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There’s lots of jargon when it comes to cannabis, with both slang terms and scientific ones making their way into the everyday vocabulary of the medical marijuana user. Our cannabinoid/terpene table is also a handy guide. If you’ve just received your MMJ card or are looking to get one, or if you need further help understanding a particular term, here’s a handy guide to the most common scientific and cannabis-culture related words you will see on our site and elsewhere …
A reduction in the severity of symptoms.
Not related to living organisms.
Cutting short the course of disease.
Friction wearing away of the top layer of skin.
A sudden breaking away or breaking off.
Extra or supplementary to the main element.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in learning and memory. It is thought to be available in inadequate levels in conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease. Acetylcholine is degraded by the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and has a brief duration of action. It is one of te most abundant neurotransmitters available in the human body.
The opposite of a receptor antagonist. An agonist is a chemical that promotes a biological response by binding to a receptor. A chemical or compound that binds to a receptor partially but not completely is known as “partial agonist”.
Terms ending in “-algia”
An allosteric modulator is like a volume control for a receptor. Allosteric modulators change the way in which a receptor processes a signal. Allosteric modulators do not bind to the main, active site, but a site away from the main receptor. Allosteric modulators can, however, change the way agonists interact with the rceptor site.
There are three main types of allosteric modulator: positive, negative and neutral. Positive allosteric modulators turn up the volume and increase agonist efficacy/affinity, negative allosteric modulators turn down the volume a decrease agonist affinity/efficacy , and neutral ones have no direct effect but can block other allosteric modulators.
Neurotransmitters that bind to the main, active site on a receptor are called “orthosteric modulators”.
Ability to walk.
Loss of pain where pain would normally be evident without loss of consciousness. An analgesic is a drug or medicine that beats pain.
Parts of the body and its general structure.
A drug or treatment used to beat nausea/vomiting. The opposite of an antiemetic is an emetic. Both THC and CBD have antiemetic effects. CBG may block CBD’s antiemetic effects when in moderate doses.
A drug used to reduce anxiety.
Many compounds produce a biphasic effect, which means low and high doses can produce opposite effects. This is certainly true of cannabinoids. THC can have stress-beating effects in low doses, and cause anxiety in higher doses. THCV is a CB1 receptor antagonist in low doses and a CB1 receptor agonist in higher doses. The effects of cannabinoids can also change over time.
An abnormal growth that is not life-threatening.
Cannabis rolled into cigar paper, which is made from tobacco.
A filtration device (usually water or ice as the filter) most often used for smoking cannabis.
A major phytocannabinoid with lots of potential health benefits, and for most people none of the psychoactive effects. Accounts for up to 40% of the cannabis plant’s extracts, and after THC is the cannabinoid often found in largest amounts. Also seems to “balance out” the effects of THC, reducing its negative side-effects.
A chemical compound that acts on cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids can refer to phytocannabinoids (from the plant, usually but not necessarily always the cannabis plant) and endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced naturally by the human body).
Cannabis-infused oil, usually coconut or olive oil.
Hollow space in the body containing one organ or more.
A cannabinoid receptor that is located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system. CB1 receptors are found in the brain, and compounds that are agonists of this receptor are psychoactive. THC is a partial agonist of the CB1 receptor, and THCV is a CB1 receptor antagonist at lower doses and a CB1 receptor agonist in higher doses. CBN may be slightly psychoactive, and may interact with CB1 very lightly. Interaction with CB1 receptors may give cannabinoids its pain killing effects.
A cannabinoid receptor that is located throughout the body, including the brain and immune system. CB2 receptor agonists, antagonists and inverse agonists have immunomdulatory effects, and can inhibit inflammation. The terpene/cannabinoid beta-caryophyllene is a CB2 receptor agonist. Cannabichromene (CBC) is also a CB2 receptor agonist. Some postulate that there are CB3, CB4 and possibly even CB5 receptors.
Chemotype (sometimes also referred to as “Chemovar”)
A chemotype (sometimes chemovar) is a chemically distinct entity in a plant or microorganism, with differences in the composition of the secondary metabolites. Minor genetic and epigenetic changes with little or no effect on morphology or anatomy may produce large changes in the chemical phenotype. Many scientists believe that looking at chemotype is a more accurate way of classifying cannabis.
To apply pressure to stop bleeding or prevent further injury.
The chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases CO2, i.e. removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain. Usually used in relation to applying heat to cannabis, whether in terms of smoking or cooking.
Branched protoplasmic extensions of a nerve cell that propagates the electrochemical stimulation received from other neural cells to the cell body (soma) of the neuron from which dendrites project. Dendrites essentially carry information from one cell to the next.
Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o
A detachment within the self, regarding one’s mind or body, or being a detached observer of oneself. Subjects feel they have changed and that the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, lacking in significance or being outside reality while looking in.
Fingers and toes
The neurotransmitter responsible for reward-motivated behavior and motor control. Dysregulation of dopamine receptors is associated with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. Dopamine is also involved in addiction.
A cannabis-infused product that can be eaten.
