Both Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are natural compounds found in the cannabis plant. While they have identical chemical compositions, the major difference between the two is that THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not.
And this difference is crucial to understanding the way each compound works. Due to this essential difference, THC has been labeled as “unsafe” and CBD as “safe”, but things are not that simple when it comes to CBD vs THC.
In this article, we will detail the differences between these two compounds, and you can make an informed decision on which might be best for you.
What Are Medical Cannabis and Hemp?
Table of Contents:
- What Are Medical Cannabis and Hemp?
Nowadays, cannabis is grown for both medical and recreational purposes. The cannabis grown for medical use undergoes extensive testing in controlled environments and is of the highest quality. When this plant is grown for medical purposes, the flowers and leaves are cured, and the result is what is commonly known as marijuana. Hemp is in the same genus as cannabis, and they both have the same basic effects on the body, but the difference between them is visible in the growing method.
We have to keep in mind that medical marijuana and hemp are basically the same plant, but grown differently. The growing process gives the two varieties different properties and overall uses. Hemp is usually grown for its fiber, which is then used to manufacture clothing, rope, paper, and other such utilitarian products. Medical cannabis is grown to have larger buds and to increase the strength of the psychoactive compounds it presents.
Cannabis is a plant that can treat plenty of problems, with very little (close to zero) health risks for the users. The reason why marijuana is so effective at treating such a vast array of medical issues is that it contains compounds that mimic the internal harm reduction system present in the human organism. This system is called the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS, and is vital in keeping our health balanced and reducing harm.
How Does Cannabis Affect the ECS?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is fueled by substances that our body produces naturally, called endocannabinoids. These compounds are in charge or regulating vital functions in our body, and making sure they are working properly. Among the functions that the ECS controls, we can mention immune system, appetite, pain, sleep, mood, alertness, and much more.
The ECS kick’s in when we need it the most, namely when our body is under some type of stress. The endocannabinoid system will then start working on fixing our organism and regulating our parameters.
Medical marijuana contains compounds that mimic the effects of the endocannabinoids, thus supplementing our bodies with these vital compounds. Sometimes our organisms need a bit more help to regulate themselves, and the endocannabinoids present in medical cannabis are the perfect supplement for this.
The reason why the cannabis plant has such a vast array of health benefits lies in its innate anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabis is a highly effective natural remedy for pain and inflammation and has been used as such for thousands of years by some cultures. Inflammation is the root cause for a long list of diseases and illnesses, so treating the cause at the right time will save you a lot of pain and money in the long run, and this is where medical marijuana comes in.
Cannabis is among the most pharmacologically active plants with real health benefits. It contains over 400 natural active chemicals, and its unique active components are called cannabinoids. The cannabinoids work hand in hand with terpenoids and flavonoids. These two other chemicals are responsible for enhancing and complimenting the effects of cannabinoids.
Depending on the strain of cannabis, how it was grown when it is planted, and other conditions, we get a series of interesting combinations between the various concentrations of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Each combination is effective at treating a series of specific ailments, depending on their specific characteristics.
All 3 active compounds work together to help your body fight infection, boost your immune system, control muscle spasticity, fight off bacteria and viruses, protect and repair damaged cells, dilate blood vessels, and much more.
Research has found that these three compounds, taken separately, have a less powerful effect than when they are combined in the cannabis plant. The intensity of one compound or another in this mix will determine how effective the plant is for fighting specific diseases.
Medical marijuana is used successfully in easing the symptoms of chemotherapy, general pain, nausea, and also helps a great deal with stimulating your appetite. This is especially helpful for people trying to treat eating disorders or who go through heavy treatments for cancer, which eliminate their appetites.
A cannabis plant usually has over 100 cannabinoid compounds in its genetic makeup. Out of these, the two most important ones from a medical point of view are THC and CBD. They have been proven to yield the most benefits to the human body, and we will detail them in the following.
What are THC and CBD?
