THC and CBD – What’s the Difference?
An in depth look at cannabis and its’ dynamic duo, THC (Tetrahydrocanabinol) and CBD (Cannabinoids).
A BRIEF BACKGROUND
Cannabis, officially known as “Cannabis Sativa” and also identified as marijuana, is a widely renowned medicinal plant. According to the “official” definition of cannabis, it is defined as a psychoactive drug- but that’s hardly the case. Cannabis, which was outlawed in 1937, received a bad rep in the early 1930s from William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper mogul, who ran smear campaigns against the plant and claims of the rise of colored men assaulting white women when high on pot. William Randolph Hearst also needed massive amounts of paper for his Newspaper Empire and hemp posed a serious threat to his business and industry. He needed to do everything he could to eliminate a plant that prior to the early 1900s was widely enjoyed as medicine and a therapeutic agent, dating back as long ago 5,000 years ago. The fear tactics eventually worked and cannabis was federally outlawed in the Marijuana Tax Act 1937. After years of protests, battles, and hope, the 59 year reign was ended when California became the United States’ first state to medically legalize cannabis in 1996. Here we are now in 2018, 29 states have joined California’s footsteps and approved medical marijuana. There are 8 states that have approved recreational marijuana. With more studies being conducted and information being released regarding the miracles of cannabis sativa, patients and the health community are beginning to recognize the healing properties of this plant ally. In turn, state after state is jumping on the bandwagon by legalizing. Here’s to progress.
ANATOMY OF CANNABIS SATIVA
Cannabis has green widely fanned leaves that meet at a point with ridges on the sides and a spongey flower that develops during the plants’ flowering stage. The plant can be either male or female and it has the ability to “herm” or turn from female to male / male to female based on grow conditions. The female flower/bud is the most sought after. It is dense, lush, thick, typically very hairy, and fragrant. The male flower is great too, but known to yield small buds, smell earthier, contain lower THC contents. These spongey flower buds contain tiny hairs called Trichomes, which actually protect the plant by developing sticky hairs to catch outside pathogens or by producing fragrant smells that may be volatile to insects and/or plant predators. The buds contain Terpenes, which are cannabis bud scents that smell piney, citrusy, floral, earthy, spicy, woodsy, etc. These Terpenes actually help play a role in how you feel after you smoke/eat/use topically cannabis. For instance the citrus smelling terpene, Limonene shows:
Vaporizes At: 348ºF (176ºC)
Potential Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief
Potential Medical Value: Treatment of anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and cancer
These Terpenes Are Also Found in: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint
THC, The Endocannabinoid System, and CBD
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of cannabis and its’ anatomy, you may be wondering where the psychoactive or better known as the “high” effects comes into play. Cue Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. THC is the primary psychoactive agent (there are 113 active cannabinoids and THC is one of the top dogs) in the cannabis sativa plant in which fires up the CB1 (cannabinoid receptor) in the central nervous system, and the CB2 receptor, which is mainly present in the immune system.
The psychoactive effects we all talk about or the “high” is essentially the way our brain processes the presence of these cannabinoid receptors once they are activated. CB1 receptors throughout the brain and nervous system modulate movement, memory, cognition, sensory perceptions, and even time perception. According to NIDA, tetrahydrocannabinol “over activates” the functions typically regulated by the ECS, like mood, appetite, cognition, and perception. Ultimately, every person’s brain, endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors are different, which accounts for why everyone’s “high” is unique.
Another excellent fact to take note is that our human anatomy naturally contains this endocannabinoid system, which is involved in many different physiological functions, mainly relating to homeostasis balance. Each of the 100 plus cannabinoids offer a unique ability to return our body to its’ healthy state of balance by decreasing inflammation, decreasing stress and anxiety, battling neurodegenerative diseases, increasing/decreasing appetite, combating multiple sclerosis, and more! The cannabis sativa plant contains cannabinoids which bind perfectly to the cannabinoid receptors in our endocannabinoid system as shown in the figure below. As I always say, there are no coincidences!
