Names are unique. They’re intended to identify a specific person, place or thing. So how do names even come into being? Creativity and imagination can come into play when naming something. Sometimes names can represent a quality or a descriptor of the person, place or thing. Parents have become imaginative when naming children—Apple, North, Basil, Cedar and Arkin are just a few names that children today have been given. Parents want their children to be unique.
Some names, more than others, need to be unique, especially where medicine is concerned. Different medications cannot possibly share a name. Imagine the confusion for doctors, pharmacists, developers and patients if some drugs had the same name, or similar.
Ustekinumab is a medication for treating rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Talimogene Laherparepvec is a medication that is for treating melanoma lesions, and Ixabepilone is a drug used during the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. These names are difficult to pronounce, making them mysterious and perhaps a bit scary. Poison Dwarf, One-Eyed Jamaican, Ghost Train Haze #9 and Crouching Tiger Hidden Alien are a few of the names given to marijuana strains. Why is it that medicines have such strange names?
There are prescription medications that have very similar names, having just two or three letters difference in the spelling. These drugs may treat specific conditions, and if the prescription is not read correctly because of the similarities, some severe reactions, including death can occur. Drugs being mis-prescribed is the most prevalent error in healthcare, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and thousands of people die every year because of it.
In the pharmaceutical industry, a drug, or medicine, typically has three names: First is the chemical name, which is the actual makeup of the chemical formula; The generic name of a drug is given when a pharmaceutical company, other than the original developer, begins to make the same drug, typically after the patent expires; The commercial name of a drug is what’s seen on the shelves in a store. Because each drug has three names, and each of the names have to be unique and original to any other drug on the market, the task of naming drugs is paramount.
With thousands of drugs on the market, it’s no wonder that the names become more and more difficult to pronounce. The FDA reviews over 500 new drug names a year, ensuring that the name is unique enough so it’s not to be mistaken for another. It remains top secret and a mystery as to how pharmaceutical companies come up with their commercial drug names. However, it’s a fairly simple process for marijuana breeders to name their new strains.
Although still a daunting task, the naming of marijuana strains is a far simpler process than stringing random letters and Greek and Latin roots together. Some marijuana strains are named for their aroma—lavender, diesel and skunk, to name a few. Others have been named after a favorite actor, band or even a delectable sweet treat. Some marijuana breeders have named strains after their dog or college roommate. Just two decades ago there was no limit as to how new strains were named.
Prior to this, and long before the first dispensary, marijuana strains were often named for the geographic region where it was grown. Panama Red, Maui Wowie and Thai Stick were some of the original strain names. As marijuana became more widespread around the world, and cultivated under specific climates, the plants changed. Marijuana breeders would create plants using two and sometimes three different parent plants. These hybrids were developed so that the plant would thrive in many different ecosystems. Marijuana farmers and breeders experimented with many hybrids, combining the best attributes from multiple plants into a single new strain. Like pharmaceuticals, the names of these strains had to be unique.
With ever-growing research into the chemical components of the marijuana plant, hundreds of new strains are being grown, and they all need to be named. Some strains are being named by combining part of each of the parent plants’ names, giving it a lineage that can be traced back to one individual strain. Some strains, undoubtedly, will continue to get odd, bizarre and sometimes scary names.
For new patients walking into a dispensary for the first time, it can be intimidating, but looking at the names of different strains of marijuana can be even more uncomfortable, especially when trying to see them as medicine. Names like Blue Crack and Shark Bite wouldn’t typically be a name someone would presume to be a medication, but they are. Like the strange and difficult names of some pharmaceutical drugs, medicinal marijuana has its own unique spin on names.
But what’s really in a name? Perhaps Shakespeare said it best through his character, Juliet, during a flirtatious exchange with Romeo: “A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet.” The names that are given to medicine, be it a pharmaceutical or a strain of marijuana, can be frightening. What’s important, however, is the composition and medicinal components of the medicine, not the name. A medicine that helps with high cholesterol could be named Edgar Magic or Ezetimibe; it really doesn’t matter what the name of the medicine is as long as it is effective, and better still, as long as it is natural plant medicine.
Jeffrey Green, M.A., has taught grades K-12 as well as at the University of Arizona. Currently a freelance writer, Reiki Master and Animal Reiki Practitioner, Green enjoys educating the public
on natural and holistic alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs.