Cannabis and Brain – A Scientific Journey Into Mistery
Speculations about effects of cannabis on the human body are endless. We do not exactly know all the ways marijuana affects the brain. Scientists just started their work in this direction, and many contradictory pieces of evidence perplex the field.
Some studies speculate that cannabis impairs a user’s short-term memory. Other studies imply that cannabis may be a neuroprotectant and prevent the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s. We need much more long-term studies to understand what happens in our body under the influence of cannabis.
How comes? Cannabis is a diverse plant that contains hundreds of chemicals, which scientists have not studied yet. We know for sure about two of its active components – THC and CBD. They both are present in one plant but affect our endocannabinoid system in some different ways.
What is an endocannabinoid system? It is a group of cannabinoid receptors located throughout the human body. Most of them concentrate in the brain and the central and peripheral nervous systems. The endocannabinoid system affects mood, memory, physiology, pain sensation, appetite, and immune system. A primary goal of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis, a stable state of internal body environment.
Overall, cannabis plant contains at least 85 cannabinoids. We now know about two major cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors exist in the brain and nervous systems. Other organs and tissues also contain small amounts. CB1 reacts to THC from the cannabis plants (that is why we call it ‘cannabinoid’) and to anandamide, a cannabinoid naturally occurring in the body. THC affecting on CB1 receptors results in psychoactive effects. Also, THC promotes creativity, keeps you focused and amplifies your experience of the world.
CB2 receptors can be found in the immune system. They regulate anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis. CB2 acts as an immune response to many diseases. Cannabinoids connect to CB2 receptors and provide a calming and healing effect on the body.
CBD, a non-psychoactive sibling of THC, doesn’t bind to either CB1 or CB2. It indirectly stimulates cannabinoid receptors by suppressing the enzyme that affects anandamide. Perhaps, it is the reason why CBD seems to counteract some effects of THC. CBD is important in the regulation of appetite, the immune system, and anti-inflammation treatment.
Many chemicals, including THC, have a biphasic effect. It means that low and high doses can have opposite effects in users. Most doctors and medical marijuana practitioners advise patients to start small and cautious. Patients have to listen to their body to determine how a particular dose affects it. This process is called ‘self-titration.’
Importance of The Right Dose
Cannabis has a narrow therapeutic range. The optimal dosage of cannabis can relief the condition while the suboptimal dosage can create undesirable adverse effects. For example, a patient may eliminate chronic pain with low or moderate doses of cannabis, but when a dosage is too high, pain becomes intolerable.
Patients should keep in mind that THC:CBD ratios vary from strain to strain. Take a look at our Guide to Strains to get familiar with these ratios and figure out how to find the dosage you need to treat your condition.
If you are a recreational user and feel anxiety or discomfort when you choose some particular strain, try to experiment. Every human body is different and chemicals work in various ways. Take your time, try something new and enjoy!