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July 16, 2021
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8
 min read

CBD vs. THC: Which chemical is better for treating health conditions?

 Anthony Clement
Written by  
Anthony Clement
on 
July 12, 2021

table of Contents

Comparing CBD vs. THC is often hard. Both of these substances may provide wellness benefits, but they also have some specific, unique traits.

As you compare CBD vs. THC, you begin to notice that these cannabis compounds have a lot of similarities. Both of them carry medical benefits and have a very strong impact on the human body. Experts categorize them as cannabinoid substances. 

Depending on how you use CBD and THC, you can experience a lot of different effects. People generally utilize these cannabis derived compounds as dietary supplements. However, you can also use recreational marijuana for its psychoactive effects.

In this article, we will take a look at these two chemical compounds and analyze how they work. We will also focus on their potential health benefits.

What is CBD?

CBD or cannabidiol is a substance commonly derived from the hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa). We can also get it from the marijuana cannabis plant but in a much lower concentration.

CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoids system, potentially improving how our bodies work. Scientists discovered this substance in 1940, and since then, they have performed various research revolving around its medical benefits. Hemp derived CBD is very potent, and experts believe that this substance is the future of the wellness industry.

It is worth noting that hemp products have low THC concentrations, making them much safer compared to their marijuana counterparts.

What is THC?

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive compound that we get from the marijuana plant (Cannabis Indica). Although we often refer to these products as medical marijuana, they can have some nasty side effects. Besides the fact that high THC levels can get us high, prolonged use of the substance can cause long term damage.

According to data, marijuana cannabis products such as THC oil will increase dopamine secretion. This chemical improves mood and brings us pleasure. So, as we continue using marijuana cannabis oil or flower, we will start feeling more and more euphoric.

Due to this, THC products can cause dependence.

How do CBD and THC affect our bodies?

Scientists are still studying these substances. We have somewhat limited knowledge regarding their internal mechanisms. Most likely, cannabinoids provide medical benefits by stimulating cannabinoid receptors that are a part of the endocannabinoid system.

As these chemicals stimulate CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors, they might regulate how the system works. It is worth mentioning that CBD and THC might have different impacts on the receptors. According to a few studies, it seems that CBD is more of an antagonist while THC is an agonist. In other words, CBD inhibits binding, and thus, it shouldn't be able to stimulate the receptors. So, one of the theories is that CBD needs to be used together with THC in order to bind to receptors and achieve the desired results.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for various internal functions such as pain, sleep, stress, etc. More importantly, it helps our organism achieve homeostasis or natural balance. In that sense, CBD and THC will not necessarily improve our functions, but they will just restore them to their optimal levels.

While both of these substances provide wellness benefits, they affect us differently.

It is said that high CBD medicinal cannabis strains provide an uplifting, clear headed sensation. They are great for improving alertness, focus and boosting our energy levels. As such, the substance should be used in the morning or during the day.

Marijuana strains with high THC content will make us drowsy. They also cause intoxicating effects compared to industrial hemp. As such, the substance is great for pain relief and sleep related problems. Consumers usually take it in the evening.

Why are CBD and THC so impactful?

Although their ability to stimulate the cannabinoid system is amazing, there is another reason why CBD and THC are so potent as wellness chemicals.

Basically, these two substances have a similar chemical structure as the cannabinoid products by the human body. Our organism doesn’t perceive cannabis derived THC and CBD as foreign, synthetic cannabinoids, but instead, it sees them as part of the body. 

Endocannabinoids within the human body work as neurotransmitters. In other words, they are able to relay information from one nerve cell to another. As such, they can regulate how the body works. THC and CBD can be great for improving mood, stress, pain, focus, sleep, immunity, protection, regeneration, and various other functions.

All in all, CBD and THC are able to mimic the function of naturally produced endocannabinoids.

Understanding CBD to THC ratio

To our body, it doesn't matter if a substance is derived from marijuana or hemp plant. The only thing that matters is the total quantity of cannabinoids, as well as their ratio.

As mentioned before, hemp has very high quantities of CBD with low THC concentrations. Marijuana has the opposite chemical structure. In reality, most of the products on the market are hybrids. That means that their ratio can vary significantly. Even if a product is classified as hemp, it might have abnormally high THC levels. The same goes for marijuana.

