Much has been said about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component of marijuana that gives the substance its psychoactive properties. But there is another weed compound that is rapidly attracting attention because of its medicinal properties minus the high: cannabidiol or CBD.
Research about CBD and you’ll see how much it is being touted as a cure for almost everything, from schizophrenia to seizure disorders. Even though more studies are needed to confirm its positive effects, many patients already swear by its effectiveness.
THC vs. CBD
There are key differences between THC and CBD. THC activates the CB1 receptors in the brain associated with memory and coordinated movement. Furthermore, activating these receptors also lead to the release of dopamine, thus causing you to get stoned and experience euphoria and altered thinking patterns.
As for CBD, its main action lies on the CB2 receptors, which are found mostly in the immune system. This is where CBD gets its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. It can also block CB1 receptors, so you won’t experience the same high that you get with THC.
The difference between CBD and THC is the reason why different marijuana strains also cause different effects. Sativas have high THC and low CBD content, giving users an energetic and creative vibe. On the other hand, indica strains have more equal THC and CBD concentrations, leading to an “in da couch” feeling.
The ‘ignored’ compound
Most customers are after the psychoactive effects of THC, which is why it has gotten more attention than CBD in the past. “As CBD began to be bred out of recreational cannabis, there was less concern about looking at the potential health impacts of CBD,” said Philippe Lucas of Canadian medical cannabis company Tilray. “For a long time, it was thought that both the negative and therapeutic effects of cannabis could largely be attributed to THC.”
Though CBD was first identified in the ’40s, it generally became obscure after the ’80s and just recently went back into the radar in 2006, when researchers discovered CB2 receptors in the brain.
Another reason for the lack of studies about CBD is the legality of marijuana, which for a long time was considered a Schedule 1 drug—highly addictive and without medical value.
“It’s not the CBD that’s necessarily illegal,” said Amanda Reiman from nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s the fact that it’s extracted from the plant that makes it illegal.”
As a result, researchers had to comply with very strict requirements that many of them settled on studying synthetic versions of CBD. In fact, a 2014 Cochrane review revealed that four clinical trials on the antiepileptic effects of CBD were of low quality, so the researchers concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend CBD for seizures just yet.
As for CBD’s effects on other illnesses, data remains to be inconclusive. Some studies showed that patients with inflammatory bowel disease can be helped by medical marijuana, making CBD a viable natural option.
Another study on marijuana and diabetes revealed that there’s no significant difference between the treatment and control groups. However, the researchers announced that they are now working on studying both THC- and CBD-based compounds for conditions related to diabetes.
Because CBD is non-psychoactive, researchers are thinking of using it to curb addiction. Studies are being done among heroin and nicotine addicts.
Though studies showed that marijuana can worsen schizophrenia, scientists are now looking to isolate CBD and see if it has the same effect. So far, it doesn’t seem like it as some subjects even showed mild improvements in their schizophrenia symptoms, thanks to CBD.
There is still a lot to learn about CBD, but it looks like it has the potential to be used as a cure for various illnesses. It all remains to be seen through the years, but for now, all we can do is wait.
Would you still smoke pot even if it doesn’t get you high? Voice your opinions in the comments section below – your opinion matters to the nation.