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How Cannabis Affects Dopamine

As more states move to legalize cannabis, increasingly more people are warming up to cannabinoid-based therapies. At the same time, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is gaining considerable interest in mental health. This is causing mixed reactions, with some questioning the long-term effects of cannabis use.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that mediates the feeling of pleasure, motivation, and satisfaction in the brain. The release of dopamine motivates one to pursue a pleasurable activity or occupation. A dopamine surge is what makes you feel good after achieving something significant. The right balance of dopamine is vital for both physical and mental wellbeing.


THC is a major cannabinoid of the cannabis plant with clear intoxicating effects. It binds to the CB1 receptor in the brain to elicit its psychoactive properties.


Anandamide, also known as the bliss molecule, is an endogenous cannabinoid that also binds the CB1 receptor. It is not surprising that both anandamide and THC are associated with a feeling of happiness and satisfaction. However, anandamide, unlike THC, is quickly broken down by enzymes and taken out of circulation. 



What’s the Link Between Cannabis and Dopamine?


The endocannabinoid system modulates the dopaminergic system through CB1 receptors and endocannabinoids. 


Endocannabinoids stimulate the release of dopamine. Certain CB1 antagonists can block this effect, demonstrating that CB1 receptors are involved in the dopaminergic effects of cannabinoids.


The link between cannabis and dopamine has to be the CB1 receptors (part of the endocannabinoid system). 


There is evidence of varying effects of acute vs. chronic THC exposure on the dopaminergic system.



Acute Vs. Long-term Cannabis Use


Animal studies have described the interactions that exist between amphetamine (promote dopamine release) and THC. These preliminary studies have demonstrated that the dose of THC consumed potentiates or antagonizes the effects of amphetamines. The researchers in this study proposed that dopamine is “a prime candidate for…the mode of action of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol”. 


Acute versus longer-term use of THC could have complex effects on dopamine synthesis and release.  While early studies with rodents show that low doses of THC increased dopamine synthesis and release, some studies show high doses of THC resulting in decreased dopamine synthesis. 


The results from human studies have not been consistent, however there is evidence that there may be reduced dopaminergic function among cannabis users. 


Indeed, THC has profound effects on the dopamine system, contributing to its recreational and harmful effects. Unfortunately, there are no randomized human trials that have been carried out to investigate this phenomenon. Additionally, inconsistencies between preclinical and clinical findings pose a significant challenge. One major inconsistency between animal and human studies is that THC, even in acute studies, was not administered to humans in the habitual manner in which it was typically consumed. 



The Crux of the Matter


THC’s rewarding properties are triggered by the firing of dopaminergic neurons and the release of dopamine in lower doses. Interactions with the CB1 receptors underpin this process.


Evidence suggests that acute vs. chronic THC exposure to the dopaminergic system will produce different effects; that is the crux of the matter.


Acute exposure to THC may cause increased dopamine release, which is associated with a feeling of pleasure.


On the other hand, chronic or long-term exposure to THC has been linked to blunting of the dopamine system. 


While acute exposure to THC may increase a sense of reward and satisfaction, long-term exposure may produce opposite effects. However, the premise of this argument is based on inconclusive, preliminary evidence. Future studies will shed more light on how cannabis affects dopamine over time.




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How Cannabis Concentrates Are Made

At the turn of the century, cannabis enthusiasts began noticing a steep shift in the market. Regular users started smoking less and dabbing more- heating oily extracts to inhale high concentrations of cannabis. These extracts varied from shatter to wax to batter to dabs and honey. Not only were they more potent, but they were also a cleaner and a more convenient way to consume cannabis. This heralded the beginning of a new era.


At the start, cannabis extracts were made using highly flammable hydrocarbons right in their backyards and garages. This was a precarious affair with consequences of explosive proportions, quite literally.


In recent times, the technology of extracting cannabis has grown in leaps and bounds, and we will take you through each of them in great detail.



