Understanding Cannabinoids: THC and CBD

Cannabis support and understanding is growing like a weed these days. People aren't just smoking weed, they're learning about it too. The science surrounding cannabis has come out of the vegetative stage and started to flower.

When it comes to understanding cannabinoids (chemical compounds found in cannabis), you could hit the books for a few years and still only touch the surface. There's an abundance of cannabinoids present in different cannabis strains making it difficult to isolate a specific number of them. Let's look at two of the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis, THC, and CBD.

We'll explore the reported benefits and medical studies associated with both of these essential cannabinoids. Though THC and CBD are both present in most varieties of cannabis, they're very different from each other. What they do have in common is that CBD and THC both work with the human body’s endocannabinoid system.

The Endocannabinoid System

Every human on the planet has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This vitally important part of your body helps to regulate significant body functions. Raphael Mechoulam, Dr. Lumir Hanus, and William Devane are credited with the discovering the ECS back in 1992.  Since this discovery science has learned quite a bit about endocannabinoids (naturally occurring cannabinoids produced by our body) and phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids our body can’t produce on its own).

“The endocannabinoid system, with its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all of the body's organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind.”- NORML

“The endocannabinoid system has been recently recognized as an important modulatory system in the function of the brain, endocrine, and immune tissues. It appears to play a significant regulatory role in the secretion of hormones related to reproductive functions and response to stress.” - NCBI  

READ ALSO: A Beginner Guide to Understanding Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol aka THC

THC and CBD work with the ECS receptors called CB1 and CB2 receptors to facilitate communication between nerves and cells. This is partly the reason why cannabis helps so many people with a plethora of different ailments. Now that we have a general idea of the importance of the ECS and how it works with cannabinoids let's look at the most popular cannabinoid called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol  or THC.

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What Is THC?

Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most commonly sought-after cannabinoid produced in cannabis next to CBD. Israeli scientist Professor Raphael Mechoulam is credited for discovering THC. He’s often referred to as the “Grandfather of Marijuana.”

THC is a phytocannabinoid produced by cannabis. It's the primary compound responsible for the buzz or high from cannabis.   It’s also the compound associated with paranoia and anxiety. In the past, growers and consumers alike went for the highest THC percentages they could get.

Today THC is being viewed a bit differently. Micro-dosing (low titrates of THC like 5mg vs. 50 or 100 mg)  with THC is becoming extremely popular. It helps many people take the edge off of pain and social anxiety allowing them to have a smooth day at work or home.

The Pros and Cons of THC

THC has many reported benefits and some reported negatives. The science supporting these reports is growing daily. First, let's look at the pros associated with THC.

Reported Benefits of THC

  • Pain reliever
  • Fights nausea and vomiting

  • Protects brain cells

  • Mood enhancer

  • Helps treat PTSD

  • Helps treat Insomnia

  • Increases appetite

  • Anti-oxidant

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Anti-bacterial

  • Muscle relaxant

  • Anti-convulsant

  • Bronchodilator

  • Anti-tumor agent

  • Stimulates brain growth

Now that is a lot of good stuff right there that THC does. However, what about the adverse effects? Here are some of the reported adverse effects of THC. Keep in mind for every study that leans one way regarding THC; there seems to be another one that disputes it.

Reported Negative Effects of THC

  • Impaired short-term memory

  • Impaired motor coordination

  • Altered judgment

  • Paranoia

  • Psychosis

  • Addiction  

  • Poor educational outcome

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Lower IQ

  • Diminished life satisfaction and achievement

  • Symptoms of chronic bronchitis

  • Increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders

  • Dry mouth

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol or CBD is a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis that’s becoming as popular as THC if not more. CBD has been at the center of a heated debate between activists, business owners, the FDA, and the DEA.  So, what’s all the fuss about? Why is CBD so important?

READ ALSO: The Difference Between THC & CBD

Most people credit Raphael Mechoulam with the discovery of CBD when in fact Roger Adams isolated it first, back in 1940. The credit goes to Raphael because even though Roger isolated CBD, he didn’t know what he’d discovered at that time.

Now we know a little about who discovered CBD let's look at what it is. CBD is a compound found in cannabis but is much different from THC. Cannabidiol is a natural cannabinoid constituent found in cannabis. CBD doesn’t have any intoxicating effects. The only impact you should ever have from CBD is feeling better.  

Unlike THC, CBD is receiving a warmer welcome from agencies, organizations, and government. Instead of being met with closed minds and handcuffs, CBD seems to be getting special treatment. That is unless you live in California where many people are not elevated at the thought of the recent FAQ’s released by the California Dept of Public Health regarding CBD in food and beverages.

Good News for CBD

  • CBD was removed from the banned substances list by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

  • The FDA just approved Epidiolex, an epilepsy medication that contains CBD.

Pros and Cons of CBD

Everyone from your grandparents to professional athletes seems to be embracing CBD and CBD oil these days. Is it just a fad or is CBD just that rad?  Let’s look at the reported benefits of CBD and let's see if there are any reported adverse effects from CBD.

Reported Benefits of CBD

  • Vasorelaxant

  • Suppresses muscle spasms

  • Treat psoriasis

  • Slows bacterial growth

  • Relieves anxiety

  • Relieves pain

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Reduces nausea and vomiting

  • Reduces the risk of artery blockage

  • Produces blood sugar levels

  • Reduces convulsions and seizures

  • Acts as a neuroprotective

  • Promotes bone growth

  • Is an antibacterial

  • Inhibits cancer cell growth

Reported Negative Effects of CBD

  • Drowsiness

  • Dry mouth

  • A slight reduction in blood pressure  

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Parkinson patients showed an increase in Tremors

It used to be all about THC when it came to cannabis. Today’s cannabis consumers are breaking stigmas and stereotypes. Individuals from all walks of life are enjoying and benefiting from marijuana being a part of their daily regimen.    

Grandparents, moms, dads, athletes, office workers, musicians, runway models, and everyday people benefit from cannabis. There will likely remain some confusion about the vocabulary of cannabis for some time. Terms like CBD, THC, CBN, and CBG don’t have to be confusing any longer. Thankfully, the science behind this incredible plant is helping to clear the air and better define these terms.