Discussions and studies into THC vs CBD are growing increasingly common. Laws on cannabis plant extracts are loosening, and new products are emerging to offer natural solutions to common health issues. However, there’s still significant confusion and misinformation around cannabinoids.
The cannabis plant responsible for both CBD and THC is host to over 120 different “Phyto cannabinoids.” These substances are capable of acting on the endocannabinoid system – an internal environment responsible for keeping the body in homeostasis (in balance).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), are two of the better-known and well-researched Phyto cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Which is more effective as a natural remedy? When it comes to THC vs CBD, it’s important to understand that these substances can be consumed separately to achieve different results, but they could be better together. Many people find that using THC and CBD together prompts better results than when they’re consumed separately.
What is CBD? Defining Cannabidiol
Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, is the second most prevalent compound in cannabis or hemp. Originally discovered in the 1940s, this substance has recently achieved significant popularity as a natural remedy for a range of health conditions, including anxiety and chronic pain.
Research into the health benefits of CBD is ongoing. However, current studies reveal its efficacy in improving the symptoms of conditions such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. CBD is also effective at reducing insomnia, chronic pain, and anxiety.
The FDA has now approved a single CBD-based drug (Epidiolex) for severe forms of childhood epilepsy. However, it’s also possible to access CBD in various forms from a host of environments. Some states which legalized multiple forms of cannabis can also offer “full-spectrum” CBD, which contains both CBD and THC.
CBD is widely regarded as a safe and natural remedy for various conditions, with minimal side effects.
What is THC? Defining Tetrahydrocannabinol
When it comes to THC vs CBD, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the one that sometimes requires a prescription to obtain, depending on what state you live in. To access this substance, you will need a prescription for medical marijuana, unless you live in a state wherein cannabis is now legal.
Otherwise known as “Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol”, THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The main difference when it comes to THC vs CBD is that THC has psychoactive properties. It can activate the brain’s reward center and signal the release of dopamine (a hormone associated with pleasure and good mood).
By triggering a higher-than-average dopamine release, THC often causes a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. CBD does not create these feelings of euphoria, so you won’t feel ‘high’ when you consume CBD. Though both CBD and THC affect the endocannabinoid system, they influence different receptors in the brain.
Consumed in the form of medical marijuana, pills, and tinctures, THC can assist with:
- Chronic pain
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chemotherapy side effects
THC rarely causes any dangerous side effects, according to most studies. However, overuse can cause feelings of dizziness, trouble concentrating, drowsiness, vomiting, balance issues, or memory issues.
Both CBD and THC can also interact poorly with certain medications, and may have a more significant impact on some people compared to others.
THC vs CBD: The Main Differences
The most significant difference between THC and CBD is the impact these substances have on your brain. While both substances play a role in maintaining homeostasis, and can positively affect mood and physical comfort, they prompt different responses in the brain. THC can create euphoric psychoactive responses, while CBD has a more mild effect.
Both CBD and THC have chemical structures similar to the natural endocannabinoids in the brain. Endocannabinoids are a kind of neurotransmitter which relay signals between nerve cells in the body. These substances play an important role in various functions, including appetite, sleep, immune system functioning, and mood.
While the molecular structure of THC and CBD are the same, they bind with different receptors in the body. CBD is more likely to cause relaxation and relief from pain, while THC binds with receptors which influence the release of dopamine, creating feelings of euphoria or an altered state of mind.
The sources of CBD and THC can differ as well. CBD can come from both marijuana and hemp and is often derived from hemp to avoid larger quantities of THC. Alternatively, THC comes exclusively from marijuana.
CBD is more widely available on a global scale than THC. Laws frequently change around the use of marijuana, and medical cannabis is accessible in various states. However, the use of medical marijuana containing THC is still illegal under federal law for most states.
Are THC and CBD Better Together?
It’s possible to use CBD and THC separately for different purposes. THC may be the go-to choice for someone with a mood disorder or low appetite. CBD is more likely to help with issues such as chronic pain, chronic anxiety or insomnia.
When considering THC vs CBD, note that the two substances used simultaneously may offer distinctive benefits due to something called the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect refers to cases where two substances work more effectively together due to synergies in chemical structure and response. Full spectrum CBD oil, for example, creates an entourage effect since it contains both THC and CBD.
One study in 2011 found taking CBD and THC together can be beneficial for minimizing pain, inflammation, anxiety, epilepsy and fungal infections.
Notably, when consumed alongside THC, it seems CBD can also help reduce the potential unwanted side effects of THC, such as extreme hunger or sedation. If you’re concerned about the side effects of THC but want to leverage its pain management benefits, a full-spectrum solution may be most effective for you.
The “entourage effect” is a concept needing additional insights from more extensive studies. It’s important to note different people naturally respond in different ways to the use of CBD and THC. Some people will find they are too sensitive to THC, and they prefer CBD for this reason.
Is There an Ideal Ratio of THC and CBD?
Finding the right balance of THC and CBD requires some experimentation. Because CBD and THC influence everyone differently, you’ll need to start with low doses. Additionally, your ratio of THC to CBD will depend on what you’re using these substances for.
If you’re using cannabis-based medicine to remedy chronic back pain, for example, you might need a higher ratio of CBD to THC. Most experts advise using a small dose to begin with, with 5mg or less of THC usually as the starting point for beginners and 5 to 15mg of CBD as the starting dose.
Doctors may also recommend experimenting with timing and delivery methods. Some people have fewer side effects when taking their medication before or after food. Some patients find certain delivery methods, such as vapes, food products, tinctures, capsules, or topical creams work best.
Is CBD Beneficial Without THC?
If you’re living in a state where it is not possible to access THC legally, you can consider using CBD on its own. Even if you can get a prescription for THC, you may prefer to avoid this substance if you don’t feel comfortable with the sensation of “getting high”.
Fortunately, there is plenty of research suggesting CBD can be extremely beneficial on its own. Daily use of CBD can help you unlock health benefits such as reduced pain, improved mood, less anxiety and better sleep.
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