THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two most prominent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. They are often specifically mentioned when it comes to cannabis products, but what makes these cannabinoids so special and desirable?
CBD vs THC: The Basics
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for the mind-altering and intoxicating effects it produces. While cannabidiol is also psychoactive, it does not produce any intoxicating effects. Instead, it’s generally known for producing relaxing and calming sensations accompanied by a clear state of mind.
These two cannabinoids are very similar at a molecular level. Their molecular forms are also very similar to endocannabinoids, lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that are naturally produced by your body.
Because of their molecular similarity to endocannabinoids, cannabinoids are able to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. It’s believed that these two compounds both interact with the endocannabinoid system but in different ways.
CBD vs THC: Where Do They Come From?
The story of THC and CBD starts with biosynthesis — the process of combining chemical compounds to form new ones. In cannabis, the compounds geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) and olivetolic acid (OLA) come together to create CBGA, the acidic precursor of CBG, a cannabinoid that has earned the moniker “the mother of all cannabinoids.”
CBD and THC ultimately come from the breakdown of CBGA. But it’s not quite that simple. What CBGA actually breaks down into is CBDA and THCA (and numerous other cannabinoids), the acidic precursors of these two cannabinoids. You may be surprised to hear that THC and CBD don’t actually exist in raw cannabis. Instead, they exist as their acidic precursors THCA and CBDA.
So how do you get THC and CBD? In order to convert their acidic precursors into the cannabinoids we know and love, they must undergo a process known as decarboxylation.
Decarboxylation is effectively the process of heating these acidic precursors until they drop the acidic part of their molecular chain and become the non-acidic varieties of themselves. One example of this process is when a lighter is used to put a flame to cannabis flower in a joint or a pipe, instantly converting it into psychoactive material. This is also why eating raw cannabis will never get you buzzed, but eating a cooked edible will.
That means that products derived from cannabis plants, like the extracts that we use in our products, have all been heated to activate the right cannabinoids.
CBD vs THC: Therapeutic Properties
Both of these cannabinoids are believed to have a number of therapeutic benefits.
For example, THC is believed to support eye health, help with sleep, and promote overall comfort and wellness.
Meanwhile, CBD is believed to help reduce stress and help people sleep better. Both cannabinoids are believed to manage normal inflammation, provide total body comfort and wellness.
However, much more research is needed to understand just to what extent these two compounds can achieve these effects and just what the full therapeutic potential of these two cannabinoids really is.
CBD vs THC: Side Effects
When consumed in larger amounts, both THC and CBD can produce side effects, albeit very different ones.
The most common side effects of THC are anxiety, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, increased heart rate, loss of coordination, and memory loss.
The most common side effects of CBD are dizziness, diarrhea, fatigue, appetite changes, and weight loss.
These side effects can generally be avoided by starting with a small dose and then working your way up to the dose that gets you the effects you want.
CBD & THC: The Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is a phenomenon whereby cannabis compounds work together in synergy to produce different, and more complete, effects than they would on their own. This is the reason why most CBD oil usually contains just a touch of THC as well. It’s believed that the full spectrum of compounds found in cannabis are more powerful together than they are apart.
An example of the entourage effect in action is the unique buzz produced by a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD. It’s relaxing, calming, and mildly euphoric. It appears that cannabidiol negates a significant amount of the stimulating euphoria that THC produces. It also does a great job of alleviating the anxiety and paranoia that can sometimes occur as a side effect of consuming too much THC. So next time you think you’ve gotten too high, try some CBD oil to calm you down.
Looking for reliable, high-quality, lab-tested CBD products? Check out our shop right now for a variety of cannabis products including tinctures, edibles, capsules, topicals, and more!