The vast majority of people, when thinking about marijuana, automatically think about its psychoactive effects, namely “getting high”. This is not entirely wrong, as marijuana has been used for centuries for its effects on the mind and body, but seeing it as just a means to have fun would limit its potential.
Looking past this part, scientists have realized and proven that this plant has powerful health benefits for humans and animals alike. The benefits of medical cannabis, in some diseases, are far greater than the ones offered by pharmaceutical companies through pills and injections.
THC and CBD are the two most popular and powerful cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant. These chemicals are only produced by the cannabis plant and cannot be artificially replicated.
THC and CBD can be found in the crystalline resinous trichomes (crystals) all over the cannabis flower when it reaches maturity. Each strain of marijuana produces different combinations of amounts and intensity for CBD and THC. These two compounds have the same basic chemical formula, but their atoms are arranged differently. Because of this, they have very different effects on our organisms.
What is THC?
THC, known scientifically as Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound found in cannabis that is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties, and a series of healing properties. Due to this effect, cannabis has been made illegal in various countries around the world over time.
The beneficial effects of THC are not mentioned as often as its property to produce mind-altering effects, so not much is known to the general public about the medical benefits of this compound. The reason why cannabis is still illegal in many parts of the US and the world is due to THC at the moment, and its psychoactive effects.
This compound is very effective at treating a number of health issues, and also help prevent a series of serious diseases. THC also has benefits that CBD does not. For example, while THC can help you get to sleep and provide a good rest, CBD will have the opposite effect, keeping you awake and on your toes.
What is CBD?
CBD, known scientifically as cannabidiol, is the other vital chemical compound found in cannabis. It does not get the amount of attention as THC because it does not have psychoactive properties and is not illegal. It does not affect your cognitive abilities in any way and has absolutely no side effects. In short, you can’t “get high” from it. This compound is similar to THC for its beneficial properties, as it can help treat inflammation, cancer, nausea, and can provide pain relief.
What this compound has over THC, is its ability to treat a wider range of affections. CBD is successfully used to help with depression, a wide range of mental illnesses, anxiety, and much more. This is the main reason for which CBD is chosen over THC for medical purposes and use.
CBD is also known for reducing the side effects of THC (psychoactive effects), and when used together in the same medicinal treatment, yield a much better result with zero health risks. This amazing compound is available today for virtually anyone to use, and comes in the form of oils, capsules, powders, lotions, and pretty much any commercial form known to the modern market.
How Do CBD and THC Work?
CBD, when assimilated by the human body, interacts with the endocannabinoid system and produces a wide range of effects in different parts of the organism. It comes in contact with two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.
- CB1 receptors are found throughout the brain and have an important role in determining functions like memory, sleep, mood, pain, and appetite.
- CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and are responsible for controlling inflammation.
These receptors are normally activated by the endocannabinoids that our bodies produce naturally. These are anandamide and arachidonoyl glycerol. CBD, when inside your body, will actually work indirectly to stimulate the production of your natural endocannabinoids, as opposed to THC, which activate your receptors directly.
THC, once in the brain, actively stimulates it to release dopamine, and activates the cannabinoid receptors that control a number of activities in the brain. This leads to an overall feeling of relaxation, and mellowness. Depending on the individual, some senses light smell or hearing can be temporarily enhanced. Other effects include mood-altering, as you may feel a series of emotions induced by the THC.
This compound is known to change the way we think about certain subjects, and views on the world. It also alters the perception of time and can affect memory. These effects occur between 10 and 30 minutes after consumption and is generally known as a “high”.
CBD and THC – A Head to Head Comparison
CBD is found in all cannabis plants, and also in industrial hemp plants which have no psychoactive properties.
