13 min read

What Are the Benefits, Side Effects, and Risks of Cannabis?

As 4/20 rolls around, it's time to make those special brownies and gather your friends for the ultimate sesh. It’s also time for our annual Get Hy campaign, and we are here to spread the word for you to remember to stay HYdrated as you celebrate this intoxicating holiday. Just like a good joint, we want to share with everyone why this plant is permeating lives everywhere. Whether you're a seasoned stoner or just someone who's curious about the world of weed, we are here to answer all of your burning questions about everyone’s favorite medicinal herb—cannabis!

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis sativa is a fascinating member of the hemp or Cannabaceae family. It has been a part of many traditional medicine systems throughout the world and was a part of the United States Pharmacopoeia until 1942. Although other parts of the plant have healing properties, when most people are talking about cannabis or marijuana, they are referring to the flowers of cannabis plants that have been bred to have increasingly high amounts of psychoactive properties. Not only is it much stronger today than the pot of the past, but there is also so much more to choose from.

Nowadays, you can take your pick from a whole variety of strains, complete with pedigrees tracing genetic lines back to some of the old-school mother plants such as Durban Poison, Panama Red, and Maui Wowie. Strains that were once collected from around the world have been crossed and interbred to produce plants with unique compositions of the different phytochemical compounds found in the captivating flowers. Cannabis growers have made it their mission to find, grow, and breed the finest, dankest buds possible, and because of that, the quality of cannabis is like never before.

Phytochemical compounds found in cannabis include:

THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the compound that has the most psychoactive properties and is responsible for the “high” that comes along with cannabis. THC levels are much higher in many modern cannabis varieties due to selective breeding and specialized growing techniques.

CBD. Cannabidiol is one of the compounds (and the most well-known) that gives cannabis many of its therapeutic properties. On its own, CBD does not have psychoactive properties and is a good option for people who are seeking the health benefits of cannabis without the high.

CBG, CBN, CBC. These are other cannabinoids that have been identified in cannabis that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and have special properties that benefit human health.

Terpenes. Terpenes or terpenoids are aromatic compounds largely responsible for giving your weed that sticky, resinous consistency. There is a whole spectrum of them with different properties, and they enhance the effects of cannabinoids. Different cannabis strains will have different ratios of terpenes, making some more sedating, some better for pain, and some more energizing. Common terpenes found in cannabis are ꞵ-myrcene, limonene, pinene, and ꞵ-caryophyllene.

cannabis strains

How to Find the Best Cannabis Strains

If you are new to the world of cannabis, it can be overwhelming to step into a dispensary with all of the choices that are available. Indica or sativa? Gummies or brownies? Extracts or flowers? Get to know your local budtender or ask a medical marijuana doctor what they recommend and let them guide you to what it is that you need in your life. Whatever you do, start with a small amount until you see how a particular strain, extract, or edible hits you. High doses can be overwhelming and can lead to feelings of paranoia or effects that may render you unable to function normally for a time.

Many people will recommend sativa-dominant cannabis strains for an energizing, creative, euphoric experience, and indica-dominant strains if you need to relax, sleep, or relieve pain. Although these terms aren’t especially reliable anymore, they do describe the perceived effects of the different strains and can be helpful when choosing a variety for your specific needs.

As the different cannabis varieties are starting to be analyzed using scientific methods rather than relying on user perception, many cannabis connoisseurs are tuning into the terpene profiles to determine what strain they want for certain purposes. Want creativity? Try something high in limonene. Need to chill after a long day? Try something with a lot of ꞵ-myrcene. This isn’t a perfect science by any means, as there will always be a whole spectrum of these compounds in any given plant, but paying attention to the terpenes in a strain can point you in the right direction.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Cannabis?

Many people are turning to this powerful plant to help them cope with health problems, the stress of modern life, or to shift into a more creative state of mind. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, cannabis shows incredible potential for helping people with various mental and physical issues.

Certain types of cannabis will be better than others for specific needs, so we are sharing a few varieties known to have these beneficial characteristics. Just remember that there can be a lot of variations even between plants that have the same name, so this is only meant to be a guide to help you discover what is right for you.

All of this information is for educational purposes only! Talk to your doctor about using cannabis if you have any health conditions.

cannabis store

Pain Relief

Creaky joints and stiff muscles? Cannabis might be the answer to your woes. It doesn’t work for every type of pain, but a lot of people are able to avoid prescription painkillers now that cannabis is widely available in some areas. Cannabis is especially good for managing chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, headaches, neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. There are topical creams that have CBD or full-leaded cannabis that you can put directly on sore areas, and many people find great relief from smoking it or consuming edibles.

Terpenes to look for in a cannabis strain for pain relief

♦ limonene
♦ humulene
♦ ꞵ-caryophyllene
♦ ꞵ-myrcene

Popular cannabis strains used for pain relief

♦ Blackberry Kush
♦ CBD Shark
♦ Northern Lights

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Inflammation is at the root of many health disorders, so, of course, many people are looking for natural ways to reduce inflammatory responses throughout the body. While not all inflammation is bad, when it gets out of control, it can lead to autoimmune issues and other health problems. CBD and other cannabinoids are beneficial in helping the body regulate inflammation. Many terpenes, such as ꞵ-caryophyllene (also found in black pepper, oregano, and lavender), also show benefits for reducing inflammation by modulating immune responses throughout the body.

