Glossary of Common Terms Found in Marijuana, Cannabis Science, and the Study of Cannabinoids
There’s lots of jargon when it comes to cannabis, with both slang and scientific terms 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 and need further help understanding a particular term, here’s a handy guide to the most common scientific and cannabis-culture-related words 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 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 at 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 the most abundant neurotransmitters available in the human body.
Agonist / Receptor Agonism
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 a “partial agonist.”
Terms Ending in “-algia”
An allosteric modulator is like a volume control for a receptor. Allosteric modulators change how a receptor processes a signal. Allosteric modulators do not bind to the main, active site but to a site away from the main receptor. However, allosteric modulators can change the way agonists interact with the receptor site.
There are three main types of allosteric modulators: positive, negative, and neutral. Positive allosteric modulators turn up the volume and increase agonist efficacy/affinity; negative allosteric modulators turn down the volume and decrease agonist affinity/efficacy. Neutral ones have no direct effect but can block other allosteric modulators.
Neurotransmitters that bind to the main, active site are called “orthosteric modulators.”
Ability to walk.
Loss of pain where pain would typically be evident without loss of consciousness. An analgesic is a drug or medicine that beats pain.
Parts of the body and its general structure.
Antagonist / Receptor Antagonism
A receptor antagonist is a ligand or drug that blocks or dampens a biological response rather than activating it like an agonist. Antagonists are sometimes called “blockers.” Where agonists can be seen as an “on” switch, an antagonist is an “off” switch.
A drug or treatment used to beat nausea/vomiting. The opposite of an antiemetic is an emetic. Both THC and CBD have antiemetic effects, and CBG may block CBD’s antiemetic effects 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 is 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. It accounts for up to 40% of the cannabis plant’s extracts, and THC is the cannabinoid often found in the most significant amounts. It also seems to “balance out” the effects of THC, reducing its adverse side effects.
A chemical compound that acts on cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids refer to phytocannabinoids (from the plant, usually but not necessarily 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 is located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous systems. 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 their pain-killing effects.
A cannabinoid receptor located throughout the body, including the brain and immune system. CB2 receptor agonists, antagonists, and inverse agonists have immunomodulatory effects and can inhibit inflammation. The terpene/cannabinoid beta-caryophyllene is a CB2 receptor agonist, and 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 significant 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 concerning applying heat to cannabis, whether in smoking or cooking.
Branched protoplasmic extensions of a nerve cell propagate the electrochemical stimulation received from other neural cells to the neuron’s cell body (soma) from which dendrites project. Dendrites essentially carry information from one cell to the next.
Derm/a, derm/o, dermat/o
A detachment within oneself, 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 tangible, 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 Parkinson’s Disease and schizophrenia, and 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. Anandamide (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, 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.” From Kenhub
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, and 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 a vital role in learning, memory, and synaptic plasticity. Glutamate is a building block for protein and many neurotransmitters, and Glutamate drives the production of endocannabinoids. See here for more.
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, and this is because it is a neurotransmitter associated with inflammatory responses and itchy skin. Histamine regulates physiological function in the gut and acts 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, and 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.”
The term “indica” usually refers 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. While this classification method is not always accurate, it has its uses. Botanists will always argue about taxonomy, so this will likely be a long debate!
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.
Called “the hunger hormone,” ghrelin is a hormone produced and released mainly by the stomach, with small amounts also released by the small intestine, pancreas, and brain. Ghrelin has numerous functions, stimulates appetite, increases food intake, and promotes fat storage.
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 acts to alter food intake and control energy expenditure over the long term.”
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 brain, spinal cord, or general nervous system disorders. Study of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system.
Chemicals that enable neurotransmission (aka synaptic transmission) – the process by which signaling 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 action of either by competing at the receptor site.
Norepinephrine (NE), aka Noradrenaline (NA)
Norepinephrine is responsible for the “flight or fight” effect, and its primary function is to mobilize the brain and body for action.
Octopamine is a neurotransmitter that closely resembles norepinephrine, and it is found in fruits like bitter oranges. Epirenor, Norden, and Norfen are three examples of octopamine available as prescription drugs.
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 individual results from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.
Cannabinoids 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), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabichromene (CBC) are other examples. THC’s and CBD’s acidic counterparts, CBDA and THCA, are also cannabinoids.
A method of smoking 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 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.
