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Marijuana is unquestionably medicinal. It's not the cure-all that many marijuana advocates insist that it is, but there are situations in which cannabis really is the best treatment for a health condition. However, the fact that marijuana can be medicinal doesn't mean that any marijuana you get anywhere is good for you. Here are 10 rules, a few of them really basic, for choosing the marijuana that works best for appropriate health indications.
1. The medicinal power of marijuana is in the bud, not the leaf.
There actually is a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in marijuana leaf, but it's the flower bud that contains the highest concentration of THC and a range of other health-helpful chemicals, not the leaf. A surprising number of neophytes to marijuana have been persuaded to buy marijuana leaf. It won't hurt you, but in its unprocessed state, it won't help you, either.
2. Moldy pot is dangerous.
Most of us know about the danger of black mold growing inside damp walls and floors. The same strains of mold that contaminate damp houses can contaminate damp pot. The problem isn't common by any means, but a few people have come down with a disease called aspergillosis from smoking moldy marijuana, and without treatment, a few of those users died. To be clear, the problem was the mold, not the pot, but the mold was in moldy pot.
3. Irradiated pot is almost, but not quite, as medicinal as non-irradiated pot
Many fruits and vegetables are treated with gamma radiation to kill bacteria, fungi, and molds before storage and shipment. In the European Union, gamma radiation is also used to kill microbial contaminants of marijuana. While irradiated marijuana certainly isn't organic, it can be medicinal. The stimulant THC and the calming CBD content of the irradiated herb isn't affected. However, the concentration a group of compounds known as terpenes is reduced in the process. These are the chemicals that give the different strains of marijuana their distinctive flavors. Beta-caryophyllene, which gives some strains of marijuana a peppery flavor and counteracts hangover, limonene, which gives some strains of marijuana a lemony scent and lifts depression, linalool, the lavender scent component that relieves pain, myrcene, the chemical that keeps you glued to couch and that is particularly abundant in the Bedrocan strain of pot, and ocimene, the chemical also found in basil that stimulates soft tissue regrowth after injury, are all reduced by irradiation. On the plus side, since drug-sniffing dogs are trained to point when they smell beta-caryophyllene, your purchase is less likely to draw attention from canines in police service.
4. With marijuana, less is sometimes more.
Heavy users of marijuana sometimes develop a condition explained by a phenomenon neurologists call "receptor downregulation." It takes more and more marijuana for less and less effect. Abstaining from cannabis for 30 days can restore sensitivity to its medicinal effects, but the simple fact is, heavy users have trouble doing that. It's best to know how much marijuana you are getting in each "dose," and to use the amount of marijuana, and the right strain of marijuana, to feel optimally better. That's not always more pot. Sometimes it's less.