CBD vs THC – What are the Main Differences?

CBD vs THC – What are the Main Differences?

CBD vs. THC? Of the at least 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated to date, these two are undoubtedly the most well-known and, the most well researched. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both naturally occurring compounds found in plants in the cannabis genus.  Known as phytocannabinoids, these compounds interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the endocannabinoid system present in all mammalian species.

CBD was first isolated in 1940 whilst THC was isolated in 1964 by the preeminent cannabis scientist Raphael Mechoulam. At the most fundamental level, THC and CBD are different because of their differing physiological effects. CBD is non-psychotropic and therefore does not illicit a “high” whereas THC is psychotropic and is the only known cannabis-derived compound to illicit a “high”. Here we look at some of the key differences, and similarities, between CBD and THC.

The structures of THC vs CBD

The structural formulas of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) including the location of the cyclic ring in THC and the hydroxyl group in CBD.

Figure 1. The structural formulas of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

THC and CBD are just two compounds from a family of around 113 bi- and tri-cyclic compounds cannabinoid compounds found naturally in cannabis. Both CBD and THC share the exact same molecular formula, C21H30O2, containing twenty-one atoms of carbon, thirty of hydrogen and two of oxygen. Their molecular mass is practically identical with THC and CBD having masses of 314.469 g/mol 314.464 g/mol, respectively.

The biosynthesis of THC and CBD from CBGA via their acidic forms THCA and CBDA.

Figure 2. The biosynthesis of THC and CBD from CBGA.

The biosynthesis of THC and CBD in cannabis also follows a very similar pathway. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the precursor to all natural cannabinoids, is cyclized into tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) by THCA and CBDA synthase, respectively. The final products of THC and CBD are formed via decarboxylation of these acidic forms.  Structurally, however, there is one important difference. Where THC contains a cyclic ring (see Figure 1), CBD contains a hydroxyl group. It is this seemingly small difference in molecular structure that gives the two compounds entirely different pharmacological properties.

The chemical properties of THC vs CBD

As with many of the cannabinoids, THC and CBD have low solubility in water, but good solubility in most organic solvents, particularly lipids and alcohols. Both THC and CBD are present in cannabis in a mixture of acidic forms, which are readily de-carboxylated and chemically altered upon heating, important when you consider that smoking cannabis is the most common form of consumption. THC is also well known for its ability to bind to glass and plastic. Therefore, THC preparations are typically stored in basic or organic solvents in amber silicate glassware to avoid loss, especially during analytical testing procedures.

The physiological effects of CBD vs THC

As a potent partial agonist of CB1, THC is able to bind to and stimulate the receptor. As a negative of allosteric modulator of CB1, CBD indirectly alters the shape of the CB1 receptor.

Figure 3. Left: THC is a potent partial agonist of CB1. It is this stimulation which leads to the major psychotropic effects of cannabis consumption. Right: CBD is a negative allosteric modulator of CB1 so it changes the shape of the CB1 receptor weakening its ability bind to THC.

CB1 is a G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system with a particularly high abundance in the brain. As part of the endocannabinoid system it is activated by the endogenous neurotransmitters, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, as well as other naturally occurring compounds including the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. As a potent partialagonist of CB1, THC stimulates the CB1 receptor leading to the psychotropic effects experienced when consuming cannabis. CBD on the other hand, is classified as a negative allosteric modulator of CB1, meaning it effectively alters the shape of the CB1 receptor. This change makes it more difficult for CB1 agonists, like THC and other endogenous CB1 agonists, to stimulate the receptor. The fact that CBD does not bind to, or stimulate, CB1 is also the reason it does not produce the psychotropic effects associated with THC.

How CBD vs THC interact with each other

Through its interactions with the CB1 receptor, CBD is thought to modulate the psychotropic effects of THC by inhibiting its ability to bind to and stimulate the receptor. Which is why people don’t feel as “high” when using CBD-rich cannabis compared to when they consume products high in THC. CBD is able to reduce some of the negative effects of THC by decreasing anxiety, paranoia and the short-term memory impairment often experienced when consuming cannabis. Evidence suggests that a CBD-rich product with little THC can in fact convey therapeutic benefits without having a euphoric or dysphoric effect.