Having discussed THC and the Endocannabinoid System, it’s important to mention the increasingly popular cannabinoid - CBD, also known as Cannabidiol, which is becoming widely known for its’ ability to decrease stress and anxiety, pain, seizures, and more - all without the psychoactive effects or the “head change”! How you wonder? Well, the cannabis strain CBD is most prevalent in, is Hemp. The marijuana species, Hemp, contains extremely low amounts of THC, which is why industrial hemp farms are able to legally produce hemp so long as the THC contents remains under .03% of the plant. It is legal to cultivate, produce, and sell in all 50 states due to such low THC contents. Another reason is that the cannabinoid receptors are actually blocked by the CBD vs. how THC activates the CB1 + CB2 receptors. Even though the CBD is blocking the CB1 receptor in our central nervous system it actually increases the THCs’ effect on the CB1 receptor – when THC is present. It is also important to note when using CBD with a low THC % you may not “feel” immediate relief, it’s more along the lines of you may not notice the pain anymore, being a very subtle pain management approach.
CBD has become notorious for being an all-around healer and being perfectly legal in all 50 states, so long the THC contents remains under .03% (in medical/recreational states CBD can be sold in dispensaries that contain higher amounts of THC), the result, companies have been sprouting up left and right claiming their CBD oil/pill/edible/flower/vape/cream/dabs it the best one of them all. So how can you tell a good quality CBD product? Always do your research, the most beneficial parts of the plant when extracting CBD are the leaves and flower buds which contain trichomes. Many of the CBD products offered on the legal market are extracted from the hemp seeds and stalk, which isn’t terrible, but it isn’t as potent.
THC VS CBD, BETTER TOGETHER OR SEPARATE?
This may be one of the biggest debates around right now as commercialized hemp CBD has taken the legal market by storm. A short and simple answer is yes CBD is helpful even when it is isolated without a medium to high THC content, BUT- there’s a big but here, THC and CBD work better synergistically. When CBD is ingested into the body, the automatic chemical response is to bind to the CB1 + CB2 endocannabinoid receptors by blocking them, the magical thing that happens here is when THC is present with the CBD, they actually produce better health effects in what’s called “The Entourage Effect”. This method shows that when the duo are combined they work in harmony to produce more therapeutic benefits such as; CBD helps that anxiety or paranoid feeling you hear people talk about in regards to THC, the combo actually reduces the psychoactive effects, CBD minimizes the sleepy or increased appetite feeling that THC is so commonly known for, and much more. Combining the two would also show great abilities as a muscle relaxant.
In cancer research, combining this dynamic duo has produced more successful results in preclinical research than either cannabinoid alone in some forms of cancer. In glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, adding CBD to a high-THC treatment enhanced the anti-proliferative effects of THC in cell cultures. In breast cancer, CBD was more effective in animal models.
Combining the two cannabinoids may also be useful in cancer symptom management. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management compared the efficacy and safety profile of a THC/CBD spray and a THC-solo spray. While THC alone can be habit forming, patients given the combination THC and CBD spray medication did not seek to increase the dose and it was well-tolerated over a two-week-long study.
Further evidence suggests that combining CBD and THC can improve the pain-fighting properties of the compounds.
HOW TO TRY CANNABIS
Cannabis is not just the traditional flower anymore, she comes in many enjoyable and affective forms such as;
An essential step in getting to know cannabis is to know what your body is wanting it for. Depressed? An uplifting Sativa with a CBD content such as Raspberry Diesel would do wonders. Have trouble sleeping, and definitely don’t want to feel “paranoid”? Purple Hindu Kush is an excellent indica strain that will help. Make sure you ask questions, head to your local dispensary or cannabis consultant to seek information and they can help shed some light on beginning a cannabis journey.
WHAT CAN CANNABIS AID?
Cannabis has been proven in countless studies its’ ability to aid serious illness, pain, depression, and more. The plant ally continues to impress the medical community as more and more studies become available confirming its’ healing benefits.
A few examples of what Cannabis can aid are:
· Skin Conditions
· Digestive Disorders
· Addiction Treatment
· Neurodegenerative Diseases
· Depression & Anxiety
· Eating Disorders
· + more!
Endocannabinoid System - https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/27/1/73/2355171
History of Marijuana Legalization - http://origins.osu.edu/article/illegalization-marijuana-brief-history