Terms ending in “-emia”
Cannabinoids produced naturally by the human body. Anadamide (AED) and 2-Arachidonoglycerol (2-AG) are the most well-studied.
Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The name given to the groups of cannabinoid receptors found within the brain and throughout the body. The ECS was discovered in 1990, and is now believed to be the key to modulating sleep, appetite, mood, memory and the motivation and reward center. The ECS is intimately linked with homeostasis.
Used to describe the effect cannabinoids and terpenoids have when working in concert with each other, giving different cannabis plants their unique effects. Another word that could be used is “synergy” – a term used for when the whole effect is greater than the sum of its parts.
Epinephrine is a “fight-or-flight”, excitatory neurotransmitter. “Release of epinephrine increases heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose production from the liver (glycogenolysis). In this way, the nervous and endocrine systems prepare the body for dangerous and extreme situations by increasing nutrient supply to key tissues.” https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/neurotransmitters
The cause of a condition.
To make worse; deterioration of a condition
The compounds that give cannabis its flavor.
GABA – gamma-Aminobutyric acid
The neurotransmitter responsible for reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. There are two main classes of GABA: GABA-A and GABA-B. GABA plays a role in the development of the brain. GABA inhibits glutamate.
The genotype is the part of the genetic makeup of a cell, and therefore of any individual, which determines one of its characteristics (phenotype). The term was coined by the Danish botanist, plant physiologist and geneticist Wilhelm Johannsen in 1903.
The chief excitatory neurotransmitter. In neuroscience, glutamate refers to the anion of glutamic acid in its role as a neurotransmitter: a chemical that nerve cells use to send signals to other cells. Glutamate plays an important role in learning, memory and synaptic plasticity. Glutamate is a building block for protein and many neurotransmitters. Glutamate drives the production of endocannabinoids. See here for more: http://www.phytecs.com/.
Study and treatment of the female urinary tract and reproductive organs.
The resin of the cannabis plant, usually bound and pressed together using ice or heat, and/or pressure
Blood in vomit.
Treatment of blood diseases and malignancies.
Histamine is usually associated with allergic reactions and itching. This is because it is a neurotransmitter associated with inflammatory responses and itchy skin. Histamine regulates physiological function in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter for the brain, spinal cord, and uterus
The maintenance of a constant internal environment. The ECS, hormones and the nervous system are responsible for this.
A condition that appears as a result of treatment of another condition.
Of unknown cause.
Indica or Cannabis indica
“Cannabis indica is an annual plant in the family Cannabaceae. It is a putative species of the genus Cannabis. Whether it and Cannabis sativa are truly separate species is a matter of debate. The Cannabis indica plant is cultivated for many purposes; for example, the plant fibers can be converted into cloth.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_indica
The term “indica” is usually a reference to short, stout cannabis plants that have more of a relaxing, “body” effect. This is not always accurate, but is a term that has entered the popular cannabis lexicon and, until recently, has served a purpose in identifying particular varieties of cannabis. Whilst this method of classification is not always accurate, it has its uses. Botanists will always argue about taxonomy, so this is likely going to be a debate that lasts a long time!
Difficult to cure or alleviate.
An inverse agonist is a drug that binds to the same receptor as an agonist but induces a pharmacological response opposite to that of the agonist.
Terms ending in “-itis”
Cannabis rolled into a rolling paper, in preparation for smoking.
“Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced and released mainly by the stomach with small amounts also released by the small intestine, pancreas and brain. Ghrelin has numerous functions. It is termed the ‘hunger hormone’ because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.” https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/ghrelin/
Unpressed resin glands from the cannabis plant. Kief is usually pressed together to make hashish.
Abdomen, loin or flank.
“Leptin is a hormone released from fat cells in adipose tissue. Leptin signals to the brain, in particular to an area called the hypothalamus. Leptin does not affect food intake from meal to meal but, instead, acts to alter food intake and control energy expenditure over the long term.” https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/leptin/
A substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule to serve a biological purpose.
Terms ending in “-lysis”
Related to (and the study of) bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
Special care for newborn babies with high dependency needs.
Related to the disorders of the brain, spinal cord, or general nervous system. Study of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.
Chemicals that enable neurotransmission (aka synaptic transmission) – the process by which signalling molecules are released by a neuron – and transmits messages across the synapse.
A neutral antagonist has no activity in the absence of an agonist or inverse agonist but can block the activity of either by competing at the receptor site.
Norepinephrine (NE), aka noradrenaline (NA)
Norepinephrine is responsible for the “flight or fight” effect, and its main function is to mobilize the brain and body for action.
Octopamine is a neurotransmitter that closely resembles norepinephrine. Like norepinephrine, octopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter and hormone that mobilizes the body and nervous system for action. It is found in fruits like bitter orange. Epirenor, Norden, and Norfen are three examples of octopamine available as a prescription drug.
The study and treatment of cancer.
Terms ending in “-opathy”
Relating to disease.
The names of disorders, diseases and injuries.
Medical assistance or an area of medicine specializing in children.
