It goes by many names. Whatever you choose to call it, you're talking about a plant whose profound application can be traced back into the deepest recesses of human history.
We have long been fascinated by the curious effects of cannabis and the many roles it plays in personal, medical and industrial use. Archaeological evidence suggests that cannabis has had a part in human society since as far back as 12,000 years ago, when it was cultivated for whatever purposes people deemed fit in their daily lives.
Cannabis is believed to have evolved and originated in the Central Asia region, where records of its medical use can be found as far back as 4000 B.C. During this time, it was used not only as an anesthetic during sickness, childbirth and surgery, but as treatment for a variety of diseases, both physical and mental.
There are two dominant subspecies of cannabis that have divergent qualities, which have been fostered and cultivated throughout human history. What we call marijuana today is the psychoactive subspecies of cannabis that gets you 'high' when consumed (smoked or eaten), while hemp is the non-psychoactive variation of cannabis and finds purpose in a wide variety of industrial applications.
What's All the Fuss About Marijuana?
Since ancient times, the psychoactive subspecies of cannabis, marijuana, has been used for recreational, spiritual and medicinal purposes. It had its place in spiritual rituals as an instrument of achieving enlightenment and meditation. It was used as a means of inducing euphoria or an entertaining indulgence during pastime. It was recognized ubiquitously as a medical treatment for psychological ailments and diseases that affected members of our earliest societies.
If you ask someone why they use marijuana today, you are sure to get a colorful response.
As a recreational substance, marijuana produces a wide variety of effects that could give you plenty of reasons to happily indulge in its use. Getting 'high' is the alteration of conscious perception that is associated with consuming marijuana and is often described as an enlightening and agreeable experience.
Depending on the strength and dose, it can last for several hours and include symptoms such as general contentedness, increase in sensation, increased awareness, a heightened libido and increased appetite. Many people claim that marijuana provides inspiration and deeper interest in associating oneself with the world around them. As such, marijuana is often used as a treatment for depression and seen as a motivating factor for self-actualization in the absence of a healthy chemical balance where happiness and content are instinctive and naturally present.
In most cases, those who enjoy the recreational use of marijuana are simply doing so to have a good time. Medical and metaphysical motives aside, marijuana use is seen as a safe and relaxing alternative to the consumption of alcohol and other conscious-altering substances.
It apparently did not take humans long to recognize the potential benefits of using cannabis as a medical treatment for a wide-range of unwelcomed conditions and diseases. Today, those who argue against the application of marijuana as a legitimate medical treatment are often doing so on behalf of pharmaceutical interests whose profits soar uncontrollably in absence of alternative medicines, or simply are unable to accept it in light of lacking scientific evidence that would otherwise offer a convincing testimony of its medicinal properties.
Unfortunately, widespread federal regulations and lobbied interests have prevented thorough scientific testing that could grant credibility to the medical benefits of cannabis and allow it to surface as a truly safe and effective medicine for a broad spectrum of physiological conditions.
This has not, however, prevented a growing number of doctors - and patients -all over the world, from administering medical cannabis as a treatment for various conditions and diseases.
Marijuana, the psychoactive subspecies of cannabis, contains a compound known as THC, which is found in only trace amounts in its close relative, hemp. THC is the compound in marijuana that gives it the psychoactive properties that differentiate it from hemp and produce a 'high' when smoked or eaten. Inversely, hemp contains a greater amount of a compound know as CBD, which is only found in trace amounts in marijuana. This compound is extracted from hemp to produce CBD oil, which is used for medicinal purposes.
Interestingly, both of these chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, have been shown to have unique medical applications, thus granting cannabis, as a whole, exceptional domain as an alternative medical treatment. Depending on the condition a person has, a doctor who has a familiarity with the many different strains of cannabis will be able to provide a well-suited prescription for their particular case.
These are just some of the conditions treated with medical cannabis (in THC and CBD form).
During marijuana's heydays of the 60s and 70s it was discovered that this resourceful plant not only promoted ideals of world peace and harmony but was also an effective treatment for glaucoma. Because marijuana decreases intraocular pressure in the eye that can cause optic never damage and lead to glaucoma, it quickly became a useful treatment for stopping this degenerative disease in its tracks.
A study conducted on morning sickness in women found that an overwhelming majority found marijuana to be effective in treating symptoms of morning sickness. It has also proved to be effective in reducing symptoms of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients to a greater extent than conventional drugs - without the negative side-effects. There is a resounding consensus amongst medical marijuana advocates that it is an unequalled treatment in both effect and safety for the general out-of-sorts condition.
