The legal situation in New Zealand
In New Zealand, any cannabis intake for medical use is legal as long as a General Practitioner (GP) prescribes it. But then what about the legality of CBD & Hemp? Before we get to the answer, it might be worthwhile to understand the components of a cannabis plant as that will help create a base understanding that we can use to build upon later in this blog.
Components of the Cannabis Plant
The cannabis plant consists of three components - Cannabinoids, Flavonoids, & Terpenes.
Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis plant. More than 110 cannabinoids are known to be inside Cannabis. The most notable cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC - Known for its psychoactive properties) & Cannabidiol (CBD). THC & CBD are the best-studied cannabinoids to date and possibly the reason why these particular cannabinoids are so popular. Some other cannabinoids that are undergoing extensive study are cannabigerol (CBG) & cannabinol (CBN. There is some excellent research happening with the expectation of a significant breakthrough in a few years.
Flavonoids are compounds found widely in plants and Cannabis is no different. There are ~20 flavonoids found in the cannabis plant. Flavonoids are responsible for a plant's pigmentation & colour. Based on Wikipedia, flavonoids also assist in UV filtration & symbiotic nitrogen fixation. They could act as chemical messengers, physiological regulators, and cell cycle inhibitors.
Terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for the smell & aroma of most plants and even some insects. Terpenes are known to have therapeutic effects. For Example, if you have ever used Lavender essential oil and have felt a feeling of calm, it is because of the Linalool terpene inside Lavender essential oil that is an anxiolytic, sedative, analgesic, and acts as an anti-depressant. More than 100 such terpenes exist in the cannabis plant. They influence the overall experience and provide additional therapeutic value.
The best analogy, to explain terpenes, we have come across is about thinking about your cannabis experience as an airplane where your cannabinoids such as THC & CBD give the thrust, and the velocity but the terpenes provide the direction. Hence they act as the rudder. Terpenes guide the experience, i.e., feeling extremely energized, focused, or sleepy.
Hemp & CBD
Now that we have discussed all the components of Cannabis let's delve deeper into Hemp & CBD.
Hemp is a cannabis plant in which one of the cannabinoids THC is less than 0.35% of the total plant composition. In NZ, however, only Hemp seed can be used to formulate food products, and no other part of the plant is allowed in food products based on the regulation laid out by the Ministry of Health on its website. This regulation is a bit restrictive because it makes it illegal to manufacture full-spectrum Hemp products, i.e., products made from the entire plant, not just the seed. Consequently, we lose out on most of Hemp's benefits even though the seeds are rich in Omega fatty acids. However, other natural sources, such as cod liver oil, are also rich in omega fatty acids.
CBD is one of the 110+ cannabinoids found inside Cannabis. First discovered in the 1940s and made famous in 2013 when a CNN documentary named 'Weed' by Dr Sanjay Gupta profiled a 6-year-old girl in Colorado, Charlotte Figi. Charlotte suffered from severe epilepsy and used CBD to prevent her seizures. Her story is the inspiration for the 'Charlotte's Web' cannabis strain. Dr Sanjay Gupta's documentary was a big hit, and thousands of families visited Colorado to access CBD.
CBD, unlike THC, is non-psychoactive and has been touted for a wide variety of health conditions. However, the most reliable scientific evidence is its effectiveness in treating some of the harshest epilepsy conditions, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), that typically don't respond to any other antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD has shown to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether.
CBD is also commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia and may help treat different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated how CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most challenging types of chronic pain to treat. More research in humans is needed to substantiate CBD proponents' claims specifically about pain control.
Since CBD is just one component of Cannabis, it is also entirely legal, in NZ, if a GP has prescribed it.
There is a lot of speculation regarding which cannabis products are the best and how to consume these products. This confusion is because the experience one gets from using Cannabis is very personal and depends on every individual's state of mind & body who consumes it. So a standardized dose or a type of product is most likely not going to work for everyone. Here’s an analogy, which is probably not the best one, but hopefully it makes the point;- it is similar to one person needing 5 pints of beer to get drunk, whereas another person may only need 2 pints.
