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Understanding Artificial Sweeteners in Cannabis Edibles

Regardless of how many foodie trends like Paleo, Atkins, Keto, and low-carb diets come and go, one practically universally agreed upon dietary truth is that too much sugar is bad for you and can cause, among other conditions, weight gain, increase the …

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Regardless of how many foodie trends like Paleo, Atkins, Keto, and low-carb diets come and go, one practically universally agreed upon dietary truth is that too much sugar is bad for you and can cause, among other conditions, weight gain, increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and acne. Even soft drink monolith Coca-Cola has rolled out cans of their beverages in smaller serving sizes in a response to consumer demand for healthier choices.

Cannabis-infused sweet treats are no different, especially since edibles, without the proper balance of sugar and fat can taste, well, weedy. Even though Americans are making more health conscious choices, like cutting back on unhealthy foods and exercising more, diagnoses of Type II diabetes have risen astronomically – from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. This has prompted the rise of artificial sweeteners, and some of them are making their way into cannabis edibles.

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What’s the Deal with Artificial Sweeteners?

Welcome to the land of artificial sweeteners. Many of the names will be familiar: Equal, NutraSweet, Splenda, Sweet & Low, and so many more, all chemically concocted to be anywhere from 200 to 20,000 times sweeter than real sugar. These artificial sweeteners have received GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA, but the verdict, according to the research, is still out.

Sweetener

Examples of artificial sweeteners. photo credit

Dietitians from the Cleveland Clinic came out very strongly against using artificial sweeteners of any kind. Without mincing words, one dietitian said, “Sugar and artificial sweeteners are addictive and will hijack your health and metabolism,” while another said, “The worst of the worst is aspartame, which caused cancer in three independent animal studies. I steer clear of any sweetener made in a lab.”

However, despite the wariness from dietitians, there is no conclusive research as to whether artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain, disrupt gut health, create metabolic syndrome (conditions that occur together that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess fat around the waist), give you diabetes, or even cancer. Here’s what we know so far:

Info About Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Recent studies found that replacing sugary food and drinks with artificial sweeteners may reduce hunger and calories, and could help reduce weight
  • For diabetics, artificial sweeteners may help reduce the sugar in their diet, though studies are very limited
  • It is unlikely that artificial sweeteners will cause metabolic syndrome or cancer
  • Using an artificial sweetener instead of real sugar may help dental health

It looks like artificial sweeteners are in the clear health-wise, yes? Nonetheless, let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Further Info on Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Artificial sweeteners won’t satisfy that initial craving that drew you to that piece of cake in the first place, so you may eat more calories overall
  • Consuming artificial sweeteners may prompt your pancreas to store fat, just like with natural sugar
  • Some side effects of artificial sweeteners may include headaches, migraines, and dizziness
  • And here’s a negative that sticks out: artificial sweeteners may disrupt gut bacteria, linked to increased risk of disease.

There is clearly not enough research to make a definitive statement on the matter, but with many edible companies on the market using natural products and sugars, should you even consider choosing artificially sweetened products?

How Artificial Sweeteners Interact with Humans

A recent study by researchers at Oregon State University showed that our guts host more than 10 trillion microbial cells from about 1,000 species of bacteria. When this system is in check, it can promote health. When it is not, it can create an imbalance called dysbiosis, commonly associated with detrimental health effects generally.

Sugar

Artificial sweeteners could pose additional problems for people with other medical conditions. photo credit

And for those with ailments like Crohn’s Disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) artificial sweeteners are out completely. Artificial sweeteners have been correlated with increased IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation and diarrhea. For those with Crohn’s Disease, Sucralose (Splenda) was associated with promoting bad gut bacteria and intestinal inflammation, while sugar alcohols like xylitol have been known to cause bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea.

Is good, old-fashioned sugar better for us than these Franken-sugars? Right now, no one knows for sure. So, what’s an edible lover to do? The best way to ensure your edible experience is up to par and meets any dietary restrictions is to make your own at home. If sugar and/or artificial sweeteners are of particular concern, there are several natural alternatives that not only add the sweet, but also have potential health benefits like applesauce, honey, maple syrup, and molasses.


What are your thoughts on the use of artificial sweeteners in edibles? Do you choose to avoid them? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Mae Mu (license)

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Health/Science

Tolerance Break Duration Times from Beginner to Expert

Many long-term cannabis consumers have considered taking a tolerance break at one point or another. A tolerance break, commonly known as a T-break, is a set period of time where you abstain from consuming any form of cannabis. While some cannabis consu…

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Many long-term cannabis consumers have considered taking a tolerance break at one point or another. A tolerance break, commonly known as a T-break, is a set period of time where you abstain from consuming any form of cannabis. While some cannabis consumers take them naturally if they are traveling to a different country, or abstaining for an upcoming drug test, there are plenty of other reasons to take a tolerance break. 

