What is Cannabis?
It seems you can’t look anywhere these days without hearing about or in fact coming in direct contact with the topic Cannabis and the wave of new supplementary products. Indeed, the topica and new discussions have spread far and wide and it is now more and more common in mainstream society. With so much buzz in the air it is easy to get confused as to what is the key information that you need to know.
Why is it such a big thing and what is it all about? I mean we have all heard of the horror stories of people becoming crazed with its use or that Cannabis (being termed ‘Marijuana’) is a hideous “Gateway Drug” and thwart with tales of 1000s of individuals and communities caught in its wake of destruction. . . all of which is completely misconstrued, heavily stigmatized and in many cases misunderstood.
This blog is managed and monitored for Hemp Activate product users and suppliers and which hopes to clear up some common inconsistencies. Our aim is to shed some light on this truly amazing topic . . . What is Cannabis?
Cannabis and Hemp – The same but different
Ok so let’s try and understand this shall we: Cannabis (Plant Family: Cannabaceae) has been widely used throughout human history and we will delve into this in a later blog.
Cannabis is made up of 3 Genus types (Genera). Cannabis Sativa which was named by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus in 1753; Cannabis Indica Identified by French born botanist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1783 and Cannabis Ruderalis which was recognized by Dimitrij E Janechewski in 1924.
The modernized understanding of “Hemp” has been adopted in mainstream Cannabis communities as a type of Cannabis Sativa.
Different DNA structures of varied Cannabis plant types are known in Urban Slang as “strains” or in scientific terms Phenotypes. You will probably see a lot of fancy names with different ratios of chemical compounds like THC or CBD when searching for information on types of strains of Cannabis/Hemp. These chemical profiles of each plant strain are known as its Chemotype.
However, the word “Hemp” predominantly refers to strains that were sought after in history for their stalk fibres or Bast Fibers and is possibly derived from the Old English term; Hanep or Saxon; Hanap. The differences in the ‘Fiber’ potential within the stalks of the 3 different Cannabis varieties are quite significant. Cannabis Sativa strain characteristics posit a better source for Bast Fibers indicative of why “Hemp” is used in Cannabis terminology referring to Cannabis Sativa strains. However, other plant species use the generic term Hemp also (ie Manila Hemp: abaca; Hemp Nettle or Bastard Hemp as examples).
Within these types of plant families, the naturally structured genetics create different physical characteristics.
Cannabis. Sativa (Sativa being the Greek word for ‘Cultivated’) are tall and robust with long thick stems and thin leaves which produce excellent ‘Bast Fiber’ sources and flourishes in the outdoors. For many scholars Cannabis Sativa is the principle plant genus of Hemp which terminology was then transferred to descript other plant species due to the similar purposes that they were used for.
Cannabis. Indica (Indica named for the region in which the Genus was discovered: India) is a shorter squatter plant with broader leaves and excellent flowering potential (Chemotype) for the fruits of the plant or its “Buds” and is a preferred choice for many in medicinal use of Cannabis.
Cannabis Ruderalis was discovered in Western Siberia and has unique flowering characteristics which allows the plant to automatically switch from its vegetative state into its flowering state without the need for seasonal triggers (ie changing of the light cycles). Because of this C. Ruderalis is sought after for cross breeding purposes especially in the Auto Flowering strain varieties.
All of these Genus types can be cross bred and manipulated through human intervention (not always successfully) thus creating what is known as ‘Hybridised’ strains and as such have been created for diverse recreational and medicinal uses.
Hybridising is the act of introducing genetics of one plant to another to create different chemical profiles and plant characteristics. While this has given rise to many new sub species of Cannabis, some argue that this human intervention has distorted the original benefits of naturally occurring Cannabis strains. The jury is out however as many cross cultivators have developed some excellent genetics in the last decade and if the original strains are protected then there is much excitement for what strains can be produced in the future, especially in relation to medicinal uses. Just another poignant argument for regulation, species protection and widespread education on Cannabis use.
So wait . . . what is Hemp again?
Hemp is historically a term that can describe fibrous plants which can be used for many different uses Textiles; Medicine; Food Source (Hemp Seeds); and Fuel. However, it is also a generic term in modern culture to refer to specific strains of Cannabis within the Cannabis Sativa genus which has many uses Industrially and Medicinally. When you see the word ‘Hemp’ in any context, you can pretty much deduce that it is referring to a true natural marvel and certainly a topic worth researching.
So now we have ascertained that there are 3 types of Cannabis plants: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. Further we know the word “Hemp” is a generic multi-use term. One of these uses is to describe the Cannabis family (Cannabaceae) specifically Cannabis Sativa.
Historically the word ‘Hemp’ is also representative for the strong ‘fiber’ producing plant species found in nature and throughout different regions of the planet. Cannabis Sativa which houses the favored plant characteristics for ‘Industrial Hemp’ use and is the most popular choice for producing the sought after Bast Fibers which are used for different purposes, are also used in the medicinal fields for its diversified Low THC High CBD ratio chemical profiles.
All Cannabis/Hemp strains can generate a specific chemical profile that has significant benefits for human health. The chemical profile of the plant is what is important in strain selection. If you think about it makes sense, you wouldn’t grow short squat plants for their long fibers such as is found in the Cannabis Indica or Cannabis Ruderalis varieties.
Medicinal use of Cannabis requires the cultivation and harvesting of plant material rich in chemicals known as Cannabinoids. These chemicals are known as ‘Phyto-chemicals’ which simply means its produced by a plant. Further to Cannabinoids are chemicals known as Terpenes and Terpenoids. A topic unto itself and explored in more detail later.
Phyto-Chemicals or “Cannabinoids” are abundant and complex and number around 460 constituents in any individual Cannabis plant (Ratios vary by the strain of course). These chemicals also have many interactions in the human body, specifically with something remarkable known as the ‘EndoCannabinoid System’. A very important human biological and physiological system and a special Info Vault topic.
For more information on the Endocannabinoid System – Click here.