What is Cannabis, and How Does it Work? (2021)

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Cannabis is a plant that has been used for centuries for medicine, and making fabrics. But today it is most often used for medicinal, spiritual or recreational purposes (adult use). Usually female cannabis plant flowers (buds) will be smoked, or ingested to get the user high or medicated.

This happens because the buds contain compounds called cannabinoids, the two most common of these are THC and CBD. Cannabinoids react with the Endocannabinoid System in your body, and can have a wide range of effects. 

The effects from cannabis will differ depending on what type of cannabis you are using. Some will contain a lot of THC, others will contain a lot of CBD, some will produce plenty of both. Whether your weed is high in THC or CBD, those cannabinoids would have come from a female cannabis plant.

The effects will depend on what cannabinoids that plant produced, and how much. This can differ from strain to strain, depending on what type of cannabis it is.

Different Types Cannabis 

There are two main types of cannabis that will be used for medicine, or adult use. Those are known as Indica and Sativa. Some cannabis strains will be “Indica Dominant”, meaning their genetics are from mainly Indica plants.

Others may be “Sativa Dominant”, meaning their genetics are mostly from Sativa plants. Many cannabis strains you find today will be a “hybrid”, which will be a mix between Indica and Sativa. 

Indica and Sativa cannabis plants look a little different from each other, and also express a different kind of high. Indica is said to give you a more “heavy stone” or “couch lock” effect. Whilst Sativa will make you feel euphoric, and energetic. 

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Sativa and Indica Cannabis Plants

What is Indica?

Indica is a type of cannabis that is believed to have originated from the Asian subcontinent. But studies[1] now suggest that Indica originated from Afghanistan. Indica cannabis plants produce more THC than Sativa. They also have a shorter flowering period that can range from 8 to 12 weeks. Indica’s will also grow short and bushy, and produce a lot of resin. Because of this, Indica dominant strains are very popular amongst indoor growers. They produce big buds, with plenty of cannabinoids, in a short space of time.

Click here to learn more about Indica Cannabis Plants

Sativa Cannabis Plants

Cannabis Sativa has a few different varieties that originate from Africa, America, and Asia. They are all very similar, and will grow in the same way. Compared to Indica plants, Sativa grows very tall ( 3-4 m), and have thin blades on their leaves. Sativa still produces a good amount of cannabinoids, but not as much as Indica. A big difference between Sativa and Indica is the high and flavour they produce. Instead of feeling stoned, Sativa cannabis will make you feel high and euphoric, which is great for day time consumption. 

Sativa cannabis plants also have a very long flowering period compared to Indica.

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Leaves from a cannabis plant

What is Ruderalis?

Ruderalis is a form of Indica cannabis plant that is found in the harsh environment of Siberia and Russia. Unlike Indica and Sativa the Ruderalis grows short, with fewer but denser flowers. On its own, it is not used for medicinal or adult use, and it is not grown by many growers. 

But the Ruderalis has a special trait. Instead of flowering because of its light cycle like Indica and Sativa (photoperiod), the Ruderalis flowers according to its age. Because of this, the Ruderalis genetics have been crossed with Sativa and Indica, in the same way as hybrids. This has bought us auto flowering cannabis plants. 

For 10-15 years, cannabis breeders have worked hard to create strains that flower automatically, and produce good amounts of cannabinoids. Auto flowering cannabis plants are very popular. They are very easy to grow, and can produce as much THC and CBD as a photoperiod plant. It is hard to tell the difference between buds from photoperiod plants and buds from auto flowering plants.

Is Hemp Cannabis?

Hemp is a type of cannabis Sativa that produces no more than 0.3% THC in its flowers. Hemp is grown for its fibres, from the stems and branches, but its flowers produce a good amount of CBD. With the changes in medical cannabis laws all over the world, a lot of hemp in now grown just for its CBD.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are made by the flowers of a female cannabis plant. THC and CBD are just 2 of over 140 different cannabinoids[2] produced by cannabis plants. Each one have different effects. 

This happens because of the way cannabinoids react with your endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids from cannabis plants imitate the endocannabinoids produced by your body and will stimulate your endocannabinoid system. Each cannabinoid will stimulate the endocannabinoid system in different ways. This is why you have a different effect from THC, than CBD and other cannabinoids.

