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Willy G: Sowing Lebanese Seeds in Humboldt County

As well as having high CBD content, the Willy G Lebanese landrace strain offer a unique leaf structure and enticing nose on the flowers.

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PHOTO | Humboldt Seed Company

Humboldt County has been a magnet for wayward and wandering souls for decades, and with its remote mountains and plentiful sunshine, it’s also been a haven for cannabis growers and enthusiasts. Willy G left Massachusetts about five years ago looking to immerse himself in the Humboldt lifestyle, and he was also on a mission to seek out the best medicine to help him manage the symptoms from his cerebral palsy.

“I wanted to be in a place where marijuana was more accepted and part of the culture,” he said. What Willy likely didn’t anticipate when he moved to the cannabis mecca of California is that he would play a leading role in the proliferation of a “landrace” strain of cannabis that originated in Lebanon thousands of years ago.

NorCal Rebirth for an Ancient Strain

Willy G inspects his strain with Beau from HSC. PHOTO | Mike Rosati Photography | rosatiphotos

Humboldt Seed Company (HSC) has been breeding and propagating some of the finest cannabis seeds in California for the last 20 years, and its founders are experts in the art of breeding and stabilizing new strains for commercial growers and hobbyists alike. When HSC’s CEO and founder Nathaniel Pennington first met Willy G, he was impressed with his knowledge of cannabis, and in particular his appreciation for landrace strains, which are the original indicas and sativas that have been grown in the wild for thousands of years in different parts of the world. Generally speaking, these strains are a pure representation of the original cultivar, have never been crossed with another variety, and are still growing in their native environment.

Not long after Willy moved to Humboldt, his cousin sent some seeds from a landrace strain that he had singled out as a special variety after touring several cannabis farms in Lebanon. “Lebanon has the oldest hash culture in the world, and my bet is that this is some really old strain that they’ve been cultivating for a long time,” said Willy.

When Pennington heard the story behind Willy’s seeds and saw some of his first efforts at growing it out, he was immediately intrigued by the unique leaf structure and enticing nose on the flowers — rare for a landrace strain, he says. He soon decided to help Willy in his quest to propagate this exotic cannabis plant, and it wasn’t long before Willy G was sprouting shoots on the company’s farm, in isolated greenhouses where its pollen could be captured and released for breeding purposes.

Willy G and Nathaniel Pennington from HSC during the Pheno Mega-Hunt. PHOTO | Humboldt Seed Company

After submitting some of the first Willy G plants for lab testing, Pennington confirmed that the strain was rich in CBD – anywhere from 10-20 percent, depending on the phenotype – and low in THC. For a landrace strain, he says, it also displays an unusually high variety of cannabinoids and terpenes, which give cannabis plants their seductive smells and flavors. Pennington said the company had a huge demand for the Willy G seeds last year, and it plans to make the seeds available at about 60 dispensaries throughout California this year. Ultimately, he hopes to see it thrive not only as a smokeable flower, but also in extracted formulations.

“Willy G really stands out because of all of its terpenes and flavonoids and large-scale producers should be interested in that for full plant extracts,” he says. “Using the whole plant (for extraction) is one of the best ways to get the full benefit of the CBD and the plant’s other medicinal properties.”

Willy G Puts CBD Flowers Back on Track

Willy G

PHOTO | Humboldt Seed Company

Since most growers and breeders have focused on developing cannabis strains high in THC, to maximize potency, CBD levels have been on a downward slide for decades. However, as consumers become more aware of CBD’s potential therapeutic qualities — anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, neuro-protector, and more — the demand for CBD-rich flowers is on the rise. Willy G is somewhat unique because it has a high percentage of CBD and a low percentage of THC, making it an ideal product for people who want to smoke without the mind-altering effects that most cannabis strains deliver.

Pennington and Willy G are both strong believers in the “entourage effect,” which refers to the complex combination of cannabis compounds interacting with our brain and endocannabinoid system, creating myriad physical and psychological responses. Researchers, scientists and medical professionals are only beginning to understand the medicinal value of these interactions and the various ways to utilize them in treatments.

