What's most important for patients and consumers?

For any patient or consumer considering a medicine or wellness product, the most important information is reliable knowledge about the effects of the active ingredients in that product, and in single servings or doses of that product. 

We all want to know:

  1. What product should I take to achieve my goal, or desired outcome?
  2. How much of it should I take (dose)?
  3. How effective will it be at achieving my goal?
  4. Does it have any negative side effects? 

If you can answer those questions pretty confidently, then you will have much more success and control over how well any medicine, wellness product, or supplement works for you.

Active Ingredients Drive Effects

What we present here is a summary, or "Cliffs Notes" version of knowledge specifically focused on active ingredients, and their effectiveness. There is a lot of great information and knowledge available to everyone, but rarely is it presented in a way that really tries to make the most important knowledge easier to use and understand for a patient or consumer.

A great overview presentation on the basic science is here from Autry Parker, MD, MPH, a board-certified, fellowship-trained anesthesiologist specializing in the interventional treatment of severe spinal and neuromuscular pain.


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The 5 Basic Cannabis & Hemp Truths

Here are 5 basic truths that are important for EVERY patient or consumer to understand. 5 truths that most retailers and producers don't really like to talk about. 

1. Traditional labels of Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid have an inconsistent correlation with specific active ingredient combinations. "Strain names" also do not correlate well to consistent active ingredient combinations, even with flower from the same grower.

2. There are literally billions of possible combinations. The large number of active ingredients (Cannabinoids, Terpenes, Flavonoids, Aldehydes, Thiols, Esters, Sterols, Volatile Sulphur Compounds) in The Amazing Flower means it will be very difficult, and take many, many years to develop actionable knowledge with traditional clinical trials.

3. Terpenes are important. We know from experience in the food, cosmetics, and fragrance industries that terpenes are potent, and mere tenths or hundredths of a percent can be enough to dominate a substance's smell and taste. Small variations can also have a significant effect on the way a product makes you feel.

4. Bioavailability varies a lot depending on your method of consumption. Inhaling or smoking 10mg of CBD or THC will not deliver the whole 10mg of CBD or THC to your bloodstream. Swallowing (ingesting) will even deliver different cannabinoids to your bloodstream, will take longer to take effect, and will last much longer.

5. We really don't have enough good knowledge to give patients and consumers the information they need to make well-informed buying decisions. We're trying to help with that by formally and systematically collecting everyone's input. Anonymously share your "anecdote", in a simple, 3-minute Survey. You will help create better, more usable knowledge in a fairly short amount of time. We publish the reports here for free.


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Overview of what matters most

The cannabinoids found in The Amazing Flower are completely unique to cannabis, and are not found in other plants (that we have found so far). Terpenes, Terpenoids, and Flavonoids however, occur naturally in many other types of plants, and are commonly used in the cosmetics and food industries for their scents, flavors, and colors (Flavonoids). However, there are three Flavonoids that are unique to cannabis and hemp.

Additionally, there are many other compounds in cannabis and hemp flower that are rarely discussed. Thiols, esters, aldehydes, sterols, volatile sulphur compounds, and more. They actually make up the vast majority of the weight of cured cannabis and hemp flower. We call this "The Other 70%", or the silent majority.

Pie chart showing that "other" compounds make up over 75% of most cannabis & hemp flower

 

Traditional labels of Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid don't always correlate with consistent active ingredient combinations and ratios.  "Strain names" also do not correlate well to consistent active ingredient combinations, even with flower from the same grower (see a batch comparison further down this page). 

We know that different active ingredient combinations result in different effects, but we have little information about which combinations work best for different objectives or desired outcomes. We hope that you will take a few minutes to learn more about the active ingredients, and start looking for the best combinations for your needs.


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Cannabinoid Pathway, or Family Tree

 

Active Ingredients Guides

Our Active Ingredients Reference Guides have more specific information about 18 cannabinoids, 36 terpenes and terpenoids, and 13 flavonoids, including their reported effects and boiling points. We want cannabis and hemp product labels (or QR link codes on labels) to include ALL these major active ingredient amounts for all products, patients and consumers. It's really not much to ask to have the ingredients responsible for the effects of a medical or wellness product actually listed somewhere. Right?

