CBD vs THC – What’s the Difference?
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The Cannabis Plant is famous, sometimes even infamous, for its various uses. This plant species can be broadly categorised as Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. The Sativa and Indica variety are perhaps the most used subspecies of the Cannabis Plant – with reasons for consumption ranging from therapeutic and industrial uses to recreational use for experiencing mind-altering effects.
With the growing popularity of Cannabis and its products across the globe, more attention has been drawn to its two main active compounds – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Also known as the yin and yang of Marijuana, these compounds are almost complementary in their effects on the human body.
Both play a role in How Cannabis or Cannabis products affect your body. To understand the difference between these two compounds, it is essential first to understand their nature. Although THC and CBD are at first glance, here we investigate CBD vs THC – How are they Different, and How can they Help you?
What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a compound in Cannabis Plants responsible for mind-altering effects. When people consume products that contain THC or smoke the buds of a Marijuana plant, they feel “high” because of this compound.
Beyond its psychological effects, however, THC has shown great promise in providing certain benefits to the human body. A synthetic version of THC is often used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with Cancer Chemotherapy. Both compounds are more effective in producing therapeutic effects when combined with CBD in small doses.
What has Research shown about THC?
The most famous Benefit of THC is its ability to reduce vomiting and nausea resulting from cancer chemotherapy. Other than this, it has been found to help with chronic pain and muscle spasms that are caused due to multiple sclerosis. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that THC is safe and effective in treating tics in patients with Tourette syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tourette syndrome is a condition of the nervous system that causes people suffering from it to suddenly twitch, move, or make a sound repeatedly. These sudden movements, twitches and sounds are called tics. In this study, a dose of 10mg of THC a day significantly reduced tics in patients.
Another study conducted in 2014 found that low doses of THC can enhance mitochondria function. Additionally, this compound could be a potential treatment option for Alzheimer’s, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease which causes brain cells to die.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects the nervous system, causing motor, cognitive, and speech dysfunctions. In 2008, THC can help improve hand-eye coordination in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Other than this, Research on the effectiveness and benefits of THC is still ongoing. For example, many people report better sleep quality after ingesting THC. However, studies that have investigated this have yielded inconclusive results.
How Does THC work inside your body?
When you consume THC, the compound becomes active in your Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which has receptors across your brain and body. Your ECS includes mechanisms in your body that regulate sleep, mood, memory, appetite and responses to pain and inflammation (amongst several other essential functions of your body). This system consists of two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2, which regulate multiple functions of the ECS.
THC binds directly with both CB1 and CB2 receptors and thus influences the way your brain and body function. These cannabinoid receptors are especially numerous across various regions of your brain. Depending on which regions of your brain are more affected, consuming THC can produce multiple effects.
Its influence on the brain stem and the Hypothalamus can produce anti-nausea effects and increased appetite (sometimes referred to as getting the “Munchies”). In addition, THC can influence your Neocortex to alter the way you think, judge and perceive things which elicits the altered state, otherwise referred to as being “high.” When this compound interacts with the Cannabinoid Receptors in your nucleus Accumbens, you may feel euphoric (a good feeling). Other than this, it alters how you perceive pain (increase or decrease your sensitivity to it) by interacting with the receptors in your spinal cord.
Depending on the dose of THC, it can impair your memory related to day-to-day events and even interfere with learning new things. This does not mean that you will struggle to remember most things; it simply means that certain memories may be more cloudy than others, depending on how much THC you have consumed. This does not apply to your short-term memory. Other negative effects can include a slower reaction time and impaired coordination.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol, a Cannabinoid compound in all cannabis plants. Usually, CBD is present in the highest ratio in Hemp and Cannabis Ruderalis plants; these plants are naturally low (below 0.3%) in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the cannabinoid compound that is responsible for the “high” people experience after consuming Marijuana.
The versatility of CBD appeals to all age groups, and so CBD products have been becoming an increasingly prevalent alternative to traditional and modern medicine. From arthritis to anxiety, CBD has a wide variety of benefits that can be enjoyed by anybody. CBD is a successor to a compound called Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA).
CBDA is found in plants that are still growing and haven’t matured. As the plants mature, CBDA turns into CBD. But CBDA can be turned into CBD directly through a process called Decarboxylation. In this case, Decarboxylation involves the application of heat to CBDA to break it down into CBD.
What has Research shown about CBD?
In recent years, several studies have explored CBD and its therapeutic effects on the human body. It is an especially safe drug, with people being able to take up to 1500mg of CBD safely. This cannabinoid compound has shown promise not only in treating physiological conditions but also in treating Psychological conditions.
A study conducted in 2019 found that CBD is effective in reducing anxiety as well as improving sleep quality. In another study conducted on patients with PTSD during the same year, the use of CBD, along with routine psychiatric care, caused a significant decrease in the symptoms of PTSD. More Research has shown that CBD is an effective intervention for substance-use disorders. This means that it helps prevent and eliminate addiction to substances like alcohol, opioids, nicotine, and stimulants.
The Cannabis plant, from which CBD is extracted, has been used to treat physical ailments for several centuries – there are records of its use that date as far back as 2900 B.C. in China. In more recent times, advancements in science and medicine have shown us that this quality of the Cannabis plant can largely be attributed to Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
How does CBD work inside your body?
