CBD VS. THC: Everything You Need to Know
Stefan McKellar |
Hemp and cannabis have been used across the world throughout history. The first recorded usage of cannabis was in 2,737 B.C.E. by Emperor Shen Neng of China. Records show cannabis was being used for its medicinal qualities. Additionally, there is archaeological evidence to suggest that the source plant for CBD, cannabis sativa, was likely one of the first agricultural crops planted by early man. The birth of agriculture can be traced back some 10-12,000 years ago with hemp and cannabis having been associated with these early days, even though we often think of these as a recent achievement.
What may be surprising to many is that the medical community in the United States has been using cannabidiol (CBD) in one form or another since the 1970’s. In fact, it has even been legal in some states – medically speaking – since the 1990’s.
When we talk about the mainstream idea of what cannabis is and its effects on humans, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC gets most of the fanfare and criticism due to its psychoactive properties. CBD is, however, one of the more prevalent cannabinoids found in cannabis and accounts for up to 40 percent of the plant.
With cannabis laws changing across the country, CBD is increasing in popularity, and its medical benefits are quickly making it a popular choice for pain and general health management.
What is CBD?
The molecular structure of CBD and THC are very similar. Both have 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. What accounts for their differences and how they impact your body is how the atoms are arranged.
There are over 110 active cannabinoids inside marijuana plants with CBD being one of them. CBD is most predominant inside resin glands or trichomes of the female cannabis plant.
The body contains cell receptors known as cannabinoid receptors. The cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp are agonists that bind to these receptors. CBD, as well as THC, are chemically similar to the endocannabinoids the body produces. This similarity allows them to interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. How they interact impacts the release of neurotransmitters in your brain which are the chemicals that relay messages between cells in the body.
Despite the similarities, CBD is non-psychoactive, while THC is psychoactive. When you think of marijuana getting you high, it’s the THC in it that does that. CBD does not produce the high that is associated with THC. This is because THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors to produce a high or sense of euphoria. Meanwhile, CBD binds very weakly or not at all to CB1 receptors. It can even interfere with the binding of THC which can reverse the psychoactive effects.
Cannabinoid receptors can be found all over the body including the skin, digestive tract and reproductive organs. Altogether, these cells make up a more extensive system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Think of the body’s naturally produced cannabinoid receptors as locks and the agonists or the cannabinoids found in CBD as keys.
The ECS is the greatest neurotransmitter system in the body and has a hand in just about everything your body does including:
- Autonomic nervous system
- Female reproduction
- Immune system
- Stress response
Absorption of CBD Into The Body
How CBD is absorbed into your body depends on its form. CBD can be consumed via CBD oil that you ingest alone, via CBD softgels or placed under your tongue, inhaled or applied topically to your skin. Depending on which method you choose, it influences how quickly the effects of the cannabinoid treatment are felt.
Taking CBD oil orally is the most common method.
When CBD is ingested, it is absorbed by the digestive system where the compounds enter the hepatic portal system. From there they are carried into the liver where the CBD molecules are metabolized during the process the medical community refers to as the “first pass effect.” Enzymes in the liver interact with CBD and reduce the concentration of the compound before it passes into the bloodstream.
Because of the “first pass effect,” the body cannot receive high levels of CBD. Recent studies have found that if you combine CBD oil with fatty acids, you can help bypass the first pass metabolism and increase how much CBD is absorbed into your body.
Additionally, it has been discovered that if CBD sublingual drops are held under the tongue for 60 to 90 seconds before swallowing, the mucous membranes in the mouth can absorb the CBD compounds. This method allows CBD to bypass the digestive system and the “first pass effect,” preventing the compounds from being broken down by enzymes and reaching the bloodstream quicker. Other ways to take CBD orally include CBD infused water and CBD powders as well.
Ingestion via Inhalation
If you inhale CBD by vaping, the compounds in CBD are absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli offer a large surface area for absorption and allow the CBD molecules to be instantly transferred into the bloodstream. This method allows more CBD to be absorbed in the body, and at a faster rate than the ingestion method.
Applying CBD oil topically means that the CBD molecules never enter the bloodstream, but instead interact with the ECS through absorption with nearby cannabinoid receptors.
Due to the skin’s low permeability or ability to block most substances from entering the application of CBD lotions, balms, and salves need to be substantial enough to overcome this feature. If you apply a CBD product liberally to the skin, it can be absorbed through the pores.
What is THC?
THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol, as we mentioned, is one of the cannabinoids that binds to CB1 receptors to release dopamine and create a sense of high or euphoria. This psychoactive effect is why cannabis has become so popular among recreational users over decades.
