With the legalization of marijuana in states such as Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, there has been something of a renaissance in cannabis research. Scientists know more than ever about marijuana and its components, and consumers are becoming even more interested in what makes up their marijuana. One of the most foundational questions people have is about THC and CBD: what are they, and what is the difference between them?
The Short Answer
Both THC and CBD are compounds (cannabinoids) present in marijuana at varying levels, with THC usually constituting a majority of the plant’s makeup. The plant’s THC is what gets you mentally high, while CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects at all, but instead helps the body.
That’s the bottom line, but let’s dig deeper into the scientific side of things.
What is THC?
THC is the common abbreviation for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. This is a compound within cannabis that’s known as a cannabinoid. Most mammals have something called the endocannabinoid system, which is set up to interact with the cannabinoids their bodies produce naturally.
External cannabinoids like those in marijuana, affect our brains by attaching to specialized cannabinoid receptors in the areas that influence pleasure, sensory perception, and concentration, just to name a few.
Once bound to cannabinoid receptors, THC disrupts the normal function of the endocannabinoid system, and you end up high!
THC activates your brain’s reward feedback loop. This means that it stimulates your brain to produce higher levels of dopamine, a chemical that contributes to the pleasure of a high as well as reinforcing the repetition of that behavior.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. Just like THC, it’s a cannabinoid that binds to the corresponding receptors in the brain. But unlike THC, it won’t get you stoned, not even a little bit. Instead, CBD is reported to soothe a number of serious medical symptoms:
- Seizures: CBD has been proven to reduce epileptic seizures in some children. You may have heard of “Charlotte’s Web”, a high-CBD strain of cannabis that dramatically improved the quality of life of Charlotte Figi. What the Figi family experienced has now been confirmed in the most rigorous type of scientific study possible. There’s no arguing with that!
- Inflammation: A few trials have shown that CBD has protective properties against inflammation, as well as neuroprotective effects against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even Multiple Sclerosis.
- Chronic Pain: One of the most widespread anecdotal reports of CBD is that it can greatly reduce pain from diseases like rheumatoid arthritis even cancer. It presents an appealing and much safer alternative to treatment with addictive opioid painkillers.
- Psychosis: There is some controversy on whether or not THC can produce psychotic episodes in some people susceptible to them but research suggests that CBD can counteract or mitigate these effects.
- Anxiety: CBD can also have beneficial psychological effects for those with anxiety. Studies have confirmed that it acts as an anxiolytic (a drug to reduce anxiety) in animals and that CBD can reduce social anxiety in humans.
Choosing the Right Cannabis
If you’re just looking to get a nice buzz on, there’s not much reason for you to go looking for high-CBD marijuana products. You’ll find that most bud on the market is bred to contain high THC and very little CBD at all.
On the other hand, if your needs are medical in nature, CBD products are definitely the way to go. Products range from topicals to CBD gummies and edibles. And don’t forget that there are many products out there that contain a 50-50 split of THC to CBD, and can provide medical relief with just a touch of psychoactive fun.
A little experimentation should set you on the right path to finding the THC-CBD balance that best suits your needs!
Article By: Spencer Grey