Question #3: What is the difference between kinds of Cannabis?

There are three main dichotomies that are confused and confusing when trying to differentiate Cannabis and associated products…

  • Indica vs. Sativa
  • THC vs. CBD
  • Marijuana vs. Hemp


Indica vs. Sativa: Different species of Cannabis

Indica and Sativa are different species of cannabis that can be bred to create hybrid strains that reflect properties of both. Strains range from 100% Indica to 100% Sativa to ratios such as 30% indica :70% sativa, 50:50 combinations, 80% indica :20% sativa, for example.

  • Indica is relaxing, body-oriented and lowers the energy level while Sativa is stimulating, cerebrally focused and energizing.
  • Indica reduces pain, symptoms, and helps with sleep while Sativa stimulates creativity and appetite and combats depression.
  • Indica plants grow short and wide and are better suited for indoor growing while Sativa plants grow tall and thin (up to 25’ !) and are better suited for outdoor growing.
  • Indica leaves are short and wide as well while Sativa leaves are long and thin.
  • Indica strains have a strong sweet-sour odor while Sativas have a grassy odor.

Indica:                                               Sativa:
relieves body pain                               promotes feelings of well-being
relaxes muscles                                  stimulates and energizes
relieves spasms, reduces seizures     increases focus and creativity
relieves headaches and migraines     promotes cerebral thoughts
relieves anxiety or stress                    combats depression


THC vs. CBD: Different Cannabinoids within Cannabis

There are almost 500 natural compounds, including around 100 cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant. They occur in varying ratios to each other and can be bred to obtain specific ratios. (Delta9-)THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that makes one “high” (Sativa) or “Stoned” (Indica). CBD (Cannabidiol) is NOT psychoactive and exists in a naturally occurring inverse relationship to THC… meaning that if a strain is high in THC, then it is low in CBD and vice versa. Since they both compete in binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the Endocannabinoid System (see Question #1: Is Cannabis good for my body?) within our bodies, CBD can actually counteract the psychoactive effects of THC by “shutting it out”. Both have healing properties as do other cannabinoids, terpenes, and the other natural compounds in Cannabis.

In Question #2: Does Cannabis kill cancer? I discussed the mechanisms by which cannabinoids combat cancer. THC helps shrink tumors, reduces pain and stimulates appetite. CBD reduces inflammation, inhibits the growth of cancer cells, reduces stress, anxiety, tremors, pain, and is good for Lyme’s disease, Chron’s disease, and a long list of other ailments.


How do these two dichotomies relate to each other?

So, if one compares these two dichotomies, it would be tempting to say, “Oh, then Sativa must be high in THC, while, Indica must be high in CBD.” In fact, there are those that make the claim that, based on enzyme conversion of different cannabinoids, that the opposite is true…. that Indica has a higher THC:CBD ratio and Sativa a higher CBD:THC ratio. (see Indica vs. Sativa: Understanding the Differences for a good discussion of the subject)

The truth is, as “A chemotaxonomic analysis of cannabinoid variation in Cannabis” (Hillig and Mahkberg, 2004) discusses, it isn’t that simple. There are several different strains or sub-species of Cannabis, and they may be better characterized by their “chemotype”, which reflects the ratio of cannabinoids, rather than their species.

The amounts of CBD and THC in an individual Cannabis plant can be characterized both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitative characterization involves determining a plant’s THC/CBD ratio and assigning it to a discrete chemical phenotype (chemotype).” Small and Beckstead’s (1973) system of classification assigns chemotype I to plants with a high THC/CBD ratio (≫1.0), chemotype II plants have an intermediate ratio (close to 1.0), and chemotype III plants have a low THC/CBD ratio (≪1.0).


Marijuana vs. Hemp: now defined by THC content

The selective breeding of the Cannabis plant has further muddied the distinction between Marijuana and Hemp. Originally, hemp referred to a particular species of Cannabis that had no psychoactive properties and had a thick and fibrous body that produces excellent fiber used in rope and textiles. With burgeoning hybridization and legal terms to differentiate use, any plant that contains less than .3% THC is now considered Hemp while anything with more than .3% THC is considered Marijuana. Thus High CBD/Low THC “Hemp” products are legally available in all 50 states and in Canada.

Since THC content is desirable in marijuana strains and undesirable in hemp strains, they are selectively cultivated. In marijuana, focus is on the female buds and great attention is spent on each plant and maximizing their flowering yield. In contrast, cultivation of hemp is usually outdoors since size and fibrous yield are the desired outcomes and primarily male plants that do not have flowering buds are grown.


Other Cannabinoids and compounds in Cannabis and Hemp

The numbers of cannabinoids and natural compounds that have been identified vary from source to source, but let’s just say around 100 cannabinoids and just shy of 500 compounds. In addition to (Delta9)THC and CBD, the most studied and prevalent cannabinoids are:

  • CBCCannabichromene: Anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-depressant, anti-fungal, promotes neuro-genesis and bone growth, anti-cancer (promotes apoptosis)
  • CBNCannabinol: Stimulates appetite, antibiotic, pain relief, anti-asthma, sedative, treatment for glaucoma and ALS
  • CBGCannabigerol: pain relief, anti-tumor, anti-depressant, treatment for psoriasis
  • CBGaCannabigerolic Acid: “cannabinoidal stem cell”, biosynthesizes in order to convert into other cannabinoids. As CBGa* (before conversion), it is a pain reliever, an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-caner (promotes apoptosis) agent.
  • THCa – “raw” THC before decarboxylation*. Non-psychoactive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, dense nutrient, improves intestinal and neural function
  • THCv – (20% as psychoactive as THC), anti-convulsant, neuroprotectant, appetite suppressant
  • CBDa – “raw” THC before decarboxylation*. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, dense nutrient, improves intestinal and neural function
  • CBDvCannabidivarin: anti-seizure, anti-nausea
  • Delta8-THC – less psychoactive, stimulates appetite, anti-nausea.

