Monday, 5 October 2015

Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis

Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis

Cannabis is a plant that indigenously originates in Asia but its use and cultivation goes back far in human history and has long been established in Africa, Europe and America. It is a versatile and fast growing plant and can grow in a wide varieties of climates, though it prefers warmer climates with good sun exposure.

Though its proper name is cannabis hemp it is also known as Marijuana (a name which ironically comes from a slang term for tobacco in south and central America but was adopted by the US government as a recognised name for the cannabis plant).

Cannabis has 3 basic species, Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis, though many modern strains are actually hybrid mixtures with Sativa-Indica crosses the most common.

Though there is much debate on the subject there is no actual distinctive difference between cannabis and hemp. Hemp is nothing but another name for cannabis. The term hemp is usually reserved for male plants or strains very low in THC that are used for industrial purposes but the fact remains that hemp is another name for cannabis. Most products made from cannabis, like seed oil, paper, clothing material, fibre and food products are usually referred to as made from hemp. Prior to the prohibition of cannabis hemp was the most utilised plant for the purposes of producing fabrics, ropes and various clothing materials, including denim. Hemp remains the most efficient source for many products. Hemp paper is superior in quality to paper made from timber and can be produced in much larger quantities. Depending on the strain cannabis/hemp can produce 4 times as much paper as timber per acre and can be regrown every 6 to 9 months, as opposed to the many years required to grow the trees used for paper. Cannabis detoxifies and replenishes soil and its deep roots are very useful for preventing soil erosion. Cannabis can be grown in relatively arid lands and after a few crops can transform previously unsuitable land into land that can then be more suitable for other crops. Cannabis is environmentally friendly as it requires little to no pesticides and is considered a preferable source for clothing material and fabrics than cotton.

Cannabis can also provide wood, plastic and rubber like substances that are non toxic and can also be used to create bio fuels. Henry Ford famously built a car made almost entirely from cannabis hemp, even able to run on ethanol derived from cannabis hemp, and had a body made from hemp that was shown to be both lighter, more durable and stronger than steel.

In addition to the numerous materials that can be produced from cannabis hemp, which vary from high quality paper to building materials and a wide range of fabrics ranging from coarse fibres to silk like fabrics, cannabis hemp also produces seeds that are a complete food source. The essential fatty acids in hemp seeds are so complete that they represent the perfect ratio to meet the optimum nutritional requirements of humans. Hemp seed oil and hemp seeds supply everything the body needs from a nutritional point of view and is considered a "super food" that is ideal for optimum health.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa is identified as a more fibres plant and is characterised as a tall growing plant with leaves that have thinner more widely separated "fingers". Cannabis Sativas can grow to as tall as 6 metres. Though varieties do vary, most cannabis sativas are considered to be more THC/THCA dominant with very little CBD content. Though Sativas are also used for medicinal and recreational value they are more suitable for industrial use than Indica or Ruderalis due to their fibres, tall growing characteristics.

Though Cannabis Sativas are generally considered higher THC/THCA content, strains bred for industrial purposes have been selectively bred to be very low in THC/THCA content in accordance with legal restrictions on cannabis as a "narcotic". Male plants of all species have very low cannabinoid content so are considered ideal for industrial purposes.

Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica is a shorter species of cannabis and tends to be fatter in appearance. The leaves are also wider with fatter "fingers". Generally speaking Cannabis Indicas are considered richer in CBD than the THC dominant Sativa strains, though selective breeding has made high CBD strains rarer as THC is more sought after in recreational markets. Cannabis Indica is a shorter plant but is more bushy than either Sativas or Ruderalis and tends to yield more flowers than the other species.

Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis Ruderalis is the smallest of the 3 basic species. Ruderalis originates from Russia and is capable of suited to colder climates than the other species. While Sativas and Indicas flower in accordance with light cycles, which when grown outside is dictated by the seasons, cannabis ruderalis actually flowers in accordance with its age. This is known as autoflowering and is desirable for those who wish for fast flowering that can flower outside regardless of the season. Ruderalis are also known as "low riders" because they tend to be very small, a characteristic that can be very advantageous for many purposes.

Most strains available today are mixtures of the above 3 species. Indica Sativa crosses are the most common as the high THC content of many Sativa strains combined with the high yields of Indica can make for strains that are very desirable for recreational and medicinal purposes. Though Sativa Indica crosses are the most common the autoflowering and small size of Ruderalis makes them very desirable for many purposes. 

