oldest plant cultivated by humans (Russo 2007)
- Evidence suggests that the Gravettian people used nets made of Cannabis fibre between 29,000 – 22,000 years ago (Pringle 1997)
Modern Cannabis Use
The prohibition of cannabis started at the turn of the 20th century, the main reasons for the decline in Cannabis use as medicine relates to:
- Pharmaceutical development
- Pharmaceutical instability
- Economic aspects
- Newly imposed legal restrictions (Fankhauser 2002).
The Cannabis Prohibition was introduced in the 1960’s when The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was released in 1961 (Mead 2014)
It maintained prior conditions established in previous conventions and provided control systems for the cultivation of drugs included in its Schedules. Cannabis was placed in both Schedule 1 and 4 (Mead 2014)
The Cannabis Plant
The scientific word for Cannabis is actually Cannabis Sativa, further classified as Cannabis sativa L. There are many other names and slang terms used to describe the plant, such as, weed, pot, ganja, and marijuana is the version of the word derived from ‘Marihuana’ that is the Mexican word for any Cannabis plant.
As you may already be aware, cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications such as medical and recreational uses, food, rope, biofuel, building materials, paper, and many. The plant is part of the Cannabaceae family that includes 170 species grouped in about 11 genera, of which hops is included.
There are many parts to the plant and each serves as an individual purpose. It is commonly believed that the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. When considering it’s therapeutic benefits, this is referred to as the ‘Entourage Effect’. Understanding its parts and categories can alter and advance your experience and appreciation of the cannabis plant. There tends to be the following four categories:
Indica: Indica-leaning plants tend to produce dense, fat, heavy buds during the flowering stage. These strains are typically believed to give consumers a physical (body) high instead of a more of a mind (cerebral) high. Indica strains are often used as a muscle relaxant and are often consumed in the evenings to aid a good night’s sleep.
Sativa: Sativa plants take longer to grow and they yield less flower than indica plants. Sativa strains of the weed plant are often said to offer users more of a mind (cerebral), energetic, high. Sativa strains are therefore commonly used to enhance creativity and productivity.
Hybrid: As a blend of sativa and indica, hybrid strains are generally believed to give you a more balanced high, they tend to be broken down into Sativa-dominant Hybrids, Even Hybrids (50/50), and Indica-dominant Hybrids.
Hemp: Hemp plants differ from regular cannabis plants mentioned above in that they produce only trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects. They tend to be primarily cultivated for their fibres for industrial purposes. The 2018 Farm Bill (USA) specified hemp as a cannabis plant containing up to 0.3% THC. It’s worth noting that hemp plants can produce a number of other important cannabinoids, most notably cannabidiol (CBD).
The Endocannabinoid system (ECS)
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.
It’s commonly known that the ECS plays role in regulating the status of your internal environment (homeostasis) and it’s known to have a range of functions and processes, including:
- reproduction and fertility
Endocannabinoids are molecules similar to cannabinoids, but they’re produced by your body as needed to keep internal functions running smoothly.
Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:
- Anandamide (AEA)
- 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)
Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout your body and endocannabinoids bind to them to signal a response from the ECS.
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells
Here’s a brief overview on how the Scientific understanding of the ECS has evolved:
- 1964 Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was elucidated (Gaoni & Mechoulam 1964)
- 1967 THC was chemically synthesised in 1967 (Mechoulam, Braun & Gaoni 1967)
- 1988 Research identified that THC was stereospecific (Mechoulam et al. 1988)
- 1988 First cannabinoid receptor (CB1) was identified (Devane et al. 1999; Matsuda et al. 1990)
- 1992 The endocannabinoid Anandamide was identified (Devane et al. 1992)
- 1993 Second cannabinoid receptor (CB2) was identified (Munro, Thomas & Abu-Shaar 1993)
- 1995 The endocannabinoid 2-AG was identified (Mechoulam et al. 1995; Sugiura et al. 1995)