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CBD… THC… XYZ… if that all sounds like random letters to you, don’t worry, we’re going to set the record straight in this article. In the recent history of cannabis, it was always THC that got all the glory. But starting a few years ago, you probably saw CBD pop up in the news, and it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. Both THC and CBD are substances called cannabinoids, which are natural compounds found in the cannabis plant. But what’s the difference, and what do they do?
When you smoke or ingest cannabis and feel high, it’s THC (tetrahydraconnabidiol) that’s giving you that feeling. This is the psychoactive element of weed. There are several hundred cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but it’s this one that’s responsible for its controversial reputation. Other than the high you get from THC, it is commonly associated with medical treatment for diseases that can cause appetite suppression, like cancer or wasting disease.
CBD (cannabadiol) doesn’t cause the psychoactive effect you get from THC. However, CBD is the compound that is paving the way for what looks like could be a medical revolution. This incredible substance has been used to effectively treat everything from severe epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, pain and inflammation, PTSD and anxiety, multiple sclerosis, and even opioid withdrawal. Medical science is only just scratching the surface of what CBD is capable of. Drug manufacturers are taking notice too, with Epidiolex (a CBD drug for treatment of Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy) recently being approved by the FDA.
Most types of cannabis product packaging will list a THC percentage and a CBD percentage. You’ll find some strains that will be extremely high in THC, but low in CBD, while others will be the opposite. So, which one should you choose? Well, that has a lot to do with the reason you’re smoking or vaping cannabis in the first place. If you’re going out for an evening and you’re just looking for a good time, then you’d be checking the label for the amount of THC in the product. If you’re more interested in cannabis consumption for all the medical benefits, then a strain that’s higher in CBD might be a better choice.
What’s a “Balanced Strain”?
Thanks to better cultivation methods and years of cross-breeding programs, much of today’s cannabis has a significantly higher concentration of THC than it did back when our folks were smoking it. It’s common to see strains out there pushing up to 25-27% THC. Unless you have a very high tolerance, a single joint of a strain with that much THC is going to pack a pretty good punch. Lately, though, there has been pushback on the demand for high-THC strains. Many people, especially those that are interested in cannabis for medical treatment, are now buying what we call “balanced strains.” In other words, strains that have a roughly balanced amount of THC to CBD. Balanced strains are a great way to get the medical benefits of CBD, and a more mellow high. Plus, (depending on how much you ingest), you can typically remain functional, making these strains popular for people that need to medicate throughout the day.
The “Entourage Effect”
Cannabis researchers have discovered what they refer to as the “entourage effect.” By isolating single cannabinoids, they can create medications like Epidiolex. However, new research indicates that the cannabinoids in cannabis, (like THC and CBD), work better synergistically. Cannabis science heavyweights like Dr. Raphael Mechoulam believe that all of the many components of the cannabis plant exert some type of therapeutic effect, much more so than any single component alone.
Both THC and CBD are found in varying amounts in the cannabis plant. But rather than searching for a strain that’s massively high in just one of the two, consider looking for a balanced strain that has significant levels of both. You’ll get more of the therapeutic effects of cannabis, and the high might even be more enjoyable too!