At the time of writing, there are well over 100 identified compounds in the marijuana plant. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most abundant, and also the two best-known compounds. Although the title of the article suggests that we are trying to analyze which one is ‘better,’ the truth is, there is no ‘right’ answer to that particular question, because both have their benefits.
More pertinently, it is tough to compare the two because while they may come from the same plant, CBD and THC are very different. The most obvious difference is the fact that THC provides you with a ‘high,’ whereas CBD does not. Also, although you can get CBD products made from the marijuana plant, legal issues mean that sellers tend to extract their CBD from the industrial hemp plant.
Hemp & Cannabis – What’s the Difference & What Can They Do for The Body?
When cannabis is grown for medicinal purposes, the buds (flowers) and leaves of the female plant are cured to create marijuana. While hemp is in the same genus, it is differentiated by the growing method. Marijuana is grown so that the plant has larger buds and a greater level of psychoactive effects, while hemp is grown for fiber material, which means smaller buds. Sellers of both weed and hemp products extract various compounds from the plants and sell them as medicinal therapies.
Ultimately, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the reason why marijuana is such an effective medicine. The ECS is controlled by endocannabinoids, which influence an enormous amount of vital functions including pain, appetite, sleep and much more. That’s why you can use both CBD or THC to help with chronic pain, insomnia or wasting diseases.
Also, the cannabis plant is filled with useful cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids that benefit the human body. THC and CBD are definitely the most abundant of these compounds, and have been the subject of the greatest amount of research. But what are they, how do they work, and why are they different from each other?
CBD & THC – The Superstar Cannabinoids
Up until fairly recently, most people associated marijuana with getting high, which meant that the focus was solely on THC. In recent times, however, CBD and other cannabinoids have been discovered, meaning that suddenly a new door is open in terms of researching the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and both exist within the crystalline resinous trichomes that cover a mature marijuana flower. However, each strain produces very different amounts of each compound.
THC is found exclusively in the cannabis plant, for example, while CBD is found in cannabis AND industrial hemp. And for the record, cannabis is a flowering plant while hemp is grown mainly for the seeds and fiber – as such, it only has tiny amounts of THC.
What is THC & How Does It Work?
THC is the first true star of the marijuana plant and is the main reason why you get high; it is also the reason why weed is illegal and legendary! While there is no doubt that a high THC strain will alter your mind, the compound also has medicinal benefits that are overlooked all-too-often.
When THC penetrates your brain, it stimulates the cells and results in dopamine release. THC also activates your cannabinoid receptors, which have an impact on your brain in many ways. While some THC strains give you a burst of energy and creativity, the result is always a mellow feeling as the high takes over the body. In particularly strong strains, the effects can hit you within 10 minutes. Here are some of the typical effects of THC:
- Increase in appetite
What is CBD & How Does It Work?
CBD does not cause intoxicating effects, and it is typically used for medicinal purposes since there is no ‘high’ attached. While scientists have yet to determine how CBD works in the body, research shows that there is a definite interaction with the ECS. In the ECS, CB1 and CB2 are the two main cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and play a significant role in memory, sleep, mood, appetite, pain sensation, and more.
CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are typically found in the immune system and are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of weed. While THC directly affects both receptors, CBD acts indirectly on them and boosts the level of endocannabinoids in your body. As well as stimulating this release, it also prevents their natural breakdown. Here are some of CBD’s most common effects:
THC – Why the High?
When it comes to the euphoric effects of marijuana, we must focus on the CB1 receptors concentrated in the nervous system and brain. THC binds well with CB1, while CBD does not. In simple terms, the THC molecule is ideally shaped to make the connection – kind of like a plug in a socket. Once this connection occurs, THC stimulates the CB1 receptors.
Additionally, the compound also partially mimics the ‘bliss molecule’ called Anandamide, which is a naturally occuring endocannabinoid. THC’s resemblance to Anandamide means that whenever it activates CB1 receptors, it helps to produce the blissful feelings that we know and associate with weed.
CBD, on the other hand, is an ‘antagonist’ of CB1 receptors which means it is not a good fit. In fact, it suppresses the CB1-activating qualities of THC. In basic terms, it means that CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. For example, if you have a marijuana strain with 22% THC, it should get you stoned. However, if it also has 8% CBD, the psychoactive effects are reduced, and feelings of paranoia should also be minimized.
CBD & THC – Better Together?
Recent research has found that when a marijuana plant’s cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenoids are combined, they work far better for medicinal purposes than any individual compound. The phenomenon is known as the ‘entourage effect,’ and together, marijuana’s compounds can create positive effects that are impossible for any compound to do alone.
A perfect example is the use of marijuana to treat chronic pain. While THC alone does a fantastic job alleviating the pain, CBD can reduce symptoms of psychosis. A combination of THC, CBD, and terpenes have proven particularly effective against depression, arthritis, anxiety disorders, and migraines. In an ideal world, marijuana would be legalized everywhere, but sadly, that isn’t the case which means we’re missing out on the full medicinal benefits of this incredible flower.
In 2014, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize weed for recreational use, and Canada is set to follow suit in 2018. Marijuana is federally illegal in the United States, but it is legal for recreational use in nine states plus D.C., and for medicinal use in 20 other states.
Any CBD product that comes from the marijuana plant is subject to the same Schedule I Drug classification. However, it is legal for medicinal use in 46 states if it comes from the industrial hemp plant, which must have a THC level of below 0.3%.
Final Thoughts on CBD Vs. THC
At present, CBD is more commonly used for medical treatment because of its legal status. However, research has shown that a combination of compounds and terpenes will yield better results. Therefore, if you live in one of the 29 states (plus D.C.) where weed is legal for medicinal use, you will have a much better chance of successfully treating your condition than with CBD alone.
For the record, popular high CBD strains include:
- Charlotte’s Web
- Harlequin OG
- Suzy Q
- Popular high THC strains include:
- Strawberry Cough
- Bruce Banner #3
- Sour Strawberry Diesel
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Godfather OG Kush
Lastly, there have been multiple calls for marijuana to be removed from its ridiculous Schedule I classification but to date, these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In a nation where well over 100 people die from opioid overdose daily, it is way past the time where a safer alternative arrives to the market. Marijuana is that alternative, and because of its combination of THC and CBD, it is an unbeatable medical treatment.