Cannabis is more than than meets the eye.
In the late 1980’s, cannabis receptors were discovered in the brain; shortly thereafter, it was found that the body produces its own cannabis-like substance that it uses to rest and digest.
So let’s get clear about what this means.
Phytocannabinoids are molecules derived from plants, specifically from different kinds of cannabis strains. Endocannabinoids, or endogenous cannabinoids, are natural cannabinoids that are automatically produced in the human body. (And, of course, synthetic cannabinoids are those which have been man-made by some drug companies.)
Our endocannabinoids are known, scientifically, as anandamide, after the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning bliss.
We used to think that both phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids were few and far between. We’ve always known about D9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, more commonly known as marijuana. Recently, we’ve discovered the joys and medical care available from cannabidiol (CBD). But we’re only getting started in understanding the big picture when it comes to our endocannabinoid system, and the plants that can help it operate better.
Interestingly enough, however, we’ve started to go backwards in order to go forwards.
Recent research shows us that, put very succinctly, “the medicinal and psychoactive effects of a particular cannabis strain depends on a complex interplay of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that researcher Ethan Russo has dubbed the entourage effect.” These include well over 140 different cannabinoids in and of themselves, including not only CBD and THC but many, many others. There are even more cannabinoids that are coming to light in research every day along those anandamide chains.
What this means is that we need to explore the whole plant, and not just a single part of it, in order to gain all of the benefits that hemp-based medicines have to offer.
We only know this because we’ve dug into our own past in order to see exactly how and why we used to integrate different phytocannabinoids into our lives. In fact, we used to develop different strains of cannabis for different medical purposes going back, as Russo and his team have determined, thousands and thousands of years. In the Gūshī culture of Central Asia, for example, the grave of a nomadic light-haired blue-eyed Caucasian shaman was found to contain sample crops such as capers, wheat, and grapevines, as well as cannabis of different strains.
“Near the head and foot of the shaman’s bier,” Russo writes, “lay a large leather basket and wooden bowl filled with 789 grams of vegetative matter, initially thought to be Coriandrum sativum L. (coriander), but which, after meticulous botanical examination, proved to be Cannabis sativa L. An initial radiocarbon date of 2500 years BP has subsequently been corrected to a calibrated figure of 2700 years BP based on additional analyses of equestrian gear and correlation to tree ring data (dendrochronology) in China.”
Subsequent analysis of the cannabis suggests that it was cultivated, rather than simply collected, and that it contained a range of specifically medical, rather than psychoactive, compounds. In this particular strain, there was a predominance of CBN and THC, but also CBD and CBC, and two previously unknown thermo-oxidative degradation products now called CBE and CBL. Gūshī cultural history shows that these strains may have been used for their psychoactive properties both in terms of shamanic ritual for connecting with the divine, but also for nocturnal epilepsy, as an aid for women in childbirth, and for funeral rites. Russo also shows that this cannabis strain has been found as far afield as in the communities of the Afanasievo peoples in the Yenisei Valley to the north to Iran in the west going back 6000 years at the very least.
The benefits of bliss, for both the Gūshī people and for our modern communities, are those that we need to recognize and cherish.
CBD and other phytocannabinoids are one integral pathway to bliss, but the reality is that it is so much more than this. We have to embrace our right to have a blissful life, and reach out to change the way that we see our roles in the world in order to make this happen.
Join me in supporting this work, this kind of life, and this bliss.
2 These include CBD(Cannabidiol), CBDV(Cannabidivarin), CBDA(Cannabidiol — Acid), CBDVA(Cannabidivarin — Acid), CBC(Cannabichromene), CBG(Cannabigerol), CBGA(Cannabigerol — Acid), CBGV(Cannabigerovarin), CBN(Cannabinol), CBNV(Cannabinovarin), THCA(Tetrahydrocannabinol — Acid), THCV(Tetrahydrocannabivarin), THCVA(Tetrahydrocannabivarin — Acid, D9-THC (Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol), D8-THC(Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol), and 129 additional strains that we currently know of.
3 Russo, E. B., Jiang, H. E., Li, X., Sutton, A., Carboni, A., Del Bianco, F., … & Zhang, Y. B. (2008). Phytochemical and genetic analyses of ancient cannabis from Central Asia. Journal of experimental botany, 59(15), 4171–4182.