As the interest surrounding hemp and medical marijuana grows around the world, it makes sense that consumers are becoming more intrigued by cannabis. No doubt, while doing research, you stumbled upon a number of terms, like CBD and THC. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two naturally occurring compounds in cannabis, but where they come from and how they affect the body might surprise you.
That is why we have come up with this guide to introduce you to the world of cannabinoids, the differences between CBD and THC, and how both compounds interact with the body. It is because of these dissimilarities that CBD and THC are not treated or used the same way.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Before diving into information about THC and CBD, it is essential to comprehend what cannabinoids are and how they affect the body. Currently, 85 cannabinoids have been discovered within the cannabis genus. A cannabinoid is a chemical compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS (more on this later). The first cannabinoid receptor in the ECS was discovered in 1988, followed by a second discovery in 1993, and more in 1995.
Two cannabinoids have become exceedingly popular around the globe: THC and CBD. Both of these cannabis compounds have nearly identical chemical structures comprised of 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The main difference between the two compounds, though, is how one atom is arranged, making any chemical dissimilarities microscopic.
As for how THC and CBD affect the human body, however, that is an entirely different story.
The Endocannabinoid System
So, the endocannabinoid system—what is it and what does it do? Presently, there is an unfortunate lack of knowledge about this system, but it is generally understand to help regulate the body’s communication between various cell systems.
Our bodies naturally produce a kind of cannabinoid called endocannabinoids, which can act as neurotransmitters with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. Because THC and CBD have a similar chemical makeup to naturally produced endocannabinoids, the body accepts and uses them.
What Is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a prominent cannabinoid produced by cannabis, a genus of plants that produces both marijuana and hemp. THC is found mainly in marijuana and is responsible for the “high” that people experience when eating or smoking marijuana.
Studies have found that THC is highly effective in treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, inflammation, pain, insomnia, and patients suffering from medical conditions like multiple sclerosis. It works by mimicking the effect of 2-AG and anandamine, two neurotransmitters produced by the human body to assist with sleeping, eating, pain perception, and many other processes.
Benefits of THC
THC has the following effects and benefits within the body:
• Heightened or altered senses
• Hunger and thirst
• Helps reduce the side effects of chemotherapy
• Soothes nausea and vomiting
• Reduces chronic pain and inflammation
• Assists with HIV/AIDs
• Lessens tremors from spinal injuries
Reading this, you might be thinking, “Why does THC make you high but CBD doesn’t?” The answer is slightly complicated. To be as succinct as possible, THC produces psychoactive effects because it attaches to CB1 and CB2 receptors, whereas CBD connects solely to CB2 receptors. When THC binds to CB1 receptors, it triggers euphoria, relaxation, and other known effects of being “high.”
What Is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, another cannabinoid found within hemp plants and medicinal cannabis. As mentioned earlier, CBD does not give you the characteristic high of marijuana. That is why CBD is often used for its medicinal properties, because it does not produce the same psychoactive effects of other closely related cannabinoids, like THC.
For CBD oil to be legal within the UK, it cannot contain any THC. For this reason, cannabis oil, which has THC, is not allowed within the United Kingdom.
On packaging, you may notice things like “pure,” “full spectrum,” or “isolate.” At this time, standardized terms have not been agreed upon, so you have to be careful when selecting your CBD. Opt for those that are “pure” or “isolate,” since this most likely refers to the item containing just CBD.
Although CBD isolate is not necessarily better than full spectrum blends, the latter refers to the whole plant. This means that there is more than one cannabinoid present in the product, and that can mean both CBD and THC or something else.
Benefits of CBD
CBD can help with various medical conditions, such as:
• Seizures and epilepsy
• Psychosis or other mental disorders
• Pain, chronic or acute, from cancer, neuropathy, or other conditions
• Headaches and migraines
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Depression and anxiety
• Bacterial infections
• Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis
• Heart disease
• Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
• Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
• and much more
What is the Entourage Effect?
Within all this discussion about the differences between CBD and THC, the entourage effect deserves some mention. The entourage effect is the name of the phenomenon that happens when the 400 or more compounds in cannabis synchronize to create a certain effect on the body.
