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CBD vs THC: the full guide  

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two remarkable and rare compounds that define the cannabis and industrial hemp plants as we know them. You have probably heard of hemp-based CBD products, which are now being sold online and in health stores in all 50 US states. And if you have previously used recreational cannabis, you have likely noticed how the THC and CBD content is stated when you purchase a product.

This post intends to cover the following areas:

  • What THC and CBD are, and how they affect the body
  • The therapeutic value of CBD and THC for pain
  • Whether you should use CBD or THC for anxiety
  • The impact of CBD and THC on the brain
  • The negative side effects of THC

In addition to providing scientific insight and boosting your understanding of the compounds, we’ll study how to use CBD and THC products safely and effectively. Ready to learn? Let’s get started.

What exactly are CBD and THC?

While you may have heard of CBD and THC, do you know specifically what they are and why and how they affect the body? Cannabis science is undeniably complex, but we have broken it down so that you can easily understand the broad influence of these two compounds.

CBD and THC are cannabinoids – a type of compound that interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD and THC are just two – but easily the most abundant – cannabinoids of more than 100 that have so far been discovered. Cannabinoids are found sparingly in the plant kingdom, and are contained almost exclusively within the cannabis species.

CBD vs THC effects

THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid, but CBD is not. This stark contrast between the cannabinoids comes down to how they interact with CB1 receptors – these ECS receptors are located in the central nervous system. THC latches onto CB1 receptors as an agonist. This has an effect on several variables, such as pain perception and appetite, but most notably mood. CBD, meanwhile, is a CB1 receptor antagonist, so blocks rather than stimulates activity at the cannabinoid receptor. However, CBD does regulate CB1 receptors. This explains the therapeutic effects we will later explore in more detail.

Other cannabinoids to be aware of include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), cannabidivarin (CBDV) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Some, or all of these are present in small concentrations in cannabis and hemp strains. The subtle influences of these compounds can change a strain’s overall effects.

CBD oil vs THC oil

CBD oil – whether it’s full-spectrum or isolate – is very easy to find. Hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC content are no longer restricted by federal law. They can be sold by companies providing they are styled as “dietary supplements” and not medicines.

This has been great for CBD’s advance into the mainstream. People can do their own research on the potential of various products, and then try them out. And with CBD not causing a high of any description, users are generally comfortable about trialling products, dosing at different times of day. High-CBD oil’s benefits have been discussed often by the media, with the difference between them and regular cannabis being made crystal clear.

In contrast, THC oil is nowhere near as accessible. This is because THC is still a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The United States federal government has not yet changed its stance on recreational or medical marijuana. The relaxation on laws surrounding therapeutic and recreational THC-rich products has all come at state level.

This has been great for spreading the word about the cannabis plan. We are beginning to see how a legal market can work. But it does restrict the types of cannabis product that Americans are able to access.

CBD vs THC for pain

Cannabis has re-emerged as a popular remedy for chronic pain management. There is a history of cannabis use for this purpose which dates back thousands of years. But with our modern understanding of cannabis and its cannabinoids, what form of the plant is most effective for pain?

For many years, it was believed that the psychoactive THC was necessary in any cannabis mix that was used for pain relief. And the ECS logic was fairly sound. As a CB1 receptor agonist, THC reduces the body’s sensitivity to pain. THC is, therefore, very therapeutic for migraines, a nerve pain condition called multiple sclerosis (MS) and other illnesses with pain symptoms.

However, more recent studies have revealed that CBD is also beneficial for pain. This is thanks to its indirect regulating of the CB1 receptor, and actions on other receptors. It is great to know that it’s possible to treat pain in this way. The intoxicating effects of THC have certainly stopped cannabis from becoming legal earlier and being widely used.

Both CBD and THC are much safer to take for pain relief than opioid painkillers, however. These drugs have acquired a horrible reputation for causing addiction and overdoses. If you are going to use a CBD or cannabis product to ease pain, a strain or vape juice with indica terpenes may be preferable to a sativa. Indica-dominant products have more of a relaxing effect on the body.

CBD vs THC for anxiety

CBD has shown really promising effects on anxiety disorders. A few scientific studies have now been conducted on CBD’s value for the condition. The relief is quickly administered, with CBD appearing to address imbalances between inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters. The serotonin system may also be implicated in CBD’s anxiolytic properties.

