Understanding Cannabinoids For Medical Treatment

Dr. Danial Schecter, MD, CCFP, Family Physician, gives a comprehensive overview of the cannabis plant and how cannabinoids can be used to treat some medical conditions.

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Dr. Danial Schecter, MD, CCFP, Family Physician, gives a comprehensive overview of the cannabis plant and how cannabinoids can be used to treat some medical conditions.
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Featuring Dr. Danial Schecter, MD, CCFP, Family Physician

Duration: 4 minutes, 19 seconds

Patients are increasingly asking physicians if cannabis is right for them. Unfortunately, health care providers rarely learn about cannabis and cannabinoids in medical school or throughout residency training. And as such, we lack the knowledge, the vocabulary to provide these valuable – or this valuable information.

In order to get this information, it’s important to understand what it is we’re talking about when we use the term cannabis. The term cannabis actually refers to the cannabis plant. This is very different from marijuana - or weed, or pot, or ganja or reefer.

All of those terms are actually slang terms. And they’re slang terms that refer specifically to a portion of the cannabis plant. It refers specifically to the flowering buds and leaves of the female cannabis plant. The cannabis plant is a genus of plant that has a few different species, and it is actually a genus of plant that comes in both males and females.

Marijuana refers particularly to the flowering buds and leaves of the female cannabis plant. Marijuana is actually covered in a sticky, resinous goo. And if we look at this resin under a microscope and analyze it, it contains over 450 different compounds.

Of those 450 compounds, about a hundred of them are considered cannabinoids. Cannabinoids actually refers to an entire class of molecules. This class of molecule has a common structure that can interact with the body, most often with cannabinoid receptors.

The other main group of molecules within the cannabis plant, or marijuana, are terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give the particular smell to cannabis. Terpenes are actually not particular to cannabis, they’re found throughout nature. Terpenes are commonly found in nature and they actually form the basis of aromatherapy.

If we think of things such as lavender, mangoes, pepper, all of the scents that they produce come from terpenes. The terpenes that are found in cannabis not only have an effect on the human body, but they can also have an effect on cannabinoids.

There are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Of those 100 cannabinoids there are two that are found in higher concentration than all others. These two cannabinoids are referred to as THC, also called delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD, also called cannabidiol.

THC is the only cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that causes euphoria. Cannabis that has been grown for recreational purposes has actually been grown and selectively bred over the generations to have increasing amounts of THC.

And that’s why they say cannabis nowadays is about 5 to 10 times more potent than it was back in the 1960s and 70s. CBD, on the other hand, does not cause euphoria, and can actually decrease the amount of euphoria that you get from THC. CBD, in and of itself, has actually been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and is also under investigation to be antipsychotic, as well as antiepileptic, and even anxiolytic.

For more information on cannabinoid medicine, it’s important to reach out to a colleague or other health care professional that has knowledge and training within the field.

Dr. Caroline MacCallum, Internal Medicine, Vancouver, BC

Presenter: Dr. Danial Schecter, Family Doctor, Midland, ON

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.