What Are The Popular Methods of Cannabis Extraction?


When it comes to cannabis extraction, two main methods exist.


Solvent-based extraction: In this method, solvents are added to the plant material to dissolve the resin, which is the concentrated part of the cannabis plant containing the cannabinoids and terpenes. The solvent is then removed, leaving behind extracts such as shatter, vape oil, or wax.


This method yields what is known as a cannabis extract.


Mechanical or solventless extraction: Mechanical or solventless extraction methods do not use solvents. Instead, the resin is pressed, beaten, or rubbed out of the plant, resulting in kief, rosin, or hash.


This method yields what is known as a cannabis concentrate.  



Solvents Used to Make Cannabis Extracts


As discussed earlier, the solvent-based extraction method has been used for quite a long while now.


Let us look in detail at how these solvents work.


Hydrocarbons (Butane, Propane, Hexane, etc.)


Hydrocarbons are used to make butane hash oils (BHO) which includes budder, sauce, wax, shatter, and crumble among others.


Because hydrocarbons are highly flammable, a closed loop system of extraction should be used.


The process of extracting cannabis can be either open-looped or closed-looped. Open-loop systems have exposure to the external environment. When flammable compounds are present, open loop systems can easily cause a fire accident.


Closed-loop systems, on the other hand, are safer but more expensive to implement. Securing the equipment could cost upwards of $30,000 for an average-sized model.


It is also a requirement for manufactures using hydrocarbons to blast-proof the premises. The cost of blast proofing a room could be around $100,000.


CO2 (Supercritical CO2 Extraction)


Supercritical CO2 extraction uses CO2 to separate the different compounds from the cannabis plant material.


The carbon dioxide is subjected to supercritical conditions that causes it to fluctuate between a gas, liquid, and solid-state. It is then passed through the cannabis plant material in a closed loop system to extract the compounds and then the CO2 is evaporated. Because CO2 is a green gas, the extract produced through this method is relatively safe.




Ethanol is a popular solvent used to make super-concentrated Rick Simpson Oil.  It follows the same principle used in creating BHO. With ethanol, the solvent is dripped over the flowers and buds of the cannabis plant, which dissolves these compounds. The next step is to eliminate the solvent and remain with the cannabis extract.


However, ethanol has a higher polarity than butane. This means that it extracts impurities such as chlorophyll, which may affect the quality of the final extract.



Non-Solvent-Based Methods for Making Cannabis Concentrates


Solventless extraction is often used when creating concentrates for medicinal use. This is because the concentrates produced through this method are relatively safer.


Shaking, Sifting, and Dry Sifting-Used to Make Kief


Kief, a type of cannabis concentrate, can be made using different mechanical techniques. 


One technique that has stood the test of time and is exceptionally safe is the use of a mesh. The cannabis plant material is passed through a mesh and the kief collects at the bottom. The kief is then graded based on the level of purity.


Ice Water Extraction


Bubble hash is a popular cannabis extract that is made using kief that has been Ice Water Extracted. It is the brainchild of Neville Schoenmakers, founder of the first Cannabis Seed Bank.


In this method, the cannabis is placed in a simple jar or bubbleator with water and ice and agitated. The resin is separated by the mechanical force and it is collected. Because it uses water, this method is considered to be one of the safest and cleanest ways of making a pure, high-quality hash that has no impurities. It is also a pretty wholesome method of extraction that leaves you with most of the cannabinoids intact.


Heat and Pressure (Rosin Press)


Rosin is a viscous sap whose appearance can range from clear to very dark, and it can be used in its extracted form or as a base for cannabis edibles. Both a rosin press and a rosin bag use pressure and heat to force the trichomes out of the cannabis leaves and buds.



Types of Cannabis Extracts & Concentrates




A runny consistency characterizes wax or budder. These oils are opaque and gooey rather than being hard. It is also easy to roll them onto “a pin and dab,” but they tend to stick to the sides of the packaging container.


