This article goes deep into CBD vs THC, taking a good look at the dominant compounds that give cannabis its unique characteristics and healing power.
Both tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, and cannabidiol, aka CBD, are two best known 113 cannabinoid compounds derived from cannabis.
THC is the notorious OG of cannabinoids, most noted because of its ability to get you high–also the basis of its illegality–and hence, it’s the bad boy of the molecular mix since the 1960s.
Recently, CBD has caught up in popularity to THC due to cannabidiol’s potent medicinal effects on serious conditions like severe epilepsy. CBD does not produce a psychoactive effect like THC, and is sometimes portrayed as the “good guy” cannabinoid that offers some benefits of cannabis without the high.
“CBD and THC both have medicinal but distinct effects. By consuming CBD you will have a different medicinal effect without the high of THC,” says Carolina V. Mitchell, KushyCBD’s chief scientist and director R&D.
Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, common to humans and other mammals. A network with receptors throughout the body; these receptors bind with naturally produced endocannabinoids, as well as plant cannabinoids to create effects on many of the body’s natural processes.
This is how THC produces an effect that makes you feel “high” and can produce a feeling of euphoria–and also why a little too much THC can stimulate feelings of anxiety in some. Many experts, like KushyCBD’s Carolina, would suggest that anyone experiencing anxiety from THC consumption take some CBD to counteract uncomfortable effects. The CBD will work to modulate the effect of the THC.
This insider’s tip is a simple illustration of how cannabinoids interact with each other, as well as other plant compounds (i.e. terpenes), to create an “entourage effect.” This effect is what is referred to when describing the interaction between cannabinoids and other plant compounds that work with endocannabinoid system.
Here are some of the commonly accepted effects of THC and CBD. The effects depend on the administration method, concentrations, and terpene profile:
Some of methods of use for THC and CBD are similar or very different, depending on desired effect. When cannabinoids are being used to treat a specific condition that may also dictate the application method.
Because endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, various methods can have varied effects; from topical applications through the skin, to edibles and tinctures that are consumed and digested or used sublingually, as well as inhalation of concentrates, flower, and oils with use of vaporizers and vape pens.
Both THC and CBD have been in use for thousands of years–millennia before the compounds were identified by Western science–dating back to the first documented recommendation of medicinal cannabis in ancient China.
Prior to advanced research, underground cannabis breeders believed that high levels of CBD in their cannabis plants would have a negative effect on the levels of THC and, so, bred their strains to be more THC-dominant with minimal levels of CBD.
Now, with updated research methods, we know that THC and CBD aren’t trying to cancel each other out, but actually can work harmoniously to produce even more effective benefits. More research is needed to unlock the potential of each cannabinoid compound, but scientific study has been delayed due to U.S. prohibition of cannabis since 1937.
With increasing public interest in cannabis, and especially the medicinal use of CBD, more research is being conducted in KushyCBD’s lab by Carolina and others on the team. They join the expanding community of research professionals around the globe, focused on cannabis research.
Sometimes, when doing your research on THC or CBD, you’ll see terms used like “whole plant,” “hemp-derived,” “hemp seed oil,” or “full spectrum.” They are typically used to describe the type of plant and compounds sourced for extracting cannabis oils and infusions. It gets a little complicated:
- “Whole plant” cannabis or hemp (which is a low-THC, industrial crop related to cannabis), means that whole plants have been extracted, including leaves and flower–though the plant may contain only trace amounts of THC, as is the case with hemp. Cannabis can be bred to varied levels of THC or CBD, depending on how it will be used.
- “Hemp-derived” is as it sounds, but will vary between whole plant hemp-derived oils and oil derived from industrial hemp, typically sourced from seeds and stems, and sometimes called “hemp seed oil.”
- “Full spectrum,” indicates that an infusion contains a variety of extracted cannabinoids and plant compounds, including CBD and/or THC. The ratio of THC-to-CBD (or vice versa) will be indicted on product packaging, and may list other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes.
In fact, all cannabinoids are likely to offer some physiological effects, many of which may have great medical potential. Scientists are identifying and mapping the role each cannabinoid plays, which may produce subtle effects, like CBD, or be heady, like THC.
Clinical study of the interactions between these compounds and how they act in unison to produce synergistic effects is also an important area of research, with potential for affecting many medical conditions.
Until recently, because prohibition, much of the evidence of the benefits of cannabinoids has been anecdotal. Carolina, who discovered her career interest in biochemistry as a teen, has spent much of her life studying cannabinoids and their effects.
“At the age of 16 in my chemistry class, I extracted terpenes such as limonene, and I was making essential oil from cinnamon sticks. I never thought I was going to apply that knowledge almost two decades later and in such an exciting field of science,” explains Carolina.
To read more about Carolina’s history extracting terpenes, read this feature fro
Researchers have found that the endocannabinoid system is integral to maintaining balance, or “homeostasis,” between all the systems of the body, which it does by regulating or modifying physiological processes in the body. This includes triggering processes like cell growth, regulation of hormone production, and autoimmune response, among others.
Supplementation of the endocannabinoid system with naturally occurring cannabinoids has groundbreaking potential to expand methods of treatment for many, as yet, hard-to-treat conditions.
Additional Reading About THC vs CBD
If you’d like to learn a little more about THC vs CBD, here are some additional articles.