The set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.
Cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. There are hundreds of different types of phytocannabinoids (144 according to the last count by Dr. Lumir Hanus), of which the main two are THC and CBD. Cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), tettrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabichromene (CBC) are other examples. THC’s and CBD’s acidic counterparts, CBDA and THCA, are also cannabinoids.
A method by which to smoke cannabis, with a hollow cylinder and two holes – a chamber that can contain cannabis and be lit and a smaller hole at the other end to smoke from. Usually made out of wood, metal or glass
Terms ending with “-pnea”
Related to breathing.
Ruderalis or Cannabis ruderalis
“Cannabis ruderalis, or C. sativa subsp. sativa var. spontanea, is a low-THC variety or subspecies of Cannabis which is native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. Many scholars accept Cannabis ruderalis as its own species due to its unique traits and phenotypes which distinguish it from Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa; however, it is widely debated by many other scholars as to whether or not ruderalis is a subspecies of Cannabis sativa.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_ruderalis
Cannabis ruderalis is an “autoflowering” plant, meaning that it does not need to go through a vegetative state in order to start flowering. The maturity (age) of the plant is what causes ruderalis to flower, as opposed to its light cycle. Ruderalis plants are usually low in THC, but high in CBD. It has been successfully hybridised with other varieties of cannabis to produce quick, growing, vigorous cannabis strains with high CBD content. Cannabis ruderalis is shorter than other types of cannabis, and is ideal for those who are looking for quick and/or discreet turnover of plants.
Sativa or Cannabis sativa
“Cannabis sativa is an annual herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia but now of cosmopolitan distribution due to widespread cultivation. It has been cultivated throughout recorded history, used as a source of industrial fiber, seed oil, food, recreation, religious and spiritual moods and medicine. Each part of the plant is harvested differently, depending on the purpose of its use. The species was first classified by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The word “sativa” means things that are cultivated.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_sativa
Many people use the term “sativa” to refer to a large, spindly cannabis plant varietal with thin leaves and producing a distinct “up” or “energetic” effect. This is not necessarily an accurate way of identifying a cannabis variety, as the same type or “strain” of cannabis can grow differently in different environments.
Sometimes known as the “happy chemical”, as serotonin agonists contribute to the feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Serotonin receptors are also known as 5-HT receptors, which are so named because 5-hydroxytryptamine is the chemical term for serotonin) There are 15 known types of serotonin receptors that have an inolvement in a number of physiological processes, from mood regulation to nausea to the development of migraines and headaches.
A mostly European term, referring to a mixture of tobacco and cannabis inside a rolling paper. Whilst not common in the US, many people use cigar paper (made from tobacco) to make “blunts”, so the practise of combining tobacco and cannabis is done in the US.
Cannabis-infused solution (usually oil or alcohol) that can be taken sublingually (i.e. under the tongue).
The study and treatment of mental disorders.
A type of receptor ligand that blocks or dampens a biological response by binding to a receptor.
Pain that is felt in another area to the original source of this pain.
Going in a backwards direction.
Disappearance of the sign or signs of a disease.
Related to musculoskeletal disorders (bones, joints, muscles, etc.).
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)
RSO is a method by which the cannabinoids and terpenes from a plant’s trichomes are stripped from the rest of the plant using a solvent, ending up with a thick, sludgy, black/dark brown, highly concentrated oil.
An highly potent extract of cannabis made from the resin of the plant.
Elicits a physiological response.
Beneath the skin.
A medical operational procedure.
Synapse (aka “Chemical Synapse”)
Biological junctions through which neurons’ signals can be exchanged to each other. Non-neuronal cells found in muscles and glands can also receive messages via synapses.
A set of symptoms that indicate towards a certain condition, disease or abnormality.
The organic chemicals that give plants their unique smell and flavor. Examples of terpenes found in cannabis include myrcene, pinene and linalool.
The principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. In its non decarboxylated form, THC is known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), and is non-psychoactive.
The measurement and balancing of a dose of medicine.
Related to problems with the bladder and kidneys.
A phase change, e.g. a solid turning into liquid. Ice, for example, is still water, even though it’s solid. To “vaporize” marijuana means to use it without combustion (see decarboxylation). You are essentially turning matter into vapor by heating the cannabis when you are vaporizing, to put it simply.
There are, of course, lots of scientific words to go through, and being a medical dictionary would mean this list would take us to a piece that’s several hundred pages long. However, the main medical and scientific terms we use on this site are listed above, and we shall explain what rarely-used scientific words mean within any article we write.
Feel free to contact us should you find a scientific word related to cannabis research in or out of this website and want explaining (or if you find the explanation confusing). We’d be happy to try and help clear up any issues you might have.
“Marijuana” is a slang term derived from Spanish, that is now common parlance in the world of cannabis. “Cannabis” is arguably the more scientific term, and has less of the historical baggage associated with “marijuana”. Hence, it is the preffered term here at Leafwell, althouh we may used the term “marijuana” when it makes sense contextually. Other popular terms for cannabis include (not an exhaustive list):