BERKELEY, Calif. — In January of 2018, the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana was legalized in the state of California, opening a new market for potential users. Many people walked into apothecaries looking for cannabis, only to realize that apothecaries do not sell marijuana but instead offer a variety of non-psychoactive herbs targeted toward healing instead of getting high.
What these people who wanted to get high recreationally needed to be going to was a dispensary. Dispensaries sell cannabis: a psychoactive drug which, although legal, is still regulated in the state of California.
The natural remedy world has been around for ages, and cannabis isn’t the only herb around. Apothecaries sell various herbs besides tobacco and cannabis. These herbs are often unregulated by the FDA.
“There are herbs than can be used for pain, that can be used for digestion, for your immune system,” said Ruthie Elizabeth, an employee at the Twisted Thistle Apothecaire.
In fact, most people walking into an apothecary are an entirely different niche than the people who walk into a dispensary.
The only thing that both stores sell is CBD, but it is important to know that hemp-derived CBD, which can be found at an apothecary, and marijuana-derived CBD, which is found at a dispensary, are different.
Although both plants are members of the cannabis family, they contain different amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Marijuana can contain up to thirty percent THC whereas hemp contains no more than three-tenths of a percent THC.
The experience of intaking herbs can also be very different than the intake of marijuana. Herbs can be smoked, mixed in tea, or added as an extract, depending on the needs of a person.
“Smoking herbs is really more of a quick cerebral experience… and depending on the herb, drinking herbs as a tea can be very beneficial in a lot of different ways,” Elizabeth said.
Digestive issues and urinary tract infections may benefit from drinking tea because herbs in the tea will coat the mucous membranes of the body. Lobelia can open up your lungs so it’s an herb that may be better smoked.
There are also concentrated droplets of herbal extract called tinctures.
Elizabeth said, “Extracts are going to be a lot stronger and more concentrated and have a quicker onset. You take them sublingually under your tongue so they go into your bloodstream, or you can put them in water and drink them.”
When walking into an apothecary for the first time, the staffer will often listen to what is going on, and provide personal anecdotes or historical facts about certain herbs she or he feel would help. They will not recommend a certain herb, but instead offer the consumer enough background knowledge to make their own educated decision.
As the popularity of recreational marijuana is on the rise, the popularity of plant medicine has seen an upward trend, too. However, these trends are not correlated, and the user base remains entirely different.