Different aspects of CBD flowers and their use for smoking

 

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"Roll me up and smoke me when I die," as famous Willie Nelson bequeathed us. Probably there would be no person on the Earth who had never heard about cannabis. But what do we know, and do we know enough?

Once upon a time, approximately 12,000 years ago, cannabis plants have appeared on the greening steppes of Central Asia. According to the information in the book "Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years" (Springer, 1980), cannabis is known to be one of the oldest crops cultivated by humans. At the beginning of the 20th century, after long migrations all over the world, cannabis finally reached Mexico, where it headed on the US markets. And now, according to the United Nations government estimates of 2020, approximately 158.8 million of people around the world use cannabis, which is more than 3.8% of the planet's population.

Today's known cannabis belongs to genus Cannabis, in the family Cannabaceae. The taxonomic status of this genus is still controversial.

However, this plant comprises of one species C.Sativa L., otherwise known as hemp with highly polymorphic subspecies Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. Intensive interbreeding contributed to a diversified phenotypic and chemical variation within cannabis lovers. Each of the strain types contains hundreds of specialized metabolites like cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, observed in female inflorescences.

The most widely known cannabis plants are Sativa and Indica. Lets briefly get acquainted with their fundamental anatomy differences. 

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Structural differences of cannabis species

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Marijuana leaves are not only a famous symbol. Sativa comprises of long and thin leaves, lighter in colour in comparison with Indica broad and dark-coloured leaves. Sativa flowers are usually long and whispy, featuring reddish-orange colouring, whereas Indica buds have a purple dense and tightly packed appearance. For the Ruderalis subspecies, the similarity of the sheets is typical for both Sativa and Indica. The three central leaves, as a rule, are large and long, and the remaining side leaves are significantly smaller, having a light green colour of leaves. 

Depending on the variety of cannabis, the height of the stem may vary. Sativa and hybrids, as a rule, are higher than Indica varieties. Some wild varieties of Sativa have a length of branches that can reach up to 6 meters. The hemp stalk serves as a kind of transporter of water and nutrients from the root system to the leaves. It also holds all colas, leaves of bushes, and can act as a repository of nutrients.

If you can go a little deeper into botany, you can say that cannabis is a one-year growing plant. What, in this case, means dioeciousness? That the female and male organs are on different stems. This fact brings out a significant advantage since self-pollination is practically absent. Plus, males don't produce seeds. Yes, now it is bred only for the same marijuana, but it is used only in the agricultural sector and is simply not suitable for growers. What is also worth knowing about the structure of the cannabis bush?

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Anatomy of CBD buds

The actual cannabis flower is a complex structure which comprises of several different-functioned parts.

Calyx

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Calyx, or also called bract, is an organ that protects the flower. It looks like green teardrop-shaped leaves, which are strongly covered with resin glands, producing the highest concentration of cannabinoids in comparison to other parts of the plant. Pollination represents a risk to the calyx as it has the sole duty of carrying a seed.

Calyx varies in different cannabis strains. For instance, in Sativa, they group into clusters that are not compact enough, whereas, in the case of Indica strain, calyxes are tiny and result in hard, tight clusters. 

Colas

Cola refers to a cluster of buds, growing near together, which forms a flower cluster. The main cola, or apical bud, is located at the very top of the main stem and usually has a distinctive big size. Smaller colas grow from nodes, found on the lower branches. Not all colas mature simultaneously because apical bud, positioned at the top of the plant, benefits from greater light exposure. Hence, it grows faster.

Pistils and stigmas

The pistils, or commonly known as hairs, are a female reproductive organ of the plant, containing ovary and style- an extension of the ovary. Bright, strand-like calyx pistil is called stigma. Stigmas are needed to collect pollen released by males. At the initial stage, the stigma is white, and during maturation, they gradually darken to yellow, orange, red, and brown. Their central role is to reproduce, but also you can determine the maturity of the buds from them. The strength and taste of flowers do not depend on stigma.