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A List of Cannabinoids

What is THC?

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid that combines to receptors in your brain causing a release of dopamine[3]. It is the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and is the reason why many people use it. 

On a living cannabis plant, THC is actually THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). THCA is non psychoactive, and using it will not get you high. The THCA needs to mature and be decarboxylated to become the psychoactive compound that is THC. When you smoke cannabis, the THCA is decarboxylated by the heat of combustion. But if you use edibles, or make oils that do not include high levels of heat, you need to decarboxylate the weed first. This will convert the THCA into THC, meaning it will be more psychoactive.

How Does THC Get You High?

When smoked or vaped, THC enters the bloodstream and travels all over your body, including the cells in your brain. The THC will then bind with CB1 receptors that usually bind with the endocannabinoids made in your body[4]. Because of restrictions on cannabis research, it is not really clear why THC gets you high the way it does. But it is clear it is something to do with signals sent between neurons, and the release of dopamine.

If THC is eaten, it will take longer to take effect. This is because it is converted through the liver before it heads into the bloodstream. The high will be more intense, and it will last longer.

In general, the high from THC can last from 20 minutes, to 2 hours. The intensity of the high will differ depending on the tolerance level of the user. THC can be used for medical purposes, but some users do not enjoy the high. If you want to use cannabis as medicine, without the high, then using CBD is a good option. 

What is CBD?

CBD (cannabinol), is a cannabinoid that comes mainly from Sativa plants. Unlike THC, CBD will not get you high, but still possesses many medicinal properties. CBD is used in the same way as THC, and can be smoked, or used as edibles or infusions. 

The main benefit of using CBD over THC is that you will have your medicine, without getting high. This is great if you want to be medicated, but you do not have a strong tolerance to THC.  

How Does CBD Work?

CBD works in the same way THC does, but it combines to different receptors. On its own CBD does not combine to the CB1 receptors, it needs THC to do it. Instead CBD binds to CB2, Vanilloid, GPR55 and Nuclear receptors, which give a number of medicinal benefits. 

It is always advised that you seek professional medical advice before using any medicines. There are lots of studies to be done, but CBD has so far been proven to be a good medicine. It can be used to help relieve many health problems from anxiety, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and many more. 

A lot of CBD that is used for medicines is extracted from hemp plants and turned into oils. The user then has a choice of how they want to use the medicine.  

Different Ways to Use Cannabis

There are many ways to consume cannabis. From smoking a bong and rolling joints, to rubbing cannabinoids into your skin with a balm or lotion. Some methods will bring the effect of cannabis on quicker than others and some will make the effect more intense. 

The method of which you consume cannabis is completely up to you. But it is always best to try and use the healthiest option.

Smoking Buds

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Joints or Spliffs

Smoking cannabis flower is the most popular way of consuming cannabis. The majority of cannabis users will roll a joint or a spliff and smoke it. Alternatively you may choose to smoke the buds using a bong or pipe. Smoking your buds is the fastest way to bring on the effects of the cannabinoids. They are burned with the flame, and inhaled. From the lungs they head into the bloodstream and to the brain. The effects from smoking cannabis will last between 15 minutes and 2 hours. 

Smoking anything is bad for your lungs, even cannabis. Which is why some people avoid smoking it, and have moved over to vaping it instead. 

Vaping Cannabis

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Vaping cannabis is rising in popularity all the time, it is a reasonably new trend. It is seen as the healthier alternative to smoking. Instead of being burned by combustion, the cannabis is heated to a temperature where the terpenes and cannabinoids are vaporized. 

The vapour is then inhaled, much like smoke, but containing none of the carcinogens. Good vaporisers are expensive, and according to many vapers, they don’t hit the same as a joint or a bong. 

Many cannabis users will do both, and smoke or vape cannabis depending on their mood, or need for medication. If you intended to use cannabis as medicine, then vaping it would definitely be a good option for you. 

Cannabis Edibles and Infusions

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Infusion and Edibles

Edibles and infusions are a great way to enjoy weed without smoking or vaping it. The cannabinoids are extracted from the buds, and then mixed with different ingredients to make edibles. 

