Starting with the last issue of My Herbs, we’ve been getting you acquainted with the healing properties of arguably the most controversial herb of our times – cannabis, or hemp. In the introductory part, we went over the most important moments in the history of the medical use of this herb, and now we’re going to focus on its botanic description and a basic explanation of the mechanisms responsible for its vast healing properties.
Cannabis is an annual, diecious plant from the Cannabaceae family, which includes hop (Humulus) as well. Cannabis plants have a characteristic deep green color, with jagged leaves and specific blooms which produce aroma and resin. It is the resin which contains the most beneficial substances, the so-called cannabinoids, which we’ll examine in a bit.
Cannabis adapts well to various environments, and thanks to that we can find it practically anywhere in the world: in temperate, sub-tropical, and tropical climates of Asia, Europe, and Africa but also in the freezing plains of Siberia.
According to many scientists, the resin content in the blooms depends not only on the strain of cannabis but also on the location and climate it grows in – on its temperature and amount of rainfall and sunlight.
The most popular and common cannabinoid, the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC), is the main active substance in the plant with psychoactive properties, causing the infamous ‘stoned’ feeling. At the same time, however, THC has a wide array of possible medical applications, while for the plant itself it serves only as a protection against UV radiation. While cannabis grown in the tropics looks different from cannabis grown in a temperate climate, they are, in fact, one and the same plant that only reacts differently according to its environment. Nevertheless, we can still distinguish three basic types of cannabis:
A typical plant of the temperate climate, Cannabis sativa can grow up to six meters (roughly 20 ft) in height. It usually contains lesser amounts of the psychoactive THC and also of the non-psychoactive CBD, cannabidiol – the second most common cannabinoid, which also has great healing potential. Apart from the industrial variety, the cannabis sativa genus also encompasses the taller plants with euphoric properties.
Cannabis indica grows up to three meters (nearly ten feet) in height. Its leaves are dark green and its flower clusters very rich. It is most often found in sub-tropical and tropical climates, but its origins are in more remote areas like Afghanistan or Tibet. Its blooms produce more resin and contain more THC and CBD. In comparison to sativa, the indica’s effects are usually more sedative, soothing and ‘grounding.’
Text by: Lukas Hurt
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