For decades, discussions around cannabis were myth-related, warning our “easily-influenced” younger generation of its supposed dangers without taking the time to truly understand cannabis. Images and videos of actors posing as dope-crazed teens lacking any control and senses were common artillery for waging war on a misunderstood plant; however, few if any independent scientific studies were referenced to back up these crazed claims, because such studies failed to corroborate the scary stories of fearful problems and troubles the government’s propaganda attempted to spread. Ironically, it was the adults, parents and educators, who turned out to be the ones easily influenced by scare tactics using false information.
It has only been in the past few decades that some of the hysteria surrounding cannabis has been shelved while truly scientific studies were performed. It took little time for researchers to uncover many benefits derived from the cannabis plant; one of the more pleasant and useful surprises uncovered through research and analysis is the strong and natural connection cannabis has with the human body, specifically through cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system. It may come as little or no surprise, but from the very beginning of the discovery of the cannabis plant, cultures have appreciated and valued both its medical and spiritual properties.
Cannabis and Its History
Cannabis has been used around the world for thousands of years and it is only during the 20th century that it earned its bad reputation and became illegal in the United States. Cannabis was introduced into the United States at the beginning of that century, brought in by Mexicans escaping the Mexican Revolution (from 1910 to 1911).
Not surprisingly, the fairy tale of cannabis turning people criminally insane was one of several racial slurs hurled at incoming Mexicans fleeing for their lives; other false accusations included committing crimes against property, causing riots ending in multiple murders, and even the seduction of young children. Most of these misconceptions were fed to the American population from reactionary newspapers, playing up the nonsensical fear of dangerous foreigners destroying the purity of the American way of life.
The arrival of cannabis to America begins in its early history in 12,000 BC in the Central Asia region, likely where the modern countries of Mongolia and southern Siberia are located today; it is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops, along with grains such as lentils, wild barley, wild wheat, and grass peas. By 2000 BC, it had spread both westward and eastward, infiltrating as far as Turkey and Germany in the west and India, China, Korea, and Japan in the east. By 1200 AD, it spread north to England, south to northern Africa and southern Asia. It did not reach the American continents until the 1800’s (in the Caribbean and South America), and finally made its way to North America in 1910 and Canada in 1920.
Cannabis and Its Medical Use
Prior to our modern era, cannabis was found to be used as both a medicinal plant and for spiritual purposes. Early Vikings and medieval Germans found cannabis to be effective against toothaches and even childbirth pains and contractions; however, even earlier than that, cannabis was employed as an anesthetic for surgery.
When cannabis migrated to India, it was embraced as one of the “five kingdoms of herbs,” recognized for reducing or relieving anxiety among its users (as mentioned in the Sanskrit Vedic poem “Science of Charms”). As it continued spreading across the globe, many local cultures adopted it for both medicinal treatments and religious rites and ceremonies.
It was the United States that first demonized cannabis in the beginning of the 20th century; due to its immense power and influence, most other nations quickly toed the line in agreement with the United States that cannabis is evil and deadly. The plant was first deemed illegal in Utah in 1915; by 1931, it had been criminalized in 29 states. The first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, finished the job of criminalizing cannabis in 1937 through the Marijuana Tax Act, completing its illegality throughout America.
For more than half of the 20th century, cannabis was considered the scourge of the nation, responsible for enabling and crippling innocent minors with its intoxicating and addictive properties. Even though the 1960’s brought the first challenge of its illegal status, it wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century did cannabis get any type of break. It became more difficult for the nay sayers and fear mongers to battle the facts, particularly in the field of medicine, and finally, slowly but surely, legalizing cannabis for medical purposes began, starting with California in 1996.
Fast forward to 2019, and cannabis now enjoys a legal status in 31 states (and the District of Columbia), of which 11 states approved recreational use of cannabis in addition to medical usage. There has even been talk of the federal government loosening its stranglehold on cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, finally disassociating cannabis with dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD.
About Cannabinoid Receptors
Think of cannabinoid receptors as the connection between the body’s endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids when introduced into the body. These receptors reside on the surface of cells in different areas of the central nervous system and interact with the incoming cannabinoids; there are two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are mainly found on nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, but also appear in other peripheral organs including white blood cells, the endocrin gland, the spleen, and some areas of the gastrointestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts. Inside the brain, these receptors are most populated in the cerebellum, hippocampus, basal ganglia, and the dorsal primary afferent spinal cord regions; this is why introducing cannabinoids into one’s system affects functions like memory processing, motor control, and regulation of pain. Interestingly, the brain stem shows a low concentration of cannabinoids; this possibly explains why cannabis use does not cause depressed respiration which can lead to sudden death.
CB2 receptors show up in the tonsils, the spleen, on white blood cells, and in immune cells (where you can also find CB1 receptors, but not as many as the CB2 receptors). Researchers are now studying selected CB2 receptors to see how they can be potentially used for both anti-inflamatory and anti-cancer treatments.
Your Endocannabinoid System
The primary purpose of your endocannabinoid system is maintaining bodily homeostasis, the process that allows us to sustain a biological harmony as we respond to external changes in our surroundings. When scientists discovered endocannabinoids in the 1990’s, they learned that the effects upon ingesting cannabis are experienced by its mimicking of our own endocannabinoids. Perhaps one reason humans respond so positively to cannabis is that the endocannabinoid system has evolved for more than 500 million years; actually, most vertebrates (we are talking fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals) produce endocannabinoids.
Your endocannabinoid system is essential for assisting in multiple essential processes and functions, including sleep, stress, moods, appetite, memory, pain, and immune and reproductive functions. Some scientists have proclaimed that endocannabinoids may be the most flexible and extensive signalling molecules used by the human species.
This overview of how cannabis positively impacts our health and well being puts the hysteria of the last century into a proper perspective, as a knee jerk overreaction to a medicinal herb, put upon society thanks to prejudice, fear, and ignorance. More importantly, it reveals the incredible healing powers along with the potential for even greater medical breakthroughs, now that science is exploring more avenues in health care and treatment programs.
At CBD Informative, we have taken the responsibility of becoming your most reliable and revealing authority on cannabis, CBD, and all matters medical and recreational relating to a plant that has been both demonized and idolized since the advent of human civilization. We invite you to return regularly to stay current about cannabis and its derivatives using an unemotional, fact-based approach.