Infusing cannabis with food can massively increase its potency, and the high will be different from vaping or smoking. The cannabinoids pass through the digestive system and then are converted into”11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol[5] by the liver. Then it passes into the bloodstream. 

The effects from taking edibles will kick in within 15 minutes of using it. But sometimes it can take up to an hour, or longer. Always take things slowly with edibles and infusions, and try to get the dosing as accurate as possible. This can be difficult to do when using flowers to make edibles. Using concentrates like oils will make it easier to get an accurate dose. 

Using Cannabis Oils for Medicine

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Cannabis Oils

When you need to use cannabis for medicine, oil is the best option. Not only are cannabis oils very potent, but they are easy to accurately dose too. You can grow cannabis and convert it into extracts and oils very easily. Doing this will give you your own supply of high quality medicine. You also know for sure it is clean and safe. 

Once you have cannabis oil, it can be mixed with nearly anything. It can be used to make soaps and shampoos, lotions and balms, or main meals and desserts. It can also be smoked in a dabbing rig, or mixed with dry herb in a joint or bong. When it comes to using weed, there are many options available.

F.A.Q About Cannabis

Which one is better, Sativa or Indica?

That is down to personal preference and what you want to use the cannabis for. Each strain is different and they all have different effects. It is best to try some for yourself and see if Indica or Sativa suits you better. 

Is THC or CBD better for medicine?

They both can be used for many of the same ailments, but CBD will not get you high. Which one would make a better medicine is down to the individual. You need to try different strains and see what works best for you. 

Is weed easy to grow?

It is easier than ever to grow your own cannabis. The equipment you need is all available online and can be shipped to your door in days. All of the information can be found here at Percys Grow Room, and in our cannabis growers forum. With the ease of access to the equipment and information you need, growing your own weed has never been easier. 

Which cannabis strain is best for medicine?

You can find weed strains that are high in CBD, THC, or a mix of both. Cannabis in general is a great medicine for many things. But with so much variety it can be hard to tell you what strain will treat a particular problem. 
Cannabinoids affect people in different ways. The best way to find out what is right for you is to try it yourself. 

What’s Next?

I hope you understand a little more about what cannabis is, and how it works. If you are a regular user, and you have the abilities, you should consider growing your own. Not only will it save you money, but you can be sure your buds are clean and safe.  

For our next guide we talk about How Cannabis Plants Grow, The Full Life Cycle. We figure out what size grow space you will need, what equipment to use, and what strain to grow. If you have any questions, then feel free to ask for help in the forum. In the meantime, let’s move on to the next guide.


[1] Cervantes, Jorge (2002). Indoor Marijuana Horticulture. p. 256. ISBN9781878823298.
[2] Aizpurua-Olaizola O, Soydaner U, Öztürk E, Schibano D, Simsir Y, Navarro P, Etxebarria N, Usobiaga A (February 2016). “Evolution of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Content during the Growth of Cannabis sativa Plants from Different Chemotypes”. Journal of Natural Products. 79 (2): 324–31. doi:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00949PMID26836472
[3]The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system, Michael A P Bloomfield, Abhishekh H Ashok, Nora D Volkow, and Oliver D Howes
[4]  Devane WA, Dysarz FA, Johnson MR, Melvin LS, Howlett AC (November 1988). “Determination and characterization of a cannabinoid receptor in rat brain”. Molecular Pharmacology. 34 (5): 605–13. PMID2848184.
[5] Kraemer T, Paul LD (August 2007). “Bioanalytical procedures for determination of drugs of abuse in blood”. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 388 (7): 1415–35. doi:10.1007/s00216-007-1271-6PMID17468860S2CID32917584.

7 thoughts on “What is Cannabis, and How Does it Work? (2021)”

  1. Posted by: @chillbert
    @macky I’ll do a proof read and pm you some comments 
    I think it’s flippin near perfect already if not already so  👍 
    It’s a big like from me … wish I’d had such easy access to reading something like that when I started out 👊

    You said it @chillbert, us new growers are real lucky to have people like you and the rest of PGR to learn from!

  2. @macky I’ll do a proof read and pm you some comments 
    I think it’s flippin near perfect already if not already so  👍 
    It’s a big like from me … wish I’d had such easy access to reading something like that when I started out 👊

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