Latin: Cannabis sativa
Parts Used: Flower, leaf
Taste/Energetics: Bitter, sweet, cooling
Properties: Analgesic, antispasmodic, entheogenic, anxiolytic, stimulant, euphoric
Actions: So much has been said about this amazing plant that its hard to think of what to add but I’ll make my own notes. Cannabis in flower form (marijuana) and its derivatives have become an enormous industry over the last few decades and increasingly due to the advent of it becoming legalized in many states, either recreationally, medicinally, or both. Through the hybridization process new strains are being created and growers are now able to change and augment the dozens of compounds such as CBD, THC and CBDA found in marijuana at a level never previous seen. Some strains have upwards of 25 % THC, the main stimulating, euphoric and entheogenic constituent found in pot. They are also able to create strains that have very high levels (>20%) CBD, the constituent most responsible for anxiety and pain relief in the plant. Because of the amazing level of modification of this plant, medicines can be made that are specifically attuned to a person’s individual’s needs. Some may want to have stimulating, energizing effects while another may want tranquilizing effects for a condition such as insomnia. Because it is fat soluble it is also easily transformed into baked goods and edibles that can be extraordinarily potent. For some people, taking a large dose of an edible can be akin to taking a hallucinogen such as psychedelic mushrooms so there is need for some caution there.
Marijuana has a long history of usage for many conditions such as epilepsy, tremors, cramping, pain, neuralgia, insomnia, for its antidepressant qualities and to reduce anxiety in some. It has a very heterogeneous effect that can cause opposite reactions in different users. Certainly some people feel a heightened feeling of anxiety, fear and paranoia- most likely from varietals that are high in THC.
For many, marijuana can be profoundly helpful by encouraging greater appreciation of one’s experience, deeper insight, increased creativity and connectedness to their environment. When taken with care and appreciation, marijuana can be a deeply sacred medicine, helping to slow down time and bring a sense of wonder, luminosity and meaning to everyday tasks and experiences.
On an energetic level, many traditional practitioners from Ayurvedic and TCM backgrounds warn against excessive use for a number of reasons. Smoking it can increase heat and dryness in the system leading to worsening problems in the lungs, throat and eventually lead to depletion and exhaustion. The nature of the plant can also be obstructive and dampening, leading to a feeling of being clouded, lethargic and emotionally distant if used chronically. High THC plants also have the ability to cause psychosis in some individuals which can be dangerous for those prone to extreme states. I have seen marijuana cause deeply psychotic manias in my clients who are diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia so great caution should be taken here. At the same time, research in vivo is pointing to the efficacy of high CBD varietals as an antipsychotic for individuals in the throws of a mania, or prone to mania.
There is increasing evidence that the legalization movement is changing the way people are approaching mental health. In legal states there have been a dramatic decrease in prescriptions of standard psychiatric tranquilizers, anxiolytics and pain meds. People feel empowered by being able to grow, make and choose their medicine and the dosage. Even with some of the problems associated with the cannabis industry this is a movement in a very good direction.
As an herbalist I would personally like to see the “cannabis as medicine” movement shift to primarily encouraging organic, outdoor grown marijuana as opposed to indoor, highly chemically treated strains that are ubiquitous. If we are going to use pot commonly as our medicine, we need a better relationship to this plant and treat it with greater respect and love.
Dosage: Tricky question with pot. Tolerance develops in long term use and one puff of pot can send someone into frantic paranoia while another could take bong tokes of bowl after bowl of high potency weed without ill effect. So dosage of smoking this plant depends. With edibles, 10 milligrams of the plant has been seen as a standard single dose here in Oregon and I would agree. One of the best ways I know for dosing edibles is to use a tincture. That way one can fine tune exactly how much wants to use. In general, reducing the ill effects of smoke is the best option for folks who use this plant regularly. Using a vaporizer or taking small doses of edibles is a better path for the health of the body.
Contraindications: Read above.