PHOTO | Humboldt Seed Company

The Willy G plants (aka, phenotypes) that are growing at Humboldt Seed Company garden late in the season exhibit different characteristics, which is not unusual as cannabis plants within the same strain often vary in structure, smell and potency. Looking across the garden, however, the Willy G plants are notably different than their hybrid cousins, with long, stretched-out stalks – reaching 15 feet high in some cases — and jumbo colas weighing them down. As Willy G navigates his wheelchair through the rows of imposing cannabis bushes, he stops to admire one of his namesake plants, dunking his nose in a Coke-bottle-sized cola that’s popping out through the lattice.

“The taste and smell is different than any strain I’ve ever smoked…it reminds me of Train Wreck but has other things going on too,” he notes. More importantly, he says that “it produces a very medicinal product that has a good effect on my muscle spasms, which is one of my main symptoms.”

PHOTO | Mike Rosati Photography | rosatiphotos

Willy primarily uses THC-heavy products (bubble hash, oil extracts) to manage his pain, but CBD-rich flowers can be effective for controlling spasms and reducing inflammation, sore muscles, and stress. “It’s about understanding about what to use when you need it, that’s what I like about cannabis and creating my own medicine,” he said. “I am very involved with what I’m treating myself with, so that’s a lot different than having a doctor tell you to take 200 Oxy 30’s (OxyContin), and then that’s the end of your appointment.”

In addition to growing out and selecting the best Willy G phenotypes for seed production, Pennington and Willy are also crossing it with other strains to develop new cultivars that are rich in both THC and CBD. “It takes a while to see where you’re at with these landraces, but I believe there is a lot of potential with Willy G,” says Pennington.

PHOTO | Humboldt Seed Company

Aside from his interests in breeding and landrace strains, Willy is excited about the potential to help other people with his namesake strain and its offshoots. “If we don’t seek new strains, we’ll just end up with different types of OG, Sour D and Cookies, which is not ideal for medical patients,” he argues. “I need new and diverse medicine for myself, so will keep making it and sharing with my community.”

While he doesn’t know where his exploration of cannabis medicine will end, Willy does know the possibilities are vast.

“It’s a personal dream of mine to go to the Himalayas and pick landraces from the fields,” he says. “It’s crazy to think about cannabis in other countries because we think we’re big balling over here with 10-acre fields. Over in Nepal in the mountains, there are plots that are 10 hectares and vast fields of wild strains that are yet to be bred.”

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Borneol: The Terpene That Improves Your Heart and Gut Health

This terpene Borneol offers many health benefits, including improved digestion (via the stimulation of gastric juices) and better blood circulation.

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Borneol
PHOTO | Jesse Barney

Of the 20,000 aromatic molecules called terpenes found throughout nature, roughly 200 have been discovered in the cannabis herb. As an aggregate, the most common health efficacies offered by cannabis-derived terpenes are reduced systemic inflammation, anti-cancer properties, and analgesic (pain-killing) benefits. The terpene Borneol emits an odor involving scents of camphor, earth, and menthol; its scent is sometimes described as “herbal minty.” It is found in many plants other than cannabis, including camphor, mint, and rosemary. It is a natural insect repellent and is utilized industrially in the manufacture of perfumes and colognes.

Borneol is not extremely common in cannabis. Strains of cannabis offering more significant amounts of this terpene include Hazes and K-13.

The Details of Borneol

This terpene offers many health benefits, including improved digestion (via the stimulation of gastric juices) and better blood circulation. It also effectively treats bronchial symptoms to improve lung function and ease breathing (helpful for sufferers of bronchitis and asthma). Like many of its sibling terpenes, it has been found to reduce anxiety.

Borneol also assists in the healing of wounds. Historically, it has been incorporated into topical treatments for such applications, including the treatment of hemorrhoids. Combined with other terpenes that convey sedative qualities — such as myrcene and linalool — the terpene can effectively combat insomnia. It is also antibacterial and antiseptic.

Borneol exemplifies the dynamics of the entourage effect, a theory that cannabinoids and terpenes work together, synergistically, to offer particular therapeutic and medicinal benefits to humans via supplementation of the mammalian endocannabinoid system (ECS). Borneol amplifies the permeability of the blood/brain barrier, allowing other molecules and compounds to more efficiently bind with specialized receptors in the brain and central nervous system.

When isolated, it can act as an irritant to eyes, skin, and the respiratory system. As a good demonstration of the impact of accurate and strategic titration (dosing), at large doses, it is extremely toxic and harmful if swallowed. A “probable lethal dose” is 50-500 mg/kg of body weight, which equates to between only a teaspoon and an ounce for a 150-pound human.

