When I first started using cannabis for medicinal purposes 10 years ago, no one talked about CBD. The discovery of the chemical compound wasn’t yet common knowledge and, even, today most people aren’t aware of the important role CBD plays in the medicinal use of cannabis and how it translates into a practical application. Making matters worse, the hype surrounding CBD only adds to the confusion of what, otherwise, really should be seen as the graceful simplicity (and perfection) of nature. Simply put, cannabis is a whole-plant medicine.

Keep in mind that when discussing CBD-rich applications, we’re generally speaking about edible extractions or infusions made from the leaves of the cannabis plant, not the ripened flowers or buds. It’s been well-documented through chemical analysis that the leaves of the cannabis plant run a much richer CBD to THC ratio than the flowers themselves, and the CBD to THC ratio is what ultimately dictates an extraction’s (or infusion’s) ability to act as an effective pain regulator and psychoactive potentiate.

What does this mean in a practical sense? It means medical patients primarily rely upon the leaves of the cannabis plant in making the most effective edible medicines, not the bud. General consensus agrees cannabis potency is measured through THC levels. But what isn’t as widely understood is that in order to ingest and maintain higher (medicinal) levels of THC comfortably, one must also ingest a quantity of CBD. This is especially true when it comes to eating cannabis. Patients who ingest high doses of THC often experience confusion, tension, anxiety, nausea, or paranoia, as the higher psychoactive levels of THC enter the bloodstream and begin to take hold.

But CBD, when utilized properly, acts as a symbiotic modulator bringing a calming balance to THC levels allowing for synergistic cooperation between cannabinoids. By nature’s careful design, CBD grants THC a relaxed audience which, in turn, encourages better healing. This is why all medical patients who suffer from maladies and require the ingestion of high and/or prolonged levels of THC must learn to understand CBD’s important contribution to the healing process. Patients should learn how to achieve the right cannabinoid profile intake or they’ll experience uneasy feelings which could ultimately cause them to lower the effective dose or stop using cannabis.

Because medicinal application(s) not only must be effective in treating maladies, but also address the patient’s personal preference to THC tolerance levels, cannabis is a highly personalized medicine that requires depth of understanding. Sensitivity to THC and its psychoactive effects is a key factor in determining an appropriate CBD to THC ratio and in setting the dosage of CBD-rich cannabis medicine. Even at a 1:1 ratio, which is considered to be CBD-potent, patients must already be very accustomed and comfortable with experiencing the “high” associated with THC. Whereas an 18:1 concentration of CBD:THC is reportedly the ideal starting point for patients who don’t want to experience any psychoactive effect.

So now that you know “CBD-rich” literally translates into “made using leaves,” you should be able to glean just some of the struggle many medical cannabis patients now face in Nevada. When legislation removed the patients’ right to grow, creators of the law didn’t understand how cannabis is used as a whole-plant medicine. As a result, the dispensaries in Nevada are currently restricted in selling cannabis flowers (i.e. bud), but medical cannabis patients need access to leaves, whole plants, and fresh, unprocessed plant matter in order to cook it, eat it, and juice it in its freshest form.

That’s just one of the reasons that when it comes to the truth about CBD and how it relates to medical cannabis patients, things tend to get a little complicated. But the fact is cannabis is a whole-plant medicine.

A licensed medical cannabis patient since 2008, Mona Lisa Samuelson was Nevada’s first medical cannabis patient advocate and started her own YouTube channel, MonaLisaLuvsMaryJane, for patients in search of practical cannabis knowledge.