People suffering from anxiety are increasingly likely to opt for medical marijuana treatment over prescription drugs due to heightened awareness and hope for alternative treatment. Because prescription drugs are laden with negative side-effects and complications, choosing a safe, effective treatment is becoming a matter of having the right information.
Cannabis is gaining recognition for the treatment of chronic pain in association with neuropathic diseases such as fibromyalgia and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. As a safe alternative to opiates, it is used as a palliative treatment for pain relief in conjunction with conventional treatments that address these diseases.
Marijuana's effects have been reported to combat depression in case studies which showed that people who consumed marijuana occasionally or daily displayed less symptoms of depression than those who did not. With the increasing prevalence of medicinal marijuana worldwide, it is becoming a common first-line treatment against depression and its symptoms.
A study conducted in 2006 discovered that THC inhibited the growth of "Alzheimer's plaques" in the brain by preventing specific enzymes from playing a role in creating these formations and the protein clumps whose presence prevents the normal function of a person's memory and cognitive abilities, leading to Alzheimer's disease.
These are just some of the medical applications of cannabis, and there is a growing interest in its broader potential with credible studies currently underway.
Cooking with Weed?
Because cannabis is full of surprises, it should be no surprise that cooking with cannabis is a good idea.
Apart from the recreational excuse of getting stoned on warm and gooey brownies with your friends, cannabis offers a procession of health-related reasons to spice up your next meal with a little bit of weed.
Cannabis is, after all, an herb, and we know that herbs tend to be loaded with nutritional properties that make them more than just a tasty addition to our favorite meals. Cannabis is full of essential vitamins and nutrients such as magnesium, iron, vitamin a, vitamin e, zinc, omega fatty acids, amino acids and others.
Chow down on some hemp seeds everyday and enjoy the health benefits of cannabis minus the buzz. Cook with hemp milk by extracting it from the seeds for the ultimate plant-based health boost to your meal. For those looking for psychoactive effects or in need of medical treatment, food infused with cannabutter and canna oil offers the preferred dosage of THC or CBD.
Thanks to the growing interest in cannabis application worldwide, you can find a legitimate list of delicious cuisines that infuse cannabis ingredients with delicious foods for a complete meal with the added effects you're looking for - not to mention the health benefits of the cannabis plant.
Hemp, the Other Fiber
The reason why hemp is not commercially industrialized worldwide as the solution to our fiber-based needs (amongst countless other applications) is a mystery to some and the subject remains in limbo of hot debate. Because of the implication of cannabis as an illegal drug in many countries, there are stringent regulations often placed on the growth and production of hemp - despite its incredible utility and broad spectrum of commercial applications.
Hemp is believed to have been one of the first plants to ever be industrialized by humans for use as a fiber, as long ago as 10,000 years. Even in prehistoric times, we realized the industrial potential of hemp, which today has increased in proportion to the technology and demand of its qualities.
As a fiber, hemp's usefulness is a unique characteristic that is difficult to match. Because it is one of the fastest growing plants, it can be mass produced and harvested as quickly as the need to meet demand. It is more durable than cotton, and makes a strong and versatile fabric that is ideal for the production of clothes, rugs and textiles.
Hemp has been invaluable in the production of rope throughout human history and is the traditional rope making fiber in many parts of the world today. It is strong, flexible and water-resistant, making it perfectly suited for shipping application as a component of ropes, nets, sails and other riggings.
Hemp and the Future
Hemp's industrial practicality is far-reaching and becoming more and more relevant as the need for sustainable materials and practices are a growing focus and necessity of the modern world. In the past, hemp oil was a popular choice for lamp oil, however with the advent of petroleum based fuels was replaced and fell out of general use.
Today, hemp oil makes an efficient and renewable substitute for gasoline in diesel engines. As a biofuel, it is a less harmful alternative to carbon monoxide producing fossil fuels. Hemp can even be made into a plastic, and makes a wonderful alternative to traditional plastics, which require fossil fuels and toxic chemicals to produce.
Hemp can even be made to take the shape of building materials and substitute wood as well as many other materials that are required to build homes and structures. Some of these materials include components that can build walls, panels, shingles, pipes, and even paint. Hempcrete is a fireproof, waterproof, insulating and pest-resistant material used in the building of homes that is a sustainable and highly effective bio-composite construction alternative.
Hemp is becoming adopted as the sustainable material of choice in a vast array of capacities, and with increased awareness and advocacy on the legislative front is likely to become a household name and the staple of various future industries.