Health-conscious individuals are always on the lookout for non-pharmaceutical alternatives to heal what ails them. There are countless dietary supplements on the market such as turmeric, bone broth, and probiotics, but one remedy that’s really in the spotlight these days is medicinal marijuana. CBD oil is touted as a miracle topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory for arthritis, muscle aches, eczema, sunburn, and even insect bites. But there is controversy about what cannabis can do both medicinally and recreationally, and misconceptions abound. As dispensaries become more commonplace in our communities, educating ourselves about the benefits, risks, and legal considerations will help us make informed decisions about whether we want to jump on the bandwagon to treat our health issues with this potential panacea or take a pass.
For a leg up in navigating the growing and changing field of medical marijuana, check out the latest workshop in our Sustainable Living Workshop Series, “Curious About Cannabis: What You Need to Know,” on June 20 at Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center in Pleasant Hill. For more information and to register, go HERE.(Continue reading beneath photo.)
The Difference Between THC and CBD
Any preliminary discussion about medicinal marijuana requires making a clear distinction between THC and CBD. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are chemical compounds called cannabinoids that occur naturally in the Cannabis sativa plant, most commonly known as cannabis. Cannibinoids are used to help modulate sleeping and eating habits; treat symptoms of PTSD, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, OCD, cancer, and asthma; and relieve many other physical and mental health issues. Actually, cannabinoids are present within several plant species, but cannabis is the only plant known to contain CBD.
THC and CBD differ dramatically in their effects. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you high, hence, CBD appears more frequently than THC in supplements for treating pain, inflammation, depression, nausea, anxiety, IBS, heart disease, insomnia, and countless other issues. CBD oil is a topical treatment and antioxidant that supposedly reduces inflammatory cytokine formation in the body, which can cause swelling, stiffness, and pain.(Cytokines are proteins secreted by cells in the immune system.)
In contrast, THC is the main psychoactive component of the marijuana plant and is primarily responsible for creating the high and calming/relaxation effects associated with recreational cannabis use, so it is strictly regulated. Some experts believe a combination of CBD and THC provides the best relief.
For those wanting a more scientific explanation, Cannabinoids mediate their effects through cannabinoid receptors found in the brain and on cells of the immune system in all animal species -- mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish --- all the way down to the simple sea sponge.These receptors can be stimulated and modulated by compounds called endocannabinoids, which are produced naturally in the body, either by ingesting similar phytocannabinoids like THC (from botanicals) or synthetic cannabinoids (produced in a lab). After binding to receptors in the body the same way a lock fits a key, these cannabinoids can impact blood pressure, pain threshold, appetite, and more.
What About Hemp?
CBD is found in both hemp and marijuana, two species of cannabis, but because hemp contains almost no THC -- 0.3% or less – it is non-intoxicating. Hemp is harvested from the seeds and stalks of the cannabis plant and used primarily for food, rope, clothing, paper, housing material, fuel, and other industrial resources. CBD oil is usually extracted from the flowers of the hemp plant and is combined with a carrier oil (e.g. sunflower seed oil or jojoba oil) to make it more acceptable for consumption and topical use. There is controversy over whether CBD is more effective if it comes from hemp vs. cannabis, and this subject gets into finer points over their similarity at the molecular level, the holistic benefit of using the whole plant, bioaccumulation, and something called the “entourage effect,” but hemp CBD vs. cannabis CBD is a discussion for another day. Fun trivia fact: Hemp is believed to be the oldest, human-cultivated fiber plant.
This article on CBD vs. THC barely scratches the surface. As we know, there is controversy about whether marijuana should be legalized (medicinally or recreationally), regulated, and sold, and who should make those decisions. It’s a vast topic that will be under analysis and discussion for a long time to come.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions with regard to a medical condition.
Photo by Francesco Mazzone from Unsplash.com