How to Use Cannabis as Medicine
By Guest Author and Cannabis Expert Erika Weich L. AC MSOM, Owner of Conscious Medz
Since cannabis legalization has been spreading like wildfire more people have been interested in using Cannabis as medicine. Many have heard that cannabis can be helpful in treating many ailments such as seizures, pain, movement disorders, insomnia, anxiety, autism, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, nausea, digestive disorders, head injuries etc. But the question is how do you use cannabis as medicine? Those who are interested in trying cannabis for their ailments are not usually looking to get “high” like recreational users. So how do you use a plant with psychoactive properties to relieve your ailments without getting high? The answer is dosage, strain choice, ratio of CBD to THC, and delivery method. Photo image Attributed by Rorozoa with freepik.com
Before we explore how to use cannabis as medicine – let's look into the system in the body that is the master regulator, the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Many people don’t know that our bodies produce cannabinoids, and we have receptors in our brain, organs, glands, connective tissues and immune cells for endocannabinoids (made in our bodies) and Phyto cannabinoids (from plants). Our endocannabinoid system is constantly trying to get our bodies to reach homeostasis and maintain balance at a cellular level. This is your body trying to adapt internally to changing environments externally. Understanding this system really helps explain why cannabis can affect so many different functions in your body at the same time.
The endocannabinoid system regulates “mood, appetite, memory, inflammation, pain perception, muscle tone and movement, extinction of traumatic memories, protection of nerves and brain tissue, tumor regulation, bone growth, baby breastfeeding reward, stress management, eye pressure, gastro-intestinal motility, seizure activity and many others” -Sunil Aggarwal MD, PhD
This is why using a low dose of cannabis medicine can tone the endocannabinoid system and keep our bodies resilient to toxicities and changes in our environment.
Dosing Dosage is a crucial part of prescribing cannabis medicine. One of the biggest problems with cannabis medicine is patients often start with too high of a dose and have an unpleasant experience and will never try it again. Most people feel comfortable with hemp products that are high CBD, but they do not work well for a lot of ailments that respond better to a cannabis preparation with some THC. Patients often say to me “I tried CBD and it did not work for me.” When treating pain, I consider CBD a great anti-inflammatory and THC as a wonderful analgesic. CBD can also work great for anxiety, depression and seizures. If a high CBD cannabis tincture does not work, my suggestion is to use a product that has THC in it at a lower dose to see if the client can get better results. Cannabis is a powerful medicine that needs to be approached with respect. My goal with my patients is to help them slowly approach their therapeutic window which is different for everyone. The state sets the maximum individual dose at 10mg in recreational products and for most patients this is too much. The challenge in aiding patients with cannabis is the range in a therapeutic dose is huge (from about .1 mg THC to 1500mg THC). Therefore, I really like tinctures because there is no fixed dosage, and it allows the patient to really tune into the dosage that works for them. When a patient is starting to use cannabis for the first time, I always recommend they start with one drop of a whole plant tincture in the evening, usually a 1:1 CBD:THC ratio (Our Remedy tincture). Each night I suggest increasing by one or 2 drops until the patients feels something or is sleeping soundly. It is best to take 2 hours before bed because it takes 1-2 hours to take effect. This way the client can try using a tincture with some THC in it in their home when they are not going anywhere. If the patient knows they are extremely sensitive to cannabis I would try starting with a 20:1 CBD: THC (Our Ringo’s Gift)- just one drop, for a very small percentage of the population they need to do this test and move up from there. But most could start with a 1:1 CBD: THC (Our Remedy) or a high THC indica whole plant tincture (our Purple OG Kush 9:1 THC:CBG). Here is a cannabinoid chart to help you understand the distinct functions of each cannabinoid.
Strain choice matters! Choosing the correct strain or cultivar (type of cannabis) is another especially important consideration. The industry uses indica, sativa and hybrid to categorize most cannabis products. By categorizing products like this they are referring to indica- sedative, sativa- energizing, and hybrid somewhere in the middle. Our company (Conscious Medz) feels this is not enough information because they may have labeled them indica, sativa or hybrid but the terpene profile might not match that label. The terpenes are the essential oils of the plant. I like the saying “THC is like the gas pedal and terpenes are the steering wheel.” Understanding the terpene profile can really help the client understand why they like or do not like a certain type of cannabis. On all our label's we list the terpenes and cannabinoids and supply terpene/cannabinoid charts to the stores that carry our products. For example, Myrcene is sedating so any strains that you see that have prominent levels of myrcene can be helpful for sleep, relaxing, and pain (Our Remedy, Purple OG Kush, Palace Kush.) Here is a terpene chart to help you gather some understanding of how the terpenes influence the medicinal qualities of cannabis.
CBD to THC (best to go for whole plant for medicine) At Conscious Medz we designed our products so the client could have the most information about the cannabis products they were using. We use cannabis flowers (instead of cannabis leaves) in all our extracts so the clients could have the highest quality medicine possible. Every product we make is strain or cultivar specific meaning we only use one type of cannabis in the plant, and we never use hemp CBD isolate (the isolated CBD molecule.) Most of the industry uses hemp CBD isolate for the CBD part of their cannabis products because it is so cheap, but we have found it is not so clinically effective. The cannabis plant has over 400 compounds in it that work synergistically together- this is called the entourage effect. So isolating THC and CBD and adding them in proper amounts to a product does not produce the same result as all the compounds working together. Therefore, whole plant medicine is essential! We also source from farms that grow in living organic soil and either in greenhouses or under the sun. The industry standard is hydroponic indoor which is energy intensive and pollutes the water with salt fertilizers and nitrogen. Pictured here is Ringo’s Gift high CBD strain growing in AJ’s (ajsmj.com) underground geothermal greenhouse in living organic soil beds.
Delivery Cannabis is such an amazing herb that has so many medicinal qualities in each unique strain or cultivar and effects everyone differently. My advice is to start super slow and to listen to your body. If you are having anxiety, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, nausea- take less! If you do not like a particular strain or cultivar, try a different one and pay attention to the cannabinoid and terpene profile that works best for you. There is so much to learn about this plant- this blog is just a quick introduction. If you would like to learn more about cannabis, my favorite reference book is Cannabis is Medicine by Bonnie Goldstein. Check out www.consciousmedz.com if you would like to learn more about our recreational and medical products.
About Erika Weich L.Ac. MSOM
Licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. Erika has been practicing acupuncture and prescribing custom Chinese herbal formulas since 2003 in Boulder.
Erika has a master's in Science in Oriental medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College and has studied in Hanoi, Vietnam in the National Institute for Traditional Medicine. Erika has studied Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition extensively.
Erika has been utilizing cannabis in her practice since 2013. Incessant research and clinically studying the effects of cannabis on clients has shaped her expertise in the cannabis industry. Erika views cannabis similarly to Traditional Chinese Medicine, in the way that each person has unique and individual needs in the healing process. Erika’s experience has led her into creating a line of strain specific whole plant cannabis tinctures, chocolates and salves.
Resources / Research links on Cannabis (to list only a few of many! ) https://www.future-science.com/doi/abs/10.4155/fmc.09.93 https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/can.2016.0009 https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2018.0437 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30624194/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7700528/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8064164/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1043661816000396?via%3Dihub