There are three main chemical components to THC: 9-THC, 11-OH-THC, and THCCOOH. 9-THC acid is the inactive component found in the cannabis plant. Once it is burned, it becomes decarboxylated and forms the active 9-THC. This molecule is responsible for many of the psychoactive effects. As the component metabolizes, it creates the 11-OH-THC molecule that mimics the effects of the 9-THC in the body and the brain. It is then further broken down to produce THCCOOH, which is considered the inactive metabolite.
Effects When Absorbed Into The Body
Most of the body experiences you feel when you consume cannabis are the result of changes in your brain. Cannabinoids like THC can also act on ECS receptors throughout the whole body, leading to a whole range of beneficial effects.
Like CBD, when THC is consumed orally, it makes its way to the stomach where it is broken down and passed onto the liver. The liver breaks down the THC and turns it into 11-OH-THC. Note that it’s because of this process that edible cannabis products take longer to take effect. 11-OH-THC is more potent than THC and can affect your brain and body differently.
When THC is smoked or vaporized it enters the bloodstream via absorption in the lungs. The psychoactive experience reaches its peak when the THC molecules pass the blood-brain barrier and bind with the receptors in the brain.
Medical Effects of THC
Because of the psychoactive effects of THC, the medicinal qualities are often overlooked. CB1 receptors in the immune system allow THC to act as a powerful anti-inflammatory. In the digestive tract, THC can stimulate the release of ghrelin that is often referred to as the “hunger hormone” and help ease nausea.
Because of this affect, the FDA has approved a synthetic form of THC as an antiemetic for AIDS and chemotherapy patients. It’s also been approved as an appetite stimulant.
Researchers have also identified other ways THC can be used in a medicinal capacity including:
Anti-Inflammatory: inflammation effects athletes due to their vigorous workout regimes and can also complicate or contribute to a wide range of diseases. THC treats inflammation and has been shown to be effective at managing symptoms in disorders like multiple sclerosis.
Cancer: according to researchers, studies are beginning to identify the cancer-killing properties of tetrahydrocannabinol. These studies have found that THC can cause cancer cells to eat themselves in animals. However, similar tests have not been done to-date on humans. It is becoming more likely that a doctor will prescribe cannabis as a treatment for the harsh side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD: THC’s short-term effects have been shown to help people with PTSD process traumatic memories. Additionally, THC can help people who suffer from anxiety and depression.
Chronic Pain: treating chronic pain is one of the most popular uses for THC. Whether you have temporary muscle soreness or constant neuropathic pain, THC can release dopamine and reduce inflammation to help with pain relief.
Digestive Disorders: the endocannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract allow cannabis to help people who suffer from GI diseases like Crohn’s, Diabetic Gastroparesis and IBS. The FDA has recognized THC’s ability to help treat symptoms related to GI diseases.
Medical Effects of CBD
In general, CBD promotes balance, reduces inflammation, decreases blood pressure and more. These are a few reasons why many athletes are starting to use CBD in place of a traditional anti-inflammatory. CBD is a multi-target therapy that allows it to target a number of conditions at once. It may be able to offer the ability to eliminate the need for multiple medications for different conditions depending on the user’s and what their primary physician determine.
The medical community is continuing to research the effects of CBD. CBD is being studied currently in clinical trials and ongoing research studies in the fields of:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Diabetic Gastroparesis
- Multiple Sclerosis
Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Relief
Increasingly, athletes and people with chronic pain are using CBD to help with their inflamed muscles, joints, and general pain relief. In 2008, GW Pharmaceuticals examined two decades worth of preclinical studies and animal trials concluding that CBD can be a valuable tool for pain management. A 2016 study by the University of Kentucky examined CBD’s effects on rats with arthritis finding that CBD reduced inflammation and overall pain. Some studies have also found that CBD could be a neuroprotectant, suggesting its ability to strengthen the brain against the debilitating effects of concussions.
CBD has been shown to have key health benefits to reduce seizures.
Seizures occur when there’s a dramatic shift of electrical activity in the brain. While many high-profile cases have raised awareness of CBD’s anti-seizure properties, it’s only recently that science has been able to confirm a direct link. New England Journal of Medicine published a study that featured a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to explore the effects of CBD on young adults with Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a rare type of epilepsy with seizures that are often induced by fever. Those who received CBD experienced a drop in their seizure frequency by a median of 38.9 percent.
Type 1 Diabetes
While CBD oil is often touted for its pain relief abilities, a rarely discussed benefit of CBD oil is how it can potentially reduce the risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes. In a study released by Neuropharmacology, researchers discovered that female mice that received CBD had only a 32 percent chance of getting diabetes whereas 100 percent of the mice that weren’t given CBD were diagnosed with diabetes:
“Our data strengthen our previous assumption that CBD, known to be safe in man, can possibly be used as a therapeutic agent for treatment of type 1 diabetes.”
