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Assessing the risks of high cannabis potency 

The marijuana plant is enjoying a phenomenal renaissance, going from a prohibited and demonized substance to a medicinal marvel and in-demand legal recreational drug in the space of 20 years or so. Several states across America have embraced full legalization, while more than 30 permit cannabis for medicinal use. Uruguay and Canada have also legalized cannabis medicinally and recreationally. A long list of nations have also embraced medical marijuana to varying degrees, such as the United Kingdom. 

But while the new dawn for cannabis is a huge win for anyone in favor of natural medicine and, on a more fundamental basis, freedom, there is one key reason why all of us – including rmarijuana advocates – should be concerned about the 21st century weed industry: cannabis potency. 

Weed is getting stronger

There’s no getting around it. Today’s pot is many times stronger than what was being smoked in ancient times, and even that which was enjoyed during the 1960s and 70s. The average recreational cannabis user wants to get higher, and higher still, preferring weed with rich concentrations of the psychoactive cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

This is possible thanks to modern science, and savvy growers who have learned how to increase cannabis potency. Research showed that THC was responsible for the ‘stoned’ effect, and new cultivation techniques have taken levels of THC from single digits to in excess of 20 percent. A strain with 20 percent THC contains 200 milligrams of THC per gram. 

Less mentioned in this cannabinoid manipulation is the declining amount of non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) in strains and cannabis products. Research has shown that CBD naturally reduces the ‘high’ caused by THC, hence why recreational growers have sought to breed it out of strains like Gorilla Glue and Girl Scout Cookies as much as possible.

But what are the consequences of stronger marijuana? While the proliferation of this type of weed has been seized upon by anti-cannabis organizations and journalists, the dangers of high-THC weed shouldn’t be simply thrown out as “reefer madness”. In this post, we’ll assess the legitimate risks of super-strength weed, judging from the existing scientific research. Then, we’ll analyze the role CBD may have in promoting more sustainable relationships with cannabis. 

By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know all about:

  • How THC and CBD impact the brain
  • The dangers of cannabinoid manipulation
  • The short and long-term dangers of excessive THC consumption
  • How CBD can ease cannabis side effects
  • Why CBD may help to reverse THC-induced cognitive decline 

CBD vs THC for the brain 

The effects of CBD and THC on the brain occur mostly in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), although there is evidence that the former also influences the serotonin system. CBD is non-intoxicating and considered non-psychoactive. 

CBD products made from the industrial hemp plant are popular herbal remedies for managing anxiety. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved a CBD drug for Dravet’s syndrome, an unusual type of epilepsy – CBD helps to reduce seizures. Both the anti-anxiety and anti-epileptic properties of CBD are a result of calming brain activity. 

In contrast, THC has an excitation effect on the brain, increasing activity, and producing a psychoactive response through binding to CB1 receptors in the ECS. This connection also explains the analgesic and appetite-boosting qualities of THC. The cannabinoid is a highly potent version of the endocannabinoid anandamide, and binds to both cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. 

Which compound is ‘better’ for the brain depends entirely on one’s reasons for using marijuana. The high potency of a THC-rich recreational strain is essential for those who want the psychoactive effects of cannabis. However, for users who don’t want a ‘high’, but mental relaxation and a subtle mood boost, pure CBD products are preferable. Some even use cannabis with a higher CBD and lower THC content for balance – this extracts the synergistic ‘entourage effect’. 

Why interfering with a strain’s natural cannabinoid profile is risky

The ECS is new to modern scientists, but is not a recent evolution in humans. Researchers are confident that it has existed in humans and other life forms for hundreds of millions of years. It’s clear that the ECS is integral to our overall health. Understanding that the ECS is ancient and that our body has learned to interact with phyto-cannabinoids from cannabis and hemp just emphasizes how important it is to keep the plant as natural as possible. 

Some marijuana users fall into the trap of thinking that today’s potent strains pose no risk, because it’s natural and non-synthetic. While this is true to an extent, the 20% THC strains we see now are novel, having emerged only in the past few decades. Our bodies may have worked with cannabinoids for thousands of years. But never have humans been taking such high concentrations of THC before, nor weed with such a lopsided THC to CBD balance. 

The damage this may be causing cannot be fully appreciated, as there simply hasn’t been enough research yet. We simply know that cannabis users are being exposed to a new chemical cocktail. 

However, it’s the fact that CBD and THC can have distinctly opposite effects that is concerning. For instance, research points towards CBD growing the hippocampus, a brain region in the medial temporal lobe. However, large amounts of THC are neurotoxic to the hippocampus. That memory loss and lack of motivation are often experienced by heavy marijuana users perhaps makes more sense now, since the hippocampus is implicated in memory and motivation regulation. 

