CBD vs THC – Understanding these Key Cannabinoids
As the use of cannabis is being legalized by one nation after another, it is normal for questions about THC and CBD to arise. Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids and the most abundant and the most researched ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC and CBD are chemically similar to endocannabinoids (cannabinoids secreted by the body). That is why they can interact directly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors that interact with cannabinoids produced by plants and the body. Both types of cannabinoids benefit the body when they interact with the system. So far scientists have uncovered two types of receptors within the system. These are:
CB1 receptors concentrated in the brain and the central nervous system. They are responsible for body processes such as memory, thinking, emotions, and motor coordination.
CB2 receptors found throughout the immune system and the central nervous system.
Below we discuss the similarities and major differences between CBD and THC which will help users to make choices when they buy products.
About CBD and THC
CBD is the major cannabinoid produced by the hemp plant. While the plant produces both CBD and THC, it contains a higher concentration of CBD (up to 40%), and less than 0.3% THC. This makes it the ideal source of CBD. CBD for medicinal purposes is extracted from dried hemp stalks, stems, flowers, and leaves using CO2 extraction method. It is generally available in the form of oils, gels, extracts, gummies, and supplements. People are coming up with more novel CBD products.
THC is the major cannabinoid produced by the marijuana plant. While marijuana contains both THC and CBD, it has a higher concentration (around 12%) of THC than CBD. Some people use THC by smoking marijuana for recreational, medicinal, and spiritual purposes. It is also available in oils, capsules, edibles, tinctures, and more.
THC and CBD are almost identical in their molecular composition, consisting of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. However, they differ in how one atom is arranged. Because of this slight chemical difference, the two cannabinoids have different effects when ingested or applied onto the body.
THC bonds directly with CB1 receptors which are in the brain. This results in certain signals being sent to the brain that cause the psychoactive effects that we know as “getting high.” Although THC provides a number of great health benefits, most people do not desire this psychoactive effect. This is why there is more focus on CBD for medicinal purposes.
CBD does not bind directly to the CB1 receptors. It works by weakening the ability of THC to bind to CB1 receptors. This reduces or weakens THC’s psychoactive effects. That is why users of CBD-rich cannabis will get a long list of health benefits without getting high like those who use THC-dominant cannabis products.
One by one, nations have been legalizing cannabis for medicinal use in the past few years, but some nations are behind. Therefore, before buying any cannabis products, check out the laws of the nation where you plan to buy. In New Zealand, medicinal cannabis is legal as long as users get it through a prescription from a doctor, but the use of marijuana for recreational purposes remains illegal. For many countries where cannabis is legal, CBD must have 0.3% or less THC in order to be legal.
It is worth noting that the United Nations reclassified cannabis as a less dangerous drug at the beginning of December 2020. While this does not affect individual national laws, it enables research to continue even in countries that have not yet legalized cannabis.
CBD and THC share a number of medical benefits. The main difference is that THC causes a euphoric effect while CBD does not.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF THC
THC is useful for relieving or healing many conditions such as:
Pain and inflammation. This benefits people suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, chronic pain, and many other painful conditions.
Inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Psychosis or mental disorders.
Migraines and headaches.
Depression and anxiety.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CBD
CBD is used to relieve or heal many conditions such as:
Acute and chronic pain including migraines and headaches.
Inflammation: Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, diverticulitis, etc.
Brain injury: Concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Low appetite and nausea.
Mental disorders: Anxiety, stress, epilepsy, depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
When taken in high doses, CBD can have side effects such as tiredness, diarrhoea, and changes in weight and appetite. However, scientists found that it has milder side effects compared to commonly used medicines. What you need to watch out for is drug interaction! Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor before using it if you are on other medication.
THC is known to have the following temporary side effects that are related to its psychoactive properties:
Increased heart rate
Slow reaction times
Long term use of high levels of THC is suspected of having long term negative psychiatric effects such as schizophrenia, but there is no evidence to support this. However, neither of the two cannabinoids is fatal.
Using any cannabis products has implications for those who have to undergo drug testing. Both THC and CBD are stored in the body’s fat and they tend to show up on drug tests several weeks after they have been used.
