They’re the acronyms on every marijuana advocate’s lips right now, but what exactly are CBD and THC? This quick beginner’s guide will cover the history, structure and properties of these powerful compounds.
THC is the substance that’s been synonymous with marijuana for decades, having been discovered in Raphael Mechoulam’s Israeli lab back in 1964. The laid back 1960s hippie Beatles era was when cannabis made its cultural mark and people started paying attention to the banned plant. When the THC was identified, the simplistic link was made that THC was responsible for all of marijuana’s effects – it wasn’t until much later that we began to understand the complexity of the plant.
However, prior to 1964, scientists studying marijuana couldn’t even isolate its compounds, or learn about and manipulate its chemical structure. They were aware of other compounds, known as cannabinoids, but none was as interesting or game-changing as psychoactive THC.
Nowadays, we are aware that cannabis is made up of many important cannabinoids, not just THC. The other effective compound found in marijuana is called CBD and is often used for medical marijuana purposes. The composition of CBD is similar to THC, with just a slight variation in how the atoms in the structure are arranged. The key difference between THC and CBD is in its effects though – unlike THC, CBD isn’t psychoactive, and therefore users of CBD vape juice and other CBD products don’t get high when medicating.
Scientists have known about CBD for much longer than THC, but have only recently fully realized the extraordinary powerful of the compound and its potential medical uses. The anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties of the cannabinoid are helpful in managing several ailments, including chronic pain, muscle pain, sleeping difficulties and anxiety. In many US states, CBD has been prescribed as a medical marijuana treatment for rare seizures in children.
Furthermore, CBD actually negates much of THC’s psychoactive effects, so when the two are intertwined, such as in full-spectrum medication or in an old-fashioned cannabis joint, you don’t feel as high as you would if you were, say, smoking a pure THC strain. For medical users this is awesome, although recreational users may not be so pleased about the THC! CBD has also been prescribed to chemotherapy patients to help deal with symptoms like nausea.
The cannabis plant does consist of other cannabinoids, around one hundred, but none are as important or well understood as CBD and THC. They don’t give weed its smell though – that’s the job of the terpenes. Hash products typically used by recreational users are much higher in THC than regular strains of marijuana.
Surging interest in the medical industry has led to growers breeding special strains of marijuana that are very potent in CBD, yet contain negligible levels of THC. It’s the consumer who benefits from legalization, which has allowed for the market to progress and for companies to develop marijuana and marijuana-derived products that better suit the needs of their customers.