Cannabis: All You Need to Know About This Plant+ Medicinal Uses

Translated by Nick R

Despite the negative opinions about this plant and the little knowledge that people have about it, cannabis is a species that provides huge medicinal and even industrial benefits.

Moreover, it can be obtained in a wide variety of formats that are available over-the-counter and contain the properties of cannabis. That’s why, in this blog, I’ll talk about the benefits of cannabis, its origin, types, uses, and the variety of products that can be made from this plant.

What is Cannabis? 

Cannabis (also known as cannabis Sativa L) is an annual plant that has been used extensively for its therapeutic and healing purposes, mostly. It’s native to Asia and has a growth cycle of 6 to 8 months, reaching a height of approximately 3 to 5 meters (10 to 15 feet).

This plant grows out of a vertical central stem, through which it transports the nutrients absorbed by the roots to the leaves and branches. The stem walls are formed by rigid cellulose that supports the plant and helps it withstand the movement caused by the water and the wind.

Knots are formed on the stem from which the lateral branches grow, which contain leaves at their ends. The leaves of this plant have a deep green color on the front and a pale green color on the back. They are pointed and have serrated edges. They can reach up to 15 cm long and 3 cm wide.

Moreover, this plant is dioecious, i.e. it has 2 genders, male and female. It differs in the cannabinoid level concentration, which is higher in female plants.   

This plant’s flowers are known as buds and are produced in mature, unfertilized females. These buds are the ones that have the highest concentration of THC, which we’ll cover in a moment.  

Components of Cannabis 

In this subgenus of the Cannaceae, we can find 2 species of cannabis that contain the 2 components that give the plant the importance it has today. These are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), as well as many other compounds called cannabinoids.

The first species is the well-known marijuana, which contains THC and is the most used for recreational or therapeutic purposes due to this component’s properties.

The second species is industrial hemp which contains CBD. This variety is used to extract the oil from its seeds used for nutritional and pharmacological purposes. Besides, the aim behind its cultivation is to produce textile fibers, paper, fuels, construction materials or livestock feed.

CBD is the main component of cannabis and doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects. It has anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, antispasmodic, and analgesic properties.

THC is the psychotropic compound that predominates in the plant and is used to treat depression, anorexia nervosa, glaucoma, epilepsy, emphysema, Alzheimer’s, respiratory problems, migraines, etc.

These 2 compounds have a great therapeutic value and potentiate each other. Therefore, they work much better together, plus CBD can counteract the psychoactivity of THC.

They also have some secondary components that provide therapeutic or medicinal benefits. These include terpenoids, flavonoids, stilbenoids, alkaloids and lignans.

Benefits of Cannabis 

Cannabis benefits derive mainly from its active components. These include:

  • Helping decrease reactivity to musculoskeletal and neuropathic chronic pain.
  • Working as a treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Treating and improving the symptoms of diseases such as cancer and HIV.
  • Reducing pain in diseases like multiple sclerosis
  • Decreasing the spasm and seizure severity and frequency of diseases such as epilepsy
  • Working as a treatment for sleep disorders and insomnia, especially in people with PTSD
  • Treating migraine, headaches, and glaucoma.

Varieties of Cannabis 

In the Cannaceae genus, there are 3 subgenera, which I’ll detail below.

Cannabis sativa 

It’s the most known species regarding all the properties that we mentioned before. It’s characterized by growing in warm climates and is also known as hemp or marijuana. It blooms between September and October and is suitable for daytime consumption.

The plant is large, broad, and has several lateral branches, and its leaves are thin and slender. The leaves’ color is a slightly lighter green than in the cannabis Indica. The Sativa is distinguished by being invigorating and energizing, and having a higher concentration of THC and a lower concentration of CBD.

Cannabis indica 

This species grows in cold climate zones, it’s shorter than the Sativa, and its leaves are wider and of a dark green tone. It can grow up to 2 meters outdoors and 1 meter indoors.

It’s characterized by providing high levels of relaxation and being ideal for relieving sleep problems. It has a higher concentration of CBD which makes it suitable for therapeutic usage.

It blooms faster than Sativa, at the end of July and can be harvested from September to October. It has a higher yield than Sativa and is great for nighttime use.

Cannabis ruderalis 

It contains very low levels of THC but very high levels of CBD. It’s a species considered wild as it usually grows on the sides of the roads. It’s native to Russia, Central Europe, and Central Asia.

