Left vs. right. Liberal vs. conservative. Up vs. down. Oh, and CBD vs. THC.
Suffice to say that people often gravitate towards dualistic viewpoints. Maybe it’s in a quest to understand things? Regardless, the way most people view cannabis is no different. It’s been equally oversimplified.
But cannabis is more than just CBD and THC. And these two compounds don’t fit as nicely into “medicinal” and “recreational” boxes as you might think. We believe both CBD and THC have the ability to improve one’s overall quality of life — medicine and recreation included.
And science is now showing that CBD and THC improve each other. They synergize and complement each other as part of something scientists call the entourage effect…it’s pretty much proof that nature knows best! In this article, we’ll be looking at how you can harness this knowledge for yourself.
- What Does CBD Do?
- What Does THC Do?
- How Do CBD and THC Interact?
- CBD and THC for Pain
- CBD and THC for Autoimmune Health
- More Good News
What Does CBD Do?
CBD, as you might know, is a cannabinoid. It’s one of the two major cannabinoids naturally produced by the cannabis species. In most types of cannabis, it’s the second “active ingredient”, after THC…in hemp, though, it’s the first.
So, what does CBD do? It promotes health without causing a high. That’s because the molecular targets CBD ‘activates’ are found mostly throughout the peripheral body — in important organs like the stomach, in the lungs, in muscle cells and even on the surfaces of mitochondria.
And CBD doesn’t even bind to these targets all that strongly, which means the biochemical shifts it causes aren’t always super noticeable. Those who take CBD often notice the absence of negative feelings (whether pain, anxiety, depression, etc) more than anything else. To put it simply, CBD likes to work behind the scenes.
What Does THC Do?
THC is the other primary cannabinoid in cannabis. In many kinds of cannabis, it’s the primary “active ingredient,” though in hemp-based varieties it’s behind CBD as a distant second.
Unlike CBD, THC’s effects are noticeable. It affects perception even at low doses — sometimes so powerfully that its very real health benefits get overlooked. THC binds to a different type of receptor than CBD, the CB1 receptor. This receptor is very densely concentrated within the brain, specifically areas of the brain that process emotion and memory formation. The CB1 receptors THC binds to are actually the most prevalent receptors of their type in the entire brain.
This neurochemical setup allows THC to help people forget…sometimes where they put their car keys, sure, but more often things that need to be forgotten. Much like psilocybin mushrooms and other natural psychedelics, THC’s mechanism of action allows one’s brain to adapt, grow, and (hopefully!) improve over time.
But THC, on its own, can actually lead to too much change. Over time it can desensitize its CB1 receptors and create a subtle form of dependency. While THC isn’t chemically addictive, it can be psychologically addictive. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution: combining CBD and THC.
How Do CBD and THC Interact?
Based on all the info above, you probably aren’t surprised to hear that CBD and THC balance each other out. When taken together, CBD tends to reduce THC’s mental effects, and THC tends to amplify CBD’s physical effects.
But that’s not all. CBD and THC also seem to make each other more powerful. How?
Once again, the answer lies in these compounds’ pharmacology. When CBD and THC are taken at the same time, the receptors they activate also join forces. The psychedelic CB1 receptors THC binds to and the non-psychedelic CB2 receptors CBD binds to can actually form a special receptor complex called a heterodimer.
While it’s true that CB1 is mostly located in the brain and CB2 is mostly located in the body, the reality is that both these receptors are located everywhere. And by literally joining forces by stimulating the formation of these heterodimeric structures, CBD and THC benefit the endocannabinoid system in a way that neither of them can on their own.
This phenomenon also explains how CBD reduces THC’s psychoactivity. The study linked above called it a “bidirectional cross-antagonism phenomenon,” but think of it as a biochemical balancing act if that’s any simpler.
CBD and THC for Pain
CBD and THC’s dual benefits don’t stop with their impact on the brain. The duo has also proven effective for pain relief!
It’s a two-pronged approach: CBD may reduce the inflammatory processes that often cause pain, and THC may reduce your perception of pain itself. Though a little oversimplified, this is about right, conceptually speaking. Cannabis expert Ethan Russo has noted that Sativex, a pharmaceutical preparation approved in Canada for the treatment of neuropathic pain, contains both CBD and THC for a reason.
As it turns out, many different pain-related illnesses may have endocannabinoid deficiencies at their roots. Researchers suspect this includes things like IBS, MS, and more. So if you want to take a holistic approach to pain relief, consider CBD and THC. They might just give your endocannabinoid system the boost it needs.
CBD and THC for Autoimmune Health
CBD and THC may also be an effective combination for those with autoimmune diseases. For those unaware, diseases in this category are caused when one’s immune system becomes overactive and attack itself instead of attacking foreign invaders.
Research has shown that both CBD and THC can suppress the immune system, but — amazingly enough — only if such suppression is needed. Which it definitely is for autoimmune diseases.
Anecdotally speaking, a 4:1 CBD:THC ratio is a favourite of many people with autoimmune problems. Products with this special ratio are only slightly psychotropic, so while they probably won’t get you high, they probably will provide powerful pain relief and immuno-regulation.
More Good News
Combining THC and CBD provides other health benefits, too. The combo is a perfect candidate for microdosing, which is where one takes a small number of cannabinoids throughout the day.
But THC and CBD do great with large doses, too…don’t forget that they balance each other out! All in all, it’s hard to go wrong with this synergistic duo. Perhaps nature knew what she was doing when she designed the original CBD-rich, THC-rich, terpene-rich cannabis plant…