Holistic health is a concept with which many of us are familiar and practice. And for a lot of us, holistic health and cannabis are two things that go hand-in-hand. But have you ever wondered exactly why or how holistic health and cannabis are often associated?
There’s a reason cannabis was medically legal long before it was recreationally legal. It has proven to be effective in healing various illnesses — chronic and otherwise — and in helping us achieve homeostasis. As Fairwinds’ notes in their article on herbal medicine history, “at its core, much of modern medicine is based on traditional herbal wellness practices; while medicine has undoubtedly evolved over time, the foundational building blocks of our modern understanding are rooted in ancient wisdom.”
So, what exactly is holistic health? And how do holistic health and cannabis come together? Read on to find out.
What is Holistic Health?
At its core, holistic health is about treating the whole person — including their mind, body, spirit, and environment. It does incorporate western medicine, however, non-invasive and herbal remedies are usually the first line of defense.
Holistic healing has been around much longer than western medicine and has recently made a resurgence. Even within the western medical community, a concept that has been blossoming is integrative medicine. Within integrative medicine, physicians practice western medicine as taught, but will study, be open to, and integrate eastern/holistic practices (where they find relevant evidence).
In general, doctors are taking a more holistic approach with patients, such as prescribing herbs like ginger and probiotics for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for which cannabis is also prescribed. In fact, cannabis is one of the most mainstream herbs used in integrative medicine.
How to Use Cannabis for Holistic Health
Thanks to the endocannabinoid system, cannabis has the potential to aid in various ailments. This is because although CB1 receptors (which THC activates) are primarily found in the brain and nervous system, CB2 receptors (which CBD activates) are found throughout the body. Thus, the THC:CBD ratio of any strain helps dictate the effect it will have.
When looking at cannabis as an aid in holistic health, it’s important to focus on terpenes in addition to THC:CBD ratios.
Making the Most of Terpenes
So, what exactly are terpenes? They’re aromatic oil compounds produced in trichomes that give each strain its unique smell and taste. Terpenes, in combination with cannabinoids, produce the various highs from different strains; determining whether it’s uplifting or relaxing, stimulating focus or calming inflammation, etc.
Given their interaction with cannabinoids, we can look at terpenes when searching for a specific effect from cannabis. Don’t forget to also keep in mind the THC:CBD ratio.
Below, we’ll delve into which terpenes to search for in order to aid in the holistic healing of certain ailments/groups of ailments.
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are two things that frequently piggyback off each other. Cannabis with higher CBD ratios tend to work best when combating these.
One of the best terpenes for anxiety and depression is linalool. Also found in lavender, linalool is a relaxing and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) terpene that mediates stress levels. Plus, it increases serotonin (the “happy molecule”) receptor transmissions which creates an antidepressant effect.
Limonene, found in citrus fruits, is another terpene that is purported to lift mood.
Chronic Illnesses/Autoimmune Disorders
These can be difficult to deal with because of the persistence of autoimmune and chronic illnesses.
Fortunately, the terpene beta-caryophyllene is known to bind directly to CB2 receptors (dispersed throughout the body, including the immune system), aiding immune function and reducing inflammation.
This terpene is the only one known to directly bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors.
Gut Inflammation and Indigestion
Since it reduces inflammation and is considered gastro-protective, beta-caryophyllene is also excellent to use for gut inflammation and indigestion (there are CB2 receptors in the gut as well). Scientists have even described as a “dietary cannabinoid.” In fact, it’s found in plenty of green, leafy vegetables, and spices like black pepper and cinnamon.
Additionally, humulene has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Pain and Muscle Aches
Muscle aches and bodily pain are common, but that doesn’t make it any better. Thankfully, myrcene (similar to humulene) is a sedative muscle relaxant that is also analgesic (painkilling) and anti-inflammatory.
Myrcene is the terpene most commonly found in cannabis. So finding a strain to aid in your aches and pains is fairly easy. The best way to soothe aches and pains would be with an infused topical containing high levels of myrcene.
Insomnia and Fatigue
Due to its sedative “couch lock” potential, myrcene is also incredible for insomnia. Linalool’s relaxing effect can also aid in sleep. Look for strains with higher THC ratios when tackling insomnia.
To combat fatigue, look for limonene (for its mood-lifting abilities) and, especially, alpha-pinene. Not only is alpha-pinene a bronchodilator (opens up the upper respiratory tract), but it promotes alertness and counteracts the memory impairment from THC. Strains higher in CBD will work better to help you feel energized.
What to Look for When Purchasing Cannabis
Because terpene profiles are affected by many different factors (e.g. climate/weather, age, time of day for harvesting, soil type, fertilizer, etc.), you have to look at the individual phenotype for any particular strain.
Unfortunately, there are no industry standards in place requiring producers/processors to list terpene profiles on their packaging. But there is some luck! Some vendors — like Fairwinds, Sweetwater Farms, Western Cultured, Raven Grass, BudCo Farms, and Root Down — include terpene information with their products, making it easier for you to find the best cannabis strains to use in your holistic health journey.
Holistic healing, like cannabis, has come a long way to gain its place in the health and wellness realm. Scientists have said the data is not there. This is true only because it was never a focal foundation to health and wellness until recent consideration. Now, there are a multitude of reputable studies and tests that have been done, plus many more happening as you read this.
As always, when employing a holistic health regimen, don’t forget to check in with your doctor and use your discretion. Fine-tuning the balance of your approach to holistic health and cannabis is key to a life filled with abundance.