United Patients Alliance would like to thank Matt Sands and #MedicineGrows for this article

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Terpenes - The Smell of Freedom

Terpenes - The Smell of Freedom

One thing many people notice about cannabis is the smell, which varies a lot from strain to strain. Contrary to popular belief the cannabinoids in cannabis, like THC, have no smell and the unique fragrance of various cannabis strains is actually dictated by the Terpenes. 

Terpenes, or Terpenoids as they otherwise called, are what gives cannabis its smell. Unlike Cannabinoids which are virtually exclusive to the cannabis plant, Terpenes are also found in other plants. In addition to providing the aroma of cannabis, terpenes have various therapeutic properties of their own and can also provide synergistic effects with the naturally present cannabinoids, contributing to the entourage effect.

Though there are many more terpenes present in cannabis the most well known are listed below along with the numerous therapeutic properties they can potentially provide.

Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Pinene

These terpenes are also found in pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley and dill and unsurprisingly give cannabis a pine like effect. Like many terpenoids the medical value is yet to be fully explored but it has been established as an antiseptic and is useful at relieving the effects of Asthma. Vaporising cannabis is primarily a good medicine for asthma because of the bronchial dilating effects of THC, but cannabis with Alpha or Beta Pinene in high amounts is considered to be even more effective as an medicine for Asthma.

This terpenoid is also known to counter the psychoactive effects of THC and mediate the high in a similar manner to CBD. It is also considered to be good for memory and makes users feel more alert, something which can counter the sedative effects of many cannabis strains, particularly those with high CBN content.


This terpenoid is also found in mangos, lemongrass, thyme and hops. It has a musky, earthy, herbal smell with hints of citrus. Cannabis with a high Myrcene content is considered better for relaxing as it has a more sedative and relaxing effect. While research is limited this terpenoid is known to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has shown some anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) effects. It is also being looked at for its potential as an anti-depressant and is useful for pain relief and aiding sleep. Like with other terpenoids it has an effect on the overall entourage effect of cannabis and aids the effects of cannabis when treating inflammation or insomnia.


This terpenoid is also found in fruit rinds (skin) and is particularly abundant in lemons, it is also found in rosemary, juniper and peppermint. Its aroma is basically a citrus like smell and is the primary terpenoid found in cannabis that has a strong citrus smell to it, especially lemon varieties like Lemon Haze. Cannabis with a high limonene content is very good for stress relief and is found to be very good at elevating mood making it useful for treating depression. It has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic effects. It can also be used to treat heartburn, depression, dissolve gallstones and is being looked at for its potential to treat gastrointestinal problems. It also appears to enhance the effects of THC and contributes to the entourage effect in a manner that appears to increase the psychoactive effects of THC.


This terpenoid is also found in many natural sources including black pepper, lavender, basil, cloves, hops, Oregano, true cinnamon, rosemary, west African pepper and black caraway. Its smell is a peppery and mildly spicy aroma. While it appears to have no noticeable effects to the user on its own it is believed to moderate the psychoactive effects of THC and is especially useful at relieving anxiety. It is the subject of a lot of research and interest with regards to its various medical properties.

Unlike other terpenoids, caryophyllene has some affinity with the cannabinoid receptor CB2, though has no effect on CB1. Though it is not listed as an actual cannabinoid it is under investigation for its potential to mimic the effects of cannabinoids that utilise the CB2 receptor. So far the activation of CB2 has only been established in mice and is yet to be proven in humans, however the potential for it to modulate the Endo Cannabinoid System via the CB2 pathway makes it a subject of great interest as an anxiolytic, anti-depressant, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory compound. It may also have some cancer killing properties as both THC and CBD have been shown to exert anti cancer effects through activation of the CB2 receptor, however in the case of caryophyllene this particular property has yet to be demonstrated in pre-clinical investigations.


Also found in Lavender, it has a lavender like smell characterised as a floral smell with hints of citrus. It is not very well research but is believed to be good at relieving anxiety and is mildly sedative, which makes it useful for aiding sleep. It’s presence in cannabis appears to contribute to the relaxing effects and enhances its use as an anti-depressant.

A Bisabolol

Is a more rare terpenoid and is not found in significant quantities in any other known plant apart from German chamomile, though has been synthesised. It has been shown to induce apoptosis in leukemia cells in vitro which makes it a compound of interest in developing selective cancer treatments. It has a very mild but sweet floral smell to it and has been used in many skin products for its believed skin healing properties. It is considered an anti-irritant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.


Terpenine is technically a blanket term for a small variety of chemicals. A terpenine is found naturally in significant quantities in cumin. B terpenine is only found in synthetic form and is created from the naturally occurring monoterpine Sabinine which is found in black pepper and carrot seed, among other sources.
Terpenine is used in perfume and as in flavourings. Though it is used in the pharmaceutical industry it has no established therapeutic properties.

