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The Cannabinoid Showdown: THC vs. CBD

March 26, 2017


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, get ready for the biggest showdown of the century! Over in the right corner we have the "bad" boy of the cannabinoids, Tetrahydrocannabinol! Watch out folks, one punch from him and your mind will turn into mush. Over in the left corner, the good boy philanthropist, Cannabidiol! Though more suited for the science lab than the ring, this monster won't give up without a fight. Here we go folks!


If THC and CBD actually fought it out, I think it'd be a tie. These two cannabinoids are just two of the over 60 found in marijuana but they've made names for themselves as the most popular in the bunch. These two chemical compounds play integral roles in why marijuana makes us feel the way it does. Let's explore what each one does and how they duke it out every time you light up.




THC is the most infamous of marijuana's cannabinoids. The compound was discovered way back in 1964 by the Israeli scientist Rafael Mechoulam. Even though marijuana has been used by humans for thousands of years, it was only until Mechoulam's discovery that we learned the compound responsible for plant's psychoactive effects. Without THC, weed would not be the plant we've come to known and love.


The way it works is pretty simple: THC binds to the CB1 receptor in the brain to mimic the effects of anandamide, also known as the "bliss molecule".  Anandamide is associated with appetite and pleasure from food consumption (not surprising). Anandamide has also been found to play a role memory, pain, and motivation.  THC is the most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana and once smoked, THC replaces the anandamine molecules in the CB1 receptor to produce the psychoactive effects associated with being high or stoned.


It's not all perfect, though. Too much THC has been shown to increase levels of paranoia and anxiety. It's also part of the reason why your friend passes out on your couch every time she comes over the house to smoke. The compound has been penned the nickname "the bad cannabinoid" because of it's association with marijuana's psychoactive effects. Many states, particularly in the South, have kept psychoactive medical marijuana off the market. Many see the psychoactive effects as threatening and non-medicinal even though THC has been found to help with the side effects of chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. 





CBD is the "good guy". Though not as abundant or known as THC, CBD's role in the high we experience is just as important as THC's. Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to the CB1 receptor so CBD is not responsible for any of the psychoactive effects of marijuana. 


Interestingly enough, CBD actually serves to mute the negative effects THC has. CBD reduces the anxiety and paranoia associated with too much THC intake. It also helps with short term memory loss impairment as well. CBD, in a sense, makes sure your THC levels stay in check.


CBD is much less abundant in marijuana than THC but's effects are much more potent. A strain with only 4% or more of CBD is considered CBD dominant while a strain with over 20% of THC is considered THC dominant. Finding the perfect ratio between THC and CBD is essential to finding the right weed for you. 


Where CBD really shines is in the medicinal sector. CBD has been found to treat a wide array of medical illnesses, including Chron's disease, PTSD, Dravet's Syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. CBD has also been found to be a possible antipsychotic that could treat schizophrenia. The compound's lack of psychoactive effects make it a great choice for those looking for the healing effects of marijuana without getting high. 


Even though CBD doesn't have the psychoactive effects that's associated with marijuana, the US government has made it clear that CBD is still a cannabinoid and still very much illegal. Just last year, the government passed new codes explicitly keeping CBD on the Schedule I list. The new codes declare that any "extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant" is illegal.  These new codes even make industrial hemp illegal, even though it only has 0.3 % THC content. 




THC and CBD are just two of the over 60 cannabinoids found in marijuana. The fact is, we barely know anything about the other compounds. The high we experience every time we smoke is the result of over 60 chemical compounds interacting with our brains and each other. As we learn more about the other cannabinoids found in marijuana, the integral roles of THC and CBD will never be forgotten. 

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