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Focus on Cannabis Basics: CBD vs THC: What’s the Difference?

The number of Americans who support legalizing cannabis for medical use continues to grow, and it’s no surprise why. As several studies have demonstrated, increasing patients’ access to medical cannabis tends to lead to a decrease in the abuse or overuse of pharmaceuticals. Many of these drugs have been linked to dependence, overdoses, and harmful side effects.

But while public acceptance of cannabis medicine grows, it presents a challenge: Because of its continued prohibition on the Federal level—not to mention decades of disinformation and stigmatization—there’s a lack of clarity around exactly what cannabis is, how it partners with our bodies, and what it can—and can’t—do for us.

That’s one reason we maintain an active blog, featuring validated and authoritative information about cannabis medicine and its use. Today, we’re going to dive right into one of the most common misconceptions about cannabis: What’s the difference between CBD vs THC?

CBD vs THC: The Cannabis Plant’s Most Important “Active Ingredients”

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the cannabis plant is an extraordinarily complex system. When harnessed in carefully formulated and processed medicines like our Vireo Spectrum™ line, this is a great asset: Rather than comprising a single “active ingredient,” cannabis actually has many dozens of them, and they work together in fascinating ways.

From the clinical perspective, the most important are called “cannabinoids.” They’re a group of compounds that interact with one of the body’s most important regulatory networks: The Endocannabinoid System. To date some 113 cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant. But the two most abundant ones are of the greatest interest to clinicians: THC and CBD.

There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with THC. In addition to being the most prevalent cannabinoid, it’s the only one responsible for the cannabis plant’s psychoactive effects, or what’s many call its “high.”

The next most common cannabinoid is called CBD. One common misperception is that CBD is a type of cannabis. Instead, it’s a component found to some extent in nearly all cannabis. CBD can also come from the hemp plant, a close relative of cannabis. Because hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, CBD derived from the hemp plant is legal nearly everywhere in the United States, although its federal classification is still somewhat cloudy.

Until a few years ago, CBD received far less attention than THC, but that’s changing rapidly.

The current research indicates that has applications for a wide range of symptoms and chronic conditions. We’ll examine a few of these in greater depth, but let’s back up for a moment to share our current knowledge about THC.

THC: Looking Beyond the High

Because it causes psychoactivity, THC is sometimes dismissed as only having a recreational use. While it does cause the cannabis plant’s “high,” it also imparts many medically beneficial effects as well.

THC exhibits a powerful pain-fighting effect, largely through its powerful anti-inflammatory properties at the site of physical injuries. What’s more, the euphoria associated with its “high” helps modulate our experience of pain at both the level of the brain and the spinal cord.

THC can help patients manage the symptoms of serious disease. Some of those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) find THC to be of benefit in reducing muscle spasticity. And many undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments for cancer find that THC helps quell nausea and stimulate the appetite.

CBD: A Wealth of Medical Benefits from the Cannabis Plant’s “Other” Cannabinoid

CBD helps us fight pain too. One study found that CBD helped reduce inflammation and reduced the transmission of pain signals, but in different ways than THC. That’s one reason that when it comes to fighting pain, cannabis medicines that contain a roughly equal ratio of CBD vs THC are the most effective at managing pain.

In addition, CBD is effective as a treatment for certain types of seizures. Because it’s not psychoactive, it’s especially popular for pediatric use.

And finally, some studies point to CBD’s efficacy at combatting both anxiety and sleeplessness, commonly known as insomnia.

In Conclusion: CBD vs THC

We’re hopeful that further research will reveal even more authoritative answers. If you have any questions regarding “What’s the difference between CBD vs THC?” or how to best use our world-class cannabis medications, don’t hesitate to write us an email.


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