When it comes to buying cannabis, you have to take every strain name with a grain of salt. Few can live up to the hype of their names, according to Dr. Adie Poe - the Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer of the cannabis research group habu health.
"Branded cultivar names don’t provide patients with any reliable means of predicting or reproducing their experiences," Dr. Poe told Civilized. "The feeling you get when you consume cannabis is all a result of a set of ingredients interacting with one’s unique endocannabinoid system. In science, we refer to this as pharmacology: drugs, their effects, and how they interact with with the human body. Plant genetics, as well as growing and curing conditions play a HUGE role in the final chemistry on the shelf of the dispensary."
That's why 'habu health' has teamed up Goldleaf to edit the latest edition of the Patient Journal, which focuses on the chemical makeup of cannabis rather than a strain's branded cultivar name.
"Goldleaf and habu have a shared belief that the consumer deserves to be able to predict and reproduce their experiences with cannabis; we are here to bust the myths, not perpetuate them," Dr. Poe explained.
To find out more, we chatted with Dr. Poe about cannabis genetics, the uniqueness of everyone's endocannabinoid system and why THC is overrated.
You helped update this edition of Goldleaf's Patient Journal with the latest scientific findings. Care to share some of that research with our readers?
For the journal, we wanted to be very transparent with the patients about the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids and terpenes. We provide a nice overview of the evidence-backed effects but it’s also important that the consumers are aware of how little research has actually been done… we still have a LOT of work left to do.
Most evidence we have about the therapeutic benefits of these molecules has been done in petri dishes, or in isolation (not administered alongside the scores of other compounds found in whole-plant cannabis). We wanted to be very clear that these are not one-size-fits all medical benefits that you see with pharmaceutical medications. Rather, each person’s experience is unique, and just because a particular compound had a certain effect in a mouse, that doesn’t mean it will have the same effect on you.
The new Patient Journal features a PSA about plant genetics and goes into why looking only to a listed genetic type for a specific effect (indica v. sativa) is problematic. Why is that?
If a consumer is lucky, then the name of a particular cultivar they have chosen may in some way accurately reflect the genetic lineage of the plant (and most of these labels are NOT an accurate representation of the genetics: Try typing “Blue Dream” into the search bar on the Phylos galaxy!).
But even genetic lineage and plant chemistry are only somewhat related. The genes can determine which chemicals get into the “blueprints” for the plant, but growing conditions are even more important (light intensity and spectrum being the biggest factors). You could very easily take two genetically identical “indica” clones, give them to two different cultivators, and get WILDLY different chemical compositions by the time the flower ends up at the dispensary. Genes don’t necessarily predict your experience with cannabis: the chemistry does.
There’s a step-by-step guide on how to identify the best cultivar for your ailment. What’s one tip you can share on the topic?
It is critically important to know which chemicals you are consuming. This is the basis for your experience. But if you are consuming a cultivar that contains even a trace amount of THC, I would argue that at least 90% of the effect you feel is directly related to the DOSE OF THC you consumed. In fact, I would also venture to say that if anyone has a bad experience with a particular product or flower, they almost certainly consumed too much THC.
For decades, we have been breeding for, and consuming as much THC as possible. THC is so powerful that its effects occlude those of all the other beautiful molecules in whole-plant medicine. I would love nothing more than to see a huge explosion in the Type III flower category (low THC cultivars). This will allow patients to consume a dose of THC that is more compatible with their daily lives, and unveil the effects of the other molecules.
Why is it important for patients to track their experiences with cannabis?
The cannabis plant is incredibly complex… and so are the humans that consume it. Each one of us has a unique endogenous cannabinoid system that is different than all the others around us. Our genes, and the expression of our cannabinoid receptors can change dramatically as we ebb and flow in our cannabis use (go through different periods of tolerance).
Because everyone’s body is different, the only way to know what will work for you is to consider yourself your very own lab rat! Self-experimentation to determine optimal results is our only option at the moment, and part of that process is keeping very detailed records of each “experiment.” My company (habu) is hoping to make this process easier as time goes on, so that trial and error becomes a thing of the past.
In addition to keeping a detailed journal, what else can patients do to help guide their treatment programs and inform their doctors of what works and what doesn’t?
The number one thing patients could do to improve their experience and bring their doctors on board is to become a fully-fledged advocate for federal cannabis legalization. I talk to MANY patients, doctors, lobbyists, policymakers, pharmacists, and law enforcement officers, and they all want the same thing. EVIDENCE.
Cannabis’ status as a Schedule I substance is the number one obstacle in the way of dropping barriers to medical research in this country. Everyone wants to know what is safe and effective, and I want nothing more than to land more grant funding to figure it out for them. It simply won’t happen until cannabis is downgraded to Schedule III, at best.
The evidence is clear: cannabis is safe and effective as medicine, and has no place in the Schedule I category. But policymakers aren’t often swayed by the evidence; they are far more likely to listen to emotional appeals of patient success stories. Call (don’t write, don’t email) your congressmen and women at their local (not DC) offices. Demand federal legalization, for your sake and that of all the other patients out there that don’t yet have access.
Photo credit: Goldleaf