As with many drugs, both pharmaceutical and recreational, the longer you consume them, the more it takes to get the same effect. Taking a tolerance break means your body regains its sensitivity to cannabis while also processing out any remaining THC stored in your fat cells.  

Some cannabis consumers choose to take a tolerance break simply to clear their heads. While regular cannabis use has shown to be mostly benign, it’s still a drug and can cloud up your brain over time. Some studies have shown that it may have some slight effects on mental sharpness, memory, and focus.

A tolerance break is also a good way to reset the sensitivity of your CB1 receptors.

As we said above, the more you consume cannabis, the less of an effect consuming it will have. In other words, it will take more and more amounts of marijuana or concentrates to get to the same effect of releasing dopamine and other neurochemicals. Unless you’re growing your own cannabis and have a real green thumb, consuming more marijuana inevitably means buying more marijuana. This can put a real dent in your budget over time. For money reasons alone, a solid tolerance break is a great way to turn yourself back into a cheap date, marijuana-wise.

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Why Take a T-Break?

Taking a break from weed can also help you to gain a new appreciation of how awesome being stoned is. Going in with fresher eyes, you may regard the experience in a new way, or understand the positive impact that marijuana has on your life.

A man smoking a joint

The first puff after a tolerance break is always the greatest.

Or, if you’re noticing some positives without it, a tolerance break can also help you to re-evaluate the best way to fit pot into your daily/weekly/monthly. When it comes to tolerance breaks, it can be hard to know how long you should abstain to gain the full benefit of the break. That’s why PotGuide is here with some helpful tips on your optimal tolerance break duration, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or expert consumer. 

Beginner Tolerance Break Duration: 1 week

If you’re someone taking that monthly trip to the dispensary after you run out of your stash of gummies, your vape cartridge, or your quarter-ounce, a week-long T-break should be enough. As long as you’re an infrequent cannabis user, your THC levels are probably pretty low in your body. So, if you’re someone who keeps cannabis products around as more of an occasional treat rather than a daily consumer, about a week off of weed should give your CB1 receptors a slight realignment. 

Dispensary

If you’re only taking one trip to the dispo a month, a tolerance break can pretty short and easy.

THC can be stored in fat cells for weeks. However, if you’re a light user you’re probably close to equilibrium with how much you’re putting in vs. how much you’re naturally processing out. While you might not be able to pass a drug test after just a week, your CB receptors should be cleared and your tolerance should be way down. You’ve given yourself enough of a break off of pot. Enjoy that first puff, gummy, or dab whenever you get around to it. 

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Intermediate Tolerance Break Duration: 10 days to 2 Weeks

As an intermediate cannabis consumer, you’re visiting the dispensary about one to two times a month. You don’t consume it daily but you like to enjoy it most evenings. Maybe you bring along a joint when you take your dog for its evening walk, hit a dab before settling in for some video games, or pop an edible on your way home from work. Weekends are another matter, but you’re still not doing a regular wake and bake. 

If you’re an intermediate cannabis consumer who enjoys it a couple of times to a week or more, you’ll need a slightly longer time to reset.

While your fat cells aren’t fully saturated with stored up THC, it’ll take at least a week before the majority have metabolized out. At this point, you want your body to get back to equilibrium. That means getting used to not having THC in your system on a regular basis. This is why you want your T-break to be anywhere from ten full days to two weeks. Once those are up, grab a fresh joint and enjoy some bonding time with your furry best friend.

Expert/Connoisseur Tolerance Break Duration: 3-4 weeks

You’ve been in the game a long time, and the game has treated you well. You enjoy pot with the same passion and regularity as Hobbits enjoy their mealtimes. However, as with all good things, they have to come to an end, at least for the moment. Your tolerance is at levels that scientists should be studying, the thrill is gone, your weed budget is bloated, and it’s time to come up for some air before diving back in.

For expert-level cannabis consumers, you’ll want your tolerance break to last about three to four weeks. As you may have already read, if you’ve ever had to pass a drug test, abstaining from any form of THC for about three weeks is usually the right amount of time for your urine to get the all-clear. While it all depends on individual factors like metabolism, biochemistry, and body fat percentage, twenty-one days is usually when all those THC metabolites have passed out of your system. Adding on an extra week for good measure is recommended just to let your body come to its new, THC-free stasis. At this point, your CB1 receptors should be refreshed and renewed from their time off, and ready to get back to work with their old friend, THC.