If they are available in your area, fresh, young cannabis leaves have incredible anti-inflammatory properties. You can blend them into smoothies (remove fibrous stems) or juice them for beneficial effects. Beware of plants grown with pesticides or sprayed with other chemicals!

cannabis smoothie

Terpenes to look for in a cannabis strain for anti-inflammatory effects

♦ ꞵ-caryophyllene
♦ alpha bisabolol
♦ ꞵ-myrcene
♦ humulene
♦ alpha-pinene
♦ ꞵ-pinene

Popular cannabis strains used for anti-inflammatory effects

♦ Bubba Kush
♦ Gorilla Glue
♦ Chemdawg
♦ Sour Tsunami

Helps Reduce Anxiety

If you are feeling overwhelmed, cannabis can be very supportive to help you calm down, relax, and let go of your worries. While we don’t recommend it if you are in the middle of a panic attack, using cannabis on a regular basis can help help you adjust your mental state from one of anxiousness to one of the chill vibes we could all use more of. Use caution if you are prone to anxiety because certain strains can be mentally stimulating and can even induce anxiety and paranoia. Often this is dose-dependent. Higher doses or strains that have high amounts of THC are not the right choice for this issue. Look for a high CBD ratio or an indica-dominant type strain for the most calming effects.

Terpenes to look for in a cannabis strain for anxiety relief

♦ ꞵ-myrcene
♦ nerolidol
♦ ꞵ-caryophyllene
♦ limonene

Popular cannabis strains used for anxiety relief

♦ Harlequin
♦ Cannatonic
♦ Skywalker OG Kush
♦ Purple Urkle

cannabis buds and products

Improved Sleep

If you are struggling to catch enough zzz’s, cannabis can help. While again, this will depend on the strain and the dose; it helps many people to fall asleep quicker. For some individuals, it may have the opposite effect, so it might be a good idea to test this out with a few different strains to see if it works for you. Some people see a lot of benefits for sleep with a high CBD strain or a CBD full-spectrum extract. The terpene profile will also be incredibly important for promoting a good night's sleep, as certain ones will have more sedative effects.

Terpenes to look for in a cannabis strain for benefitting sleep

♦ linalool
♦ ꞵ-myrcene
♦ terpinolene
♦ nerolidol

Popular cannabis strains used for sleep

♦ Lavender
♦ Vanilla Kush
♦ Granddaddy Purple
♦ Northern Lights

Increased Appetite

While not everyone will appreciate this side effect of cannabis, it is an incredible benefit for people with nausea and appetite issues. Getting a case of munchies after smoking weed can help people with certain medical conditions boost their appetite and maintain their weight. Those going through chemotherapy report that cannabis helps with nausea and loss of appetite, as well as other uncomfortable symptoms that come along with the treatment. This benefit is largely due to the THC content in cannabis, which affects the hypothalamus, sending out signals of hunger from the brain.

Terpenes to look for in a cannabis strain for appetite and nausea

♦ myrcene
♦ limonene
♦ alpha-pinene

Popular cannabis strains used for appetite and nausea

♦ Pineapple Kush
♦ Blackwater
♦ Sour Diesel
♦ Candyland

Side Effects

Although many promote cannabis as a nature-made panacea, it does have a few cautions to go along with it. Dry mouth, known as “cottonmouth,” bloodshot eyes, and munchies are just a few of the mild, common effects that come along with using this plant. Beyond that, people with certain mental health issues are better off avoiding cannabis.

High doses and strains with a large percentage of THC can induce anxiety and paranoia. Some people will experience a reduction in motivation, with possible depression-like symptoms. As the psychoactive effects can be disorienting, even hallucinatory, make sure you are in a safe place before consuming cannabis.

Although cannabis is not addictive in the same way as other substances, it can lead to dependency. There are also unnaturally potent preparations available, known as dabs, wax, and shatter, which are the result of chemical extraction. The concentrated amounts of THC in these products are above and beyond what you would find in the plant itself, and these kinds of extracts can lead to adverse effects and have been linked to cases of THC psychosis.

Legal Considerations

Cannabis is still federally illegal in the United States, and many countries throughout the world have very serious consequences for possessing any part of this plant. And although hemp-derived CBD is no longer a federally controlled substance, make sure to check local regulations before purchasing or using any cannabis-related products, especially while traveling.

The Essential Element

Now that cannabis is being more widely accepted and the research is showing positive outcomes, you can kick back, relax, and indulge in some high-quality Mary Jane, knowing some of the incredible health benefits that cannabis can provide. Just remember to stay HYdrated and keep your electrolytes replenished all day, every day. Don’t forget to share; in fact, make it a part of the party! No matter how you spend your time, make sure you’ve got the Essential elements® you need to stay feeling your best so you can keep the celebration going!

What Are the Benefits, Side Effects, and Risks of Cannabis?