Despite the evidence of positive interactions between CBD and THC, there is still a big drive for THC and CBD only medicines. In broad terms, this reflects the consensus of the traditional pharmaceutical industry that a drug with a single active ingredient is easier to develop, test, produce, prescribe and regulate. As evidence for the beneficial effects of combining cannabinoids in medicine increases this may change. Particularly with the growth in popularity of the concept of whole plant medicine. In brief, advocates of whole plant medicine argue that cannabis should be used in the most natural form possible as the various cannabinoids and other active compounds in cannabis have a combinatorial effect, also known as the entourage effect.

The medical Uses of CBD vs THC

Medical uses of CBD  Medical uses of THC
Anti-seizure Analgesic
Anti-inflammatory Anti-nauseant
Analgesic Appetite stimulant
Anti-tumor effects Reduces glaucoma symptoms
Anti-psychotic Sleep aid
Inflammatory bowel disease Anti-anxiety
Depression Muscular spasticity

The use of cannabis as a medicinal plant dates back thousands of years across cultures around the world.  However, due to relatively modern restrictions and regulations, the research into the use of cannabis as a medicine in the modern world has been severely limited. As the legalization and decimalization of cannabis increase around the world, the ability to research its potential uses is opening up.

In October 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a pre-review report which provides the most up to date summation of the current and potential clinical uses of CBD. Unequivocal evidence now supports the use of CBD in the treatment for at least some forms of epilepsy including Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality rate. Other indications are consistent with its neuroprotective, antiepileptic, hypoxia-ischemia, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic, and antitumor properties. These indications are based on limited clinical and pre-clinical evidence as well as swathes of anecdotal evidence. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease as well as multiple sclerosis, psychosis, anxiety, depression, cancer and many more could all benefit from treatment with CBD according to the WHO.

Like CBD, there exists a long list of potential clinical uses of THC. To date, the FDA has approved only two drugs containing THC and a synthetic cannabinoid that emulates the activity of THC. Dronabinol is a gelatine capsule containing THC which is administered orally to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy as well as weight loss and poor appetite in patients with AIDS. Nabilone contains a synthetic version of THC and is approved for the treatment of the nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy when other drugs have not worked. Again, as with CBD, a huge range of scientific and anecdotal evidence supports the use of THC as a medicine. Potential usesinclude the treatment of neuropathic pain, pain caused by injury or accident, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety and many more.

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What Is CBD Oil?

What is it?

What Is CBD Info

Chemistry

CBD is short for cannabidiol. This is a lipid. Lipids are one of the four main building blocks of all living things, along with carbohydrates, nucleic acids and proteins. CBD has built up a significant cult following in recent years and is becoming increasingly popular with many groups. Elite athletes, people with chronic illnesses and some medical professionals are some of the sectors of society that have been publicising the effects of this molecule. CBD is not water-soluble and has to be dissolved in an oil or an alcohol to be used.

Health

CBD has numerous reported health benefits. It is being used clinically in Canada under the name Sativex. This is used to treat neuropathic pain in people who suffer from MS, or Multiple Sclerosis. This debilitating disease causes degradation and scarring of many of the nerves in the body and is a great burden to many people worldwide. Research is still ongoing in this field and it may be of use in neuropathic pain in other illnesses that cause them. In another study, rats were given heroin in the laboratory to become addicted.

CBD was then administered to the test rodents in an effort to ameliorate their condition. The CBD was found to break addiction cycles and patterns in the rats and greatly reduced their addiction. A similar effect has been reported anecdotally by human sufferers of the same addiction, where many have reported that using CBD was a key part of their journey away from addiction.

CBD has also been suggested to have a positive effect on those living with addictions to other drugs, such as tobacco and cannabis. Another reported effect of CBD is that it has been shown to reduce the anxiety-related side effects of THC, another medication used in MS treatment in Canada. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties in the human body. This implies that it may be of use as a painkiller. This idea is supported by much anecdotal evidence from people who use it to treat chronic pain issues. A large number of Mixed Martial Arts fighters have endorsed CBD products as having helped them speed up their recovery times, and this is also true of a number of NFA players in the US. Much research is still ongoing about these and the myriad other purported benefits of CBD to human health and nutrition.

