Among the chemicals produced in C. sativa, two phytocannabinoids, the psychoactive compound Δ9-tetrahydocannabinol (THC) and the medicinally important, but nonpsychoactive, compound cannabidiol (CBD), have been intensively studied for their structures, biosynthesis, and biological activities.
–J. Bautista, et al., ACS Omega
The science behind the explosion in cannabinoid use, from it health benefits applied to therapeutics to its commercialism in the spirit of bon appétit surrounding innovative cuisine, is based on the actual biology of Cannabis sativa. According to the National Institute of Health, the C. sativa plant contains:
The two main ones are THC and CBD. They are called “phyto” to differentiate them from the endocannabinoids: phytocannabinoids are from plants; endocannabinoids are from mammals (that is, we make them ourselves as part of our natural brain physiology). Whereas THC is psychoactive, creating the “high” that has figured prominently in both the media and the “street scene,” CBD is not psychoactive, because it interacts with only one endocannabinoid receptor in the brain. That doesn’t mean it has no functions or effects, however.
CBD, as an antioxidant—and like the antioxidants—inhibits enzymes that can promote cancer. It is a potent inhibitor to one of the main culprits in this process.
Flavenoids from cannabis—called “cannflavins,” are not psychoactive, but act as anti-oxidants, too; as such, they induce chemical reactions in the body that fight cancers and inflammation.
Terpenes are major constituents of plant resins and essential oils. They are fragrant oils secreted by plants and herbs, including cannabis. The variety of their aromas and can help differentiate them among the many cannabis strains. They have medicinal benefits including anti-inflammation, analgesia, anti-anxiety, antidepressant, anti-insomnia, cancer prevention, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic properties, as well as blood sugar lowering activity.
The importance of understanding the different components is that the effects of these all can cross-react, creating a combined effect that is more desirable than that of a single component [SEE NEXT SECTION on the “entourage effect”]. This becomes very interesting with the progressive commercialization of cannabinoid-infused foods which combine different ingredients for enhancement of flavor and well-being.
CBD lacks the psychotropic activity seen in smoked marijuana, which actually is due to the cannabinoid, THC. According to the National Institute of Health, Cannabis sativa’s components can mix and have combined effects, which has been termed the “Entourage Effect.” For example, CBD enhances the psychotropic effects of THC, although used alone targets unique non-psychotropic effects.
For CBD, such benefits include the following:
Bioactivities can be further enhanced through the interaction of THC and CBD with other phytocannabinoids or non-phytocannabinoid chemicals, such as terpenes and flavonoids, a phenomenon that is termed the entourage effect.
–J. Bautista, et al., ACS Omega
CBD, unlike its THC relative, avoids the psychoactive effects that may be unnecessary or simply undesired. Nevertheless, there is ample evidence that the two can be used together as well as separately. This is a nice feature of cuisines offered which strike a balance and offer an individualized approach to how different offerings are best utilized by the consumer. It allows a “cherry picking” aspect that gives the public at large better control on how they manage their health and well-being.
CBD is a major player in the cannabinoid story. However, it can be used in synergistic ways with the other components of the C. sativa plant—specifically, the flavonoids and the terpenes, which can be arranged in the ingredients of the new cuisines for individually tailored effects. It is reassuring, certainly, that the rationale to use them in everyday consumables is supported scientifically by an explosion of research in the medical literature. This portends well for cannabinoid-infused cuisine to become a frequent and reliable partner with an individual’s life choices.
In 1954, Alice B. Toklas published The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book. Imbued with many personal anecdotes, it features recipes that contain cannabis, such as her now infamous “Hashish Fudge.”
Many feel that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is a totally external, alien compound and because of that, it has risks to the human body.
“Western medicine” has traditionally dominated how medicine has been practiced over the years, leading to a research gap.