The value of THC for reducing anxiety is less clear. The cannabinoid may even have negative side effects – anxiety and paranoia are quite common among recreational cannabis users. This is understandable. CBD increases activity in the brain, rather than decreasing it as CBD does. This causes the brain to think more than it would in normal circumstances.

However, the setting in which the user is taking cannabis may also influence if it causes anxiety. A negative environment is likely to lead to unhelpful thoughts. In contrast, a positive environment is conducive to a better experience. Psychoactive substances are poorly understood, and the overall effect they have on mental functioning is unclear.

But CBD products look to be better for anxiety patients than THC products. No psychoactive effects are better than some when tackling this mental condition. For best results, use a product that acts fast, such as a tincture oil or e-liquid.

CBD vs THC for sleep

Better sleep quality is achieved by ensuring both the mind and body is relaxed and soothed. The cannabis plant is used in its entirety to combat insomnia. But most users prefer indica-rich strains to amplify the calming properties. This suggests that a high-CBD product may be more effective than a high-THC option. A highly psychoactive cannabis product could make the brain too active for sleep. Hence why energizing sativas are preferred in the daytime, rather than the evening.

CBD is a sleep regulator. The circadian rhythm is vital for our sleep pattern, as it releases and suppresses hormones at specific times of day. For instance, the uptick in melatonin at night naturally relaxes the body for sleep. By getting the circadian rhythm in check, CBD simply helps the body to do its job. A regulated circadian rhythm is also key to deep sleep. Mental and physical healing occurs in this phase of sleep. Most people opt for an enduring CBD product for sleep, like edibles. The longer effects are necessary for relieving pain symptoms which may disrupt sleep, and for keeping sleep apnea at bay throughout the night.

CBD vs THC for the brain

CBD and THC influence the brain quite differently. The former is neuroprotective, and while the latter can be helpful, it is also neurotoxic in large quantities. This suggests that using high-THC products often could cause cognitive problems in the short and long-term. The risks of regular THC usage are further exacerbated by a lack of CBD.

Some take CBD to boost memory and general cognition. The nootropic market is flourishing, to help in day-to-day life and as study aids. CBD appeals because we know it’s safe, unlike some of the synthetic products available. The cannabinoid impacts the hippocampus positively, spurring growth – this effect is called neurogenesis. CBD also repairs sections of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which may help to manage depression.

However, some people swear by THC. Many believe psychoactive substances to have a helpful mental effect if used sensibly. THC is a light psychoactive drug in the grander scheme of things. Altering consciousness may help the brain to form healthier patterns. This applies if you are doing something rather productive while under the influence, as opposed to laying on the couch watching movies. Everyone responds uniquely to psychoactive drugs. It’s impossible to say how any single person will be impacted.

Negative side effects of THC

THC comes with more risks than CBD, and everyone should be aware of these before using high-THC products. The anxiety and paranoia side effects do not occur in everybody. But those who have not experienced cannabis previously should start in a relaxed environment. This will allow the brain to adjust to the changes, without causing a freakout.

Researchers need to assess the dangers of regular THC-rich product use. But some cannabis users do suffer from motivational and memory drop-offs. CBD studies have found that these declines can be reversed. This strengthens the argument that people should take natural cannabis products, and not super-strength THC products. Be wary about THC-isolate products for that reason.

There is also a slim chance of THC triggering psychotic episodes. People predisposed to psychosis and schizophrenia are the only ones at risk. But those with a history of mental illness should be cautious about smoking weed or taking edibles.

Final thoughts

It’s perhaps impossible whether CBD or THC is better. Their health benefits are quite different and people have different reasons for using each. The former is preferable among those who just want the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, and are not willing to expose themselves to the psychoactive effects. THC is more suitable for recreational users, who want a pleasant ‘high’ from their cannabis use.

However, a CBD and THC treatment may be better for some medical conditions. The ‘entourage effect’ provides a synergy that boosts the therapeutic value of cannabinoids. Furthermore, recreational marijuana usage may be healthier and more sustainable with strains that have balanced concentrations of the two. Personal preference and requirements are ultimately the biggest factor.

Do you use CBD products, or smoke weed medically or recreationally? Drop us a line about the type of products you use. Please share why you use them and how they affect you. We want to hear from you!

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