The dangers of excessive THC consumption and how CBD helps

In addition to super-strength strains, concentrates are also making a splash on the modern marijuana market. These products – such as crystals and wax – are akin to a high potency cannabis strain multiplied by four or five. THC levels often exceed 80% and can go as high as 99%, with THC-isolate products not having any THC at all. While this may deliver a crazy high for weed lovers, the risks posed by such products are clear to see. 

Short-term

Not all users respond well to even a small dose of THC, from a joint or cannabis edible. The distorting effect that the psychoactive substance has on reality can cause bouts of paranoia and anxiety, which often do not subside until the THC wears off. This can be quite scary for first-time cannabis users with no psychoactive experience. Even though marijuana is only a weak psychedelic in comparison to other drugs, it shows the importance of a relaxing ‘set’ and ‘setting’ while tripping. A good mental state beforehand can be key to a happy trip. 

In the event of a THC-induced anxiety attack, CBD is great for cooling off a high. The anxiolytic effect is enhanced by CBD suppressing THC’s psychoactive effect as a CB1 receptor antagonist. A hemp CBD tincture oil promotes quick anxiety relief. All cannabis users could benefit by having a CBD product close by should a trip go wrong. 

Long-term 

In the long run, the effects of excessive THC consumption can be significant on mental health. Psychotic and schizophrenic outbreaks can occur in people who are predisposed to these illnesses. Prescription antipsychotic drugs are available for these disorders, but research suggests CBD may be more effective. 

Experts are studying the CB1 receptor antagonist mechanism that CBD functions in to determine if it could more efficiently treat these conditions, with fewer side effects. That said, it is not recommended that people with psychosis and schizophrenia treat their ailments with CBD oil or any other CBD product, without a doctor’s recommendation. 

For cognitive problems – and especially motivation and memory issues – attributed to abuse of THC, a study has shown that CBD may help. Going back to an earlier point on how CBD and THC are neuroprotective and neurotoxic for the hippocampus respectively, using the former could reverse hippocampal damage. A small investigation featured in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal found that CBD repairs this brain region. And it appears that those worst affected enjoyed the most help from CBD. 

The best cannabinoid mix for hippocampal repair is not clear. Cannabichromene (CBC), another non-intoxicating cannabinoid, also has a neurogenesis effect. Moreover, further research, and a bigger study, is needed to confirm if CBD is a genuine solution here. But the good news is that CBD is safe and can be taken by any otherwise healthy person who has previously had cannabis addiction problems. 

How to test cannabis oil potency

Cannabis potency testing is a job typically left to third-party labs. These have sprung up to give validity to marijuana companies selling their products in an unregulated market. A test looks for the cannabinoid levels in various products. For a recreational weed product, this is usually to confirm the level of THC. For CBD products, a third-party test shows how much CBD is present. The test also shows whether the product is legal. The THC level in hemp-based CBD products must be less than 0.3% of the overall dry weight. 

Purchase a testing kit to find out the potency of a cannabis or hash oil product for yourself. Cannabis potency testing equipment kits vary in price, with some kits able to test for other cannabinoids (aside from CBD and THC), as well as terpenes. CBD potency is less of an issue, as it’s non-intoxicating and not possible to overdose on. Nor do drug tests flag up CBD. 

Which CBD products effectively moderate THC?

Any CBD product will help to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. The ideal product for you depends on how quickly you want it to work. Standard potency CBD gummies made from hemp oil can take up to an hour to fully kick in. However, vape cartridges provide an active hit of CBD in just a few minutes. The ideal dosage will be decided on how much THC you have taken and need to suppress. 

Get more from hemp and CBD with a full-spectrum product. The likes of HempBombs and CBDistillery bring the whole plant into play. This makes their CBD more therapeutic than CBD-isolate solutions because of the entourage effect. Although, some find when calming their high that a product with just CBD is better. Trying both is the only way to know which is best for you. 

Final thoughts 

There are certainly risks with the high-strength weed that dominates the cannabis industry today. In the coming years, as cannabis research increases, our currently thin knowledge will increase. But while the dangers may become more apparent, the benefits of CBD products are  also incredibly promising. 

It could be that even those who have abused cannabis previously can recover their full cognitive abilities with CBD treatment. New cannabis users, however, may be best off using one-to-one strains. These balance the CBD and THC. And for no high at all, high-CBD strains work even better. The weed market has expanded so much, and there are now premium products for all users.