* the “a” forms of cannabinoids, represent raw forms that have not had heat applied to them. When heat is applied (decarboxylation), cannabinoids lose a molecule of CO2 and exhibit different properties.

A good reference is Top ten cannabinoids and what they do. Also, my first post in this Cannabis and Cancer series (Question #1: Is Cannabis good for my body?) explained the EndoCannabinoid System and featured a useful graphic on the healing qualities of different cannabinoids.



Terpenes are another group of medicinal chemicals found in Cannabis and other plants. 120 different terpenes are found in Cannabis and their healing effects include pain relief, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-bacterial, immune stimulant, anti-seizure… very similar to those attributed to cannabinoids. As this article Top 5 Healing Terpenes points out, terpenes amplify the healing power of Cannabis.



There are about 20 Flavonoids in Cannabis and have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids are one of the largest nutrient families know to man with over 6000 identified.


The Entourage Effect

As I covered in Question #2: Does Cannabis kill cancer?, the combined use of all these cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other natural compounds in Cannabis has a synergistic effect on the suppression of cancer activity. In other words, the whole is more than the sum of the parts and, for that reason, it is usually recommended that one use products from the whole plant, as opposed to chemical isolates. See 10 Pharmaceutical drugs based on Cannabis for a listing of synthetic products,


So what does this mean to you?

Please allow me to promote a specific concept of natural healing… that our bodies are best served by using naturally occurring nutrients and medicine found in the plants we have co-existed with for millennia.

I respect all beliefs. Perhaps you believe in a Creator and that the bountiful foods provided for us were designed for us and are a gift. Perhaps you believe in evolution and that our bodies co-evolved with plants over millions of years to optimize our survival. Or you fall somewhere in between. The conclusion is the same… we are meant for each other.

The Entourage Effect is a perfect example of the complexities of the healing benefits we find in nature. Every one of these compounds presents fantastic healing powers and the fact that they combine to amplify their effects is very important. Yes we need to study each compound and combination with all different kinds of cancer so that we can breed specialized strains for specific healing benefits. But that doesn’t mean the compounds should be chemically extracted and reduced to a pill to fund corporate jets.

We need research. We need it to be legal at the federal level in order to conduct research that is funded for the public benefit. Until we have the results of extended research, you’ll have to do your own experimentation depending on the laws where you live, your comfort with the laws, your access to products, your desired effects, your budget, etc.

You may have heard that you MUST have THC to kill cancer and that a high CBD strain is not effective. In researching this and the last post, it became clear to me that that is not true. My own brain tumors went away with a high CBD strain. Don’t discount the role of all of the compounds in Cannabis. I do believe you are covering more bases if you have a balanced strain with some THC in it but if that is not possible or desirable to you, try a high-quality CBD hemp product that is free of pesticides and use the “whole plant”. Any reputable product has been tested for the ratio of the main cannabinoids and for toxins and you should check with your source.


– back to Cannabis & Cancer to view all ten questions…

My relationship to Cannabis and Cancer…

In 2012, I lost the use of my legs and one arm and, with tumors crushing my vertebrae and pelvis and present in my liver, lungs, and lymph system, I was not expected to walk again and given just weeks to live. Her2+ breast cancer had metastasized profusely. I employed western medicine and an intensive naturopathic regimen and I got through that, thinking perhaps they were wrong and that I would live a long life. Then, a year later, they found 9 leptomeningeal brain tumors and again gave me just weeks to live. Western medicine didn’t have much to offer… I refused WBR, whole brain radiation, and the chemotherapy that crossed the blood-brain-barrier was highly toxic and shut my organs down. I read that Cannabis crosses the BBB and kills cancer so I took large amounts of CBD oil and a couple of other naturopathic things (see My Brain Metastases) and three weeks later, four of the nine tumors were gone without a trace. I now take a more balanced ratio of THC and CBD at night in a tincture for maintenance. I have been NED (no evidence of disease) since May 2014.

I am so very intrigued by the knowledge I have gained about the healing powers of Cannabis but so very frustrated by the lack of real data because of it’s legal status. I field so many questions that I can’t completely and truthfully answer, so I decided to present what I have been able to learn in the context of those questions. I do not profess to be “right” as the absolute truth of so much of this is truly not known yet. I have tried to gather valid scientific sources, compelling anecdotal success stories, and a list of resources for you to learn more.


Disclaimer: Nothing contained on this website should be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor. I am a Stage IV breast cancer thriver who is currently NED/NAD and simply sharing what I did, and do, and why. Please research anything I share to determine if it is a good path for you. Bless you all on the path you choose.

All original content contained on this web site, What I did and do and why, is copyrighted, 2015,2016 Kaiulani Facciani.



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