The Research

Multiple studies have demonstrated the wide-ranging medicinal efficacy of the terpene, including its pronounced role as an anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, and cancer killer.

A 2017 study entitled “Terpenes from Forests and Human Health” and published in the journal Toxicological Research investigated how borneol reduced inflammation of the lungs. Concluded the researchers, “Borneol alleviated acute lung inflammation by reducing inflammatory infiltration, histopathological changes, and cytokine production.”

A 2013 study published in the journal PLOS ONE and entitled “Natural Borneol, a Monoterpenoid Compound, Potentiates Selenocystine-induced Apoptosis in Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells” revealed the anti-cancer properties of this terpene.

The study’s researchers concluded, “Borneol effectively synergized with SeC to reduce cancer cell growth through the triggering apoptotic cell death. These results reveal that borneol strongly potentiates SeC-induced apoptosis in cancer cells by enhancement of cellular uptake. Borneol could be further developed as a chemosensitizer of SeC in treatment of human cancers.”

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There Needs to Be More Research on How Cannabis Affects Dreams

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How Cannabis Affects Dreams
PHOTO | Jesse Barney

Most people forget their dreams shortly after waking. As soon as the eyelids flutter open, an entire evening of vivid adventures and abstract situations shuffle to an end, often leaving only lingering traces of their presence — a fragment of a dress here, the flashing face of a stranger there. While some individuals may be adept at remembering these mysterious nocturnal encounters, for the most part, the dreaming mind remains an enigma.

For those who consume cannabis, the dreaming self may remain even more elusive. The plant, you see, may prevent the sleeping mind from dreaming. Although cannabis has long been used as a meditation aid and sleep-inducer, preliminary research suggests the trance-inducing herb may suppress some forms of sleep consciousness. Of course, however, research on how cannabis affects dreams is far too premature to make any serious assessments.

The Purpose of Dreaming

Dream science over the past several decades provides more and more hints into the true nature of the dreaming mind. While the exact purpose of dreaming is unclear and dreams are particularly difficult to study, it is generally understood that the dreaming mind is also an emotional mind. While logic and rationality dominate during the day, the unique function of the dreaming mind is to help soothe and come to terms with emotional memories.

Most dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). The REM cycle is the closest sleep state to wakefulness when electrical activity in the brain increases, along with heart rate and breathing. During this time, levels of bodily stress hormones drop to their lowest levels. During the day, the hormone norepinephrine increased in the bloodstream in response to everyday stressors and anxieties. At night, however, norepinephrine levels slowly decrease as the dreaming mind takes over.

Brain scans suggest that the dreaming mind is very similar to the waking mind; visual areas of the brain are highly engaged, as well as areas related to memory and conscious thinking. A primary difference, however, is that the waking mind also responds to stress signals by releasing hormones like norepinephrine for fight-or-flight response. When dreaming, even strong emotions are distanced from this fight-or-flight impulse of the nervous system.

While the content of dreams may be very different than your visual memories from everyday life, it appears that emotional memory processing is a core function of REM sleep. The situations that your dreaming self is exposed to may be abstract or downright weird, but the emotional context of the dream may be what holds real value.

How Cannabis Affects Dreams

If dreams are the brain’s way of de-escalating and filing away emotional memories, then the effects of cannabis on dreams are well worth knowing. Thus far, a multitude of preclinical and small human trials show that cannabis consumption causes a reduction in REM sleep. This reduction is most strongly correlated with THC, although animal research thus far hasn’t determined whether or not the same effect occurs with CBD.

For individuals with recurring nightmares, this could be a positive benefit. Those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, often demonstrate disturbed REM sleep patterns and may consistently remember their dreams. Healthy sleep is sleep that promotes feelings of restfulness upon waking. If a person plagued by chronic nightmares, it can have a distressing impact on the next wakeful day

In PTSD, patients are unable to delete fear-based experiences from their memories. Already, preclinical research suggests that cannabis medicines may be beneficial for those with the condition, potentially helping patients extinguish fear-based memories during the waking day.

And yet, for the everyday individual, the overall effect of cannabis on dreams remains unknown. Research suggests that the plant does, in fact, reduce dreams and limits the amount of time spent in REM sleep. Given that REM sleep is when the body records and desensitizes emotional memories, it’s possible that reducing time spent in REM may have a negative effect on emotional processing.