Trichomes

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Despite their microscopic size, it is difficult not to notice the crystal resin blanket on the buds. It is secreted through the transparent, mushroom-shaped glands on the stems, leaves, and cups. Initially, trichomes appeared to protect the bushes from diseases and pests. These clear onion bulbs are rich in aromatic oils called terpenes, as well as cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. The manufacture of hash directly relates to these trichomes and the amount of their sugar-like resin. The effects of cannabis depend primarily on the maturation stage of the trichomes. Experts can easily tell whether the plant is ready to harvest just by observing the trichome's colour. If the trichome is still transparent, it means that cannabinoids production is still in progress. Amber colour of trichomes indicates the presence of terpenes, chemicals that are responsible for the flavour and aroma of cannabis. 

We have just introduced a simple overview of the cannabis flower, but there is a more detailed description of various parts, chemicals, and cannabis bud's cells. If you are not a professional grower, these main terms should be more than enough not to be cheated by hash dealers. 

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Cultivation of cannabis plants

Despite increasing product types and ways of cannabis compound delivery, traditional bud smoking is still the most preferred method of consumption. But before you get the ready-to-use product, a flower, also called bud, undergoes different stages of growth and preparation:

  • Germination 
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This initial process usually takes about 1-2 weeks. It is just about enough time for germinated plant seeds to turn dark brown, hard, and ready for the next stage.

  • Seedling

Germinated seeds should be placed into starting growing medium such as rock wool or peat pellets. Plants require maximum light, water, and an optimum temperature of 20-25 degrees. During 2-3 weeks, cotyledon( seed leaves) and iconic fan leaves will terminate.

  • Vegetation

In the 2-8 weeks stage of growth, we can observe the differentiation of male and female species. It is also essential to separate plants to avoid female species producing seeds instead of trichomes. Fixed conditions should be applied to achieve thriving vegetation - freshwater, same sustainable temperature, constant light (sunlight and fluorescent light), and nitrogen nutrition. 

  • Flowering

A slight increase in optimum temperature and reduction of light exposure will be favourable during this period. As the flowering stage takes more time (6-8 weeks), it is essential to keep the nutrient amount under control- decrease nitrogen and increase phosphorus level. Fertilizers can also be added to aid bud formation.

  • Harvesting

Finally, buds are ready to be trimmed and dried. Reddish bud colour indicates the alacrity to harvest. Harvest when 70-90% of pistils get browned for maximized effect and taste. Off you go!

 

Medical properties of CBD and THC

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Let us introduce you to the two heavyweight champs among the 113 identified cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant – THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These two guys have similar molecular structures; however, the effect is noticeably variable. When CBD offers a non-intoxicating, relaxing, and pain-relieving trip, THC takes you into the psychedelic journey, causing a well-known effect of «high». Initially, CBD showed an impact on epilepsy seizures treatment, providing immediate relief. Cannabinoids, especially CBD, have already been found to show other medical properties, such as an improvement of sleep quality and alleviation of depression and headache. There is ongoing research at Harvard, which looks at CBD as a potential cancer treatment. 

Moreover, CBD might help to prevent panic attacks and negative feelings, which are sometimes too much to take. Since this cannabinoid molecule works at both the 5-HT1A and TRPV1 receptors, it's possible that CBD can help with both types of pain: inflammatory and neuropathic. CBD flowers can be a priceless product for people who want to reduce pain or anxiety feeling with a clear head. By being a natural product, WHO stated that there is no harm to health and no potency to addiction. 

Another cannabinoid THC is a powerful psychoactive agent, which directly binds to the CB1, and CB2 receptors in the Endocannabinoid System, thus, inducing the mind-altering, euphoric effects. CBD binding force to CB1 receptors is feeble. It can interfere with the connection of THC and even cancel psychoactive effects. However, despite being a more regulated substance, THC can have medical use as well. So far, there are two human-made medications called dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone(Cesamet), which contain synthetic forms of THC. They are FDA-approved and are used in preventing nausea and vomiting in people receiving chemotherapy.

Nabiximols (Sativex) is a specific plant extract with an equal ratio of THC: CBD. It is approved as a drug in the UK and Europe for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, spasticity, and other indications.

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Interestingly, there are several studies of THC observed to have an appetite enhancing effect with divided daily doses of 5 mg. This dosage can be correlated up to 20 mg daily. Appetite-stimulating effect of THC was shown in a long-term study over several months of 94 AIDS patients, confirming the appetite enhancement noted in a shorter six-week study. THC doubled appetite in comparison to the placebo. Patients tended to keep a stable body weight over seven months. Reports presented a positive influence on body weight in 15 patients with Alzheimer's disease who were previously refusing food. 