Calendar with day marked

Tolerance breaks tend to be much more difficult for seasoned smokers. photo credit

Cannabis isn’t physically addictive, but it’s incredibly helpful for turning down the volume on reality (and let’s be honest, at this point in time, reality is pretty deafening). If you’re finding it difficult to be without pot in those first few days or weeks and don’t want to turn to alcohol as a replacement, CBD is a great alternative. It will help ease any stress or anxiety while still leaving your CB1 receptors clear. It comes in edibles and concentrates if you need that routine.

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Final Thoughts

Whatever the length of time and whatever the reason you’re abstaining from weed, a t-break is a good move for any cannabis consumer. A couple of weeks isn’t that long an amount of time, and once your T-break is over, you can come back to your old friend cannabis with fresh eyes. That first toke, dab, or edible will hit stronger, and you’ll go into the experience with a new perspective from your little vacation away from weed.


Have you ever taken a marijuana tolerance break? If so, for how long? Share your tips, tricks, and experiences with others in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Security (license)

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Health/Science

Delta-8 THC, CBD, and the ‘Mild-Effect’ Cannabis Product Trend

According to cannabis market research firm Grand View Research, cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the most commonly used cannabinoids for medicinal applications for the treatment of pain, anxiety, and depression, stress relief, acne reduction, and the all…

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According to cannabis market research firm Grand View Research, cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the most commonly used cannabinoids for medicinal applications for the treatment of pain, anxiety, and depression, stress relief, acne reduction, and the alleviation of cancer symptoms. This market is only expected to grow, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.2 percent in the next four years. 

While cannabis consumers of all kinds are attracted to CBD because of its healing and ameliorative properties, there may be another crucial factor driving interest in the compound, especially among consumers who may be a little leery of THC’s intoxicating effects: CBD will not get you high. 

As researchers attempt to stay apace with the rapid expansion of the market, other cannabinoids lacking psychoactive effects have also come into focus, like CBN (cannabinol) and CBG (cannabigerol). The newest cannabinoid to step into the spotlight is closely related to the most researched and infamous cannabinoid of them all, Delta-9 THC. Even though Delta-8 is thought to be less intoxicating than Delta-9, should Delta-8 be thought of as a new, readily available normal for consumers?

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Delta-8 THC, The Milder Weed

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, who is a primary care physician at Harvard Medical School and serves on the board of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation told Inverse that the molecular difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 is small, but that difference may dictate how Delta-8 and Delta-9 bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, thereby creating a less euphoric and intoxicating effect. Delta-9 binds tightly to receptors, which may play a role in the anxiety, paranoia, headaches, and nausea that some feel when consuming high potency cannabis.

A woman vaping

Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC bind differently to the endocannabinoid receptors, resulting in different effects.

Delta-8 on the other hand, binds more loosely, providing a high that many report leaves them feeling “high” without the negative side effects that come for many consumers. Though we’re still in the very early stages of learning about the effects of Delta-8, many consumers report that they experienced fewer psychoactive effects, appetite stimulation, and more energy than when vaporizing Delta-9. The National Cancer Institute found that Delta-8 “exhibits lower psychotropic potency” than Delta-9, so those uncomfortable with feeling high may find Delta-8 more agreeable. 

The Availability of Delta-8 THC

Though both cannabinoids have similar characteristics, one area in which there is stark difference is legality. Delta-9 THC is a Schedule I substance, defined as having no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. Delta-8, on the other hand, seems to be following the murky path laid out by CBD, which continues to inhabit a legal grey area

The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp and its cannabinoids legal – as long as the percentage of THC comes in at 0.3 percent or below. However, in August, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) moved to add Delta-8 to the list of controlled substances, though that directive is still under consideration. Needless to say, for Delta-8 proponents this creates – just like CBD – a confusing quandary for consumers and a morass for hemp farmers. 

A large outdoor hemp farm

Similar to CBD, Delta-8 legality is still in a grey, confusing area for consumers. photo credit

So, is Delta-8 legal? It depends. If you live in a state with a legal cannabis marketplace, check in at your local dispensary or headshop to see if they have the less intoxicating cannabinoid in stock.

For those not living in legal states, you’ll have to try your luck online. That being said, cannabis products purchased online (unless from a state-legal outlet) are often of lesser quality because they do not have to undergo the rigorous testing and quality controls that licensed sellers are held to. As with CBD, it makes good sense to familiarize yourself with the company and seek out lab results and a certificate of analysis. 

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Are Mild Cannabis Products Here to Stay?

