A Cannabis Medicine Primer


by Tammi Sweet

Good quality medicine can be made at home with some basic understanding.

Quality medicine starts with quality flower

The flower you start with determines the overall quality of the medicine you make. Just like any other plant, it’s best to know the growing practices of the cultivator growing your medicine. The best medicine is the one you grow yourself. You know every aspect of the growing process that your flowers have encountered and you’ve developed a relationship with the plant throughout the life cycle. Now that the home grow law in New York is about to go into effect in June of this year, growing your own can become a reality.

If you don’t grow your own flowers, here are some questions to consider when purchasing flowers.

How big is the operation? You want small-scale cultivation. Smaller is better since the cultivator has more time to pay attention to what’s going on at every level in the field.

How do they regard the soil? You’re looking for regenerative practices or at least organic practices. The better the soil, the better the health of the plant, the better the terpene profile and the more potent the medicine. Contrary to popular opinion, more terpene production doesn’t come from a bottle; it comes from the relationship between the living microbes in the soil and your plant.

How do they work with pests? Are they spraying anything during the flowering phase of growth? Just because a pest product is “organic” doesn’t mean it’s approved for spraying on a flower that will be inhaled. The best pest protection comes from a healthy immune system in your plant living in a diverse and healthy ecosystem. Plant health comes from healthy, living, biologically diverse soil.

Why do you grow? When I ask this question, I’m looking for an answer energetically similar to the way it feels when I ask a beekeeper about their bees. “I love this plant and I love helping people.” I want that energy in my flowers that will become my medicine.


Working with whole plant medicine

Whole plant medicine means working with the part of the plant containing the medicinal parts. In the case of cannabis, it’s any part of the female flower containing trichomes. This is usually flower and smaller bracts, often called the sugar leaves – basically, the parts full of sparkles.  Big canna uses the whole plant – stems, all the leaves, stalks – to make extract.

In the cannabis world we need to explain a bit further.

Full spectrum medicine contains all the natural parts extracted from the plant, nothing added and nothing removed. You want the full spectrum of what the plant has to offer. Full spectrum medicine is what the home medicine maker makes. You get what the plant gives you. This medicine tastes and smells like cannabis.

Broad spectrum has all the natural parts the plant has to offer except whatever the manufacturer decides needs to be removed. (The removed part is usually sold as “isolate” to someone else in the industry.) You’ll see broad spectrum CBD mostly. Manufacturers remove most (but not always all) THC. Chemical processes are involved that the home medicine maker cannot do.

Distillate is a more concentrated extract than full spectrum and less concentrated than isolate. It contains all the cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes the plant has to offer, so it looks and smells like cannabis. Home medicine makers can make distillate by evaporating the alcohol off of a cannabis tincture. Evaporating alcohol with heat is extremely volatile and dangerous and not to be done with an open flame, indoors or by a beginner.

Isolate is the most processed of all cannabis products. It contains one single isolated constituent, and has no flavor or smell. It’s a white powder much like other highly refined products like white sugar, cocaine and heroin. If you buy a product that doesn’t taste and smell like weed, it’s probably isolate. Often isolate will be added to full spectrum or broad spectrum to boost the amounts of cannabinoids in a formula. You must specifically ask if any product you purchase contains isolate because someone can make a full spectrum product and then add isolate to it.

Buying products made with isolate is not the best use of anyone’s time or money. Every scientific study done to date on efficacy states that whole plant extracts (full spectrum or tinctures or infused oils you make at home) are 3 to 330 times more potent than isolated extracts. Another way to state this is that isolated extracts are 3 to 330 times less potent than the tinctures you can make at home.


The process of making medicine is simple

As home medicine makers we take the sparkly bits, decarboxylate them in the oven (a fancy term for heating at 250 degrees Fahrenheit in a closed container for a set amount of time), pour 95 percent alcohol over the dried flowers for a set time and then strain the alcohol to make the final tincture. That’s it. This simple process makes high-quality medicine that is far superior to most products on the market. Don’t believe it’s true? Every scientific study done to date on efficacy states that whole plant extracts (full spectrum tinctures or infused oils you make at home) are 3 to 330 times more potent than isolated extracts.

Maybe you’re not ready to take on growing your own medicine right now, but you want to start working with cannabis as a medicine. The simple questions stated here can help you get the high-quality medicine you’ll need to begin or continue your journey with this fabulous herbal ally.

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