THC is found as follows in these strains of cannabis plants:
- Indica: high concentration
- Sativa: low concentration
- Ruderalis: close to 0% concentration
- Anti-oxidant: helps your brain stay in top condition
- Anti-depressant: helps with depression and anxiety
- Anti-psychotic: helps treat psychosis
- Anti-inflammatory: relieves pain and inflammation
- Anti-convulsant: helps with seizures
- Anti-cancerogenic: helps combat and prevent cancer tumors
- Reduces nausea
- Helps stop vomiting
- Relaxation: induces a state of well-being and a relaxed mood
- Analgesic: relieves pain and reduce inflammation
- Euphoria: commonly known as a “high”
- Appetite stimulant: induces the need to eat, even when full
- Drowsiness: induces a relaxed state that can easily lead to a deep sleep
- Distortion of time: makes time seem to pass quicker or harder
- Intensified senses: some senses like smell or touch can be intensified
CBD is used to treat, prevent and even combat the following ailments: anxiety, depression, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, frequent migraines, arthritis, post-op nausea, effects of chemotherapy, stress, inflammation, and a series of sleep-related issues.
THC is used primarily to treat the following: stress-related disorders, pain, inflammation, trouble sleeping, nausea, and vomiting. It is also used to relieve the symptoms and side effects of illnesses or major medical procedures such as chemotherapy, post-op nausea, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, various injuries that cause long-lasting inflammation in the body, and glaucoma.
CBD: While CBD has been and is extensively studied and researched, there appear to be no long-term or short-term side effects when consuming this compound on a regular basis or occasionally. CBD, unlike THC, is not psychoactive, and there is no risk of overdose or toxicity from over-consumption. Studies have shown that patients subjected to high dosages of CBD have not had any side effects in regards to digestion, food intake, movement, brain function, blood pressure, heart rate, or any other measurable parameters of the human body. The bottom line on CBD so far is that it is 100% safe and has no health risks associated with it.
THC: With THC, the side effects vary from person to person, and depend heavily on the amount of THC consumed. The two best-known side effects are paranoia and anxiety, but they are not experienced by all users. This compound is also known to affect, to some extent, the development of parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
The most common side effects with THC are panic attacks, increased heart rate, dry mouth, red eyes, reduced motor skills, anxiety. Some users admit to having more severe side effects such as vomiting, nausea, paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations, but these usually occur after ingesting large quantities of THC. Additionally, if you get you THC from smoking cannabis, you are at risk for potential lung diseases and a series of respiratory disease on a long-term basis.
What Is The Legal Status Of These Compounds?
Most states around the world have a strict zero-tolerance policy towards THC and marijuana in general. The legal status of CBD is still unclear, and policies toward this compound vary from state to state, depending on the laws already in place.
In most US states CBD is considered illegal as it is made from cannabis, a Schedule I drug, controlled by the federal government. However, CBD can also be made from hemp, a legal plant, and you can buy CBD products in stores or on the internet, in total legality. This seems to be the direction that CBD is going in, full legalization as long as its source is from hemp, and not cannabis. You get the full medicinal effects at no risk.
Bottom Line: CBD Is Used More Than THC In Medicine
Yes, for medical situations CBD is the preferred compound. It has all the benefits of THC but with zero side effects, and no psychoactive effects. Furthermore, THC is classified as a drug in most parts of the world, making it illegal to use it.
THC is regarded as a drug because of its immediate and long-term side effects that result from its psychoactive properties. With THC, the decision was made that the risks far outweigh the benefits. With side effects such as impaired thinking, reduced cognitive and motor skills, altered decision-making skills, and nausea, this compound was deemed illegal and far too risky to be used in medicine.
As opposed to THC, CBD has most of the benefits, but none of the side effects. It comes from both hemp and cannabis and is the legal and safe alternative to THC. CBD does not have any psychoactive effects, nor does it have any negative side effects whatsoever. Moreover, CBD even counteracts the negative effects of THC, making it the perfect solution to balancing out the unwanted effects.
With the legalization of medical marijuana in several US states and several other countries around the world, breeders have begun to develop a strain of cannabis with higher CBD concentrations than THC. This is done in order to extract the maximum health benefits from consuming the plant and minimize the unwanted side effects of the psychoactive elements.
In conclusion, CBD seems to be the best choice if you are looking for a completely risk-free way to improve your health by using cannabinoids to stimulate your Endocannabinoid System and provide your body with the building blocks it needs to keep itself in check.