If you were never exposed to marijuana in your youth, you likely never got around to understanding the difference between certain terms. Weed, cannabis, ganja, sativa, indica.
Whenever someone mentions these names, you either have no idea what they are talking about, or you just class it all under the same thing. The "drug", marijuana.
If you haven’t heard these words, chances are more complex lingo, like tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, is a complete mystery to you too.
THC and CBD are two of the main chemical compounds in marijuana. There are over 100 different compounds in cannabis, but THC and CBD are responsible for most of the positive (and negative) effects. While they are similar in chemical structure, their effects on the body are vastly different. Both contain 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms.
It's the arrangement of these atoms that allows each chemical to bring on its unique effects.
When someone says they are high, stoned, goofed, or anything in between, it's because of the THC. To be more specific, it's the Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol that brings about feelings of euphoria, hunger, or sometimes just a good sleep.
CBD is far more subtle. It's not psychoactive like THC, so you don’t have to worry about an altered state of consciousness ruining (or making) your day. CBD has become known for a wealth of medicinal benefits. As more research is done, more positives are popping up. Some of these include inducing relaxation, alleviating pain, and assisting with mental disorders.
To put it another way, CBD is like the quiet kid in class.He gets all his work done, and the teachers love him. THC is more like the class clown; if he’s not busy making people laugh and distracting them from the lesson, he’s probably sleeping.
While your body reacts differently to these two substances, they both communicate with your endocannabinoid system.
What is the endocannabinoid system?
Since its discovery in the 1990’s, the function of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has remained a mystery. Recent research shows that it plays a role in central nervous system (CNS) development, synaptic plasticity, and environmental response. Cannabinoid receptors are present in this system.
Both THC and CBD contain similar cannabinoids. These have the perfect structure to bind onto the cannabinoid receptors present in your ECS. THC binds to your CB1 receptors while CBD inhibits the endocannabinoid signalling. This leads to the release of neurotransmitters.
It is these neurotransmitters that give the signal to get you as high as the Empire State Building, or just ease some of your pain and suffering.
If it weren’t for the endocannabinoid system, we wouldn’t experience any effects from cannabis.
Benefits of THC
As we mentioned before, THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana. It is responsible for the altered state of mind that stoners are so familiar with. As a result, recreational cannabis use is illegal in most parts of the world.
Luckily, many of us can still benefit from the healing powers of marijuana. Countries such as Italy, Luxembourg, and Germany allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. These are just a few, with over 30 countries legalising it either recreationally or medically. This is great news as many ailments can effectively be treated with medical cannabis without the harmful side effects of prescription drugs.
New studies indicate the positive effects of weed are strengthened when both THC and CBD are present. This means that using them in combination may maximise the therapeutic benefits. They call this the entourage effect.
THC can help in a variety of ways:
- Reduce pain and inflammation
- Replace the need for more addictive pain medications
- Relieve anxiety and depression
- Bring about feelings of calm and euphoria
- Muscle relaxant
- Aid sleep and improve insomnia
- Assist with a low appetite
- Reduce harmful effects of cancer treatments
- Can be a safer replacement for alcohol
Benefits of CBD
Sometimes you don’t want your medicine to make you feel like an alien. This is why CBD extracts have become so popular. It offers all the medical benefits of marijuana without the intoxicating feelings and altered perception.
Even in larger doses, CBD is well tolerated. It doesn’t change your mental state, so you can operate as you normally would. However, it is recommended that you stay away from driving since it can make you drowsy. It's important to know what type of cannabidiol you are dealing with:
- Full-spectrum: This means your CBD contains other compounds in marijuana, with varying levels of THC.
- Broad-spectrum: Contains all the compounds in cannabis except THC.
- Isolate: This will only contain pure cannabidiol and no other compounds.
Due to the entourage effect mentioned above, you may benefit more from a full-spectrum CBD. This also depends on the level of suffering you experience from your ailment. CBD is available in oils, tinctures, edibles, and vaporisers.
Some positive effects of CBD
- Anxiety, stress, and pain relief
- Assisting with sleep for insomniacs
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Effective treatment for post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD)
- Help with Parkinson's disease
- Decrease the frequency of seizures
- Assist in the debilitating effects of cancer treatments
- It's also been known to shrink cancer cells, offering a promising anti-cancer drug
The downsides of CBD and THC
Everything has its downsides, and too much of anything can be a bad thing. In the past, people criticised weed smokers for being lazy, unaccomplished, and slow. The same cannot be said of the number of successful stoners who have emerged from the woods (or weeds).
That being said, there are still some negatives one has to navigate when dabbling in cannabis. High THC weed can bring about anxiety, paranoia, and slow reaction time. It also makes it easier to relax, so you can become lazy. This may affect your short-term memory and lead to behavioural changes.
Remember that habits make the man, so if your habits are in the right place, you can counteract many of the negative effects of high THC strains. Be sure to keep an eye on your mental health if you regularly use marijuana.
CBD is a lot easier to handle. It doesn’t have any psychoactive effects, so you don’t have to worry about any unwanted high or unnecessary anxiety. There are very few side-effects of CBD and these happen in a small percentage of users.
You may experience appetite changes, a dry mouth, and drowsiness. Sleepiness is the biggest thing to watch out for. It’s better to pass out on your couch than behind the wheel of a car. Research is showing that many of the negative side-effects of CBD are the cause of bad interactions with other medications you are using.
If you are regularly drug-tested for work, it's best that you don’t take CBD products. Since many products contain trace amounts of THC, you may fail a drug test. Make sure you get it from a reputable supplier that offers a pure isolate.
THC and CBD are not addictive like many prescription pills used to treat the same problems. This does not mean you cannot get addicted to the effects that it offers. Make sure you always consume marijuana responsibly.
The difference between hemp and cannabis?
The main difference between hemp and cannabis is the THC and CBD content. Hemp contains little to no THC and higher CBD quantities. Cannabidiol products are extracted from hemp. Depending on the law in your country, marijuana must contain less than 1% THC to be considered hemp.
Cannabis will have a higher THC content and varying levels of CBD. This is still mostly illegal in most parts of the world, so make sure you understand the law before buying anything.
How to tell if your weed has more THC or CBD?
Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell if weed has a higher tetrahydrocannabinol content or cannabidiol content just by looking at it. Rapid tests are available to determine this. Many of us don’t have access to that, so the only way to tell will be to smoke it.
If you feel relaxed but pretty much normal, it has high CBD and low THC. If you start eating everything in the house and laughing at everything, then it's got a higher THC content.
Over 400 chemicals exist in the marijuana plant. THC and CBD are the most important, but new studies are showing how they all work together. As we understand more about this plant, we will begin to know how to use it more effectively.