Where does it come from?

The Plant

CBD is produced by plants in the genus Cannabis. These plants are native in the wild to Central Asia, with a range stretching from Turkey in the West to India, Nepal and possibly the South-East Asian peninsula also. The plants’ medicinal properties seem to have been known to many ancient cultures, and so were grown and used by many of these peoples outside of the plant’s original range.

The History

Cannabis sativa was an important herb in ancient Chinese medicine and many treatises and manuals of the time point to it as an essential medicine. It appears to have been used for a wide range of ailments from nervous disorders, falling hair, ulcers, and stopping ‘fluxes’. Parts of the plant were also used as an anaesthetic.

Although ancient cultures had no way of knowing, it was likely to have been the CBD in the hemp plants which provided their medical benefits. Other cultures have been seen to use the plant in the past also. A neolithic grave in The Netherlands, from 4200-4400 years ago, was found to contain numerous Cannabis seeds, along with some material of meadowsweet or Filipendula ulmaria. Meadowsweet is known to have fever-reducing properties, so this find implicates that CBD may have been being used, if inadvertently, at least as early as since people began to farm.

CBD Detected – The 20th Century

CBD itself was first isolated in 1940 in the USA by two chemists, Adams and Todd. It was not until 1963 that the exact structure of CBD was discovered by Mechoulam and his research team at the University of Jerusalem. Mechoulam and his colleagues used NMR – nuclear magnetic resonance, a new technology at the time. This involves the use of an enormous electromagnet that can have a mass of many tonnes and is a costly technique.

From having the absolute structure and knowing exactly what atom fits where on the CBD molecule, researchers have since that time been able to predict possible effects the molecule will have on biological organisms, such as humans and our pet mammals.

How can I use it?

There is a huge diversity of products currently being produced that contain CBD oil. A very common way to use CBD oil is as a tincture. This is CBD diluted in an oil or an alcohol, which can be applied to the inside of the mouth. The tincture will generally come in a small bottle, of glass or plastic. Some tinctures include a dropper so that users can place a certain amount of drops underneath the tongue or behind the gums. Other tinctures have a spray head with which people can spray a fine mist in the inside of their mouths.

Although tinctures are the most commonly seen applicators of CBD oil, some companies have been innovative and produced a number of other ways to use CBD. Transdermal patches are available. These are similar to the nicotine patches used in stopping smoking, where an adhesive side of a square of rubberised plastic is impregnated with CBD instead of nicotine, to be placed on the upper part of a limb. There are ways CBD oil can be applied to the skin: lotions, skin creams, gels, rubs and face masks are just some of the myriad ways to use CBD topically.

With the numerous ways of using CBD oil to improve health, and more benefits being publicised almost daily, there are a great number of options and reasons to use CBD oil.

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WHAT IS CBD?

CannabidiolCBD—is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive or less psychoactive than THC-dominant strains makes it an appealing option for patients looking for relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms, and other conditions without disconcerting feelings of lethargy or dysphoria.

Scientific and clinical research—much of it sponsored by the US government—underscores CBD’s potential as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, MS, chronic pain, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, antibiotic-resistant infections, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders. CBD has demonstrable neuroprotective and neurogenic effects, and its anti-cancer properties are currently being investigated at several academic research centers in the United States and elsewhere. Further evidence suggests that CBD is safe even at high doses.

Project CBD responds to inquiries from all over the world. Almost everyone wants to know where to get CBD-rich products and how to use them for maximum benefit. After decades in which only high-THC cannabis was available in North America and beyond, CBD-rich strains and products are now available to medical users.

CBD-rich” versus “CBD dominant:” By “CBD-rich,” we mean a cannabis strain or product that has equal amounts of CBD and THC, or more CBD than THC (usually at least 4 percent CBD by dry weight.). By “CBD-dominant,” we mean strains or products that are CBD-rich but have very little THC content.

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