Nonetheless, cannabis consumers are often eager to give these new, less familiar cannabinoids a try. Grinspoon warns that Delta-8 is in danger of acquiring the same reputation as CBD – a purported cure-all yet to be backed clearly by thorough research. “I guess, I hope that with Delta-8 THC people stick to the science and don’t try to oversell it,” Grinspoon added.

If CBD is any indication though, people will probably still try. However, the popularity of the new cannabinoid, and CBD’s proven success on the market seems to portend a new segment of milder products within the market that’s here to stay. Along with that presence comes stability, making it more likely for more research and regulation down the line.


Have you tried any delta-8 THC products yet? What was your experience like? Share your stories below.

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Health/Science

Does Humulene Kill Cancer Cells?

Because of ongoing federal prohibition, formal studies that could “officially” quantify the medicinal applications of cannabis have not kept up with anecdotal reports from consumers. Cannabis is believed to help a wide range of conditions from epilepsy…

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Because of ongoing federal prohibition, formal studies that could “officially” quantify the medicinal applications of cannabis have not kept up with anecdotal reports from consumers. Cannabis is believed to help a wide range of conditions from epilepsy to nausea and sleeplessness to anxiety. It is also thought that cannabis could be a tool in cancer treatment, a disease that  takes the lives of approximately 607,000 Americans each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Taking the cannabis plant as a whole, there are thousands of compounds that work together to deliver its ameliorative effects: cannabinoids, flavonoids, and aromatic compounds called terpenes, which gives cannabis (and other plants) its signature smell. That lovely smell of pine during the holiday season? You can thank pinene for that. Or how about the lavender essential oil you use to calm yourself down before sleep? That’s linalool.

Other terpenes common to the cannabis plant are limonene (lemon), beta-caryophyllene (pepper), and myrcene (lemongrass), though there are others, each providing strains with their own unique scent signatures and healing benefits. 

One terpene in particular that we haven’t touched on yet may prove to be useful in the fight against cancer, and that compound is humulene. Some research shows that this fragrant and healing compound may kill cancer cells. But is that true? Let’s have a look at this versatile terpene. 

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Humulene’s History in Medicine

If you’ve recently had a beer you’re familiar with humulene, formerly known as a-caryophyllene. That’s because humulene is responsible for the hoppy and tangy taste you associate with your favorite brewski. But humulene is not only found in beer, it is also present in ginseng, ginger, and sage. 

Humulene’s therapeutic applications go back thousands of years. Its presence in beer alone dates more than 5,000 years back to ancient Mesopotamia, and its use in Chinese medicine as an energy booster, appetite suppressant, and natural antibiotic goes back for millennia.

Sage

Humulene is naturally found in sage as well. photo credit

Recent studies on humulene back up this ancient intuition. One study found that in small quantities, it was able to kill S. aureus bacteria, more commonly known as staphylococcus, a common bacteria which can nonetheless be fatal for some populations. It was also shown to be an effective analgesic and antibacterial agent. 

Researchers also uncovered anti-cancer properties. In fact, when humulene was studied working together with other compounds, the combination inhibited cell growth by up to 90 percent, depending on the pharmacology and substance. Another interesting find showed that humulene is as effective an anti-inflammatory as the corticosteroid dexamethasone, currently being utilized for the most critically ill in the treatment of COVID-19.

Common Marijuana Strains with Humulene

If you’re humulene curious and would like to try a strain that contains an abundance of its spicy, woodsy, hoppy, and medicinal benefits, here are some strains to consider:

Cannabis Strains with High Humulene Percentage:

  • Grand Daddy Purps: this grapey-flavored indica has strong medicinal attributes
  • Durban Poison: known for its sweet and spicy profile, this sativa is lauded for its clear-headed effects
  • Death Star: if you’re a lover of the Diesel strains you’ll enjoy this indica-leaning hybrid that delivers a sedative, medicinal experience
  • Headband: a potent sativa-dominant hybrid, it provides relaxation, mood elevation, and mild pain relief
  • Candyland: another potent sativa-dominant strain with THC hovering at around 20 percent, it can provide mental focus and pain relief

Of course, these aren’t the only strains with humulene! In our age of advanced testing, many cannabis products display their full terpene profile, making it far easier to find what you’re looking for. If the budtender at your dispensary is unsure about strains that might contain more humulene, ask if there are any products with terpene results you can look at. 

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The Wrap Up

While some research has shown us that humulene can inhibit cancer cell growth, it’s very important to remember that this research has not been carried out on humans. If you or a loved one has or has recently been diagnosed with cancer, reach out to your doctor immediately to have a candid conversation about how cannabis could be an additional tool in their medical care.


What are your experiences with humulene? Share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Misha Mishko (license)

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