THC IN DRUG TESTS
Most standard drug tests are sensitive to THC. Therefore, if you use marijuana or THC extract, the compound will show up in drug screenings. If you are an athlete, it is advisable to allow enough time to elapse after using THC-rich products before participating in competitions in which you will be tested.
CBD IN DRUG TESTS
Though CBD-sensitive tests are available, many drug tests will not detect CBD. However, when you take or use CBD products, you are highly likely to test positive for THC. To be on the safe side, allow enough time to elapse before competitions.
Dr Ron Goedeke, specialises in alternative and functional medicine. He is a foundation member of the New Zealand college of Appearance medicine and has been a member of the American Academy of Anti-aging medicine since 1999. With over 20 years of experience in the anti-aging field, Dr Ron Goedeke is recognized as one of New Zealand’s leaders in this new and growing field of medicine.
Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil – What is the difference?
Hemp Oil and CBD Oil are two terms you might come across when looking for the right CBD product that could mean the same thing or be completely different so it is important to understand them.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the therapeutic molecule found in cannabis that is so sought after right now. Pretty much all retail CBD is extracted from hemp plants which is the name given to cannabis strains with less than 0.3% THC.
Therefore CBD is a molecule found in the oil extracted from the hemp plant which is where the name hemp oil comes from.
Some additional confusion occurs with the introduction of hemp seed oil, sometimes shortened to just hemp oil. Hemp seed oil comes from cold pressing the seeds of the hemp plant, where as the hemp oil or the source of the CBD comes from the flower of the hemp plant.
Things to look for when purchasing a CBD product.
If the label states how much CBD is in the bottle, this is a CBD product. Depending on the concentration, a 30ml tincture of CBD typically contains anywhere from 500mg – 3000mg of CBD.
If the label says Hemp Oil but does not say how much CBD is in the bottle, be cautious. The amount of CBD in the bottle is the most important selling point and is what manufacturers want you to see. If it says ‘cannabinoid-rich’ but does not say how much CBD is in the product, this is unlikely to be a CBD product.
Results of CBD oil in human trials
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Since it was banned due to psychoactive effects, scientists focused on varieties with less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which causes those psychoactive effects. In such varieties, cannabidiol or CBD is the most prevalent cannabinoid and is responsible for many medicinal effects. CBD is mostly used as CBD oil which has been extensively studied since the middle of the 20th century. Here are some of the scientific findings from human trials.
CBD reduces pain and inflammation
CBD is a pain killer. In a 2018 study, CBD effectively improved pain, mood, sleep, and the quality of life through its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2016 study found that topical application of CBD relieved pain and inflammation related to arthritis.
CBD protects the brain
Research has found that through its neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can prevent or stop the damage of brain cells when given at certain concentrations. Scientists also found that it protects brain matter and stops the death of brain tissue after traumatic brain injury or a stroke.
CBD relieves anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression normally go hand in hand and they can both be relieved through the use of CBD. A scientific review found that CBD effectively reduces many types of anxiety disorders. In a 2014 study, CBD showed promise as a treatment for depression. These findings are related to CBD’s ability to act on the serotonin receptors in the brain. N.B. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates many functions in the body including the emotional state and social behaviour. Keeping its levels in balance is the usual therapy for depressed people.
CBD is a remedy for substance abuse
In one study, CBD reduced mood swings, anxiety, pain and insomnia experienced by patients with opioid abuse problems. Then a 2019 clinical study involving 42 men and women who abused heroin for an average of 13 years divided the participants into 3 groups. The groups received either 400mg of an oral CBD solution or 800mg of oral CBD solution or a placebo for three consecutive days. Then scientists studied the participants for two weeks in which they watched images and videos with drug-related signals such as syringes, intravenous drug use, packets of powder, and rubber ties. CBD reduced anxiety and cravings brought on by the drug-related cues 2 to 3 times greater than placebo. Also, heart rate and stress levels were significantly lower in the groups that took CBD. There was no noteworthy difference between the two CBD groups.