Although it is not psychoactive, CBD affects your Body’s ECS. Overall, very little is known about how exactly CBD produces its effects within the body. Although CBD does not bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, it influences them indirectly. When CBD is present in your body, it increases the amount of a neurotransmitter called anandamide. When the Anandamide levels in your body increase, your ECS is affected such that you experience pain relief and better physical well-being, alongside several other positive changes.
How do you Consume CBD & THC?
THC and CBD are primarily found in the flowers of cannabis plants. But, through several technological and scientific advancements, these compounds can be found in a variety of products. Depending on what you prefer, you can choose products based on their THC to CBD ratio or even select products with just one of the two compounds.
The most common way to Consume CBD and THC, especially for recreational use, is to smoke a bud of Marijuana. Buds are typically ground up into a finer, more powder-like substance to make it easy to smoke in the form of a joint, spliff, or blunt. Buds are often also substituted by hash, kief or weed wax which are concentrated in THC and CBD and, therefore, highly potent. Similarly, vape juices that are infused with CBS and THC can be smoked using a vaporiser.
Other methods of smoking Cannabis and Cannabis products include taking bong rips, using a pipe, and dabbing. Sometimes, buds, hash, or oils are used to make edibles. Edibles are food items that can range from THC and CBD-infused Gummies to brownies, cookies, and more. Since there are several ways of cooking with Cannabis and its two main active components (THC and CBD), almost any food you can imagine can be turned into an edible. Unlike smoking Marijuana, which produces mind-altering effects relatively quickly (within 10-15 minutes), edibles take up to 2 hours to start working.
But the main difference between smoking and taking edibles is that the latter allows for your body to absorb more THC and CBD, therefore getting you “higher.” Oils and tinctures are products that contain a carrier oil or alcohol that can be consumed by putting a few drops under your tongue, which allows the compounds to act quickly inside your body. Similarly, capsules with these compounds are ingested orally, like a medicinal tablet. Lastly, Marijuana topicals are lotions, ointments and oils that are applied to your body externally. Topicals are typically used for their therapeutic purposes and to target specific areas of your body where you may be facing issues.
CBD vs THC
Both Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are derived from cannabis plants and are the plant’s main active cannabinoid compounds. But this does not mean that they work the same way. They differ in many ways, including in terms of the subspecies of the cannabis plant they are extracted from, their chemical structure, their effects and health benefits.
Different subspecies of Cannabis contain a varying THC to CBD ratio. THC is usually extracted from Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plants, which have a greater amount of THC. On the other hand, CBD is more commonly extracted from Hemp and Cannabis Ruderalis, both of which generally have less than 0.3% THC.
While THC is psychoactive and produces mind-altering effects, CBD does no such thing. This is because THC binds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of your body. In contrast, CBD does not bind with these receptors and instead causes the release of a neurotransmitter called anandamide. Their differences in functioning also bring about varying therapeutic effects and side effects.
The therapeutic effects of THC include it’s antiemetic (prevents nausea and vomiting), muscle relaxant and appetite-stimulating properties. This compound’s side effects include impaired coordination, red eyes, slower reaction time, increased heart rate, dry mouth, memory impairment, anxiety, and tiredness. CBD’s therapeutic effects are far more wide-ranging; from chronic pain to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD, CBD has a variety of applications. CBD can cause side effects like diarrhoea, low blood pressure, drowsiness, and fatigue.
How are CBD and THC Similar?
THC and CBD have strikingly similar molecular structures, with the only difference in how the atoms are arranged. Their structure is also similar to the Endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by your body, which allows them to cause several changes to the way your body functions. Both these compounds have also been found to be effective in reducing pain and aiding sleep issues. Neither of these compounds has a known lethal dose, but they can be toxic for your body at very high doses. Beyond this, their similarities are derived from the same plant species, i.e., Cannabis.
What happens When CBD and THC are Consumed Together?
Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol are like two peas in a pod, quite literally. They seem to balance each other out in ways that often bring out and enhance the benefits of both compounds. For example, THC has been associated with unwanted side effects like anxiety and emotional and reward processing impairments.
Some studies have found that CBD can reduce these intense feelings of anxiety and emotional and reward processing impairments. In a study conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of THC and CBD extracts in relieving pain in patients with advanced cancer, it was found that extracts with both compounds were far better at providing relief than strong opioids (conventionally used pain-relieving drugs).
Is consuming CBD and THC legal in India?
In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 makes it illegal to cultivate, sell or use Cannabis for recreational purposes. But this law does not apply to using leaves and seeds to create CBD products. Although CBD products are derived from the Cannabis Plant, they usually do not contain THC in a ratio that would cause intoxication.
Despite this, the production and consumption of Bhang, a paste made using the leaves and flowers of cannabis Sativa, is entirely legal. Consumption of Bhang produces mind-altering effects due to its high THC content. Thus, the legality of THC in India is rather tricky to understand. The production, consumption and possession of marijuana buds and hash are illegal. However, certain products like Bhang and full spectrum oils are legal. Considering all of this, it can be said that while CBD products and Bhang are legal, pure THC products are not.