CBD Vs THC: The Health Benefits You Could Be Missing Out On
Medical marijuana and cannabis derivatives are not as simple as they used to be. These products use complex language and are advertised using a variety of conflicting terminologies. Different strains are bred for different therapeutic qualities, and often people do not understand the specifics of what they are consuming.
The differences between the two main components of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are profound and should be thoroughly understood by the consumer before use. Each has its own applications, uses, and potential side-effects.
CBD vs. THC: Differences within the Body
Even though they both are cannabinoids from the same plant, THC and CBD interact very differently with the body’s endocannabinoid system once consumed.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive cannabinoid present within cannabis, which interacts primarily with CB1 receptors. The CB1 receptors are found throughout the brain and central nervous system.
The CB1 receptors are built to lock with a neurotransmitter naturally produced by the body called anandamide. This endocannabinoid triggers feelings of pleasure associated with food and exercise, and also influences memory, pain, and motivation. Because THC locks into the CB1 receptor, mimicking anandamide, it also influences these same areas.
Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, is unable to lock into or directly interact with the CB1 receptor. Instead, it seems to regulate the effects of THC on the body by inhibiting THC’s activation of CB1 receptors.
The difference in receptor interaction leads to meaningful differences between a CBD high and a THC high. The main difference is a CBD 'high' does not exist. People who take CBD generally just feel a gentle sense of relaxation.
Another major difference is CBD counteracts the effects of THC. It reduces the time the THC molecule is bonded to the CB1 receptor. When taken together, CBD reduces the overall strength of the associated THC high.
CBD vs. THC: What is the Source?
Marijuana, cannabis, hemp, weed, and many other words are used to describe products from the same plant. What terminology is applied can have substantial meaning for the product’s legal status, medical benefits, and commercial usefulness. Despite the ramifications of product labeling, there is, unfortunately, little consistency across the industry.
The genus of the plant responsible for all these products is cannabis. Although the term cannabis often carries negative connotations, it actually describes the entire family, an umbrella term for all the strains.
As mentioned, no industry-wide guidelines exist for what words can be applied to which product. But, the cannabis product usually falls under two different labels. One that causes a high, and one that does not. This difference ultimately has a role to play in the plant’s legal status, but more discussion on that in a moment.
Under most circumstances, the strain that causes a high is referred to as marijuana. It can be grown for recreational or medicinal use, but both varieties will alter the user’s state of mind because of the THC content.
Marijuana is cultivated only for its cannabinoid content, and the buds (or flowers) are the primary focus during harvest. The principal cannabinoid in most marijuana strains is THC. However, this slowly has begun changing as cannabis' medicinal properties are better understood.
On the other end of the spectrum is the industrial hemp plant. It originally was grown for a large number of commercial and industrial applications, including fiber, oils, nutritional supplements and many other products. It's exceptionally versatile and does not contain enough THC to trigger any psychoactivity. Its stalks, leaves, and seeds are the most sought after part of the plant.
While hemp does not contain any measurable THC, it still contains many other medicinal cannabinoids, including CBD. Cannabidiol can be successfully extracted from both marijuana and hemp, but is much more legally accessible when sourced from hemp.
CBD vs. THC: What is the Legal Status?
The reason CBD is more accessible when sourced from hemp is that hemp is legal.
In America, and many other countries around the world, hemp can be bought, sold, imported and used (with the appropriate licenses) without fear of legal repercussions.
On the flip side, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level across the United States. Although many states have taken the legality of cannabis into their own hands, state laws still are superseded by federal law, which continues classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug (no currently accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse).
Especially in countries such as the United States, it’s vital to find quality sources of CBD oil derived from hemp. Learn more about sourcing the purest CBD oil in the article How to Ensure the CBD Oil You're Using Is Pure.
CBD vs. THC: Health Benefits of CBD
One of the main reasons CBD is now a household name is because of its ability to treat drug-resistant seizure disorders in children. This therapeutic benefit has offered such relief to parents all over the nation that it became a widely reported national news story. However, this is only one of the medical issues CBD has been able to treat.
Some of these medical properties include CBD’s ability to regulate your mood and its antipsychotic characteristics. As mentioned earlier, because CBD counteracts the CB1 receptor’s activation by THC, that means it acts as a powerful moderator for any potential psychoactive effects caused by THC. Researchers have found that CBD did not have any negative side effects on either psychomotor or psychological function (unlike THC).
Significant research shows the anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties of CBD. It seems to attack or inhibit cancer in various ways, such as inhibiting cell viability of the tumor, reducing metastasis, and inhibiting angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to develop). The research has been positive with a variety of cancers, such as colon, breast, lung and prostate.
CBD reduces vomiting and nausea, making it suitable for treating the various side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Other studies have found it to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and also beneficial for treating depression.
For more in-depth information about CBD’s benefits, check out Benefits of CBD Oil Backed by Science.
What has made CBD particularly popular and intriguing for patients, practitioners and researchers alike, is it seems to have little to no side effects for those who use it. The lack of noticeable side effects makes it especially appealing for treating seniors, children, and severely ill patients.
With that being said, it’s beneficial to discuss CBD oil use with your doctor. There are some rare situations, especially when dealing with higher doses, where CBD oil could affect the efficacy of other medications. Cannabidiol also may start increasing the potency of some medications that are processed by the liver. Read more about how that works here.
CBD vs. THC: Health Benefits of THC
Before diving into the variety of medical benefits THC offers, it’s important also to cover the potential adverse side effects, because unlike CBD, THC does have some. As the psychoactive component in cannabis, THC can trigger psychoactivity or psychotic episodes in people who consume it.
Recreational users may be aware that it can cause paranoia and a “high” sensation throughout the mind and body. With this caveat in mind, many positive attributes are associated with THC therapies.
Again, for recreational users, it's no surprise THC is an effective sleep aid. It allows people to fall asleep faster, even when suffering from insomnia. In people suffering from sleep apnea, THC can help moderate breathing and reduce sleep interruptions.
Much like CBD, THC also helps reduce sensations of nausea and vomiting often associated with chemotherapy and radiation. It also helps increase appetite. Research is ongoing to determine how CBD and THC interact together or work independently of each other to influence these areas.
Since THC has a powerful influence on memory (often considered one of its side effects), it has become a necessary therapy for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It helps reduce flashbacks, agitation, and nightmares, and in many countries, THC treatment is a government-approved therapy for PTSD.
Both CBD and THC therapy have been explored for their chronic pain relief capabilities. Through scientific comparison, THC seems to have more potential for pain relief when compared to CBD, but both CBD and THC show results when compared to a placebo. So, when it comes to CBD versus THC for pain, often THC wins out.
CBD vs THC: Conclusions
The body of research into CBD could fill an encyclopedia. Despite this scientific backing, it has taken a relatively long time to get where we are today. As the regulations controlling the study of CBD and THC relax, and more positive results are published, the medical field is discovering more and more applications for cannabinoid therapy.
On top of the way that each of the cannabinoids works independently in the body, they are proving to work better together.
This synergistic effect is called the “entourage effect” and refers to the exponential benefit experienced when different cannabinoids are combined together through whole-plant medicine. More information is available on Understanding the Entourage Effect of Cannabinoids.
Determining the requirements for your wellbeing can help guide you toward which medicine is best. Each cannabinoid has a wide array of health benefits, and the differences between CBD and THC are substantial enough to take note of. Take the time to explore CBD versus THC information before taking either as a medicinal therapy. Just like you wouldn’t take allergy medication for a headache, each cannabinoid also has specific medicinal uses.