Cannabis Indica – The annual plant of the Cannabaceae family is considered a species of the genus Cannabis, but separate from Cannabis sativa, and originating in the Hindu Kush Mountains and suited for cultivation in temperate climates. Used to induce sleep, the plant is described as relatively short and conical with dense branches and short, broad leaves, while Cannabis sativa is tall with fewer branches and long, narrow leaves.
Cannabis drug preparations have been employed medicinally in folk medicine since antiquity, and were extensively used in western medicine between the middle of the 19th century and World War II, particularly as a substitute for opiates (Mikuriya 1969). A bottle of commercial medicinal extract is shown in Fig. 41. Medical use declined with the introduction of synthetic analgesics and sedatives, and there is very limited authorized medical use today, but considerable unauthorized use, including so-called “compassion clubs” dispensing marijuana to gravely ill people, which has led to a momentous societal and scientific debate regarding the wisdom of employing cannabis drugs medically, given the illicit status. There is anecdotal evidence that cannabis drugs are useful for: alleviating nausea, vomiting, and anorexia following radiation therapy and chemotherapy; as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients; for relieving the tremors of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy; and for pain relief, glaucoma, asthma, and other ailments [see Mechoulam and Hanus (1997) for an authoritative medical review, and Pate (1995) for a guide to the medical literature]. To date, governmental authorities in the US, on the advice of medical experts, have consistently rejected the authorization of medical use of marijuana except in a handful of cases. However, in the UK medicinal marijuana is presently being produced sufficient to supply thousands of patients, and Canada recently authorized the cultivation of medicinal marijuana for compassionate dispensation, as well as for a renewed effort at medical evaluation.
Because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.[1-4] However, cannabinoid receptors are present in other tissues throughout the body, not just in the central nervous system, and adverse effects include tachycardia, hypotension, conjunctival injection, bronchodilation, muscle relaxation, and decreased gastrointestinal motility.
The scientific debate regarding taxonomy has had little effect on the terminology in widespread use among cultivators and users of drug-type Cannabis. Cannabis aficionados recognize three distinct types based on such factors as morphology, native range, aroma, and subjective psychoactive characteristics. Sativa is the most widespread variety, which is usually tall, laxly branched, and found in warm lowland regions. Indica designates shorter, bushier plants adapted to cooler climates and highland environments. Ruderalis is the informal name for the short plants that grow wild in Europe and Central Asia.