5 things you probably didn’t know about cannabis

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Cannabis and its cannabinoids are a very hot topic at the moment. The plant is mostly known for its recreational and medicinal uses, and its components (namely cannabidiol, also known as CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC) have been widely studied for their health benefits.

But there are many things about cannabis and its components that are misunderstood or unknown.

Here are 5 fascinating facts about cannabis that almost everyone gets wrong:

1.      Cannabis has been around for millions of years

Mostly due to the term ‘marijuanaused by the US government officials in the ’30s, people tend to think cannabis came from Mexico a few decades ago, centuries at most. But this is so very wrong. If you’re among the majority of people that thought this, you’re off by… a few million years.

There’s evidence of it being used around 3.000 years ago in ancient Asian burial/ritual sites and traded around the Silk Road, but even that is far from the true origins of cannabis.

Scientists believe that cannabis is more than 28 million years old. Ancient cannabis has continuously evolved ever since, becoming the plant that was used thousands of years ago, and again continuing its evolution to what it is today. It has first appeared along the Tibetan Plateau, a region in the Himalayas, which is now known as the “Cannabis center of origin”.

2.      THC has medicinal properties

THC is regarded by many as the ‘bad guy’ in cannabis. While CBD’s health effects are highly regarded and recognized everywhere, THC is mostly ignored, or even feared, due to its psychoactive properties (i.e., the ability to induce the ‘high’). 

However, most people don’t realize that THC, being a natural cannabinoid, can interact with our endocannabinoid system and produce beneficial health effects like CBD.

In fact, THC can be used in managing conditions such as chronic pain, nausea, vomiting, multiple sclerosis, dementia, anorexia, among others. Nonetheless, it does confer some side effects as it can induce psychoactive states, so caution is required.

3.      You can eat cannabis without getting high

Most people think that, if you eat cannabis in any form, you’ll feel its psychoactive effects right away (commonly known as “getting high”). However, that is far from the truth. Most cannabis, in its natural state, has very, very low contents of THC.

In fact, THC is only formed when certain chemical reactions occur, that transform tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA, a component that exists in high amounts but doesn’t have any psychoactive effects) into THC. Moreover, there’s evidence that these chemical reactions only occur if the plant is put through very high temperatures.

In short, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get high if you eat raw cannabis or even edibles that weren’t baked at very high temperatures (around 100°C).

4.      Cannabis can be used as animal feed

According to an article written by Alastair Lawson for BCC, in Bhutan, cannabis is used mainly for feeding pigs, mostly due to its appetite-stimulating properties. In fact, the natives were very surprised upon realizing it can also be consumed by humans, especially as a psychoactive substance.

5.      In Italy, the air contains small amounts of cannabis

On a fascinating study published in late 2012, the Italian scientists Angelo Cecinato, Catia Balducci, Paola Romagnoli, and Mattia Perilli, reached a very unexpected conclusion when analyzing the air quality and composition around 8 Italian cities: Florence, Milan, Rome, Bologna, Verona, Naples, Palermo, and Turin.

According to their findings, the air presented traces of cannabinoids, which peaked during winter (but not high enough to cause psychoactive effects) and dropped significantly over the summer.

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