Cannabis ruderalis is an “auto-flowering” plant, meaning that it does not need to go through a vegetative state 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 hybridized with other varieties of cannabis to produce quick, growing, vigorous cannabis strains with high CBD content. Cannabis ruderalis is shorter than different types of cannabis and is ideal for those looking for fast 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 its use. Carl Linnaeus first classified the species in 1753. The word “Sativa” means things that are cultivated.”
Many people use the term “Sativa” to refer to a large, spindly cannabis plant varietal with thin leaves that produce 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,” serotonin agonists contribute to feelings of well-being 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 involvement in several physiological processes, from mood regulation to nausea to the development of migraines and headaches.
A primarily European term referring to a mixture of tobacco and cannabis inside a rolling paper. While not common in the US, many people use cigar paper (made from tobacco) to make “blunts,” so the practice of combining tobacco and cannabis is done in the U.S.
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 receptor ligand that blocks or dampens a biological response by binding to a receptor.
Pain felt in another area to the original source of this pain.
Going in a backward direction.
Disappearance of the sign or signs of 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 with a thick, sludgy, black/dark brown, highly concentrated oil.
A highly potent extract of cannabis made from the resin of the plant.
Elicits a physiological response.
Beneath the skin.
An operational medical procedure.
Synapse (aka “Chemical Synapse”)
Biological junctions through which neurons’ signals can be exchanged with each other. Non-neuronal cells found in muscles and glands can also receive messages via synapses.
A set of symptoms indicates a specific condition, disease, or abnormality.
The organic chemicals 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, putting it simply.
Other Terms for Cannabis or Marijuana
“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 historical baggage associated with “marijuana.” Hence, it is the preferred term here at Leafwell, although we may use the word “marijuana” when it makes sense contextually. Other popular terms for cannabis include (not an exhaustive list):
- Mary Jane.
- Bhang (actually a Hindi term referring to a foodstuff or drink infused with cannabis resin)
- Alice B. Toklas — a reference to writer and cannabis enthusiast who made “pot brownies” famous.
- Whack tobacky, or “whacko tobacco.”
- Sinsemilla (meaning “without seeds”).
- Skunk (more of a UK term, skunk is a variety of cannabis that has come to be mean any type of potent cannabis strain).
- Devil’s Lettuce.
- Flower/Bud (referring to the green, smokable flower of the plant, instead of hash or any other extract).
- Regs (referring to regular, standard cannabis).
- Brick weed, aka “mersh” or “commercial,” refers to seeded cannabis, usually old and/or not well-grown, possibly wild cannabis. Other names include “Ragweed,” “Ditch weed,” “Reggie,” “Swag,” or “Schwag.” When from the wild, “Bush weed.” As this type of cannabis was more common in the 60s/70s, it is sometimes referred to as “hippie weed.”
- 420 is thought to be a term coined in San Rafael, California, and associated with the Grateful Dead.
Terms Used for Cannabis’ Effects
- Cottonmouth/Dry Mouth.
- Couchlock. Refers to the relaxed feelings produced by cannabis, where a person doesn’t want to get up from the couch.
- Going Green or “White-Out.” Overconsumption of cannabis may include dizziness, nausea, and/or vomiting.
- High. While it can generally refer to cannabis’s effects, some people mean “high” to specifically mean the more “up” or energetic impacts of cannabis.
- Lit Up.
- Munchies. The appetite-increasing effects of cannabis.
- Nature’s Holiday.
- Stoned. As with “high,” can generally refer to cannabis’s effects but is sometimes more specifically used to refer to the more relaxed impacts of cannabis.
- Toasted. Sometimes meant “stoned” or “high,” but not necessarily overwhelmed.
Terms for Butane Hash Oil (BHO) Extracts
- BHO is a term used for a highly concentrated form of cannabis, with cannabinoids extracted using butane. This forms a honey-colored, oily substance similar to RSO but can be smoked, vaped, or “dabbed” for a concentrated hit of cannabinoids. Such oils are not ideal for first-time users. Even experienced cannabis enthusiasts ought to be careful with such extracts, as they can be very powerful, especially if it is THC extract.
- BHO comes under many names, usually referring to their consistency. These names include:
- Honey Oil. Gooey; honey-like.
- Wax or Honeycomb. Stiffer, wax-like consistency.
- Budder. Consistency between honey oil and wax.
- Crumble. Solid, crumbly form of wax.
- Pull-and-Snap. Taffy-like texture and can be broken up into pieces.
- Shatter. Hard and glass-like, and will shatter if tapped or dropped.