THC vs CBD: Getting to Know Two Major Cannabinoids
March 09, 2022
If you’ve spent any time with our cannabis blog, you know that we prioritize our education focus on the components found naturally in cannabis. From cannabinoids to terpenes, we uncover what makes marijuana such a powerful ally for self care and wellness.
In today’s post, we’re going to drill down even deeper into the similarities and differences between CBD vs THC. This includes how you can leverage each of them for consistent and effective relief from specific symptoms and conditions.
Ready? Let’s get our science hats on!
CBD vs THC: Two Cannabinoids, Different Characteristics
If you’re a fan of medical cannabis, you already know how this revolutionary plant medicine is changing everything from how we fight chronic pain to how we metabolize anxiety and stress, and even how we sleep!
How does the marijuana plant impart such powerful medical effects? They’re due in large part to the cannabinoids, a family of more than 150 plant-based chemicals that partner with our body in some truly fascinating ways.
These compounds interface with a network called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Though it was only identified in the past thirty years, the ECS is now believed by many clinicians to be one of our body’s most important regulatory networks. We’ll return to the topic of the ECS in just a moment.
Possible Benefits of THC
When it comes to CBD vs THC effects, these two chemical cousins are similar in some ways and very different in others. THC is the cannabinoid most directly responsible for marijuana’s distinctive, euphoric “high”—but it does much more than temporarily affect our state of mind. THC is a powerful pain-fighter, in part thanks to its natural anti-inflammatory action. THC’s psychoactivity has medical benefits too: Euphoria has a large effect on our experience of pain.
Beyond its notable pain-fighting effects, THC can help us manage insomnia, and may be particularly suited for soothing nausea and stimulating our appetites. This is especially crucial for those undergoing treatment for cancer or other serious diseases.
Possible Benefits of CBD
Then there’s CBD, sometimes called the “second cannabinoid.” CBD is currently under intense study for a large number of effects, including its purported ability to reduce anxiety and stress. CBD is also the key ingredient in the anti-seizure medication Epidiolex, the first cannabis-based drug to win approval from the FDA.
Like THC, CBD can fight inflammation and pain. But when it comes to CBD vs THC for pain, there’s a very important distinction. Unlike THC, CBD’s psychoactivity goes unnoticed by many people or is very mild, described by some as a gentle cerebral “buzziness.” This makes CBD suitable for daytime use and even pediatric use in certain cases—particularly in the fight against epilepsy and other debilitating syndromes.
That’s a lot for one plant-based medicine to tackle! Believe it or not, CBD’s potential doesn’t stop there. CBD is currently being tested to treat some notoriously difficult conditions to manage, including multiple sclerosis. One review of CBD studies found that the cannabinoid can even help people reduce addictive cravings and behaviors.
CBD vs THC Effects: Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
So, knowing that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are such powerful medicines doesn’t tell us how they do what they do. For that, we need to dive deeper into the story of the ECS.
As we hinted earlier, our understanding of the ECS is still evolving. The process began in the 1960s, when THC and CBD were first isolated in the lab. It wasn’t until the early ’90s—when a biologist identified a receptor for cannabinoids in the brains of lab rats—that the pieces of the puzzle clicked into place.
Soon after that discovery, scientists began to link together the pieces of a network they called the Endocannabinoid System. Since then, our understanding of what it does and how it works has only grown. Today, many researchers believe it’s the single most important regulatory and signaling network in the human body and beyond to the systems of many mammals!
Among other tasks, the ECS is responsible for such functions as:
Proper sleep function
Appetite and metabolism
Communication between cells
What’s more, not all cannabinoids come from the cannabis plant. The body produces natural chemicals called endocannabinoids. They interact with the ECS as well, exerting powerful medicinal effects just like the ones in cannabis do. In a very real sense, it’s as though THC and CBD are “speaking the body’s language” when they interface with the ECS’s receptor cells.
Our understanding of the cannabinoids and the ECS is still a work in progress. More research is underway and even more is needed! Our hope is that this information gives you an idea of the enormous potential of these truly game-changing plant medicines.
Is There a Best THC or CBD? How to Leverage Cannabinoids
The simple answer is “no.” THC is THC, and CBD is CBD. But the two major cannabinoids interact in several ways, some of which are medically quite useful!
If you’ve taken a look at our live menu, you’ll notice that the products we sell include information about both their THC and CBD contents. Why? When we’re looking to elicit specific medical outcomes, cannabinoid ratios are an extremely simple and effective way to understand and predict the product’s effects.
For instance, CBD has been shown to mitigate some of the excessive psychoactivity of THC. That’s important information for those of us who find that too much THC can trigger anxiety or even paranoia. What’s more, this isn’t the only way these two cannabinoids work in partnership.
While it’s still under study, the “entourage effect” describes the beneficial relationships not only between different cannabinoids, but between cannabinoids and terpenes. It’s one reason that many cannabis doctors believe that using CBD in partnership with THC can deliver greater and more impactful effects.
Decoding Cannabis Labels
What about the subjective effects of combining these cannabinoids? Here’s a potential example: A cannabis product labeled as “10:1 THC to CBD” would have ten times as much THC as CBD. How would it make you feel? This cannabis would likely be fairly psychoactive, so we’d advise you to exercise caution if you were using it for daytime relief of symptoms such as pain or anxiety.
On the other hand, a cannabis product labeled “18:1 CBD to THC” would exhibit little psychoactivity, and it could exert strong anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects. If you were looking for a daytime strain that wouldn’t slow you down with intoxicating psychoactivity, this might be a strong contender.
Of course, if you have other questions about how to leverage the cannabinoids for their health benefits, feel free to ask your budtender next time you’re in the shop. You’re always welcome to drop us a line virtually, too. At 3Fifteen Primo, we’re passionate about connecting our customers with cutting-edge medicines that make a real difference in their lives. We’re here to help!