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can help people suffering from acne. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that CBD oil prevented acne in the glands that are responsible for producing sebum, a natural oily substance that hydrates the skin but can sometimes lead to acne.
The Legality of CBD and THC
Cannabis legalization is a hot topic across the world as well as in the United States. Worldwide the legalization of cannabis has already happened in a number of countries including:
- South Africa
Additionally, our Canadian neighbors to the north are set to decriminalize marijuana across the entire country on October 17, 2018.
Currently, 29 states have some form of legalized cannabis with many more set to debate legalizing it. With murky federal laws and laws changing from state-to-state, it’s easy to get confused about the state of cannabis legalization in the United States.
The Legality of Cannabis in The U.S.
At the federal level, cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 — the legislations highest classification. This makes the use, possession, sale, cultivation, and transportation of cannabis illegal. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines a schedule 1 drug as a substance that has a high potential of being abused by its users and has no acceptable medical use.
Recently, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has created the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety that is tasked with looking into the current marijuana laws at the federal level.
Despite federal classification, the government has told states that if they would like to pass laws to decriminalize cannabis for either medical or recreational use they may do so, under the condition that a regulatory system is enacted.
States Where Cannabis is Legal Recreationally and Medically
As of November 2016, the use of recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in the following states and district:
- District of Columbia
These states have dispensaries for recreational users.
Medical Marijuana and Its Legality in The U.S.
What may be surprising to some is that medical use of cannabis has been legal in many states since the mid 90’s with currently 29 states allowing the use of medical marijuana in a variety of forms.
Until the early 1940s, marijuana was found in more than 20 medications for a variety of ailments. It also continued to be included in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, the predecessor of the Physician's Desk Reference, five years after the Marijuana Stamp Act [MB2] was passed in 1937.
Medical marijuana is legal in the following states. For a complete list click here.
- North Dakota
- New York
When ingested or inhaled, cannabinoids like THC and CBD are stored in the body’s fat. This means that they can show up on drug tests for several days or even weeks after you use them. However, most drug tests will not show CBD since most tests are not capable of detecting CBD. That being said, CBD-sensitive tests are available.
THC will show up on a drug test and is the compound that most drug tests are looking for.
There is also the possibility that miniscule THC levels will be detected in a drug test even though you have only taken CBD. The reason for this is because of the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is a term coined by Raphael Mechoulam in 1999. Mechoulam is an Israeli organic chemist best known for his work in the isolation structure elucidation and total synthesis of THC. The entourage effect is the belief that the compounds in cannabis work better together than if they are isolated. CBD is believed to be the significant modulatory component of cannabis which is why it is often combined with THC to balance out the psychoactive effects. Conversely, THC may be added to CBD products in minute amounts to increase the effectiveness of the CBD.
Types of Products
Sales in the CBD industry are skyrocketing and is largely due in part to its legalization in many states. Additionally, many people are beginning to better understand the health benefits of CBD and are incorporating it into their lifestyles. In 2015, the non-psychoactive CBD market was around $90 million in sales. It’s estimated that by 2020 the total CBD market including both hemp and marijuana-derived CBD will reach $2.1 billion.
CBD products are ideal for athletes as well as people who maintain a healthy and holistic lifestyle.
CBD products include:
Softgels: NanoCraft CBD Softgels contain 25mg of cannabidiol (CBD) per dose and are designed to have maximum absorption rate.
Drops: NanoCraft CBD drops are a convenient choice for users as they are administered under the tongue for quick absorption, or they can be added to food and drinks.
Pain Sticks: NanoCraft CBD Pain Stick is applied topically, and helps induce recovery from exercise-induced inflammation--great for recovering athletes.
Supplements: NanoCraft CBD Supplements offer an abundant source of CBD as well as phytonutrients and antioxidants. Created with athletes in mind, this CBD powder creates the most potent, energizing and immune-enhancing drinks that allow users to recover and rebuild after a workout to maintain their healthy lifestyle.
Waters: NanoCraft CBD Waters utilizes nanotechnology to add CBD molecules to water clusters. This innovative technology allows CBD molecules to move through the cells of the body faster and make them more readily available for use.
THC products: THC products are found at dispensaries and are made for recreational use. These dispensaries will typically have multiple cannabis products to choose from including edibles and flower for smoking.
How NanoCraft is Different From a Dispensary
NanoCraft is on a mission to be an industry leader in top quality hemp-derived CBD products for the sports, health and fitness marketplaces. Our dedication to affordable health and wellness products makes us a leader in the hemp CBD marketplace. All of our products are manufactured in a state of the art cGMP certified laboratory and derived non-GMO, contain no pesticides, solvents, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Unlike some dispensaries, you can rest assured that when using NanoCraft products that they are all safe and legal.