While research into the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids, especially the raw cannabinoid acids, is limited outside of the better known cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which themselves have had research restricted, the terpenoids have even less research dedicated to them currently, despite the lack of legal restriction that applies to the cannabinoids.

Though some therapeutic value has been established and experienced with most of the terpenes it is only really Caryophyllene that has a significant amount of research into its biological activity and as a result it is this particular terpene that will likely to be developed for medicinal use first. Though it must be noted that Limonene, Myrcene and both Alpha and Beta-Pinene have all shown great promise both for their standalone therapeutic potential and their potential to enhance or mediate the effects of the cannabinoids and cannabinoid acids found naturally in cannabis.

The cannabinoids remain the most medicinally recognised components of the plant, with the decarboxylated cannabinoids more established than their acidic precursors, and with THC and CBD the most medicinally established cannabinoids to date. But while the other cannabinoids and cannabinoid acids are proving to be of great interest for their medical applications the terpenoids also appear to play a role in the therapeutic potential of cannabis medicines and just as cannabinoid profiles are proving to be important for different medicinal applications the terpenoid profile of various cannabis strains may also prove to be of great importance in maximising therapeutic efficacy.

United Patients Alliance would like to thank Matt Sands and #MedicineGrows for this article

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Decarboxylation and Oxidisation

Decarboxylation and Oxidisation


Decarboxylation is the process of converting cannabinoid acids like THCA into the neutral or "activated" cannabinoids like THC. In the case of THCA and THC it is the decarboxylation process that makes it psychoactive as THCA does not pass the blood brain barrier and does not activate the primary cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. The "high" effect of THC is a result of THC entering the brain and activating CB1 receptors. As THCA is not capable of passing the blood brain barrier or activating the CB1 receptor, it is not capable of causing psychoactive effects observed with THC.

Decarboxylation is a result of a combination of heat and time. Most of the cannabinoids on the plant while it is still growing are cannabinoid acids. As cannabis is dried and cured decarboxylation occurs at a relatively slow rate. Increases in heat can increase the rate of decarboxylation and cooking cannabis or exposing it to high heat can decrease the time required to complete full decarboxylation. For example, cooking cannabis at between 106 and 130 degrees Celsius will likely cause decarboxylation to be fully completed with in an hour. Heating cannabis to the temperatures sufficient to vaporise the cannabinoids will cause instant decarboxylation as will the heat involved in smoking it, although the extreme heats involved in smoking cannabis will also burn many of the cannabinoids and essentially destroy them through combustion.

The reason why the most efficient methods for completing full decarboxylation are considered to be either vaporisation or cooking for an hour at between 106 and 130 degrees Celsius is because other factors, like degradation, or even combustion at extreme temperatures, can also come into play. For example, while heat and time can cause decarboxylation which converts cannabinoid acids like THCA into neutral cannabinoids like THC, heat and time can also cause THC to degrade to another cannabinoid called CBN.

In laboratory experiments looking at different times and temperatures involved in decarboxylation it was observed that above 140 degrees Celsius decarboxylation was achieved very quickly with approximately 70% of the THCA converted to THC in under 7 minutes, however after 7 minutes THC began to degrade to CBN at a faster rate than the remaining THCA converted to THC. This meant that the 70% decarboxylation represented the highest potency of THC achievable at that temperature and THC quantity then rapidly decreased as it degraded to CBN at a faster rate than the remaining THCA was able to convert to THC.

A similar problem is observed with lower temperatures for longer time periods and as a result the optimum temperatures recommended for cooking cannabis is between 110 and 130 degrees Celsius. Producing cannabis extracts through vaporisation is even more efficient as decarboxylation occurs instantly with virtually no degradation or combustion, however use of such techniques are difficult for most people to achieve in large quantities.

At any consistent temperature decarboxylation above 70% with out causing degradation to CBN is very difficult to achieve and higher percentages usually required multiple stages of cooking. More efficient decarboxylation has been achieved through cooking initially at between 90 and 100 degrees Celsius for approximately 30 minutes followed by an additional 30 minutes at between 120 and 130 degrees Celsius. Different variants of this method and different times and temperatures have been tried and tested also.