Pie Crust/Honeycomb


This is a form of wax/budder which is generally crumbly and brittle. It is, however, softer than shatter. Pie Crust is easier to get out of a jar but is very prone to crumbling.




Shatter is an impressively pure cannabis concentrate that is very brittle and translucent, much like glass candy.  It is mainly extracted using hydrocarbon solvents such as butane and or propane, making it a particularly potent substance.


Caviar/Jelly Hash


Caviar, also known as moonrocks, are a recent fad in the cannabis scene. Making them involves coating cannabis buds with very high-quality resin, which are then rolled in kief.


Caviar doesn’t always have to be rolled in kief, a resin coat may just suffice.






Cannabis extraction is just in its formative stages. With time, we expect to witness the creation of more efficient and purer methods geared towards the production of medicinal cannabis extracts. We hope that through this article, we have helped you understand how cannabis concentrates are made. Feel free to let us know if we left out anything.




About Realm of Caring

Realm of Caring Foundation (RoC), is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that was established by parents in 2013 to support families who were out of medical options. By creating educational resources, conducting research, and assisting families with data-rich answers to their questions, RoC continues to be a leader in the cannabinoid (cannabis/hemp) field. RoC’s no-cost Care Team has served more than 65,000 clients worldwide and supports a network of over 2,000 medical professionals. To learn more about participating or to donate to this cause, visit or call 1-888-210-3772.

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6 People Share: How Cannabis & CBD Helped Me Sleep

This blog was written and submitted by our friends at Stratos


Are you exhausted in the morning?


According to WebMD, sleep deprivation can have serious effects on the body. Memory recall is degraded, the ability to learn and make sound judgments is impaired, the heart may beat faster than normal, your mood can take a big dive, and overall, you can feel off.


The body needs sleep to rest, rejuvenate and heal. The National Institute of Health suggests that most average adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.


Stratos, one of a handful of brands to receive the Realm of Caring Seal of Approval, has had countless customers reach out to share their experiences in achieving more restful, deep sleep by incorporating cannabis and CBD into their regimen:


After trying sleeping tea and melatonin I’ve only been able to get about 3 hours of sleep per night. Thanks to your medical formula Sleep Tablets, I’m able to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Thank You!



As a disabled veteran, I have pain and behavior issues that I can treat during the day. At night, Stratos helps sleep issues and helps me stay asleep longer and in a deeper sleep, thus helping me feel more rested. 



At 42, I started struggling with sleep issues. The pharma drugs made my bladder inflamed, so I’d fall asleep but then awaken 6 – 8 times a night straining to urinate. After 13 years of this, I was told by a close relative to try cannabis. I hemmed and hawed but they finally they talked me into it. 1 or 2 puffs of a heavy Indica and I fell asleep.  It tended to work for about 5 hours but it changed my thinking. A few months later I was given a bottle of Sleep Tablets to try.  I took 1/2 of a 10mg tablet. That night, I slept for 9 hours without waking up to pee. That was 4 years ago. I only use these products 5-6 nights a week. It has changed my life.  



The Renew 2:1 Tincture has become my current medication for all of my pain and sleeping issues. I struggle with unbearable muscle aches and spasms from a pinched nerve and past trauma. It was impossible to sleep due to this pain. Now that I use the Renew every night I am finally able to sleep through the entire night without waking due to pain. The Renew tincture has helped me manage my sleep and pain in ways I thought would be impossible. I can’t thank you enough for creating such a life changing product.



Great, thank you! The Sleep 1:1 Tincture didn’t put me to sleep right away (I have insomnia, so that’s why I’m interested in this type of product), but once I fell asleep, I slept so deeply throughout the entire night. I usually wake up a ton throughout the night so this was very helpful! 



I really like your Sleep 1:1 Tincture as far as it helps me fall asleep and stay asleep. If I get up in the middle of the night, it allows me to go right back to sleep. Right after I take it, give me between 15-30 minutes. I don’t go to sleep without it. 