At Good Herb Soda we recommend an approach to customize your Cannabis intake rather than suggesting a standard dose or product such a dry flower, oil, or vapes.
Customizing the cannabis experience
Firstly, consider using full-spectrum or broad-spectrum cannabis products as they utilize all or most of the cannabis plant rather than just an isolated compound such as CBD or THC. Such products have more significant benefits than isolates because of the 'Entourage Effect'.
The ‘Entourage Effect’ states that all components of the cannabis plant work synergistically to provide more significant gains than an isolated part such as CBD or THC. For those wanting to know more - The research paper 'Taming THC' authored by Dr Ethan Russo might be worth checking out.
Secondly, understand your dosing. This step is essential because if you are consuming Cannabis that has THC (which has a lot of therapeutic properties as well), then high doses can be quite unpleasant and may result in paranoia or high anxiety. Therefore, a good strategy is to start with an intake of small doses or micro doses and see how your body reacts to Cannabis.
Lastly, we recommend the use of 'Set & Setting,' which is a concept taken from psychedelic use, such as LSD or psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms). 'Set & Setting' - defined as the contextual framework that one can apply during the consumption of psychoactive substances such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, & even Cannabis. "Set" is the mental and physical readiness, i.e., thoughts, desires, general mood, and physical comfort during consumption. "Setting" is the environment in which one consumes Cannabis like a social gathering with friends or a long outdoor hike. We believe that by applying the right "Set & Setting," one can get the most out of their cannabis products and have a pleasant experience. Over time, It also helps understand personal dosage limits of oneself.
There are a lot of negative connotations associated with Cannabis, and using Cannabis for wellness hasn't been mainstream until now. Globally, Cannabis is becoming the new standard - Spike Jone's directed advertisement for Medmen is a testament to that fact.
Not all Cannabis products are about getting high. In a recent study conducted by New Frontier Data, more than 60% of cannabis users use cannabis products for wellness purposes such as anxiety or pain relief and not for recreational purposes. A lot of cannabis products these days are crafted to provide functional effects to enhance everyday activities such as exercising, hiking, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, creative pursuits, sleeping, increase sex drive, etc. Another benefit of craft cannabis products is that they can be suitable for several diet types such as Vegan, Keto, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, etc.
Even though there is a lot of information about cannabis products almost everywhere you go, it's easy to pick a product that may not work for you.
So how do you select which product is for you?
Curating your Cannabis use to suit your needs
Let's say you want a cannabis product to complement your hiking. Straight off the bat, you know that you don't want to be high as a kite, so you might want to choose a product extremely low in THC (a little THC, even if present in very minute quantities is better than zero THC). However, you might wish the product to include other Cannabinoids such as CBD or CBG that have anxiolytic & anti-inflammatory properties. You might also want the product to contain terpenes such as Limonene, which uplifting & Pinene, which increases focus because it's a bronchodilator and allows more oxygen to flow in the lungs.
If you wanted a cannabis product to help with sleep, then your selection may go something like this - You might want to go with a high THC and CBN product as both these cannabinoids are psychoactive and act as sedatives (it's essential to know your dosing levels though). If the product also has High CBD & CBG, it would complement the effect of the psychoactive cannabinoids. Additionally, you might want the product to contain the Myrcene terpene. This terpene is also found in Mangoes & hops and is a muscle relaxant and the reason why almost all high Myrcene strains result in 'couchlock,' a term familiar in the cannabis circles.
Therefore, taking time to understand and researching which combination of cannabinoids & terpenes work for you is quite essential when using Cannabis for wellness purposes.
- Cannabis is legal in NZ and is available upon prescription by a GP
- Cannabis is made up of Cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBN, etc) , Flavonoids, & Terpenes
- When THC component of cannabis is less than 0.35% of plant composition then that cannabis plant is classified as Hemp
- CBD is an isolated component of cannabis
- Consider using broad spectrum or full spectrum cannabis products rather than isolates such as CBD only – ‘Entourage Effect’
- Do your research