The major active ingredients (molecules) in cannabis & hemp

There are literally hundreds of active ingredients (molecules) that The Amazing Flower is responsible for creating. The most common active ingredients have been studied to some degree, and the vast majority of those have been shown to have beneficial effects. MOST of them are produced in the bulbous head of the trichomes, or "resin glands" like the ones shown below growing off of the vegetation of the actual flowers.

Cannabis Trichomes Close up

The large number of active ingredients in The Amazing Flower means it will be difficult to develop actionable knowledge with traditional FDA approved randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trials. Those types of "gold-standard" studies are usually focused on just one or two active ingredients at a time, and it usually takes many YEARS to get full FDA approval. 

 

There are billions of different possible "strains"

Or more accurately, billions of different chemovars. Consider a list of the 67 major active ingredients that are in our current Active Ingredients Guide. The label would look a lot like a multi-vitamin label, which would be great! 

If we consider 67 different active ingredients with just 10 possible values for each one, that means there are over 100 billion possible active ingredient combinations. And remember, that DOESN'T include the "other 70%" of compounds that are not on published test results (thiols, aldehydes, etc.)

If there are literally BILLIONS of different active ingredient combinations possible in The Flower, it seems prudent that we consider other viable methods to get this knowledge. If we can get people like you to anonymously share your own knowledge of what works BEST for you, all in one place, we believe we can help create valuable knowledge in a fairly short period of time.


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A Strain Name or Sativa/Indica designation is misleading most of the time

Different Cannabis Strain Pictures

 

Despite what some may tell you, an understanding of the major active ingredient combinations (profiles) in cannabis and hemp is more important than a label of "Indica", "Sativa", or "Hybrid", or has a clever "strain" name.

One of the reasons why this categorization remains today is that it is not easy to deliver a consistent active ingredient profile in cannabis and hemp flower from harvest to harvest - even in the same controlled facility with the same genetics and processes.

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Cannabinoid Content Varies from Batch to Batch

Here's an example. The THC content of this single "strain" varied from around 15% to almost 25% over a period of 10 months and 14 different batch numbers.

Just because a flower has a THC content under 20% does not mean it is inferior to one that has over 30%. You may get more THC per dose, but if the terpene percentage is the same, you also get fewer TERPENES per dose.

Say your goal is to focus and minimize memory loss and you have astutely chosen a chemovar with pinene as the dominant terpene, the 20% THC flower might actually be more effective. You will be getting MORE pinene per dose in milligrams. To get the same amount of THC, you can take 50% more product, and you'll get even more terpenes. It's based on everyone's unique needs, goals, and biochemistry.

THC variation in cannabis flower from same grower

 


Terpenes in Flower Vary from Batch to Batch

Ever notice how some flower is so pungent that it doesn't seem to matter what container you put it in, it still stinks up the room? And then some flower doesn't seem to do that at all. The explanation is mostly total terpene content. 4% total terpene content flower will be MUCH more imposing than 1% total terpene content flower.

We really need to know these THREE things about terpene content:

  1. How many terpenes were tested in total?
  2. Total terpene percentage (weight) of all tested terpenes and terpenoids combined
  3. Top 5 (at least) individual terpene percentages.

Sometimes a product will boast 4% terpenes, but the top terpene amount is only 0.3%. If you look closely, you'll probably find the lab tested for several hundred terpenes and the 4% total is made up of scores of obscure terpenes with less than .02% each. Whereas if the lab only tested for 40 terpenes, a total terpene content of 4% would be impressive.

Below is a stacked bar chart of the major terpenes in the same strain (cultivar) from several lots from the same producer. They were purchased from their vertically integrated retail shop between September 2021 and December 2022.

Bar chart showing the different terpene profiles with a different color representing each terpene. There are 4 different batches between 9/2021 and 12/2022. It shows that the first and last batches are very different from the middle two.
 

The dominant terpenes in this single cultivar, or "strain" vary a lot from the first lot to the last lot. The color for each terpene is consistent so you can see the differences without looking at the actual percentage numbers.

