Medical Cannabis Glossary

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
May 29, 2024
Last updated:
May 29, 2024

Despite its legalisation in 2018, navigating the world of medical cannabis can still feel unfamiliar to many patients. As it becomes integrated into people’s medical routines, it brings with it a range of scientific terms that may seem daunting. Here, we aim to simplify and clarify these terms.

What is medical cannabis? What are trichomes? Are cannabis, marijuana and weed the same thing? Let’s get into the definitions and what all these interrelated terms mean.


A plant cultivated for thousands of years for its medicinal and nutritional applications. Cannabis flower contains hundreds of active chemical compounds called cannabinoids that can cause drug-like effects throughout the body. They impact the central nervous system, the immune system, and more.

Also referred to as marijuana or weed, evidence has shown that cannabis flower may help treat cancer symptoms or the side effects of cancer treatment, such as nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

Cannabidiol (CBD):‍

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a safe and non-intoxicating cannabinoid present in hemp and cannabis plants (which are members of the same species but have different textures and characteristics). It’s most often found in oils, tinctures, sprays, topicals, and more.

Just one of many cannabinoids naturally present in cannabis, CBD is extracted from the plant and added to one of the above products. Along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is the most well-known compound found in cannabis.


Compounds innately present in cannabis plants, cannabinoids are similar in composition to the molecules found in the body’s endocannabinoid system – a network of chemicals and receptors that regulate a host of bodily processes and functions.

When ingested, cannabinoids bind to receptors in the central nervous system, causing a reaction in the endocannabinoid system. They each produce different effects and may work together synergistically for symptom relief.

There are over 100 known cannabinoids, and each has unique functions, but the two most well-known cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Cannabis Clinic: 

A place where patients can connect with doctors who understand and can prescribe medical cannabis. Most UK cannabis clinics provide telehealth appointments, but sometimes in-person appointments are also available. 

Cartridges or Carts: 

Cartridges, often abbreviated as "carts," are small containers prefilled with cannabis oil, which may contain cannabinoids such as THC or CBD, along with terpenes for flavour and aroma. When connected to a compatible vaporiser battery, cartridges allow users to inhale vaporised cannabis without the need for combustion.

CBD Oil: 

A non-intoxicating product containing cannabidiol (CBD). It is derived from cannabis and contains .03 or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There are three types of CBD oil: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate. 

CBD oil is a standalone prescription and can be incorporated into other products like capsules and topicals. 


A cultivar, often referred to as a strain, is a specific variety of the plant cultivated for its unique combination of traits, including appearance, aroma, flavour, and effects. These traits are influenced by factors such as genetics, growing conditions, and breeding techniques. Each strain can have distinct cannabinoid and terpene profiles, leading to different experiences for users when consumed.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS):

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system identified in the early 1990s. It is involved in regulating a variety of functions and processes, including sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and reproduction. The ECS consists of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

Entourage Effect:

The entourage effect refers to the synergistic interaction between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds found in cannabis. This phenomenon suggests that these compounds work better together than in isolation, enhancing the therapeutic effects of the plant.


A grinder is a tool used to break down cannabis buds into smaller, more manageable pieces. It typically consists of two or more interlocking pieces with teeth that shred the herb when twisted. This allows for a finer and more even consistency, making it easier to fill dry herb vaporisers. They are typically metal, plastic or made from hemp. 


A type of cannabis plant that is most often cultivated for its fibre, which contains .03 or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp can be used to create clothing, paper, and food products such as hemp milk, to name just a few. Cannabidiol (CBD) can also be extracted from hemp.

Medical Cannabis: 

Cannabis is a plant cultivated by humans for centuries for nutritional and medicinal purposes. It contains over a hundred therapeutic compounds, most notably cannabinoids and terpenes.

Since 2018, doctors have been able to legally prescribe cannabis in the UK. Medical cannabis is grown in controlled environments and to a strict level of quality. It can be consumed in flower form, or compounds can be extracted for different applications such as cannabis oil, topicals, capsules, tinctures, and more.


A strain, also known as a cultivar, refers to a specific variety of cannabis distinguished by its unique genetic makeup and characteristics. These traits encompass factors such as appearance, aroma, flavour, and effects, which are influenced by genetics, growing conditions, and breeding techniques.  


Located on the surface of cannabis flowers, trichomes produce and hold the plant's cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichomes have a sugary, crystal-like appearance. Up close, they look like tiny, translucent mushrooms. 


Terpenes are aromatic compounds that determine the scent of many flowers, herbs, and cannabis. Common terpenes found in cannabis include limonene, pinene, and linalool, also seen respectively in essential oils lemon, pine, and lavender.

Terpenes give cannabis strains their distinctive aroma.‍ However, they aren’t just flavouring compounds but also have medicinal uses. Terpenes work in holistic harmony with cannabinoids and other compounds in cannabis, helping everything to operate more effectively overall.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC):

A popular and well-known cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant responsible for psychological effects, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) encourages the release of dopamine and can have side effects like euphoria, dizziness, anxiety, hunger, and fatigue.

According to research, THC may be used to treat cancer-related nausea and stimulate the appetite. Additional evidence notes that it can help with chronic pain, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and vomiting. THC is most often found in flower, oils, tinctures, sprays, and topical forms.


A vaporiser is a device that uses a heating element to bring cannabis flower or concentrate to the point of vaporisation (a gas) instead of using combustion. There are two main types of vaporisers: dry herb vaporisers and batteries designed for extracted forms of cannabis (typically found in pre-filled cartridges).


Weed is slang for cannabis flower that contains THC. It’s generally used among recreational consumers and across the black market.

What Is Medical Cannabis and Is It For You?

If you think that medical cannabis might be able to help with your condition, book a consultation with an Alternaleaf doctor and they will assess whether you're eligible for a prescription.