CBD reduces blood pressure
CBD has been found to be effective for managing hypertension. In a randomized, double-blind crossover, and placebo-controlled study, 9 healthy men received either 600mg of CBD or placebo. Resting blood pressure went down in those who took CBD. When subjected to stressors that increase blood pressure, the men who received CBD experienced a smaller BP increase than placebo.
CBD in cancer treatment
In one study, CBD killed human breast cancer cells. A review of other studies found that it can suppress the growth of cancer cells, destroy cancer cells, completely prevent cancer cells from invading an area, and prevent cancer cells from spreading in the body.
CBD for sleep disorders
A review has found that CBD can calm the body and mind and promote better sleep by reducing restlessness, anxiety, stress, and general imbalances in the body.
CBD is anti-aging
Research has found that CBD delays signs of aging by improving the production of collagen which is what is required for stronger bones and firm skin and muscles. It also improves the appearance of scars, wrinkles and skin discoloration. It also delays aging through its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress and deep moisturizing effects.
CBD treats diabetes
CBD treats and prevents both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In one study involving people suffering from type 1 diabetes, CBD eased the inflammation in the pancreas. N.B. type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks pancreatic tissue cells. It has also been found to reverse type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin resistance through its anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD is treatment for cigarette smoking
CBD is great for people fighting nicotine cravings. In a 2013 pilot study, smokers who used inhalers containing CBD reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked and stopped their nicotine craving. Then in a 2018 study, CBD helped to reduce cravings for people who were withdrawing from tobacco. This was attributed to its relaxing effect.
CBD treats dementia
In one study, CBD prevented loss of the ability to recognize faces of acquaintances. This was the first evidence that CBD can potentially prevent symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, one of many signs of dementia. In another study, CBD could treat irritability, disinhibition, agitation, unusual motor behavior, nocturnal behavior disorders, and abnormal vocalization which are all mental symptoms linked to dementia.
CBD alleviates digestive system disorders
One study found that CBD prevents nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Another study found that it relieves inflammatory bowel disease and other inflammatory conditions in the gut. CBD also restores the permeability of the endothelial membrane, making it a potential remedy for leaky gut syndrome. A paper published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2012 has evidence that it is effective against Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
CBD’s anti-psychotic effects
A review found that CBD has anti-psychotic effects similar to certain pharmaceutical drugs and may be seriously considered for treating schizophrenia.
CBD improves skin health
In a 2014 study, CBD oil reduced the production of sebum which is known to cause acne if produced in large amounts. In another study, topically applied CBD oil reduced inflammation in psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
CBD relieves epilepsy
Many studies of the use of CBD for treating epilepsy have found that it has anti-seizure properties without side effects. It can also treat disorders that are related to epilepsy, such as neural injury, neurodegeneration, and psychiatric diseases. This is why in 2018 the FDA approved a CBD-containing drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome is children 3 years old and over.
CBD is safe
When using CBD for the treatment of epilepsy and psychotic disorders, scientists found that in some people it may have side effects such as diarrhoea, tiredness and changes in appetite and weight. However, they also found that it had a better side effect profile compared to drugs that are commonly used for these conditions.
How CBD Can Help With Concussions
Many people suffering from the long-term effects of concussions are turning to CBD for alleviation of symptoms and recovery. Concussions are common in people involved in vehicle accidents, in kids and adults who accidentally fall, and most common among sports persons, particularly those who play contact sports such as rugby. While some people have short-term symptoms and recover on their own, others have long-term symptoms that require medical assistance. Since typical medication only alleviates symptoms temporarily, many people are turning to CBD since it helps brain cells to recover and alleviates most symptoms.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain injury caused by a blow, knock, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head to move back and forth rapidly. This trauma can cause the brain to shake and twist in the skull, which then stretches and damages brain cells or causes chemical changes in the brain. The injury affects how the brain works.
How a concussion negatively affects the brain
Medically, a concussion is considered to be “mild” brain injury because it is not life-threatening. Still, the effects can be serious since it causes physical and chemical changes that affect how the brain functions. The effects can last a few hours or a few days, or a few weeks or longer than a year. Problems are compounded through multiple concussions, mostly seen in contact sports.