This plant grows from 30 to 80 cm, produces few branches, and has indica-like leaves. It’s characterized by having the capacity of self-flowering, that’s to say, it carries out the flowering depending on the plant’s changes and not the environment.

It doesn’t have much recreational or therapeutic value when talking about consumption or as a fiber. But thanks to its auto-flowering capacity, it’s perfect for hybridization with other cannabis species.  

Uses of Cannabis 

In addition to the medicinal uses I mentioned above, cannabis can be used in other ways.

Alimentary use of Cannabis 

Here is used more the hemp variety as it has a higher content of CBD; as the psychoactive effects of THC are not sought. Hemp seeds are composed of several essential nutrients for the body.

These include vitamin E, B1, B2, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, omega 3 and 6, among other fatty acids. As I mentioned in the beginning, oil is extracted from the seeds to prepare food.

You can get this oil in cannabis specialized shops, and also find a variety of cannabis-based products with incredible properties. As it is oil, you can put it in any food such as eggs, meats, purees, etc.

What matters is that after using it, you should store it in a dark and cool place to preserve its quality and flavor for longer. Another way is to grind the seeds into flour, or you can use the leaves and buds as an accompaniment.

Remember that the THC concentration is higher in the buds in case you’re looking for a psychoactive sensation. Then, you should be careful with the dose and first put both the leaves and the buds in a greasy base such as butter or oil.

This is because, as they are not prepared beforehand, they’ll be in a non-active state. Therefore, their properties won’t be activated, and they won’t work at all.  

You can also find cannabis tea, drinks, cookies, chocolate bars, pastries, sauces, infusions, and an endless number of cannabis-based edibles that don’t have THC properties.

The most popular way to consume cannabis is smoked or through vaporizers. However, some of its properties may be lost, and not everyone can consume it this way.

The cannabis effect often appears faster when smoked and the sensations can vary depending on the dose you ingest. This also happens when eating cannabis-based foods, but its effects show up slower and last longer.

Industrial use of Cannabis 

The variety of cannabis known as hemp is also suitable for the production of several industrial products. As an example, construction materials are currently being manufactured to make them more environmentally friendly.

It was discovered that hemp fibers can be turned into highly resistant bricks with properties that favor the construction work. Besides being a substitute for conventional bricks, the fibers can be used as insulating panels and sound-absorbing filters.

The hemp brick regulates the temperature, is resistant to fire, and doesn’t require chemical treatments to avoid the appearance of parasites. And most interestingly, when cultivated, its roots can absorb toxins from the soil and clean it.

Another use of hemp is in textile production since it’s a suitable material for this purpose. Its fibers are highly resistant to tractive stresses and have the potential to be as soft and versatile as cotton.

In addition, like in bricks, hemp has thermal qualities that allow clothes to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s such a stable, durable, and strong fiber that rivals other materials in the textile industry.

Hemp fiber can also be used for paper production, in the same way, that wood is used. However, hemp contains more cellulose which gives plants their structure.

This makes hemp the most suitable material for making paper; the more cellulose there is, the fewer chemicals are needed to extract it.

It’s even feasible to produce fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol from hemp. With the oil from its seed at least 207 gallons of biodiesel can be produced per hectare cultivated. And with the remaining part, it’s possible to produce ethanol using a process of fermentation.

Presentations of Cannabis 

Now that you know all the uses and benefits of this plant, I’d like to mention some of the many cannabis-based products you can find.

  • Shampoo: suitable for hair loss, oil, and dandruff control. It moisturizes and makes hair shiny.
  • Creams: works for treatments of joint pain, muscle fatigue, rheumatism, inflammation, back pain, etc.
  • Facial oils: it’s used to tone the skin and provide rejuvenating nutrients.  
  • Antibacterial Gel: it moisturizes the skin, combats dryness, soothes itching and irritation, accelerates wound healing, and allows effective disinfection by mixing it with ethyl alcohol.
  • Ointments: it nourishes, moisturizes, and soothes dry areas, and is used for massaging the whole body.
  • Candles: its aroma produces relaxing effects for the body and mind, it doesn’t contain THC. Its liquid can also be used for massages.
  • Masks: it’s used to repair, exfoliate, cleanse and detoxify the skin.
  • Lubricants: make sexual encounters more pleasurable and don’t alter the pH of the intimate area.
  • Fabric bags: made of hemp fibers and durable.
  • Tonics: work as relaxing, soothing, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and calms muscle aches and pains.

