The Difference Between THC & CBD

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THC and CBD are the buzzwords of the medical cannabis community. If you’re thinking about using cannabis to treat your symptoms, it helps to know the difference.

They are structurally variant cannabinoids
There are 144 chemical compounds called cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The two most researched are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). They have completely different structures in terms of their chemistry and where they act on the body.

They bind to the receptors differently
Cannabinoid receptors are scattered throughout the body— in organs, immune cells, bones and joint tissue. The receptors act like locks on our cells. When cannabinoids attach to the receptors, they unlock a response, such as pain relief. THC and CBD don’t work on the same receptors. THC attaches to CB-1 and CB-2 receptors directly, while CBD does so indirectly and by other non-receptor means.

Both harness the endocannabinoid system
Our endocannabinoid system helps to achieve balance in the body and regulates many processes, including pain sensation, appetite, mood and memory. We naturally produce cannabinoids similar to those found in cannabis. They pass messages between the brain and body parts through cannabinoid receptors and other mechanisms.

The side effects are different
THC can cause psychoactive side effects such as euphoria, anxiety or paranoia. It can also cause dizziness or drowsiness. Side effects don’t last long, and if you start at a low dose of THC and gradually increase it, you’ll develop a tolerance. Most patients experience no side effects from CBD, and it has almost no effect on the mind.

They treat various symptoms
THC can reduce nausea and vomiting, relieve pain, stimulate appetite and help with insomnia and relaxation. CBD helps with inflammation and reduces seizures and convulsions. Charlotte’s Web, for example, is a cannabis oil that’s very high in CBD and low in THC and is used to treat epilepsy in children. CBD also acts as an antidepressant, working on similar receptors to medications that act on serotonin receptors.

There’s a synergistic effect
With a product that’s high in THC and low in CBD, patients tend to experience more THC side effects like paranoia or anxiety. CBD works in a synergistic manner with the THC. By adding more CBD, it prevents the THC from binding fully to the receptor and reduces the psychoactive effects. There are also potential therapeutic effects of using a combination of THC and CBD (for example, to treat pain) versus using one alone. It’s not one-size-fits-all. People have unique sensitivities to THC and responses to cannabinoid combinations. Even with the same demographic characteristics (age, lifestyle, socioeconomic status, disease), two people may respond to the same product differently.

Find your ideal balance
Finding the cannabinoid balance that’s right for you can be a process of trial and error. Some licensed producers, such as CanniMed Ltd., have a pharmacist who answers questions about strains and dosing. Try a starter program with a few varieties of THC to CBD ratios, and record any side effects to find the product that works.

CARP members receive a $50 credit upon registration as a new CanniMed patient and 5% off Patient Direct Pricing or current best price offer, on medical cannabis products.

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