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The role of the endocannabinoid system is to keep our bodies regulated, helping us to maintain balance or homeostasis. Pain, stress, appetite, energy, cardiovascular function, reward perception, reproduction, and sleep are only a few of the processes in which the ECS is involved. The human endocannabinoid system is made up of 3 main parts:
This system is present throughout the entire body — it's on immune cells in our bloodstream, all over our nervous systems, on the entire axis of the spinal cord, and in virtually every cell in the brain. There are even cannabinoid receptors in our skin.
You've probably heard of the cannabinoids THC (which provides cannabis with much of its psychotropic and medicinal effects) and CBD (which is praised for having medicinal benefits without the same kind of intoxicating effects as THC), but there are many types of cannabinoids to discover. There are over 144 cannabinoids, and they are all different. Still, the way these chemicals are produced often entails a chain of chemical transitions from one cannabinoid to another. In other words, some cannabinoids start out as other cannabinoids and then transform in response to conditions like heat, light, or oxidation. For example, THC begins in the cannabis plant as CBGA but then transforms into THCA and then into THC. If you notice similar names for two different cannabinoids, they are likely part of the same chain of transformations.
Growers use indica, sativa, and hybrid to categorize plants based on their growth traits and resulting chemical profiles. The real difference between today's indica and sativa plants is their observable traits during the cultivation cycle. Indica plants tend to grow short with thick stems and broad, deep-green leaves. They also have short flowering cycles and grow sufficiently in cold, short-season climates. Sativa plants have longer flowering cycles, fare better in warm climates with long seasons, and usually grow taller with light-green, narrow leaves.
Some of the cannabis plant's most appealing qualities are the aromas and flavors experienced during consumption, and for that, you can thank terpenes. Terpenes are hard at work delivering tasty citrus, diesel, woody, pine, skunky, coffee, spicy, herbal, or tropical flavors to your palate. They also support other cannabis compounds in producing physiological and cerebral effects. There is synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes, not to mention other secondary metabolites and phytochemicals. This is the essence of the entourage effect, and it's the reason terpenes have revealed themselves to be such a critical piece of the cannabis puzzle.
There are a variety of ways to consume cannabis. The right consumption method is going to depend on the cannabis product you're using and what kind of experience you seek. Generally, consumption methods fall into four categories: inhalation, oral, sublingual, and topical.
Cannabis edibles are foods and beverages infused with cannabis. Though they've risen in popularity recently, edibles aren't exactly new. Now, thanks to advances in infusion methods, you can find a wide selection of cannabis-infused baked goods, gummies, seasoning packets, cooking oil, chocolates, breath strips, mints, sodas, and countless other items. The benefit of consuming cannabis-infused edibles is the ability to feel the effects of cannabis without having to smoke flower or vaporize concentrates.
Tinctures: Created by steeping cannabis in alcohol, tinctures are absorbed through the blood vessels under the tongue (sublingually). To get the full effect, put a few drops of the tincture under your tongue and hold it there, allowing the cannabis to absorb. Then swallow the remaining liquid. Any cannabinoids not absorbed sublingually will be absorbed through the digestive tract. The dual absorption locations mean tinctures taken sublingually can have rapid onset of effects as well as another onset later, like an edible.
Topicals: Products allow you to absorb cannabinoids through the skin, where they may provide localized effects for things like pain or muscle soreness. Unlike other consumption methods, you won't experience any psychoactive effects when using topicals.
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