CBD to THC ratio is very important for understanding potential benefits. For example, strains with lots of THC and little CBD will make you sleepy, and they might help with the pain. Substances with lots of cannabidiol and trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol are more likely to increase your alertness, focus, memory and improve muscle function. By experimenting with ratios, you can find just the right chemical for your needs.

Another thing worth mentioning is that CBD often works by suppressing THC’s psychoactive effect. In other words, if a strain has a lot of cannabidiol and trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, it will be hard to notice an intoxicating impact. If a product still has the same trace amount of THC, but it's CBD content drops, the psychoactive effects will become more noticeable.

Benefits of CBD and THC

Studies surrounding CBD’s and THC’s wellness benefits are still somewhat limited. In most cases, our knowledge is based on user feedback. According to it, here are some of the things that CBD and THC can help you with:

  • Increase of mental focus
  • Improvement of mental clarity
  • Increase of energy
  • Reduction of muscle soreness and general pain relief
  • Reduced stress levels, which may affect certain conditions
  • Better, smoother skin
  • Longer, uninterrupted sleep
  • Increased joint flexibility
  • Increase in appetite

While these two products do have some similar benefits, they might also differ in that sense. The best way to tell what kind of an impact a CBD or THC product will have on your body is to simply try it. As mentioned, a lot of medical cannabis products are based on hybrids so, they will have both chemicals within.

What are the side effects of CBD vs THC?

Generally speaking, most health organizations regard CBD as a safe substance. The same cannot be said for THC.

Nowadays, most countries have legalized medical marijuana items. As long as the product has less than 0.3% THC, it should be legal in numerous countries. If it has a higher THC concentration than this, it is regarded as medical marijuana, and it might be prohibited.

CBD side effects are usually milder. They might include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Change in appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth

Keep in mind that most of CBD’s side effects will vanish as soon as the product leaves your body. Also, you shouldn’t experience any long term consequences after using cannabidiol. 

THC is much more volatile. Here are some things you might experience:

  • Change in mood
  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Memory loss
  • Altered judgment
  • Loss of coordination
  • It might affect brain development
  • THC might lead to cognitive problems
  • Psychosis

Whether we’re talking about CBD or THC, side effects are more likely to appear as you increase the dosage.

Are CBD and THC legal?

As already mentioned, CBD is usually treated much more favorably.

According to the European Court of Justice, if you extract cannabidiol from the cannabis plant, it shouldn't be regarded as a drug. These laws might vary a bit from country to country, but most EU members are working towards simplifying CBD laws and legalizing all parts of the hemp plant. 

Things are a bit more complicated in the US.

With the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from the list of controlled substances. However, there is still a lot of control surrounding these plants. If you wish to grow industrial hemp (regardless of the state), you will need a proper license. In some states, hemp can be illegal, depending on the product type. For example, edibles are more scrutinized than CBD oil and topicals.

Buying a THC product is much harder.

If you wish to use THC rich substances, you will likely need a doctor’s prescription. Some states and countries completely prohibit the use of marijuana based substances, while some more liberal places allow all types of cannabis products, including recreational marijuana.

Is CBD or THC better for drug tests?

Contrary to popular belief, companies and organizations don't test for CBD. Instead, they only perform THC screening.

Nevertheless, you can still get into trouble when you use CBD oil. Depending on the product you're using, you might introduce a small quantity of THC in your body. For example, while CBD isolates and broad spectrum CBD are completely devoid of the substance, the full spectrum will have trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol.

Anyway, you should definitely avoid THC oil due to its high THC concentration. Just to be on the safe side, make sure to use isolates, as they should have this psychoactive chemical.

Larsen, C., Shahinas, J., (2020), Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials, Journal of clinical medicine research, Brossard, Québec, Canada

Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7092763/

Johnson, J., Lossignol, D., Burnell-Nugent, M., Fallon, M., (2012), An Open-Label Extension Study to Investigate the Long-Term Safety and Tolerability of THC/CBD Oromucosal Spray and Oromucosal THC Spray in Patients With Terminal Cancer-Related Pain Refractory to Strong Opioid Analgesics, Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

Online: https://www.jpsmjournal.com/article/S0885-3924(12)00439-3/fulltext

Laprairie, R., Bagher, A., Kelly, M., Denovan‐Wright, E., (2015), Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, British journal of pharmacology, London, the United Kingdom

Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4621983/

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