The first batch is kind of out in left field compared to the other three. The next two batches show promise of some consistency, but the fourth batch is very different. Pinene, Phellandrene, and Ocimene have been essentially "replaced" by more Myrcene. The total weight of these major terpenes also dropped by about 30% (between the third and fourth batch).


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We know from experience in the food, cosmetics, and fragrance industries that terpenes are potent, and mere tenths or hundredths of a percent can be enough to dominate a substance's smell or taste. Scientists say active ingredients that contribute 0.05% or more in weight are considered "pharmacologically interesting". Variations in terpene amounts and ratios can also have a significant effect on the way that a product affects you physically.

So, it's apparent that a single professional grower has a tough time producing a consistent active ingredient profile from the same genetics and phenotypes. It doesn't mean they are a bad grower. It just means that it is very, very hard due to the complexity of The Amazing Flower.

 

Terpenes matter, and help create the taste and aroma

Terpenes in Cannabis, Other Sources Pictures

 

Since our mission is to help find out what works best for different consumer and patient goals, we think knowing more about terpenes is important. Research shows they have effects on humans. But most of the research was done on the effects of single terpenes by themselves, not combined with 10 other terpenes, 3-5 cannabinoids, and the "other 70%".

They affect people differently, so the only way to really know what they do combined together is collecting data from lots of different kinds of patients and consumers. Our research survey is one way we are trying to help out with this "knowledge gap". It only takes 3 minutes and will contribute to developing more useful knowledge about cannabis products.

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We put together a reference guide to cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that are most commonly found in cannabis and hemp flower. This guide of course does not include ALL the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in The Amazing Flower, but it covers the most frequently found active ingredients in lab test results (COAs). There are several hundred cannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids, and flavonoids in The Amazing Flower, and that's a big reason why it is truly amazing.

Several studies have shown that a combination of many of these active ingredients together are usually more effective than a single, isolated compound. It's usually called the "Entourage Effect". Although perhaps the "Ensemble Effect" is a better term since there really are several "star" ingredients in The Amazing Flower. 


Bioavailability

Based on the best research we can find, cannabinoid bioavailability varies quite a lot depending on your method of consumption. Swallowing (or inhaling) 10mg of CBD or THC product will NOT deliver 10mg of THC or CBD to your bloodstream. That's the simple definition of bioavailability. We have a detailed Bioavailability page that includes a discussion and lists the 30+ references we used, including quotations from the studies and experts.


Here's our infographic diagram that shows cannabinoid bioavailability estimates based on study averages for the main methods to take cannabinoids. All of the methods usually deliver their effects for a duration of 1 to 3 hours, EXCEPT edibles, which can deliver effects for over 8 hours (more on why ingesting is different below).

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And despite smoking being rated lower than vaporizing in terms of overall efficiency, some people claim that they actually need LESS product when they smoke versus when they use a vaporizer. It's really what works best for you, and you're not like anyone else, physically or chemically.

Cannabinoid bioavailability infographic showing the main consumption methods and the parts of the body that are involved in each method.

Swallowing or Eating Cannabinoids Is Different...

...mostly because the cannabinoids get processed (metabolized) in the liver before they hit your bloodstream ("1st Pass" metabolism). The liver converts some active ingredients in cannabis and hemp into completely different molecules. Delta-9 THC is mostly converted to 11-hydroxy(OH)-THC. This is one reason why people say that eating or swallowing THC gives them a very different effect than when it is taken in any other way. The effects from ingesting usually last MUCH longer than inhaling or tincturing, too.

Swallowing has a low overall bioavailability for the neutral cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) but can be dramatically improved when ingested with saturated fats. There have also been recent advances in creating single cannabinoid (isolate) nanoemulsions that increase the bioavailability of ingested cannabinoids BEFORE they get to the liver. These new technologies certainly hold promise, but the research is still limited. Be very careful when dosing Nano- and Micro-emulsions. Most people will need to take less than you would with a normal product designed without these technologies.

And PLEASE never forget that cannabis affects different people in very different ways. It requires some trial and error, so remember to always START LOW (dose) and GO SLOW (increasing the dose) until you find the dose, administration method, and active ingredient combinations that work best for you.

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