In accordance with Federal law, Stratos does not make medical recommendations or claims around cannabis or hemp use. To receive guidance on dosing, usage or benefits, we encourage you to register as a client and/or reach out to Realm of Caring by calling (719) 347-5400 or visiting


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CBG: Researched Benefits

Over 120 compounds have been isolated from Cannabis Sativa. Of these, the most studied are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); however research is expanding to discover the actions of additional cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG).


CBG was first discovered and synthesized by Raphael Mechoulam and Yehiel Gaoni in 1964. It is derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), which has been coined as the “mother of all cannabinoids” as it is a precursor of major cannabinoids that further decarboxylate to additional cannabinoids. In the cannabis plant, CBGA directly converts to cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) through processes known as CBDA synthase, THCA synthase, and CBCA synthase. CBGA will also decarboxylate to CBG once heated, becoming a very stable molecule. 


Evidence from experiments show that CBG is devoid of the non-euphoric abilities of THC and that it has therapeutic potential for specific conditions.


Medical cannabis (THC) or nabilone can be recommended to cancer patients as a means to stimulate their appetite while undergoing conventional treatments. Although effective, there is the potential for undesirable, euphoric side effects. Data has demonstrated in animal tests that CBG significantly increases total food intake in that animals studied began feeding sooner, consumed more meals and consumed more during those meals. 


Animal studies have also shown CBG to reduce the effects of inflammatory bowel disease and the development and growth of colon cancer, hypothesizing that CBG may be a promising therapeutic agent for prevention and as a curative medicine. CBG has shown to increase the rate of tissue recovery in the colon, reduce inflammation, and reduce tumor formation and growth in a model of colorectal cancer. 


Several studies, in vitro and in animal models, have shown CBG to have neuroprotective potential for reducing the severity of neurological illnesses, such as Huntington disease (HD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits contribute to reducing glutamate-induced oxidative stress and cell death, as shown in mouse models. 


Metabolic syndrome is considered a cluster of five conditions that may lead to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. It is diagnosed when someone has three or more of the five conditions, being: high blood glucose, low levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, a large waist circumference, and/or high blood pressure. It contributes to the highest rates of healthcare costs and preventable deaths. CBG has recently been compared to rosiglitazone, a pharmaceutical known to improve adipogenesis, a process essential for maintaining metabolic homeostasis. It was found that CBG and CBG/CBD combinations provided similar results as rosiglitazone, supporting the exploration of CBG as a potential therapeutic for metabolic syndrome and related conditions. 


Many cannabinoids have been confirmed to have antibacterial properties, however, CBG has been noted among the most potent cannabinoids when tested against strains of Staphylococcus aureus (the most dangerous of the staphylococcal bacteria responsible for causing skin infections, pneumonia, heart valve infections, and bone infections). 


Evidence from certain preliminary studies that indicate antidepressant activity show the possibility for CBG to have additional clinical applications for mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety as well as disorders of executive function, such as schizophrenia and ADHD. More studies are necessary to confirm these hypotheses. 


Although there is therapeutic promise for the potentials of CBG, there is much more research to be completed and considered to better understand the complete utility of CBG to include adverse events and how to administer so that therapy is effective. It is noteworthy to mention that there have been no published human studies with CBG to date. Much is left to learn and research recommends that the medical community invest in further CBG research as interest and popularity of the cannabinoid increases. 





The Realm of Caring Foundation specifically invokes the first amendment rights of freedom of speech and of the press without prejudice. These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. the products discussed are not intended to diagnose, cure, prevent or treat any disease. Realm of Caring always recommends when and wherever possible that licensed local healthcare professionals be consulted.


The Realm of Caring Foundation is an independent nonprofit with its own governing board. We do not produce or sell cannabinoid products, nor do we receive funds from the sale of other company’s products.

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