Whether you’ve just started researching medical cannabis or you’ve used it for some time, you’ve almost undoubtedly heard of cannabinoids. These are the “active” substances in cannabis.
The two best-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). They’re also the two cannabinoids found most frequently in cannabis.
What do these two substances do and what’s the difference between them? The answers may surprise you.
THC is by far the best-known of the cannabinoids. It’s responsible for most of the “stereotypical” effects people associate with cannabis: feelings of relaxation, calm, drowsiness, and hunger.
THC is considered by patients to be an effective painkiller. Many cannabis strains are high in THC content.
Much of the research in the medical cannabis community right now is focused on the effects of cannabidiol. Although cannabis naturally has a lower CBD concentration, it is possible to breed strains of medical cannabis that have higher CBD content and lower THC concentration.
These CBD-heavy strains have different effects than their THC-heavy cousins. Many patients report CBD strains help them feel more awake and alert, improve mental focus, and suppress the appetite.
Nonetheless, CBD strains still claim to provide effective relief of many symptoms, including chronic pain. Patients using strains with a high CBD content also report feelings of calm and relaxation.
CBD strains may be better options for people who are struggling with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients also report they’re great for daytime use as opposed to their sleep-inducing THC cousins.
Is THC Bad?
There’s a common myth, even within the medical cannabis community, that THC is inherently bad. Some research has tied it to negative effects. Other research hasn’t supported these findings.
Some people have taken to calling THC the substance in cannabis that “gets you high.” While it is true THC is responsible for many of the effects of medical cannabis, CBD may have many of the same effects.
This misperception has caused some to believe medical cannabis contains lower concentrations of THC, so patients will not “get high.” While low-THC strains do exist, high-THC strains also have their place in therapeutic use. Further, low-THC strains are often high in CBD, which may have some similar effects.
So, is THC bad and have producers tried to eliminate it? Not necessarily! Picking a THC- or CBD-dominate strain has more to do with your medical needs.
Which Is Better?
As indicated above, CBD-dominant and THC-dominant strains both have their place in medical usage. CBD strains are often used during the day, while THC strains are favoured for nighttime use by many patients, since they may promote drowsiness and sleep.
Ultimately, neither THC nor CBD is really “better” than the other. It all depends on what you hope to achieve with your medical marijuana treatment. If you hope to treat insomnia or get to sleep during a chronic pain episode, a THC-dominant strain could be the right option. If you want to get up and move, then a CBD strain could be a better choice.
In the end, many patients may find a combination of both a THC strain and CBD strain will help them get through the day (and night). Some may look for a more balanced solution, somewhere between the two extremes.
Those who are working with chronic pain will have different needs than those who want to treat a mental health condition such as PTSD. In the end, which is best depends on you. Talk to your medical practitioner about what the right solution might look like for you.