History of the Cannabis Plant
The cannabis plant is estimated to have been used by humans for over 12,000 years, with evidence of its origins pointing to central Asia. Through processes of natural selection and evolution, two distinctly different types of cannabis evolved as people migrated throughout different areas of Asia. This hardy plant migrated along with ancient populations, adapting to its new surroundings, and being selectively bred for different uses. Western Asians grew and harvested cannabis mainly for its nutritious seeds and plant fibers, useful in textiles. Southern Asians focused on cultivating cannabis for its medicinal and psychoactive properties. With the Himalayan mountains separating these migrating populations, two distinct varieties of cannabis emerged.
What is Indica?
Cannabis Indica is generally a short, broad-leaved plant with a shorter growth cycle and thick, dense “buds” or flowers. It is believed that this plant developed these characteristics to combat the cold, harsh environment of the Himalayan mountains. The flowers, stems, and leaves of this plant is usually coated in thick trichomes to help stabilize the plant in harsh environments. Indicas are prized for its sedating, calming, full-body effects. Indicas generally contain a higher CBD to THC ratio and a higher level of a certain sedating terpene, known as myrcene (0.5% or higher).
What Is Sativa?
Cannabis Sativa plants are taller, with narrow leaves, and a longer growth cycle. Sativa plants never had to adapt traits to combat colder, more harsh climates. Sativa plants generally have high THC percentages with little to no CBD content and are described as producing a “head high,” with an energizing, creative boost, often leading to laughter and visual effects. Users often choose this variety for day use due to its lighter, non-sedating effects. Hemp plants in use today originate from the Cannabis Sativa plant but have been bred to contain less than 0.3% THC.
What Is A Hybrid?
The third category of cannabis is known as a hybrid. These plants are a combination of sativa and Indica plants, which depending on its parentage, contains a combination of different ingredients and effects from each parent plant. Growers select two distinct parent cultivars and crossbreed them to produce different health effects, taste, and smells. There are few pure Indica or sativa strains available to consumers due to crossbreeding of cultivars. The majority of product available to consumers are hybrids, regardless of labeling. These hybrids are classified as either Indica-dominant (meaning more Indica-type effects can be expected) or sativa-dominant (meaning more sativa-like effects). Due to the hundreds of different ingredients contained in each strain or type of cannabis (hundreds of possibilities), the possible combinations and effects produced are exponential.
A Confusing Industry
The medical cannabis industry has a confusing landscape of hundreds of different strains of cannabis that the consumer must navigate through to try to find the best strain(s) to help medicate. This is often a complex, confusing, and expensive endeavor. Seed producers and cultivators constantly produce new strains of cannabis with differing combinations of ingredients, known as terpenes and cannabinoids, with similar names but different effects.
Trademark name infringements and mislabeling continue to be a problem and lead to more confusion for patients in how to choose the best medication strains. Industry experts are trying to solve some of the confusion by promoting a different classification system (type 1, type 2, and type 3) as well as promoting better laboratory testing and labeling of active ingredients (terpenes and cannabinoid content). We as patients must learn to demand more accountability if we are to change these practices for the better. We must demand more complete testing of our medication products as well as receive a copy of the laboratory results with our purchase (drug pharmacies provide active ingredient listings and medication sheets for consumers every day)- it’s the only way we as patients can truly know how a strain will affect our bodies.
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