NOMENCLATURE AND SCIENCE

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So the time came in 199-something to decide what I was going to do straight after school… you know. That time when you know exactly what you want to do with the next 50 years of life.

The time when your head is clear, there are absolutely no hormones surging through your hippocampus (no, that is not the large first year student on the varsity campus).
That time in your life when all your dreams and goals are clear. As mud.
What do I want to do? What do I want to be? President? Rocket scientist? The person who invents and perfects a mobile device that in 20 years is going to consume your frontal lobe? Hell yes!
But it’s the time of your life when the last thought is mastering a frontal lobotomy and all about the bottle in front of me. So the choices to study were a clos running between journalism and a medical science. I know what you’re thinking – verrryyy similar fields. I know right? That’s exactly what I thought too. What a coincidence.

Jokes aside folks. The decisions and opportunities after school are endless but little factors such as finance, cost of living, transport, circumstance and family play a huge role in realising these dreams and goals. Fast forward 26 years and I can finally say with the greatest conviction and more than a few curveballs whacking me upside the head that I am in the humble and wonderfully fortuitous position of being able to marry my two loves: science and writing (hopefully by the end of this article – entertaining and informative writing). I qualified as a pharmacist in 1998 but stayed true to my journalism roots and love of reading and writing throughout this tumultuous and crazy time.

Cannabis, marijuana – as I prefer it being referred to. Without boring you but rather enlighten, if a community and passionate, seasoned individuals and movement groups want a compound to be taken seriously, it must consider redefining the reference points to the compound. If you want your cannabis, marijuana, THC, CBD and all the other acronyms to be taken seriously, change the words you use for it.

This point is not only my professional opinion but that of a few very clever people in various disciplines. We need to consider and strongly work on a new habit (it takes 21 consecutive days to form a new habit, good or bad) of nomenclature-a fancy word for naming (nomenclature – Wikipedia – is a system of names or terms, or the rules for forming these terms in a particular field of arts or sciences. The principles of naming vary from the relatively informal conventions of everyday speech to the internationally agreed principles, rules and recommendations that govern the formation and use of the specialist terms used in scientific and any other disciplines).

Yes I know the die-hard traditionalists and passionistas are always going to call it “weed”, “reefer”, “grass”, “nugs”, “smokes”,”hash” and many more but if cannabis is going to feature seriously on the map especially in South Africa, it must be referred to accordingly.

Not that a reason is needed, but in order for it to receive this renowned respect, I think it is essential that the fundamentals of this plant are understood. With knowledge comes power (big-ups to my reference, SpiderMan’s uncle Ben, and ultimately Stan Lee. RIP)..so listen up.
The cannabis plant, like many other botanicals whose pharmaceutical prowess has been celebrated, is an intricate network and source of natural wonder.
(reference here to humble aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, whose precursor came from the bark of the willow tree – so aspirin, not just a pretty name but a pretty tree too!)

whose precursor came from the bark of the willow tree – so aspirin, not just a pretty name but a pretty tree too!)
To ease you into the Chronicles of Cannabis Chemistry by Jacqui Ramage, let’s look at the chemical names (yes….that’s right – chemical nomenclature…I cannot confirm nor deny that this is an answer to one of the crossword questions at the back of this fine publication!):
THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – TetraHydroCannabinol : (6aR,10aR) –delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and/or
(-)-trans- 9 –tetrahydrocannabinol ……to be precise. The numbers and letters refer to the orientation of the compounds on the chemical structure but we will get to that.
tetra (4) hydro (water) cannabinol

Chemical formula: C21H30O2 meaning that the chemical structure consists of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms, arranged in a beautiful structure to yield THC.
THC, as it is colloquially referred to, is the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Psychoactive meaning that it crosses the blood-brain barrier into the blood stream and system of the brain, allowing it to exert its effects experienced by patients. It is active in the psyche space of the brain, so to speak. Note here that I have been specific in my terminology – not users, stoners, getting high….
THC is a pharmacologically active metabolite of the cannabis plant – this means that when the plant grows, is subject to sunlight/photosynthesis, plant grows, is subject to sunlight/photosynthesis, it metabolises ingredients (much like people metabolise or work a substance through their body after ingestion). The cannabis plant produces THC as a secondary metabolite which is pharmacologically active ie, it produces a clinically relevant and scientifically-based response in the body. THC is a lipd (“fat” if you wish) that naturally protects the plant – it essentially serves as the IronMan armour for the plant. Thanks again, Stan. THC is classified as an aromatic terpenoid which means that it contains terpenes in a chemical aromatic (“smelly/fragrant” and characteristic at that!) structure. This explains the characteristic and unmistakable odour emitted by the cannabis plant. As a result of it’s lipid structure, it has a low solubility in water and preferable solubility in organic solvents, especially (other) lipids and alcohols. This shall be discussed in future articles and addressed when we discuss responsible extraction practices. I hope that this has been a gentle and informative introduction to the column and that we move from strength to pharmaceutical strength in this exciting and revolutionary cannabis journey.

Stay well, #goodvibetribe. Best Jacqui.

BY JACQUI RAMAGE

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