Medical marijuana makes you feel better because of the effects of cannabinoids, found in both the marijuana plant and our own bodies, that restore or maintain the stability and health of our bodies.
Marijuana contains cannabinoids.
Both human beings and marijuana flowers produce cannabinoids. In human beings, they are called endocannabinoids, and they attach to receptors designed specifically to receive them (collectively referred to as the endocannabinoid system). Plant cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) behave the same way as endocannabinoids, attaching to the same receptors. Though there are over a hundred known cannabinoids, the most common and most studied are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Our bodies contain cannabinoid receptors.
Scientists have identified two main cannabinoid receptors called cannabinoid 1 (CB-1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB-2), each of which affects the body differently. CB-1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and CB-2 receptors are found in the immune system.
Cannabinoids connect with these receptors to improve well-being.
When THC binds our cannabinoid receptors, we often feel intoxicated or “high,” and experience a decrease in the sensation of pain. CBD typically reduces inflammation and promotes a calm feeling, which can be used to counteract the high feeling produced by THC.
Imbalance in the endocannabinoid system causes discomfort.
When there is a problem with our endocannabinoid system, our bodies experience discomfort and physical ailments. This may occur due to an illness, condition, or drug, any of which could prevent the receptor from receiving the cannabinoid. There is even some scientific research supporting the hypothesis that some people could suffer from endocannabinoid deficiencies causing migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other medical conditions.
Marijuana also contains terpenes.
In addition to cannabinoids, marijuana contains other natural chemical compounds called terpenes. Similar to essential oils, terpenes contribute to the smell and taste of a plant, and many have medicinal value.
Cannabinoids and terpenes work together to make you feel better.
Together, cannabinoids and terpenes have a synergistic effect, often enhancing or inhibiting different symptoms or feelings, depending on the relative concentrations of each. For example, marijuana that has a high concentration (above 0.5%) of the terpene myrcene has a strong sedative effect, while a low concentration of myrcene (below 0.5%) often results in an energetic feeling. Myrcene enhances the effectiveness of marijuana by allowing cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals to reach the brain faster so that you feel the effects of the marijuana sooner.
Some cannabinoid-terpene combinations may help more than others.
Each variety of marijuana, called a strain, contains different combinations and concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. As a result, different strains provide relief from different symptoms.
Try a few strains to discover which cannabinoid-terpene combinations work best for you. For a quick look at strains that might help your symptoms, check out Types of Medical Marijuana Strains (United Patients’ Group).