Difference Between THC, CBD, and Other Cannabinoids
Before now, I had this unbearable pain in my back that wasn’t going away despite the pills I took. Then, I heard about the amazing benefits of hemp, CBD, THC, and other components from the cannabis plant.
Yet, I was confused about the right steps to take. My research unearthed an awful lot of stuff – from gels to topicals, tinctures, gummies, oils, and even patches.
There I was, picking at my nails while the awful pain was cramping my lifestyle and making work unbearable.
Each of these products seemed to share the same ingredients. Sometimes individually, other times, in combination, with percentages that didn’t make any sense.
How do I choose what’s right for me? Surely, they aren’t all the same.
The Cannabis Plant And Cannabinoids
And that’s the fascinating truth. The Cannabis plant has over 150 different elements. We can roughly group them into phytocannabinoids (or simply cannabinoids) and terpenes.
Phytocannabinoids have their names because they interact with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system exists in humans, dogs, cats, etc. This system is responsible for many functions, including sleep, appetite, mood, pain, and many more.
Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system to restore or maintain balance.
However, all cannabinoids don’t react similarly to the endocannabinoid system. That’s why they deliver different effects and benefits.
CBD (Cannabidiol)Yet, Researchers have not studied all the phytocannabinoids in cannabis; moreover, there are eight of them that are becoming more popular.
THC ( Δ9–Tetrahydrocannabinol or Tetrahydrocannabinol)
Of the eight, CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC ( Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most researched and popular. CBD and THC make a massive chunk of the cannabis plant. The remaining 144 cannabinoids, alongside terpenes and other lower compounds, share the remaining portion.
Besides the cannabinoids, the cannabis plant also contains terpenes (or terpenoids). You can find these terpenes in the bud or flower of the cannabis plant. They also provide calming effects and provide pain relief without the high impact of the cannabis plant. Usually, products with CBD or THC also contain these terpenes. We will discuss why the latter in this article.
Let’s look at the major differences between THC and CBD and how they interact with the body.
What is CBD?
CBD or Cannabidiol is the most popular cannabis product on the globe. It offers many amazing effects and is beneficial to the body.
Research links CBD to offer positive benefits for conditions such as seizures, inflammation, pain, nausea, migraine, anxiety, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, psychosis, or mental disorders. CBD can also induce rest and recovery.
It delivers all these benefits without the psychoactive effect (‘high’) that comes from the cannabis plant.
What is THC?
THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is the reason why we get the ‘high’ effect from the cannabis plant. It also provides pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits like CBD.
However, the psychoactive effect, alongside potential co-ordination problems, memory loss, increased heart rate, are the reasons why you shouldn’t use it except under supervision. Long-term use also leads to adverse psychiatric effects.
What Makes CBD and THC Different?
As said earlier, cannabinoids interact differently with the endocannabinoid system. This interaction is quite complicated. In the human body, it is linked to how they interact with two receptors CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors have more dominance in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found more in the peripheral nervous system.
Whatever affects CB1 receptors will affect the brain and spinal cord and will most likely have a psychoactive effect (the ‘high’ feeling).
Whatever affects the CB2 receptors will affect the rest of the body to reduce inflammation without producing the ‘high’ feeling.
When THC (enters the endocannabinoid system), it binds to the CB1 receptors, which doesn’t affect your heart or breathing like opioids but will trigger that state of ‘highness’ or euphoria.
In contrast, CBD (Cannabidiol) binds more to the CB2 receptors. This is why it helps reduce inflammation without being psychoactive.
However, this doesn’t mean that the CBD or THC only binds to one receptor. In reality, they may still react with the other receptors and more possibly interact in the way I just explained.
The Entourage Effect: How CBD & THC Work Together
You may wonder why most products contain CBD and THC together. Research suggests that taking CBD and THC alongside the terpenes in the cannabis plant is more effective than taking either CBD or THC alone.
This is because the terpenes and phytocannabinoids interact together to deliver the entourage effect. The entourage effect is a theory that states that all compounds in cannabis work better together than when taken alone.
Studies show that terpenes and phytocannabinoids together offer benefits for anxiety, cancer, fungal infection, inflammation, and pain in conjunction with the entourage effect.
Further studies on terpenes show that they have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. So, when they combine with CBD’s therapeutic potential, their benefits are phenomenal.
Other studies on the entourage effect, but this time, using THC and CBD, shows that CBD may help alleviate side effects such as hunger, anxiety, and sedation from taking THC.
Still, this does not mean taking the cannabis plant as a whole is the best solution. The psychoactive effects of THC still outweigh the benefits for most people. For instance, we don’t all want to get high because we need the medicinal benefits.
So it is better to use ratios of THC to CBD to meet your goals. However, it also affects all of us differently. For someone like me, with muscle pain, my ratio differs from the next person looking for cannabis-based medicine for nausea relief when suffering from Crohn’s disease.
Ratios can be confusing, but the most frequent include 18:1, 8:1, 4:1, 2:2, and 1:1.
- 18:1 or 8:1 (High CBD, low THC) – most people prefer this because they don’t want to get high.
- 4:1 (High CBD, medium THC) – people with some tolerance for THC use this ratio
- 2:1 (More balanced) – people who can tolerate THC use this, but the psychoactive effects are more pronounced
- 1:1 ( a balanced mix between CBD and THC) – Psychoactive
The bottom line: the higher the THC, the more elevated the effect. The higher the CBD, the less high you will get. In the US, the legal limit for THC in cannabis products is 0.3%. This means those products will likely never make anyone high. However, they might still show on a drug test.
Can I Take CBD Without THC?
Because I didn’t want to get high, I was skeptical about products with 0.3 percent THC. That’s where I also uncovered two different CBD products: full-spectrum and CBD Isolate.
Science also confirms that CBD is still highly beneficial without THC. So if you don’t want to take THC, go for the CBD Isolate.
If you would like some THC, alongside CBD and other cannabinoids, opt for Full spectrum cannabinoids.
Difference Between Hemp, Marijuana, And Cannabis
Finally, let’s talk about the difference between hemp, marijuana, and cannabis. Most people believe that they stand for distinct species of the plant, but they don’t.
In reality, they are the same, but they mean different things in the products you can buy.
Marijuana or cannabis often refers to a product with high levels of THC. On the other hand, manufacturers use hemp when they mean that their product has lower THC levels. As said earlier, the legal limit is O.3 percent. This is why you can now find various hemp products, including hemp milk, hemp protein, hemp oil, etc.
Cannabis contains a galaxy of compounds that can produce medicinal and recreational benefits. Although we don’t know all of these compounds yet, CBD and THC stand out from the rest.
Individually, they provide many positive benefits to the body. However, the CBD does not make you high, but the THC does. So for some people, the psychoactive effects of the THC may do more harm.
Still, the entourage effect provides insights into combining THC, CBD, and other components of the cannabis plant, to meet your goals.
Nevertheless, research is still ongoing, and we don’t know everything about the entourage effect. But it promises, to find ways that CBD or any other cannabinoid can modulate the consistently unwelcoming effect of the THC.
Regardless, my goals differ from yours – so my ideal ratio of CBD and THC for pain relief differs from yours. Overall, make sure to read the fine print before making your purchase.