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Ask the Naturopath

Editor’s Note: There are two previous articles on how Naturopathic remedies can help you find better health. Please visit to learn more. It’s worth the effort.

By: Suzanne

Are there side-effects with cannabis use?

What is a side-effect? In medicine, a side-effect is an effect… whether that is what was intended, or not. All plants and drugs have effects. Cannabis is a medicinal plant, in other words, it is a drug because it has a “pharmacological” effect on a person or animal. That means it is like a pharmacy. It does things to our body or mind like other drugs do things. Lavender is a plant, an herb, and a drug. It calms people by going into the nose and working on the receptors (antennas) for relaxation. That is the side-effect: it relaxes you. It is a drug.

Usually when you talk about side-effects, you mean bad things that happen, like a rash or a seizure, a fever, or redness where you get a shot. But the “high” from ingesting THC is also a side-effect. You may think it’s a good one or a bad one, but that’s why it is a pharmaceutical product – it does things medicinally, like medicine. Some say much better than medicine!

Some of the side-effects are laziness, happiness, nausea stopping, sleepiness, energy, creative impulses, increased perceptions, finding everything funny, headache, paranoia, increased anxiety, or forgetfulness. It’s different for everyone and here’s why:

Every single person on Earth has a different set of receptors in their body to pick up on the active molecules in the cannabis plant. These receptors are inside you and respond to your own internally made cannabis-looking molecules. Did you know you make cannabinoids (or cannabis-like molecules)? They are present in the cord blood at birth, in breastmilk, in the placenta, and in your blood stream as you get older. They can be measured, but it wasn’t even known until the late 1990’s that we have this system inside of us to pick up on cannabinoids. I never heard of it until about 10 years ago. My friends who are MD’s know little if anything about it, unless they’ve been paying attention to recent cannabis research.

This gift from God is called the endocannabinoid system. Big words. Let’s break it down. The ENDO (inside) CANNABINOID (cannabis like) SYSTEM (set of receptors, messenger receivers throughout your body and brain) is unique to you. Can we save me typing and call it the ECS? It’s like a retinal scan, or a fingerprint. No one’s system is exactly the same as yours. You have a Nervous System, a Blood System, an endocrine (hormone) system, and an ECS. And yours is different than your smoking buddy’s, or even your parents’.

This can make it even harder to find the exact right strain of cannabis for you. It also makes research difficult because everyone responds a little differently to the plant. So trying to decide your best dosing, best combination of CBD and THC, or CBD alone, or THC alone – is going to be pretty much trial and error.

What if I’m trying different strains and I get too high?

Usually, budtenders will instruct new users in what to do if they feel a little (or a lot) too high. This is an unpleasant experience but will not harm you or be permanent. It is treated by what we in medicine call “tincture of time”. In other words, you just have to wait it out. But being well-hydrated will definitely help. Cannabis is a little dehydrating, as you can tell by a side-effect called cotton-mouth. So drink a lot of water. If you’re feeling paranoid, you may do well to turn on some quiet soothing music while you wait it out. Sleep if you feel sleepy.

When you’re looking for your dose, it’s very important to start slow and gradually increase until you get the relief you are needing. Fresh receptors will gladly receive the medicine and you’ll be able to notice some effects pretty much right away. However, finding the exact dose for your daily needs will probably take longer.

Conversely, if you’re a person who has used cannabis for a long time you probably have a tolerance for it. In your case, stopping use for a couple of weeks will allow the receptors to refresh, clean out, wake up again, so you can use a lot less to help with a medical situation.

The issues of dosing and side-effects are better broken down into small, understandable parts, so we will continue this in a future article.

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