There is a myriad of already existing studies that proved the positive effect of cannabis products; however, more research needs to be done.

Side effects of CBD

CBD is well-tolerated, even in large doses. WHO report from 2017 states that any Side effects from CBD use are likely the occur because of drug-to-drug interactions between CBD and other medications you may be taking.

Cannabis smoking rituals

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Cannabis flowers remain the most preferred choice among users for its versatile range of consumption methods, such as pipe or bong smoking, joint, and blunt rolling. Rapid onset and high bioavailability of the bud mean that the expected result won't make you wait long. The effect depends on the dosage and individual peculiarities, like a person's endocannabinoid system sensitivity.

Most people who are familiar with cannabis smoking culture are aware of how to roll a joint. The only tools you need are rolling paper, grinder, and flower. Special paper for rolling is available in most stores and inexpensive to purchase. 

Being less common, blunt works according to the same principle as the joint. It is an emptied cigar wrap that is filled with cannabis flowers and sealed towards the end of the cigar. Again all necessary tools are sold in most convenience shops. However, the main downside of a blunt is a tobacco consumption within the cigar wrapper. 

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Being more retro pipe smoking is very straightforward and easy to use. You don't need any water or power to simply crush a bud, fill in the bowl and light it up. This method is perfect for discrete usage.

Another possible way to enjoy a smoking cannabis flower is with the help of a water pipe, called "bong." It is a filtration device consisting of a partially water-filled chamber and a downstream that unites the water chamber and holds a bowl, where the cannabis flower is. The liquid in the chamber helps to clean out the smoke from unnecessary particles. As the smoke goes through the bong, the pipe length also produces cooling action, which calms the heat from inhaling smoke. Nowadays, you can find bongs of various shapes and sizes, consisting of different materials like glass, ceramics, acryl, and even plastic, which are more known as "gravity bongs".

Bear in mind that the cannabis flower doesn't have a conventional dosage structure. Depending on which result you are trying to achieve, it is crucial to know the total concentration of cannabinoids in flower. The ratio of CBD: THC in used cannabis strain can predict the outcome of consumption. Concerning the previously mentioned side effects of high-THC flowers, let's stick to the CBD buds niche. 

Six Most popular CBD strains

Charlotte's Web

Named after a groundbreaking story of Charlotte Figi, this strain was the first high-CBD product that helped to break thick layered ice of misconception about cannabis. This story was described as the "most famous example of medicinal hemp use in treating seizures. Due to only 17% of CBD and a minuscule portion of THC, this strain is considered to be a variation of hemp. Dominant terpenes (organic aromatic compounds found in oils of all cannabis flowers) are bisabolol, caryophyllene, and beta-myrcene, which all in total give Charlotte's Web flower a sweet taste and wood-like odour. 

Harlequin

This high CBD strain is a hybrid progeny of Swiss Sativa, Thai Sativa, Nepali Indica, and Colombian Gold. It consists of a 5:2 CBD to THC ratio, which makes Harlequin a premier candidate to aid many medical and psychological conditions. Terpenes found in Harlequin strain, are myrcene, a-pinene, b-caryophyllene gifting us a pleasant smell of citrus and mango.

Cannatonic

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Another hybrid created by Spanish genetics company Resin Seeds is a high CBD cross between MK Ultra and G13 Gaze. According to Spannabis, an annual cannabis event, in 2008, Cannatonic was a record-breaker in CBD level. About half of Cannantonic plants tested have shown a 1:1 ratio; however, some plants could reach around 17% of CBD with a THC being below 6%. Included terpenes are myrcene, limonene, and b-caryophyllene, producing earthy and fruity scent. 

AC/DC

This high CBD strain is a cross between above known Cannatonic and Ruderalis. The exceptional high 20:1 ratio denotes that AC/DC can be one of the potentially safest products for treating muscle spasms, migraines, and stomach inflammations. The main terpenes found are a-pinene, b-pinene, and b-caryophyllene, giving a herbaceous flavour. 

