CBD is quickly becoming an alternative to over-the-counter medications and traditional therapeutic techniques. Not long ago, it was considered more than just an objectionable substance, and in the eyes of the law carried heavy penalties and fines.
Things are quickly changing, and CBD has recently resurfaced as a substance that can be used in a variety of items, including dog treats, creams, gummies, and tinctures. CBD-derived from hemp is currently legal federally due to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which allows for the use of hemp and hemp-based products, including CBD.
Products made with hemp-based CBD must have less than 0.3% THC and many users support the position that its effects are beneficial. However, there may be some science to back up the assertion that CBD coupled with THC may be more potent.
THC is largely responsible for the “high” users feel when they toke up. Using cannabis without the THC component does not have the same effect.
CBD has hit the spotlight in the last few years for a few reasons. Users have been pushing for its legalization and increased scientific study. New and emerging studies suggest that CBD has powerful effects that can include mitigation of pain, supporting healthier sleep patterns, and may possess cancer-fighting properties.
Although THC has increasingly gained a reputation as a fun and recreational source of getting high, many have eschewed its therapeutic effects. On its own, it has many potential medicinal properties, including reducing pain and inflammation, encouraging sleep, stimulating appetite, and maybe even suppressing muscle spasms. When coupled with CBD, it works synergistically in the body in beneficial ways.
What Is CBD?
There are hundreds of cannabinoids in marijuana. Some of them are found in cannabis in only trace amounts. CBD is also known as cannabidiol, and is a major component of cannabis. CBD has largely been known as the counterpart to THC and lacks its intoxicating effects, meaning that is doesn’t have a high-bringing impact on brain activity or cognition.
Many different varieties of cannabis plants produce CBD and other cannabinoids, including hemp. Hemp is the only legalized source of CBD currently.
CBD works through the body’s endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body. The ECS makes up the regulatory portion of the central nervous system, where pain, memory, movement and other signals could be delivered to the brain and interpreted through various nerve cells.
The regulation of this system is often assisted by the body’s network of cannabinoids, called “endocannabinoids.” These endocannabinoids include neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, such as serotonin and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are responsible for transmitting pain signals, regulating movement, memory, and other essential bodily processes.
Other critical endocannabinoids include anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. These endocannabinoids are similar chemically to many phytocannabinoids that are found in cannabis. They are composed of fatty layers called lipids.
Cannabinoids mimic these lipids in structure, meaning that most components in cannabis, including THC and CBD, are fat-soluble. This is why most hemp extracts include an oily base. Anandamide is heavily involved in directing appetite and pregnancy processes. It is also largely responsible for the “runner’s high” that many athletes experience during competitions.
The 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (or 2-AG) is considered by most experts to be a sister chemical to anandamide. 2-AG helps to moderate our emotions and is linked to depression and feelings of well-being and even sexual processes in humans.
CBD and the Cannabinoid Receptors
Cannabinoid receptors are an important part of the ECS. Without the receptors, there would be no entryway for neurotransmitters to enter the nervous system.
Cannabinoid receptors act like self-regulating doors that pick-up chemicals and deliver them along with the central nervous system to the brain to be translated.
In the case of CBD, these receptors include CB1 and CB2.
However, CBD doesn’t directly impact the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, it indirectly causes a change by modifying how the receptors can interact with other cannabinoids. CBD does activate the TRPV1 receptor that works to control things like pain, temperature, and inflammatory responses. It also directly triggers the 5-HT1A or serotonin receptor.
It occupies these receptors and causes an upswing in chemicals like serotonin and anandamide. These chemicals are responsible for feelings of contentment and motivation. Anandamide and 2-AG can directly bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors.
What Is THC and How Does It Work?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the major components of cannabis and is responsible for its psychoactive effects. It works similarly to other cannabinoid chemicals in the body and attaches directly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Once attached to the receptors, THC blocks the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine causes feelings of euphoria and happiness. THC is known to induce hallucinations and changes in cognition. The effects of THC typically begin between 10 and 30 minutes after consumption and last about two hours.
Motor skills may also be affected, and many users have indicated that high THC content produces “couch lock,” or a feeling of drowsiness and ennui. THC has also been known to impact the hippocampus, which discerns how memories are stored and also the perception of time.
In recent studies, THC has been indicated to increase blood flow to parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex.
This region is responsible for many cognitive functions. These cognitive functions include decision-making, attention, and the body’s motor skills.
THC can often be found in the resinous coating of the marijuana plant. It was first discovered by researcher Raphael Mechoulam. He and his team were able to isolate hundreds of compounds in cannabis but found no psychoactive components. Finally, in 1964, THC was successfully isolated and synthesized. Mechoulam is also responsible for finding the receptors that THC activates.
CBD and THC: A Synergistic Approach
Recent studies indicate that though both components may have beneficial properties when combined, their effects are incredibly potent. This is due to a process termed “the entourage effect.” The entourage effect occurs when two or more compounds interact in a way that makes an effect more powerful and salient.
An example of their synergistic capability includes the results of a 2014 study where experts found some surprising things. In the study, researchers analyzed gliomas, brain cancer masses that are typically fatal. Mice with this deadly form of cancer were exposed to both THC and CBD and experts found that there were reductions in the sizes of the masses.
The researchers also discovered several groundbreaking results. The team found that placing both THC and CBD together even at low doses was just as effective at killing cancer cells as higher doses of each substance given separately. CBD was also instrumental in mitigating THC’s psychoactive effects.
There was further evidence of THC and CBD’s efficacy. When researchers exposed the tumors to traditional radiation treatments, they were ineffective.
However, when the mice were given doses of both THC and CBD there was some discernible reduction in the tumor masses.
THC and CBD are even thought to help with symptoms of dementia. In Alzheimer’s patients, many of them experience a build-up of proteins in parts of the brain, called amyloids.
Other studies where there were significant synergistic effects between THC and CBD included:
- A Salk Institute study found compelling evidence that when both THC and CBD are combined there were significant reductions in protein materials. While neuron cells in a lab were exposed to these cannabinoids, researchers are hoping real-world experiments can soon be conducted and their hypotheses deeply analyzed.
- A 2003 study on participants with severe spinal cord injuries and experiencing loss of bladder control found improvement when given both THC and CBD. Traditional methodologies had proven ineffective.
Final Thoughts on CBD & THC
THC and CBD are major components of cannabis, and while they do work well by themselves, there are definite advantages to them working together. There is mounting evidence that a “whole-plant” approach which includes both THC and CBD would be more effective in combating illnesses and diseases. These compounds have a potent effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The ECS is responsible for regulating temperature, mood, movement, pain, and memory. Although CBD has not been shown to directly affect the ECS’ most important receptors (CB1 and CB2) it can modify them in such a way that the receptors bond differently to other cannabinoids, including THC. CBD and THC can thus significantly impact how the body operates, and researchers are studying these “entourage effects” and whether they can be further enhanced and complemented.
CBD may also serve another function: experts state that CBD may help to mitigate THC’s cognitive altering impacts. THC has been indicated in users having altered cognition, including hallucinations. However, when THC is consumed along with CBD, these symptoms are all but erased.
Further studies may be needed to fully assess how CBD and THC complement one another. What initial studies do show, is that there may be a strong link between the presence of both cannabinoids and beneficial results such as reduction of cancer cells, mitigation of pain, and Alzheimer’s symptoms.