Inflammation of the brain is a huge issue when it comes to concussions. It usually helps during an immune response, but when the inflammatory cells are recruited to the brain, they worsen concussion symptoms because the head can’t withstand the pressure easily.
Short-term effects of a concussion
After suffering a concussion, the injured person may have a headache, brain fog, dizziness, delayed response to questions, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, fatigue, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light and sound. He may also experience confusion and, sometimes, memory loss especially after loss of consciousness.
Long-term effects of a concussion
Some symptoms may manifest hours or days after the trauma to the brain. These include memory problems, trouble concentrating, irritability and other personality problems, sensitivity to light and noise, depression and other psychological problems, sleep disturbances, and disorders of taste and smell.
Most of these symptoms resolve within a few weeks. However, 40 to 80% of concussed people may suffer from post-concussion syndrome in which they continue to experience symptoms after six weeks, and 10 to 15% of them experience symptoms for more than a year. People who have more concussions tend to suffer long-term effects, especially if they don’t take time to recover between injuries. It is these cumulative concussions that lead to depression, behaviour change and even suicidal tendencies.
Medical treatment of long-term concussion
Generally, people with post-concussion syndrome do recover with rest and minimised stress. Doctors may treat headaches with migraine and pain medications, prescribed and over-the-counter. Neurologists may be involved in treating mental health symptoms and cognitive impairment using antidepressants, cognitive therapy and psychotherapy.
How CBD oil can help with the symptoms and recovery of a concussion
Medical approaches aim to alleviate symptoms and may, or may not, help patients to recover. If the headaches continue, the sufferers simply continue to take medication and this may lead to problems such as overdose and dependency.
Luckily, CBD can be very useful and sufferers are choosing to take it to ease pain and inflammation since it is safe and not psychoactive. It contains a number of medicinal properties and therapeutic benefits which reduce the physical, mental and psychological issues. In fact, CBD helps brain cells to recover.
The endocannabinoid system in humans and other mammals produces cannabinoids and it has receptors that interact with cannabinoids. Therefore, the body is naturally equipped to handle CBD without any ill-effects. CBD helps post-concussion syndrome patients through a number of different ways. Here is how it works in the body to bring relief for.
CBD reduces pain and inflammation
People suffering from post-concussion syndrome suffer from a lot of headaches so they can benefit from CBD’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. CBD is already popular among people who suffer from chronic pain who are trying to avoid the risks of addiction and overdose associated with taking opioids. Even scientists have tested it in a number of studies, e.g. the study published in Neurology in December 2018, and found it to be effective in improving pain, mood, sleep, and the quality of life.
CBD protects the brain
At certain concentrations, CBD can prevent or stop the damage of brain cells through its antioxidant, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been found to preserve brain matter and stop the death of brain tissue after a stroke or traumatic brain injury. This is exactly the reason why many current and retired sportspersons are benefiting from CBD.
CBD accelerates brain recovery
CBD increases the amount of blood going into the brain. This increases the amount of nutrients and oxygen that the brain gets, speeding up the healing process.
CBD controls moods, and reduces anxiety and depression
CBD reduces depression and anxiety and generally lifts the mood. In a review published in Neurotherapeutics, scientists found that CBD is effective in reducing many types of anxiety disorders. A number of animal studies confirmed that it has anti-depressant effects. These effects are related to its ability to act on the serotonin receptors in the brain. N.B. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates moods and social behaviour.
CBD reduces stress
The constant pain and other symptoms, together with frustration, lead to stress. CBD calms down the mind, improves sleep, relieves pain and generally relieves stress.
Take CBD for concussions
Through different approaches, CBD can help effectively prevent some of the harmful effects of concussion injuries, stop inflammation, alleviate symptoms, and help the brain to recover without causing any undesired side-effects and no one can overdose on it. Anyone who has had a concussion can begin to take it soon after injury to manage pain, to reduce inflammation and to prevent long-term effects. Anyone with post-concussion syndrome can reverse the symptoms and actually recover safely.