Harle-Tsu

This hybrid of Harlequin male and Sour Tsunami boastfully comprises 20:1 CBD-to-THC ratio, which was awarded first place for the best CBD flower at the 2014 Emerald Cup. Harle-Tsu samples averagely yield about 18% of CBD, whereas some can produce 21.05% CBD and 0.86% THC. It approved that Harle-Tsu can be consumed without any concern of being intoxicated by side effects. Usage of Harle-Tsu is said to bring a full relaxation nirvana feeling. It comprises myrcene, humulene, pinene, ocimene, and terpinolene. The successful combination of such high CBD content and terpenes brings out various therapeutic advantages, which need to be studied further. 

Ringo's Gift 

Being a high-CBD cross between AC/DC and Harle-Tsu is broadly recognized. There are few types of strains various in different CBD: THC ratio and phenotypes, some of which may offer 1:1 proportion or even an incredible 25:1 ratio. Research shows that this particular hybrid can be a potential treatment for such physical ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis, or headaches. A combination of a-pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene produces piney and minty smell. 

Pros of smoking buds

CBD flowers bring their advantages and charms to the whole smoking ritual. Most CBD in hemp products must make a passage through your liver (where partially it is metabolized and induce a reduction of CBD effectiveness) before it reaches the brain. Still, smoking or vaping CBD flower releases cannabinoids directly into your lungs. And as we know from basic biology, lungs are connected to your brain by large, fast-flowing blood vessels.

The CBD flower action lasts about 30-60 minutes, or longer, and after you take this non-intoxicating cannabinoid into your lungs, it goes almost straight to your brain. As per usual, the effects of CBD flowers are stronger than you might expect.

At the same time, enjoying a potent dose of non-intoxicating CBD won't make you feel paranoia or mental confusion. CBD might bring you a slight fatigue feeling, but other than that, your first experience with hemp flower should be altogether enjoyable and mild.

Is CBD flower legal?

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Firstly, it is essential to grasp that hemp buds look exactly like cannabis, and they belong to the same plant family. Hemp plants are legal to grow in the UK under a government-issued license. Hemp flowers comprise very low THC and approximately 5-15% of CBD. 

On the other hand, according to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MoDA), 1971, cannabis is stated as an illegal plant to cultivate and distribute. Yet under MoDA, cannabis-derived products are manumitted if only they contain no more than 0.2% THC. Some sources state that it is no more than 0.3%. It is the THC that brings the biggest fuss. By being recognized as a psychoactive compound, it can not be sold (higher than 0.2%) in any form. It is also important to say that cannabis products must be processed; i.e., it is not allowed to be a raw product. The law regarding hemp buds is still a grey area and a big matter of discussion. Studies have shown that some CBD extracts may also contain THC and other cannabinoid compounds that are still under regulation. 

Prescribed CBD products will not be concerned with FSA.

Food Standart Agency encourages people to be careful in taking any CBD products and doesn't recommend CBD to the following groups :

  • people who are already taking any medications
  • pregnant and breastfeeding women 

Selling CBD 

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Each European country and US state presents its laws concerning CBD. They vary all over the world, hinging on aspects of cultivation, distribution, methods of use, and medicinal purposes. For instance, if sold as a supplement, CBD products must have a proper label with content and ingredients. Since February 2020, new CBD products on the market require a Novel Food application. The National Health Service (NHS) and the National Institute of Health and Care for Excellence (NICE) published a unique guideline for cannabis-based medicinal products that can be allowed by law. These governmental systems strictly regulate the sale and consumption of CBD in the UK. As mentioned previously, prohibitions do not apply to edible forms of the product, like 

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According to the 2012 drug act, if the user can prove that he consumes CBD for medical reasons, he is not committing a crime. But can we draw a strict line between legal and illegal? CBD-containing vape juices, sweets, creams, capsules are permitted, so more should be cleared and revised about CBD buds. 

Fingers crossed for new upcoming CBD regulations, which are likely to induce more transparency in the market. More importantly, the awareness of people who used to view cannabis as a "get stoned product" must be reconsidered. By staying updated, let's not be the victims of old paradigms and cannabis misconceptions. 

Verified by a Healthcare Professional

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.