The catch? Very little research has been conducted on the aftermath of cannabis consumption on dreaming. Although cannabis is one of the most popular illicit sleep aids in the world, no high-quality or conclusive evidence exists on the impact of cannabis on sleep. Further, the bulk of research on the topic was conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, with isolated cannabis compounds and small participant numbers. As a result, the way in which cannabis affects dreaming and the implications this may have on waking life are simply unknown.

REM Rebound

The human brain does not like to go without enough REM sleep. While quality research on cannabis and dreaming is appallingly absent from the scientific literature, what is known, however, is that dreams come back with a vengeance after a brief period of abstinence from the plant. When regular cannabis consumers abstain from the herb, one of the most common side effects of withdrawal is the resurgence of very vivid and memorable dreams. This phenomenon has a proper name: REM rebound.

During REM rebound, a person is able to reach a state of REM sleep more quickly. They’re also more likely to remain in REM sleep for an extended amount of time. This dreaming rebound most often occurs after a person experiences sleep deprivation. The brain, it would seem, opens the floodgates of emotion once you’ve finally safe to hit the hay.

In terms of REM sleep, does cannabis produce similar effects to sleep deprivation? Without more research on how cannabis affects dreams, it’s hard to say.

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Wizard Stones: The Magic of Making Cannabis Diamonds

Aaron Palmer and Graham Jennings, founders of Oleum Extracts in Washington State, talk about Wizard Stones, their THCA isolate product.

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Wizard Stones
PHOTO | Oleum Extracts

Heat, pressure, and time. The three components required to form a diamond from carbon. But what about diamonds made from cannabis? The founders of Oleum Extracts, Aaron Palmer and Graham Jennings both agree that a good diamond product ultimately comes down to the flavor provided by its terpene fraction.

Diamonds is a slang term for the crystal formations of the cannabinoid THCA. The molecule’s lattice structure builds upon itself naturally as individual molecules clump together creating the faceted formations that resemble diamond or quartz.

When most people talk about cannabis diamonds, they’re talking about THCA structures that form in their own terpene sauce. So, it’s a little different technique than other isolation methods.

Oleum —While their chemical composition is the same, the process to make them is slightly different than the traditional diamonds mined from a raw extract. Instead, they use a specially formulated solvent mix to create a solution with a composition that encourages crystallization.

Due to Washington state’s regulations, Oleum is limited in the chemical solvents they can use. So that blend is the crucial variable to isolating THCA into their Wizard Stones product.

Growing cannabis diamonds within their original terpene fraction comes down to creating an environment with the right amounts of pressure and heat to encourage crystal growth.

Within the raw extract, the terpene and cannabinoid compounds are homogenized together, but as they settle and separate the mixture “crashes” — which is the start of crystallization.

Palmer explains that it “helps to create a seed because if there’s nothing for the THCA molecules to grab onto then they have a harder time starting the diamond formation.”

There are a few ways extractors seed a solution to start diamond growth, but Oleum prefers to use freezing temperatures to solidify and then thaw their extract, helping to create small groupings of THCA for other molecules to stack off.

Another common seeding technique is to drop a previously grown crystal into the extracted mixture of cannabis compounds, giving the THCA something to grow off of.

This technique is especially useful when filming a time-lapse of the crystal growth because it gives the camera a focal point knowing where the formation will grow from.

Creating Wizard Stones

The above timelapse video wasphotographed over a four day period by Dankshire. We can see diamonds begin to form almost immediately. However, the crystallization process can take a month if not longer to complete once a raw extract is jarred and waiting to crash.

Oleum utilizes custom-built isolation vessels for their production diamond runs but admits that the jar tech allows more visibility into the process.

Jennings points out, “You see the jars, we even do the jar stuff a lot. It’s more popular… and people know what it is compared to a large isolation vessel that no one can see into it but you know it’s growing 2,000 grams of crystals.”

Each batch can present a different ratio of diamonds to sauce and it seems like everyone wants a little different combination. “We just give ‘em what it makes,” Jennings said.

That’s the beauty of isolated products like cannabis diamonds and sauce; you can mix your own cocktail of cannabis compounds and really dial in the flavors and feelings that you’re after.

Cannabis diamonds grown in their own sauce create a potent, refined, and pronounce expression of the strain they are extracted from.

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