THC and cannabidiol (CBD) are too often confused when it comes to cannabis. However, the latter differs from the former in its health benefits and its use in a medical context.
Of the two most well-known active substances in cannabis, CBD is, in fact, the most interesting from the point of view of patients who use it to soothe pain, anxiety, inflammation, and many other symptoms. A kind of cannabis light, now legalized by many countries because of its therapeutic virtues. Explanations.
History of CBD
CBD is a molecule belonging to the cannabinoid family. Like THC, it is an active substance present in the hemp plant (from which cannabis resin is obtained).
However, it is found in smaller quantities than THC (between 0.6 and 1%, as opposed to 12 to 25%), mainly because of the production choices made in recent decades. As THC is more sought after for its “high” effects, the cannabis seeds in circulation contain it at higher levels.
But now, as the medical benefits of cannabis are gaining more attention, strains are being produced specifically to contain high levels of CBD. It is thus possible to find therapeutic (medical) cannabis seeds with more than 6% CBD, which is huge… And quite rare. A concentration of 1% is more than enough to cover the needs of patients, as CBD has proven to be very effective.
What is the difference between CBD and THC?
Of the 500 different cannabinoids that exist in cannabis, THC is certainly the most well-known to consumers, even if CBD is starting to gain ground. Simply because THC (9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the so-called “psychoactive” component of cannabis.
By acting directly on the nervous system, it affects the functioning of the brain and can change perceptions, alter mood and transform behavior. It is generally for these effects that THC is consumed: it makes high!
Unlike THC, CBD does not make you “high”. Its role is even exactly reversed: it tends to counter the psychoactive properties of its big brother, and sometimes delays them (can also last longer). This explains its medical orientation. However, it is not totally devoid of psychoactive effects: CBD generates a feeling of relief like a sedative.
Together, THC and CBD see their effects increase tenfold. The conjunction of the two molecules makes it possible to act powerfully on the anxiety and on the pains, with better results than in the case of the only THC (whose effects are sometimes badly felt by the users).
Note, however, that high-CBD cannabis cannot replace THC, for those who are primarily looking for the psychoactive effects of the substance. The right properties are only achieved with high doses of CBD, and even then, not to the extent of a 100% equivalent relaxing effect. In other words, CBD cannot be used as a substitute for heavy users of THC-rich cannabis.
How does CBD work?
In the body, CBD acts as a catalyst. It optimizes the natural response to pain, but also to anguish and anxiety. Let’s be clear: CBD does not eliminate or prevent pain and anxiety, but it acts on the nervous system to reduce the impact of both. It does this by sending signals that essentially tell the body not to worry about it and to go about its business.
This substance is all the more effective because it works as an extension of our nervous system’s own natural defenses.
Cannabinoids work because the human body has the right receptors and produces a kind of natural THC itself, albeit in very limited concentrations. We speak of “CB1 receptors” (mainly present in the brain and central nervous system) and “CB2” (mainly located in peripheral organs and in cells related to the functioning of the immune system).
These receptors “bind” THC molecules, but also those of CBD, in a more indirect way. CBD also interacts with other receptors in the body, which reinforces its medical properties.
What are the benefits of CBD?
The benefits of CBD are numerous and have been known for about fifteen years. They surpass by far all other cannabinoids in terms of fighting against :
- Anxiety attacks
- Certain mental illnesses (schizophrenia…)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The list is long, and is still growing. Keep in mind that CBD allows especially to counter muscular and neuropathic pains. Symptoms that are difficult to alleviate with conventional treatments. Cannabidiol can work miracles in reducing painful symptoms of neurological origin and improving the quality of life of patients with fibromyalgia, for example.
However, it should be kept in mind that the study of CBD (isolated from other active substances in cannabis) is relatively recent. Medical research is ongoing. It already suggests that the impact of CBD on the treatment of patients could open the door to revolutionary treatments, equivalent to the discovery of antibiotics. Some studies show, for example, that THC and CBD molecules act against rheumatism, help reduce necrosis following heart attacks, and can even attack cancer cells, all the more effective when combined.
Is CBD legal?
The substance concerned by the prohibition in many countries is none other than THC, with psychoactive effects. This is not the case with CBD, which can be purchased and consumed in various forms. In the USA, the marketing of CBD is therefore legal since an announcement by the Ministry of Health in November 2017. A decision motivated by the fact that the substance, devoid of any psychotropic effect, is not addictive or toxic.
Finally, it should be noted that the legalization of CBD does not apply to cannabis resin intended for smoking. Except for CBD in the form of e-liquid to be consumed through an electronic cigarette.
How is CBD consumed?
There are several ways to consume CBD, but the most effective are those that are taken naturally – as CBD is considered a dietary supplement.
What are the most common methods?
- In the form of oil, which is absorbed with a drip. Simply add a few drops to a food or drink, or simply place the pipette under the tongue for a faster effect.
- In paste form, taken with food or alone.
- In the form of capsules, usually made of gelatin, each containing a fixed dose of CBD paste. Like a drug, the capsule dissolves in the stomach. This dosage allows for easy absorption of CBD, for example at work or while traveling.
- In the form of chewing gum, a method appreciated because it is both simple and practical. CBD paste (fixed dose) is mixed with natural ingredients for a very discreet dosage.
- In the form of e-liquid, used in an electronic cigarette. Absorbed by the lungs, the CBD passes very quickly in the blood (more quickly than in the case of an ingestion).
- In the form of cosmetic products, to be applied to the skin. CBD is mainly used in this way to treat localized disorders (joint pain, acne, skin diseases, etc.), in addition to conventional products.
Is CBD covered by health insurance?
Insofar as CBD is considered a food supplement, and not a drug, the answer is no. Neither the health insurance nor the mutual insurance companies take charge of the CBD. On this point, who knows? Things may change one day.
In the meantime, cannabidiol is not a drug and cannot be qualified as such. If you buy CBD in any form, you will never find it labeled as a drug. At least not at this time!
Is CBD the equivalent of a drug?
CBD is considered a dietary supplement. Cannabidiol is therefore not a drug and cannot be qualified as such. French retailers can’t promote its possible beneficial effects either. If you buy CBD in any form, you will never find the mention of “medicine” or “medicated treatment”.