The problem with such precise decarboxylation is that other factors also come into play. For example already extracted oils decarboxylate at different rates than plant material. How much decarboxylation has already occurred prior to cooking, like during drying or even in some cases prior to drying, can also influence the time and temperature required to complete full decarboxylation.
Extreme precision would require laboratory testing prior to the process, during the process and obviously post decarboxylation to test your results. So in the absence of such testing, the general rule of thumb for people who wish to complete full decarboxylation in the most efficient manner possible would be to cook it for between 30 minutes and an hour at temperatures ranging between 110 and 130 degrees Celsius.

Although many oil makers do cook plant material to achieve full decarboxylation prior to extracting oil from the plant material, there is advantages to cooking after oil has been extracted. The main advantage to decarboxylation after extracting oil is that you can observe the decarboxylation in the form of tiny bubbles and pin prick pops on the surface of the oil. At temperatures above 106 degrees Celsius the decarboxylation "activity" is easily observable and obvious and when this activity subsides you can be sure that the decarboxylation is complete.

There are also advantages to cooking plant material prior to extracting oil as well, primarily that the cannabinoids extract easier if the plant material is dryer. A very popular method is to cook plant material enough to dry out the plant material and partially decarboxylate the cannabis prior to extraction and then cook the oil after extraction to finish decarboxylation. This way you are getting the best of both worlds and the final decarboxylation process will also help to purge remaining traces of solvents from the oil, which is especially important when using toxic solvents like Naptha, butane or Isopropyl alcohol.

It is also worth noting that different extraction processes will cause different levels of decarboxylation. Depending on other factors, like the amount of material you are working with, which would influence the amount of solvent required, there is also a big difference between how much decarboxylation is achieved during the actual extraction process.

For example, the methods popularised by people like Rick Simpson, which involves the use of petro chemical solvents like Naptha or Isopropyl alcohol, require heat to boil off the solvent. The heat and time involved will cause at least a partial decarboxylation of the cannabis, so is unsuitable for people who wish to avoid decarboxylation for the purpose of creating raw oils or extracts. Alcohol, for example, boils at just over 80 degrees Celsius which is hot enough to cause some measurable level of decarboxylation, though depending on how long these temperatures are applied, which itself will depend on how much solvent you are boiling off, the amount of decarboxylation achieved will vary. Other methods like infusing with Olive oil require much less heat so much less decarboxylation will occur with out additional cooking. Butane extraction (BHO - Butane Honey Oil) require very little heat so virtually no decarboxylation is likely to occur and subsequent extract will be virtually completely raw.

It is worth noting that even hot extraction processes like the Rick Simpson method only partially cook the oil and additional heat is required to finish the decarboxylation process. Rick Simpson's protocol does recommend the use of a gentle heating device like a coffee warmer to "finish" the oil, which can complete decarboxylation if applied for long enough. However the coffee warmer is only used as an example of a "gentle heating device" and is portrayed as simply a step to help evaporate last traces of solvent and water with out burning the oil. It is not articulated what the heat and time required actually is and his video guide fails to mention decarboxylation in anyway and fails to mention the need for minimum temperatures during this process. 

It is actually possible to complete full decarboxylation in the rice cooker but this would require you to allow the temperature to rise after the solvent is boiled off, which is actually contrary to what is advised in Rick Simpson's video guides, like the guide found on his documentary "Run from the Cure". If you are using Isopropyl alcohol, or other forms of alcohol, to extract the cannabis oil then the rice cooker will not heat the oil solvent solution beyond the boiling temperature of the solvent until the solvent is virtually all gone. In the case of alcohol the temperature will remain just above 80 degrees Celsius through out the cook off and while some partial decarboxylation will occur during this process additional cooking will be required to complete this. Recently added to Rick Simpson's website as an alternative to the coffee warmer is the recommendation of placing oil in an oven for an hour at 130 degrees Celsius, though previously recommended temperature was 110c. Though both are viable options the coffee warmer will only heat to about 60 degrees Celsius so cooking at the higher temperatures of 110 to 130c is considered a far more efficient method of decarboxylation.
In addition to the desired decarboxylation, heating at lower temperatures for longer time periods or cooking at temperatures above the optimum recommended temperatures can also degrade the THC to CBN. Also, in addition to losing cannabinoid acids through conversion to neutral cannabinoids, full decarboxylation will inevitably cause a loss of terpenoids which will evaporate during the cooking process.

