Introduction to Medicinal Cannabis

The cannabis plant contains active compounds known as cannabinoids that have a variety of benefits on the human body, including anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, anti-anxiety and calming effects. The plant is covered in specialised hairs called trichomes which coat the entire flower structure and secrete these active compounds to give the plant its therapeutic effects. Medicinal cannabis treatment often refers to the ‘entourage effect’ of the plant. This refers to the synergistic effect of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant which work together in full spectrum products to produce the most effective treatment outcomes.

Medicinal cannabis refers to products created using these therapeutic compounds to treat common medical conditions and symptoms. These products may have one or more active ingredients and be available in a range of different dosage forms depending on what you and your prescriber deem most appropriate. The selection and strength of active ingredients will also depend on the type of medical conditions or symptoms being treated.

There are two main species or strains of the cannabis plant that both have their own unique properties. Cannabis sativa produces an uplifting and energising effect while cannabis indica produces a relaxing and calming effect. Sativa strains are generally used during the day to increase energy and relieve fatigue, depression and other mood disorders. Indica strains are generally used at night to help with insomnia and relieve pain. Generations of crossbreeding have left us with a few, if any, pure sativa or indica strains. Most medicinal products available are a hybrid of the two which may produce a mixture of effects.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for the regulation of medicinal cannabis and the approval of all applications for patient use of medicinal cannabis.



Terpenes are plant chemicals found in oils, spices, fruits and vegetables. In the cannabis plant, terpenes are pharmacologically active and impact the effect of cannabinoids. Terpenes are also responsible for the smell or aroma of the cannabis plant and have their own unique characteristics. 

  • Pinene: found in pine; helps with inflammation, alertness and memory
  • Limonene: found in lemons; increases the effects of THC and CBD and has anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory activity
  • Myrcene: found in hops; helps with insomnia and muscle tension
  • Linalool: found in lavender; helps with relieving pain, inflammation, insomnia and anxiety
  • Beta-caryophyllene: found in black pepper; helps with pain, inflammation, anxiety and depression