Medical Cannabis Glossary

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Nov 28, 2022
Last updated:
May 2, 2024

Since being legalised in 2016, more than 370,000 prescriptions have been issued for medical cannabis. However, with this relatively new addition to people’s medical regimens comes a host of scientific words to learn – so we’re here to demystify them.

What is medical cannabis? What are trichomes? Are cannabis and marijuana 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 called marijuana, 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 cannabis clinics can provide in-person and telehealth appointments.

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. In Australia, it’s prescribed most often for ingestion via the mouth.

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


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.

Medical cannabis is regulated by the Australian government, specifically the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Since 2016, doctors have been able to legally prescribe medical cannabis in Australia.

Medical cannabis is grown in controlled environments and to a strict level of quality, unlike what you find on the street. It can be consumed in flower form, or compounds can be extracted for different applications such as cannabis oil, topicals, capsules, tinctures, and more.

Medical Marijuana:

This is an interchangeable term with medical cannabis, often used outside the scientific world in broader society.

Medical Marijuana Doctor:

A qualified doctor who can prescribe medical cannabis.

Special Access Scheme:

The Special Access Scheme (SAS) allows doctors to prescribe medicine or medical devices that are not yet included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) to a patient. SAS is used for medical cannabis prescriptions in Australia


Located on the surface of cannabis flowers, trichomes produce and hold the plant's cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichomes have a sugary, crystal-like appearance.


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.

Terpenes 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 those designed for concentrates (typically found in pre-filled cartridges).

In Australia, there are only two legal vaporisers on the market: the Volcano Medic 2 and the Mighty Medic, each manufactured by Storz & Bickel.


Weed is slang for cannabis flower, or more particularly, marijuana 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 chronic condition, book a consultation with a doctor at a cannabis clinic or your local GP and they will assess whether you're eligible for a prescription.

Note that there are a number of risks associated with the use of medical cannabis and your doctor will explain these to you before issuing a prescription. Medical cannabis affects everyone differently and may not help with your chronic condition.

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