At the end of the day the it is important to understand decarboxylation and how it is achieved. If you are wanting to utilise the medicinal benefits of raw cannabinoid acids, like THCA, with out the psychoactive effects of THC then you will need to avoid any heat. Extraction process will need to stay below 50c and oil will need to be refrigerated to prevent gradual decarboxylation which can occur at room temperature. However if you are treating something like cancer then you will require maximum THC or CBD potency, which will require full decarboxylation. For full decarboxylation you will need to cook your cannabis at temperatures ranging from 110 to 130 degrees Celsius. Full decarboxylation will result in a loss of terpenoids which will evaporate as it is cooked, and of course a complete loss of cannabinoid acids as they are converted to neutral cannabinoids, but for cancer it is the neutral cannabinoids that are most effective. For some conditions a combination of raw and decarboxylated cannabinoids, along with terpenoids, may be preferred. For this reason many people prefer to intentionally cook their oil to the point of partial decarboxylation. Partial decarboxylation does give a larger range of cannabinoids, cannabinoid acids and terpendoids but accurate doses are harder to gage so combining fully cooked oils with completely raw oils is often better from a dosing point of view.


Often confused with decarboxylation, oxidisation is actually a slightly different process. Decarboxylation is the loss of carbon(Co2) which converts cannabinoid acids like THCA to the neutral or "activated" cannabinoids like THC. Oxidisation is the loss of hydrogen, which converts THC to CBN, or THCA to CBNA if decarboxylation has not already occurred.
Both decarboxylation and oxidisation can be achieved through a combination of heat and time. For example, during the process of drying or "curing" cannabis decarboxylation will occur at a very slow rate, often taking many weeks, even months, to be fully completed. This same process also causes oxidisation and the longer cannabis is left to dry the more likely oxidisation will occur, which will degrade cannabinoids like THC to lesser cannabinoids like CBN.

Generally speaking decarboxylation occurs before oxidisation. Both drying and cooking cannabis will cause decarboxylation which converts cannabinoid acids to neutral cannabinoids, then additional cooking or drying will then cause the neutral cannabinoids to degrade to the lesser cannabinoids, this is often referred to as aging cannabis.

To use the THC journey as an example, the acidic precursor to THC is THCA. THCA converts to THC through decarboxylation, which is caused by a combination of heat and time. THC then converts or degrades to CBN through oxidisation, which is caused by additional heat and time. This is the most common journey to CBN.

However it is possible to oxidise cannabinoid acids with out causing decarboxylation. In the case of THCA, oxidisation with out decarboxylation will cause the THCA to degrade directly to CBNA, with out converting to THC. CBNA can then be converted to CBN through decarboxylation. UV exposure and oxygen can cause oxidisation to occur before decarboxylation. This is why it is recommended to dry cannabis in the dark as decarboxylation can occur but oxidisation is minimised if it is not exposed to excessive light.

Generally speaking oxidisation is an unwanted consequence of drying or cooking cannabis but as uses for degraded cannabinoids like CBN become more sought after for their medical applications, methods of intentionally oxidising cannabis are becoming of interest. Very old cannabis is often much higher in CBN and cannabis that has been overcooked is also likely to be higher in CBN. CBN is a sedative and people who consume old or overcooked cannabis, which is high in CBN, find that it is more useful for aiding sleep.

The optimum cooking times and temperatures for decarboxylation are considered to be between 110 and 130 degrees Celsius for between 30 minutes and an hour. Decarboxylation can be completed at much lower temperatures, as low as 60 degrees Celsius, and at higher temperatures but outside of the optimum range oxidisation is more likely to occur. Low temperatures take so long to complete full decarboxylation that by the time the decarb is complete a measureable amount of oxidisation will also occur. In addition to this, high temperatures can cause an undesirable amount of oxidisation. THC does not actually vaporise until temperature reaches 157 degrees Celsius, however temperatures above 140 degrees Celsius can degrade THC to CBN with out actually vaporising it. It depends on the time involved but one experiment that monitored decarboxylation at temperatures of 145 degrees Celsius observed that decarboxylation was quickly achieved with approximately 70% of the THCA converting to THC with in 7 minutes, however after this time the THC levels dramatically dropped as THC began to degrade to CBN at a faster rate than the remaining THCA could convert to THC (as mentioned in the decarboxylation section). So unless you intentionally want your cannabis to be high in CBN you want to avoid such high temperatures. Low temperatures have a similar problem and temperatures below 80 degrees Celsius take so long to complete decarboxylation that oxidisation is often unavoidable. This is why 110 to 130 degrees Celsius is considered the optimum range and 30 minutes to an hour is the likely time period.