How to grow the cannabis plant? 

Knowing all the positive qualities of this plant, I’m sure that, like me, you felt like growing your own cannabis plant. Well, here’s how.

How to sow Cannabis 

You can have your crop outside or inside your home. For indoor plants, you’ll also have to use a series of accessories such as lamps, thermometers, humidifiers, fans, and so on.

However, this is a plant that grows and develops very well outdoors with the sun and natural air. You can plant it in pots 30 cm wide and 30 cm high, which is an optimal space for the plant.

It should be placed on your terrace, balcony, or well-lit window. Also, it can be pruned so that it has a grow widthwise and not upwards. Sow in March so that by mid-October, you’ll have the chance to start harvesting.

You can sow the cannabis seeds directly in the substrate and the pot in which it’ll develop, or you can germinate the seed, and then transplant it to its final place. To germinate it, simply place it on moist absorbent cotton with a second layer of cotton on top and wait 4 days to 2 weeks.       

The substrate you choose should retain moisture, have good drainage and facilitate the roots’ aeration. Moreover, it must have a fertilizer rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as well as a balanced pH.

Once you have sown the seed, preferably directly into the soil, make a first generous watering, but without flooding the plant. During the first days of growth, place the cannabis in a semi-shaded place.

When the plant has grown a little more, it’s necessary to separate the males from the females. This way the females will have a higher concentration of THC and won’t produce seeds.

If you want to obtain seeds, you can leave the males to fertilize the females, but this will lower the component concentration. The female plants are leafier and contain buds; the males are thinner and have flowers.

Female Plant, Taken from El gran libro del Cannabis
Male Plant, Taken from El gran libro del Cannabis

How to care for Cannabis 

The plant should receive light directly from the sun as long as high temperatures are not a risk for burning the cannabis. Place the pots in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight in the morning.

However, if the weather gets too hot, it’s better to place them in a semi-shade. That way the plant won’t get direct sunlight during the hottest hours. 5 to 7 hours of direct sun are more than enough during growth and a little more during flowering.

The appropriate temperature is 25 to 28 °C, and below 10 and above 40 °C the plant won’t grow. The watering will depend on the area where you are; if it’s too warm, it’ll be constant to keep the substrate sufficiently humid.

On the contrary, if it’s too cold and rainy, watering will become intermittent because the plant can die from excess water. However, you can adhere to the following recommendations:

  • When just sowing the seed, you’re going to water every 2 to 3 days.
  • During vegetative growth, water a couple of times a week.
  • After flowering, water every 2 days.

The water for irrigation can be either from rain, distilled, or running tap water. The latter should be left to stand for 24 hours to remove substances that can harm the plant. Watering should be done first thing in the morning.

Pruning helps the plant to grow more vigorously and become lusher. You must do it gently to avoid damaging the plant, and it’s advisable to prune during the vegetative growth season, before flowering. If the plant is being attacked by pests such as aphids, whiteflies, red spider mites, or caterpillars, use homemade insecticides to eliminate them and keep the plant under supervision for a while so that they don’t reappear.

How to harvest Cannabis 

The harvest will be done around 6 months after planting the cannabis, or a little more. You must observe the plant well, as it is an annual plant it’ll be finished when it reaches its maximum development, and then it’ll stop growing, meaning that you’ll have to plant a new one to continue enjoying its benefits.

Also, to harvest the cannabis, make sure that the bud is at its best and that the female plants’ filaments turn brown and a bit curved.

So when that happens, cut the main stem of the plant in the late afternoon, to then hang the plant upside down in a dark and ventilated place. It’s advisable to wrap the plant with a newspaper sheet so it doesn’t lose moisture all at once but gradually until it dries out completely.

You can place a tray underneath to catch any seeds and debris that can’t be wasted. After a few weeks, the plant will be ready for consumption, harvest the buds and save the leaves for culinary purposes.

Finally, the only thing left to do is to consume the leaves and buds as you prefer. You already know the different ways to do it.    

As you can see, this is a plant with endless uses and benefits for you and the environment. So go ahead and get your own cannabis plant and share this information you have just learned with your acquaintances. You can change the negative beliefs about cannabis.      
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