This flowering herb generates a group of chemicals (cannabinoids) which produce mental and physical effects when consumed. There are approximately 113 known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and more than 6 000 different strains.
The most commonly discussed, grown and traded cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD), which is non-psychoactive, and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the ‘high’ associated with recreational drug use.
CBD provides a powerful analgesic for arthritis pain, inflammatory pain, muscle-spasticity in multiple sclerosis, nerve-related pain, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer, sleep disorders, acne, anxiety, depression and many more.
THC is a psychoactive substance, typically smoked recreationally to produce a ‘high’, but also consumed orally to reduce anxiety. Chronic use may however lead to an a motivational syndrome characterised by apathy and lack of drive.
The South African market
According to the South African Medical Journal, cannabis contains varying amounts of THC and CBD, depending on various cultivation factors. No commercial plant-derived cannabis products are currently registered for medical use by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). Although freely available, such products are therefore unregulated and of unverified composition, and not guaranteed to be safe or effective.
In May 2019, South African minister of health, Zweli Mkhize, removed CBD from the list of schedule 7 drugs and classified all CBD-containing products as schedule 4 substances. Many CBD products are available without a prescription, provided the product contains a maximum daily dose of 20mg CBD and a tetrahydrocannabinol percentage of less than 0,001%.
Most of South Africa’s cannabis seed is still in their unhybridised, pure form, known as African landrace strains (ALS) and containing more tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) than anywhere else in the world. It is therefore important that pricing is regulated, and care is taken to avoid exploitation by foreign corporations.
THCV is an antioxidant, a potent anti-inflammatory agent, an appetite suppressant and also conveys anticonvulsant properties and various medicinal uses with potential value for patients suffering from seizure-related disorders, anxiety and panic attacks, neurodegenerative conditions, posttraumatic stress and other disorders.
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