One of the oldest crops cultivated for medicinal value is cannabis. In recent years, it has once again started receiving a rising tide of media publicity, cultural acclaim, and attention from the scientific community—and for good reason.
The organic compounds found in cannabis have been shown to interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), helping modulate the bodily processes the ECS is responsible for.
Scientists have identified 100 such organic compounds and called them cannabinoids. Two of these cannabinoids are the primary subjects of research because of their impacts on human mental and physical health.
Those looking to improve their health with these time-tested natural compounds may want to understand the differences between the cannabinoids they select. Highlighted below is a closer look at the differences between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the cannabinoid that has made marijuana and the entire cannabis family famous. This compound is what provides the psychoactive "high" experienced after ingesting or smoking certain cannabis-infused products or the bud of the plant itself.
THC differs from CBD in its ability to activate the receptors of the ECS. THC has the capacity to bind to the body's endogenous cannabinoid receptors and imitates the activity of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that improves mood and plays a role in motivation.
When introduced into the body, THC encourages the production of dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitter that increases feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
In addition to its psychoactive properties, THC has also been shown to offer health benefits: 1,2
• Provides relief for aches and pains
• Eases nausea and vomiting
• Promotes better sleep
• Increases appetite
• Acts as an antioxidant
• Relaxes muscles
THC enters the body and activates endocannabinoid receptors in the same way that the body’s own endocannabinoids do. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t bind well with these receptors and exerts its effects via a different mechanism.
CBD has been shown to inhibit the actions of an enzyme that typically breaks down endocannabinoids, allowing for more prolonged activation of the body's endocanabinoid receptors.
Through their special interface with endocannabinoid receptors, THC and CBD actually oppose each other in their effects on the body. As THC works to activate endocannabinoid receptors, CBD modulates their activity and works to reduce the psychoactive properties of THC.
Certain strains of cannabis plants have been cultivated for their lower THC levels and considerably higher CBD levels. Such a product will provide the full list of health benefits from both cannabinoids with none of the psychoactive effects of THC. 3
Final ThoughtsIn addition to the health benefits mentioned above, there is a great deal of evidence, both medical and anecdotal, suggesting cannabinoids may have far-reaching implications to better physical and mental health. Cannabinoids and cannabinoid-derived product are on the cutting edge of research into remedies for balancing modern life and good health.
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