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CBD health benefits for physical wellness

If you are yet to use a hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) product, then you’re missing out! This non-psychoactive compound is being used to manage a range of illnesses and health issues, from arthritis to acne, and depression to migraines. CBD is even helping some people to give up smoking, and may be effective for other addictions, too.

There’s tons to discuss regarding CBD’s natural health benefits. In this article, we will focus on how CBD can be used to improve physical wellbeing. When you’ve finished reading, you’ll be familiar with the following:

  • How CBD helps to relieve pain
  • The benefits of CBD as an anti-inflammatory
  • CBD’s anti-addictive properties
  • How CBD is helpful for the skin
  • Which CBD products work best for various conditions
  • How CBD boosts your endocannabinoid system

And we’ll also briefly go over some other illnesses, such as epilepsy and fibromyalgia. But first, let’s look more closely at what CBD is, and get a basic idea of how it influences the body.

What is CBD and how does it work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural cannabinoid that enhances health by interacting with receptors in the body. The subtle direct and indirect effects of CBD produce a number of therapeutic effects, inside and outside of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD is not like standard cannabis, in that it doesn’t make you ‘high’ or ‘stoned’.

In fact, CBD products are not made from the usual marijuana that people smoke for the euphoric effects, but hemp. This is a cannabis plant that has hardly any of the intoxicating tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) necessary for a psychoactive response. CBD used to be prohibited by the United States federal government, since it is a natural derivative of cannabis.

But hemp reform now permits CBD from the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, and hemp products are not restricted if they have less than 0.3 percent THC content. This has opened the door for a booming hemp-derived CBD market, which has shone a light on CBD oil’s benefits for physical conditions.

What are the health benefits of CBD?

CBD has numerous potential benefits, although there are currently a lack of clinical trials to confirm its therapeutic value. This section features some of the most common uses for CBD, paying attention to the existing science.

CBD for optimized health via endocannabinoid system regulation

What makes CBD a natural health supplement primarily is the beneficial effect it has on the ECS. CBD hemp oil is great for improving physical health, with ECS regulation helping to decrease sensitivity to pain and boost the immune system. The chemical is also good for bone and reproductive health, and can improve cognition and memory.

CBD provides these effect by promoting balance at the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The impact of CBD is more natural than that of THC. The former doesn’t disrupt the chemical makeup of the ECS, but nurture it for optimum functioning.

CBD oils and capsules are often used for ECS regulation as they are healthy products to take, in comparison to smoking hemp flower and consuming sugary infused edibles. If using CBD as an ECS supplement, a steady daily dose is perhaps the best way of enjoying the effects.

CBD for chronic pain

Existing medication for pain relief tends to work, but usually comes with side effects that makes these treatments unpalatable. For instance, opioid drugs efficiently dampen pain signals, but the body becomes tolerant quickly. Even worse, these painkillers can be physically and psychologically addictive which, coupled with an overdose risk, makes them highly dangerous.

CBD vaping products and more have grown in popularity as treatments for pain. First off, CBD doesn’t come with tolerance or addiction issues. For many, it’s also preferable to cannabis with THC, as there are no mind-altering intoxicating properties to worry about. A non-psychoactive CBD remedy manages pain perception by regulating CB1 receptors, and binding to vanilloid receptors.

Vaping and smoking CBD rapidly suppresses intense pain, while orally-taken products are well-suited to tackling chronic pain. CBD creams can be used to complement the pain relief of other CBD products, or as a solo treatment for localized analgesic benefits. Those using CBD for pain should mix and match with different products and doses to find the best therapeutic combination.

CBD for inflammatory illnesses

As with pain, the effectiveness of traditional anti-inflammatory drugs is limited due to the potential side effects they cause. Studies have shown that non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) heighten the risk of stomach bleeding and ulcers. Aspirin could be useless and even unhelpful for elderly patients with inflammatory conditions.

CBD’s anti-inflammatory qualities have not received the media focus that the compound’s other properties have, but this could be the most profound benefit offered by CBD. Researchers studying the ECS have found that CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system can be harnessed to send anti-inflammatory messages to the immune system.

Keeping the immune system balanced and regulated is difficult, hence the proliferation of inflammatory illnesses and autoimmune diseases. But CBD’s indirect regulation of CB2 receptors, and the anti-inflammatory effects of other cannabinoids, mean that organic CBD oil from a full hemp extract is uniquely placed to manage immune system volatility.

CBD products are taken more for arthritis than any other condition besides chronic pain, according to a 2018 questionnaire. This was the first comprehensive survey of its kind on American CBD usage. CBD creams may relieve symptoms of psoriasis, and edibles and CBD vape juices could be effective for lupus, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and more.