Even with in the optimum range 100% decarboxylation with zero oxidisation is near impossible to achieve at a set temperature and it seems that breaking the cooking up into two stages, applying a lower temperature of between 100 to 110 degrees Celsius followed by a higher temperature ranging between 120 and 130 degrees Celsius, can optimise the decarboxylation and minimise the oxidisation. Experiments on this have come back with differing recommendations for exact times and temperatures and other factors also effect this, like how much decarboxylation is achieved prior to cooking either from the drying of the cannabis or the extraction process. For example, cannabis oil made using a cold extraction method like BHO (Butane extraction - Butane Honey Oil) would be almost completely raw with no decarboxylation achieved prior to cooking, where as hot extraction methods like RSO (Rick Simpson Oil), which involve heat to boil off the solvent, will cause some partial decarboxylation. So the optimum cooking temperatures and times required to complete decarboxylation would differ depending on how much decarboxylation had already been achieved.

Essentially, when it comes to decarboxylation and oxidisation, cannabinoids are broken down into 3 categories. Raw cannabinoid acids like CBGA, THCA, CBDA and CBCA represent the main components of raw cannabis. "Activated" cannabinoids like CBG, THC, CBD and CBC are the main components of heated/cooked cannabis and are the result of decarboxylation. Degraded cannabinoids like CBN and CBL represent aged cannabis and are the result of oxidisation. As previously mentioned it is possible to oxidise cannabinoid acids with out causing decarboxylation. Cannabinoids like CBNA and CBLA are degraded cannabinoids but have remained acidic as they have not gone through decarboxylation so would technically be classed as "aged" or degraded cannabinoids despite not being activated by decarboxylation. But generally speaking the most common pathway is for cannabinoid acids to convert to activated cannabinoids through decarboxylation and then degrade to "aged" cannabinoids through oxidisation.

After CBGA has converted, through enzymes, to THCA, decarboxylation would convert it to THC and oxidisation would then convert the THC to CBN. If CBGA is converted, through enzymes in the plant, to CBCA then decarboxylation would then convert the CBCA to CBC and then oxidisation would then convert the CBC to CBL. Just as THCA can oxidise directly to CBNA, with out converting to THC, CBCA can degrade directly to CBLA, by passing CBC. The journey to "aged"/degraded cannabinoids like CBN or CBL are a result of both decarboxylation and oxidisation regardless of which is achieved first. If only decarboxylation is achieved then cannabinoid acids like THCA will convert to THC and CBCA will convert to CBC. If only oxidisation is achieved, with out decarboxylation, then THCA will degrade to CBNA and CBCA will degrade to CBLA (by passing the activated cannabinoids THC and CBC). A simple way of thinking about it is to think of decarboxylation as losing the "A" (though in actuality you are losing Co2). Decarboxylation converts THCA to THC, CBDA to CBD, CBCA to CBC and CBGA to CBG. Decarboxylation also converts degraded cannabinoid acids (which have already gone through oxidisation) like CBNA to CBN and CBLA to CBL.

United Patients Alliance would like to thank Matt Sands and #MedicineGrows for this article

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Cannabis as a Preventative Medicine and Dietary Essential.

Cannabis as a Preventative Medicine and Dietary Essential

US Patent: 6,630,507 - filed Apr. 21, 1998
Cannabis is a medicine, there can no longer be debate about that, and while the full extent of its medicinal potential is yet to be fully explored its status as a legitimate medicine is now beyond dispute. US Patents like patent number 6,630,507 make a mockery of the US government's denial of its medicinal status, as such patents show that they are fully aware of many of the medicinal properties and potential of cannabis.
Likewise the UK government has exposed their own contradictions on the subject as they license GW Pharmaceuticals to grow cannabis for both medicinal research and to produce cannabis based medicines, already approving the patented cannabis tincture Sativex as a safe and effective medicine for MS, with many trials already approved exploring the efficacy of patented cannabis medicines for a wide range of illnesses including MS, Epilepsy, Schizophrenia, Arthritis and as a cancer treatment for Glioma.

The obvious conflicts between the prohibition of cannabis that outlaws proper access to this proven medicine and the issue of the human rights of sick people in this country is being challenged by groups like the UPA (UnitedPatients Alliance) among others. But an equally valid issue is the issue of disease prevention. One thing that is generally agreed upon by all doctors and scientists is that the most effective treatment for illness is and will always be prevention.

The Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System
To understand cannabis medicine you need to understand the Endocannabinoid System, which is primarily made up of receptors in our body, that are activated by cannabinoids, and the Endocannabinoids our body produces that acts upon these receptors, and other receptors in our body, for a wide variety of functions.
Essentially our Endocannabinoid System regulates almost everything in our body, including our immune system, and is responsible for maintaining proper health and balance with in the body. This is why cannabis has so many therapeutic applications as it can be used to stimulate our Endocannabinoid System to restore health. But more importantly a well maintained Endocannabinoid System can prevent disease from occurring in the first place.