Let’s say you pick up 100 mg of CBD isolate oil. You might notice it is not as effective at alleviating pain as a 100 mg whole plant blend. There are those who argue that effectiveness is reduced because essential cofactors are not available. This is ultimately caused by variations in CBD oil produced from hemp versus CBD oil from cannabis, as well as cultivation practices.
Again, you need to consider this when deciding what kind of product is correct for you.
THC vs. CBD: Comparisons
Now, let’s look more closely at some sections where THC and CBD can be applied but bring out different results.
THC vs. CBD: Reactivity
One of the main differences between THC and CBD is their influence on the endocannabinoid system, so it is worth repeating. Mentioned previously, CBD and THC interact with the ECS and the specialized receptors, CB1 and CB2. By interacting with CB1 and CB2, both cannabinoids can alter the function of the ECS and encourage homeostasis. That said, the way THC and CBD complete this role is different.
THC will bind to CB1 and CB2 at a much higher affinity than CBD, which is one of the reasons it has a psychoactive effect on the body.
Meanwhile, CBD has less of an affinity for binding to either receptor and usually suppresses CB1 receptors. In fact, it may even act as an antagonist to other cannabinoids, dampening their abilities. CBD can also interact with other kinds of receptors not related to the endocannabinoid system, such as TRPV-1 vanilloid receptors (plays a role in immune response and inflammation) and 5-HT1A (serotonin) receptors.
CBD vs. THC: Side Effects
Studies report that CBD is usually tolerated by users, even when taken in larger doses. Those who take CBD regularly say that they feel calmer, more serene, and more awake. The only time users have reported negative side effects is when there are interactions between drugs and CBD. If you plan on using CBD and are on medications, it is best to speak with your physician first for clearance.
On the other hand, THC may cause the following side effects:
• Memory loss
• Slow reaction and loss of coordination
• Red, bloodshot eyes
• Dry mouth
• Increased heart rate
• Uninhibited behaviour
All of these side effects are temporary and are non-fatal. That said, it is important to note that high levels of THC in the body can produce a negative psychiatric impact on adolescents and young adults. Research has found that excess consumption of THC in teens increases the risk of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.
THC vs. CBD: Pain
Research has found that CBD is better suited for dealing with inflammation and pain caused by neuropathy, or nerve pain, whereas THC works better with cramps and muscle spasticity. However, it has also been found that high doses of THC can make pain symptoms worse. This means that, for the best effect, THC should be taken in smaller doses.
Additionally, you need to keep in mind that THC comes with some side effects that inexperienced users may had difficulty tolerating.
CBD vs. THC: Usage and Availability
Currently in the UK, THC is considered illegal, mainly because of the cognitive effects. CBD is available within the UK and is becoming a popular additive to many products. This means that you can try out a number of CBD products without worrying about THC, and you can even experiment with different dosages to see which is best for you.
Here are some examples of the kinds of CBD products available:
• Vaping – a popular way to consume CBD. Be sure to check out the ingredients to make sure you are getting quality fluid. Cheap liquids can cause lung irritation.
• Edibles – consumable items like CBD-infused water, CBD gummies, and more.
• Oils – you can consume oils with a dropper on the tongue. These mixtures usually contain things like coconut and hemp oil alongside CBD.
• Tinctures – made from herbal extracts and alcohol that are taken by dropping liquid onto your tongue.
• Patches – CBD can be absorbed through the skin, so you can get the benefits without the hassle.
According to the NHS, medical cannabis, which would contain more THC than CBD, is still rarely prescribed. Only those who suffer from rare or severe forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and individuals with spasms and stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis can receive medical cannabis. Otherwise, patients are given highly purified forms of cannabidiol (CBD) in capsule form.
Again, if you choose to purchase a cannabis-based product, you should check the ingredients. Sometimes, even products labelled as “pure CBD” can contain THC and will be illegal to purchase and possess.
In short, the two cannabinoids THC and CBC have multiple similarities. It is easy to see how there continues to be confusion, especially in terms of what to use CBD for and why. When you consider the differences, though, you will find that CBD has more medical benefits and lacks the psychoactive effects of THC. However, both cannabinoids can positively affect individuals based on their needs.
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