BlogTHC vs CBD: what is the current state of the research on their medical benefits?

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THC vs CBD: what is the current state of the research on their medical benefits?

18-02-2019

THC vs CBD: how can you tell them apart?

The cannabinoids THC and CBD have been widely studied because of their reported health benefits. Even though THC and CBD can be found in abundance in most marijuana strains, both compounds are actually quite different, in terms of their composition as well as in their effects on the human body. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), as many of our avid readers are probably aware of, is a psychoactive cannabinoid. It’s responsible for the altered state of consciousness and physical effects we commonly associate with smoking, vaping or ingesting cannabis. CBD (cannabidiol), on the other hand, is not considered psychoactive. Both compounds, however, are associated with various health benefits and have attracted the attention of serious researchers from various medical fields. In this article, recent findings on the efficacy of ‘whole plant’ cannabis and the isolated compounds THC and CBD in the treatment of chronic pain, cancer and cancer-related symptoms, sleeping disorders and anxiety are briefly presented, using layman’s terms. These tentative conclusions are based on recent meta-analyses of individual scientific studies.

CBD vs THC:  why are they used in cannabinoid-based medicines (CBMs)?

Cannabinoid-based medicines show promise in the treatment of various diseases and afflictions. These medicines interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system. It is a little known fact that our own bodies are very much involved in the production of endocannabinoids (as opposed to phytocannabinoids, originating from the cannabis plant). Our bodies regulate the production of endocannabinoids which function as ‘chemical messengers’ and bind with cannabinoid receptors (cb1 and cb2 receptors), constituting an elaborate system of communication between cells. The endocannabinoid system appears to play an active role in motor skills, pain control, sleep and appetite, among other bodily functions. Phytocannabinoids extracted from cannabis plants also bond with our bodies’ cannabinoid receptors and there are strong indications that these compounds may have a wide variety of medical effects.


Cannabinoid receptors in a mouse's brain

CBD vs THC:  are they effective in treating chronic (non-cancer) pain?

It is difficult to make general statements about the efficacy of CBMs in alleviating chronic pain. Chronic pain can have a variety of underlying causes, therefore symptom relief can vary accordingly.  In many cases, synthetic drugs or opioids are both ineffective and their side effects unbearable. After turning to CBMs, many people report a sharp decrease in chronic pain caused by a host of underlying afflictions. On average, clinical studies offer moderate evidence on CBMs being able to lessen certain types of chronic pain. However, the small sample sizes and a limited timespan characterising many of these studies mean that we can’t take their results at face value. Furthermore, governments around the world are generally unwilling to fund cannabis-related research which makes it difficult to develop CBMs that have a standardized ratio of CBD to THC content. To make matters even more complicated, it seems that the method of administering CBMs (sublingual, vaping or smoking and ingesting) could impact their efficacy as well.

CBD vs THC: are they cancer killing agents?

The efficacy of cannabis, THC and CBD in treating cancer and cancer-induced symptoms is complicated and multi-faceted. Despite an abundance of case evidence, there is scant proof from clinical trials on cannabis and cannabinoids actually being effective in reducing  nausea associated with chemotherapy. Other than that, it seems that inhaling marijuana smoke or vapour may reduce pain from damaged nerve endings, a common cancer-related affliction. Aside from alleviating cancer-induced pain and discomfort, ‘whole plant’ cannabis extracts as well as isolated amounts of THC and CBD may also help cure cancer. There are preliminary findings about certain cancers being susceptible to a combined treatment of THC and chemotherapeutic compounds. Even more dumbfounding are the results from lab trials and animal studies suggesting that CBD and THC could slow tumor growth and counteract the influx of cancer cells into healthy tissue. Initial enthusiasm should be tempered as early findings also indicate that cannabinoids may suppress the immune system which would reduce our body’s natural ability to fight tumor growth. All in all, the interaction between our endocannabinoid system and cancer-induced symptoms and even tumor growth shows promising results but, as always, more and higher quality clinical research is necessary to support these preliminary conclusions.

CBD vs THC: are they effective in treating sleeping disorders?

We all know that inhaling or ingesting marijuana can make us feel drowsy and ready for bed. At the same time, many of us can relate to feeling energized and being in overdrive after smoking that late night joint. There are indications that the combined effects of CBD and THC negatively impact a certain phase of our body’s sleep pattern associated with memory consolidation. Different conclusions can be drawn from research looking into the impact of each cannabinoid separately. THC seems to act as a sedative and its health benefits appear to be rather limited in time: after a while, habituation kicks in and regular intake might actually disrupt our internal clock and affect our daytime behaviour, performance and mood. Preliminary research casts CBD as a stimulant in lower doses and as a sedative in medium to high doses. These findings sound promising and would justify further research, all the more considering a well-established theoretical link between our endocannabinoid system and our ‘internal clock’.

CBD vs THC: should you use them to treat general anxiety?

The biochemical mechanism through which cannabinoids might affect brain areas (eg. the midbrain dorsal periaqueductal gray, thank you very much) associated with anxiety is still unclear. However, we’ve known for some time that the consumption of ‘whole plant’ cannabis is actually a good idea as CBD will mitigate the anxiety-inducing side effects of THC. This finding has led to a budding strand of research on the efficacy of CBD in treating general anxiety. Small sample studies on humans indicate an acute drop in anxiety levels when taking a dose of about 300-600 mg of CBD. Numerous studies on mice and rats suggest that taking a certain amount of CBD over a period of time could lower baseline anxiety levels. In addition, a chronic dosing of CBD could alleviate a panic response and reduce OCD symptoms. More research is necessary to determine whether taking a certain amount of CBD over a longer period of time will have similar effects in humans, but the results from animal studies are definitely promising.

CBD vs THC: you may want to consider our range of CBD and THC products

Even though some of the research on the health benefits of ‘whole plant’ cannabis, and THC or CBD in particular, is in its infancy, the abundance in anecdotal evidence sounds promising. Azarius has an extensive range of CBD products: high-quality CBD oil and capsules containing specified amounts of CBD and only a negligible amount of THC,  CBD e-liquids to be used in vaporizers, CBD-rich herbs and hash are all available in our shop. If you are interested in growing your own medical marijuana, it’s definitely worth your while to take a look at the different CBD-rich and THC-rich strains available in our seed shop.

Conclusion

There are many individual cases that suggest CBMs are effective in treating a host of afflictions and illnesses. Preliminary results from preclinical and clinical research are often encouraging but inconclusive given the lack of quantity and quality of these studies. This is often due to the fact that marijuana remains a substance that arouses suspicion. Research in the United States in particular is limited as cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. This foot-dragging by influential government agencies translates into studies that often fail to meet rigorous scientific standards concerning sample size, the use of control groups and study length. One thing that can be inferred without hesitation from this overview is the need for high quality scientific research to reinforce the amount of anecdotal evidence already out there.  If taking ‘whole plant’ cannabis, or individual cannabinoids, is something you are considering, you may want to browse our range of CBD products, high-CBD and high-THC cannabis strains and find out for yourself if CBD and THC could help you improve your everyday life.



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