A relatively well known ingredient to a healthy diet is consumption of Essential fatty Acids found in various oils like fish oil and Hemp Seed Oil (made from the seeds of cannabis/hemp). What is not so well known is why these fatty acids are so beneficial and "essential" to our health. Essential fatty Acids like Omega 6 are used by our body to produce the Endocannabinoids which are then used to maintain a wide variety of vital functions with in our body. 

It is now well established that cannabinoids, both the Endocannabinoids produced by our body and the Phyto (plant based) cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, protect us from insult and injury. They prevent formation of cancer cells and kill existing cancer cells, reduce inflammation, hunt and kill free radicals, regulate our immune system, repair damaged DNA, protect, repair and stimulate the production of new brain cells, can both suppress and enhance immune function depending on our requirements and regulate a whole host of other functions with in our body.

Endocannabinoids like Anandamide and 2-AG are very similar to plant based cannabinoids like THC in both their structure and interaction with the CB1 and CB2 receptors (with Anandamide a strong CB1 agonist like THC while 2-AG has a strong affinity with CB1 and CB2 receptors). Both Endo cannabinoids are psychoactive in the same way as THC but are usually produced in smaller quantities and dissipate quicker, so do not tend to induce a noticeable high.
Eating a healthy diet full of Essential Fatty Acids is vital to supporting a healthy Endocannabinoid System, which in turn supports and maintains optimum health with in our body.
Ironically, while there are numerous sources of these essential fatty acids, including fish oils, flaxseed oil, olive oil etc. It is hemp seed oil (oil made from the seeds of the cannabis hemp plant) that provides the Omega 3, 6 and 9 in the optimum ratio for optimum health. The importance of the Endocannabinoids in supporting proper human development and maintaining optimum health is further supported by the presence of Endocannabinoids in mothers milk and the fact that humans continue to produce these Endocannabinoids through out our lives, from cradle to grave.

There are 3 established ways to support the Endocannabinoid System: 

  • The first is the consumption of the essential fatty acids, as part of a healthy diet that includes numerous nutrients and vitamins, which are used to produce the Endocannabinoids that help maintain optimum health. 
  • The second is to limit the pressure on the Endocannabinoid System by avoiding exposure to toxins, carcinogens, and various pollutants that could put undue burden on our Endocannabinoid System, and our immune system in general. 
  • The third way to support our Endocannabinoid System is to consume Phytocannabinoids from the plant to top up and support our Endocannabinoid System.
It is this 3rd option that is severely hindered and even outright prohibited in most parts of the world.


When it comes to cannabinoids from the plant there are essentially two categories. The raw cannabinoid acids produced by the plant and the neutral or "activated" cannabinoids which are converted from the raw cannabinoid acids through a process called decarboxylation, which is usually stimulated by heating the raw cannabis sufficiently, though does also gradually occur naturally through time as cannabis is dried after harvest. 
Cannabinoids and Medicinal Effects

In the case of THC it is this process which makes cannabis psychoactive as the raw THCA on the plant is not psychoactive until it is converted to the neutral/"activated" THC, through decarboxylation. It is also decarboxylation which is essential to allow the cannabinoids to activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors as raw THCA does not interact with these receptors and only has a direct effect on these receptors when converted to its neutral counterpart.

The Cannabis plant first produces a type of cannabinoid acid called CBGA which is then converted, by enzymes in the plant, to other cannabinoid acids like THCA, CBDA, CBCA etc. Which then convert to neutral cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBC etc. through Decarboxylation.
This gives people two options for cannabis consumption. For people who wish to utilise raw cannabinoid acids only it is advised to consume fresh cannabis, with popular methods including juicing cannabis, cold extracts (like tinctures or cold extracted oils) or eating raw as a vegetable in salads (though this last option is not desirable for some as the plant material can be too fibres for some people's digestion).
Such methods avoid the psychoactive effects of THC as raw cannabis, including THCA, can be consumed in large amounts with out causing any kind of high. However for those who wish to utilise the properties associated with the CB1 and CB2 receptors then decarboxylation is essential.

Just as the evidence is mounting up that cannabis can be used to effectively treat a wide range of illnesses including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Glaucoma, Fibromyalgia, ALS, Crohns disease, IBS, epilepsy and much more, the constantly increasing body of evidence is also showing that cannabis can be used to prevent such diseases and illnesses from occurring in the first place.