CBD for addiction

The devastating impact of some addictions are obvious, such as alcohol, cigarettes and heroin. Meanwhile, the likes of gaming and internet addiction are more subtle, but can be debilitating in their own way to quality of life. CBD research is finding that the cannabinoid may interfere with reward pathways formed by the brain, and that this could help to safely wean people from their addictions.

A 2019 study on heroin revealed that CBD treatment could alleviate anxiety and cravings, which in turn reduces the likelihood of relapse and overdose. This effect may also help people who are addicted to prescription opioid drugs (e.g. Vicodin and OxyContin). The investigation showed that the CBD group enjoyed a two-to-three-fold drop in cravings compared to the placebo group.

A previous pilot, randomized, double-blind study in 2013 documented how giving smokers a CBD inhaler reduced cigarette intake by 40 percent over the course of a week. Twenty-four smokers took part in the research – 12 were given CBD while the other 12 had a placebo. The researchers suggested that the potential of CBD for nicotine addiction “warrants further explanation.”

CBD for skin care

CBD for hemp health doesn’t just apply internally, but externally, too. The skin is a living organism, and CBD topicals can be applied lavishly for various health effects. The anti-inflammatory properties shine through to reduce swelling and bruising, and also to manage the redness and skin patchiness that comes from psoriasis. CBD creams also provide natural acne relief, resetting sebum production to a healthy level.

Some swear by the anti-aging effects of CBD, according to the free radical aging theory. Scientists have debated this concept hotly. The logic is that CBD – an antioxidant – puts the brakes on external aging by neutralizing free radicals. CBD certainly has a nourishing and moisturizing effect on the skin, which preserves a youthful, vibrant appearance.

CBD for epilepsy

Epilepsy is the illness that CBD research has got the furthest in. So far, in fact, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved an epilepsy drug made with a pure CBD extract – Epidiolex, from GW Pharmaceuticals. Epidiolex is used to treat Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. Standard epilepsy drugs cannot efficaciously manage the condition. There are also signs that CBD helps with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a similar type of intractable epilepsy. These conditions can cause hundreds of seizures a week in children. In some cases, CBD has reduced that number to single figures or even zero.

CBD treats convulsive seizures efficiently, as does cannabidivarin (CBDV), another non-intoxicating from hemp. Eliminating seizures helps to improve sleep patterns and behaviour in patients, and generally enhance quality of life.

CBD for fibromyalgia

The ECS is breathing new life into research for a fibromyalgia remedy. This bizarre illness causes physical and mental symptoms, from intense pain in specific areas, to cognitive decline known as ‘fibro fog’. Other symptoms include stiffness, fatigue, insomnia and headaches. The unusual set of symptoms have baffled experts, but ECS scientists may be piecing things together.

It just so happens that nearly, if not all fibromyalgia problems can be traced back to ECS issues. This has led to a theory that it is chronic dysfunction in the ECS – referred to as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) – that causes fibromyalgia. And indeed, early indications are that CBD can ease symptoms, by regulating the ECS.

CBD for sleep

Make insomnia and fatigue a thing of the past by using CBD products for sleep. By relaxing the muscles and the mind, CBD puts the user into a state of calm that promotes sleep. For insomnia, a quick hit of CBD from a vape pen or tincture oil may do the trick.

Capsules are better for all-night relief if you are waking up during sleep. CBD works to eradicate fatigue not just by increasing sleep duration, but by enhancing the amount of deep sleep. This is the phase where the body and brain waves slows right down, and we relax and repair for the day ahead.

Is CBD better for physical health than THC?

CBD is definitely a more viable form of treatment for physical health problems than THC. The intoxicating effects of the latter mean it simply doesn’t work well for those who have to work, and be in full cognitive and physical control. The therapeutic effects of CBD – and a combo of THC and CBD – are undeniable, however. THC delivers potent relief and be very effective when used responsibly.

CBD oil’s benefits are great everyone, though. And studies are starting to reveal that it can be used as an isolated treatment. This is handy for those who have reservations about drug tests, and want to avoid all products with THC.

Final thoughts

CBD will transform healthcare in the next couple of decades. Now that experts are studying the endocannabinoid system, they are getting new ideas about how to solve illnesses. ECS manipulation is not just helpful for physical illnesses, but has huge potential for anxiety, PTSD and depression, too. The onus is now on politicians to make CBD research easier for scientists to conduct, and for the FDA to carry out clinical trials on CBD for various ailments.

Have a story to share about how CBD has helped you? Please leave a comment below!