The US patent 6630507 confirms that cannabinoids, including CBD, are known for their ability to limit and repair damage caused by ischemic insult caused by strokes, but this patent also talks about how such compounds can significantly reduce the risk of stroke in the first place. Like wise, both CBD and THC as well as raw cannabinoid acids like THCA and CBDA have been shown to protect from neurological damage, inflammation and damage from free radicals. Cannabinoids like CBN and THC have been shown to aid bone growth and both THC and CBD are recognised as effective neuroprotectants, which in addition to being detailed in the US patent (6630507) is also already utilised in Israel for victims of head trauma.

Dementia Patient in Israel
THC has been shown to prevent the plaque build up that leads to Alzheimer's disease, which makes consumption of THC possibly the most effective method of preventing Alzheimer's and it is also being studied for its potential to treat the disease, with the potential of reversing it. 

The anti diabetic properties of cannabinoids strongly supports the case for cannabis as a preventative medicine for diabetes, with cannabinoids like THCV already the subject of great interest as a potential treatment for diabetes and the anti epileptic properties of CBD, THC and raw THCA and CBDA, which has made cannabis a highly sought after medicine for very serious types of epilepsy, also supports the idea that cannabis use can prevent the development of such disorders.
There is also a lot of evidence to support the idea that regular cannabis consumption can prevent the development of auto immune diseases like MS as well as being an effective treatment for such diseases with many anecdotal cases demonstrating a potential to slow down, halt, and even reverse the progression of such diseases.

Sadly, while the science, the anecdotal evidence and the clinical and pre-clinical data already shows that cannabis has tremendous benefit for a wide variety of conditions as well as being an effective preventative medicine, the full potential of cannabis as both a preventative medicine and essential nutrient as well as an effective medicine after the fact (both as a palliative and as an actual direct treatment) is essentially prevented by this ridiculous prohibition of cannabis, which has no scientific basis, no truthful or sane justification and despite becoming an absurd contradiction remains unchanged in most of the world.

Dr William Courtney and Dr David Allen are big proponents of the benefits of raw cannabinoid acids like THCA and CBDA found in raw cannabis as both an essential nutrient to prevent disease and illness and an effective medicine used to treat diseases once they have occurred and recommend juicing fresh cannabis or producing cold extracts as ideal ways to consume large amounts of cannabinoid acids, along with the naturally present flavonoids and terpenes also available in raw cannabis.
For other conditions the decarboxilated cannabinoids present in properly cooked cannabis extracts, which can be consumed by eating, smoking, vaporising or consuming via suppositories as both an effective treatment for various illnesses and as a vital nutrient to prevent diseases from occurring, are more suitable or effective.

Raw Cannabis Juice
The raw option is more desired by those who wish to avoid potential psychoactive effects of decarboxilated THC and is especially desirable for children, though does not offer all of the medicinal benefits of the decarboxylated cannabinoids. Where as many adults will prefer the often more profound benefits of the decarboxilated cannabinoids which have a more direct effect on the Endocannabinoid System and are more established with regards to the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer, with a larger body of evidence supporting their efficacy.

Sadly to consume the quantities required to utilise cannabis as a dietary essential people would need proper access to large amounts, and if they wish to utilise the raw, non psychoactive, form of cannabis they need access to large amounts of fresh cannabis. A feat which could be easily achieved if it wasn't for this shameful prohibition as cannabis is a fast growing and potentially cheap to grow plant which is only the subject of such inflated costs because of the legal restrictions and prohibitions applied to it.

It may seem over simplistic to merely say that diseases like cancer, epilepsy and autoimmune diseases like MS are the result of cannabinoid deficiency but the ever growing body of evidence that confirms the potential of cannabinoids to both treat and prevent such diseases lend considerable weight to such a claim, as does the various functions and purposes of the Endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are produced by our body to maintain optimum health and balance and Phyto cannabinoids can be utilised to support this system and both maintain and restore optimum health. Until the legal restrictions are removed and people are allowed proper access to both raw and decarboxilated cannabis as both a medicine and a dietary essential we will not know just how far this medicinal potential goes but the proven benefits are already profound and the potential for cannabis to prevent disease and illness, along with its potential to treat diseases, is now way beyond the realms of debatable theory and the needless suffering and death that is caused by cannabis prohibition is both indisputable and, while currently incalculable, is clearly profound. 

Until the prohibition is removed and people are granted proper access to this medicine, along with the proper guidance on how best to utilise it, we will not know exactly how far this medicine can go, both in the prevention and treatment of diseases. But there is no doubt that this medicine can save lives and alleviate a lot of suffering.

United Patients Alliance would like to thank Matt Sands and #MedicineGrows for this article

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