Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp

America's leading advocate for hemp

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CBD Vs. THC For Chronic Pain: Comparing Two Potent Cannabinoids

Are you trying to decide between CBD and THC for relieving chronic pain? In this article, we’ll explore how these two popular cannabis compounds work to relieve chronic pain — both separately and together.

Are you trying to decide between CBD and THC for relieving chronic pain?

Maybe you’re just curious about the differences between the two. It’s easy to assume that these two compounds are similar, since they both come from the same plant. But while they can both play an important role in managing chronic pain, CBD and THC are very different substances, and each one works differently in the body.

In this article, we’ll explore how these two popular cannabis compounds work to relieve chronic pain — both separately and together.

THE BASICS OF THC AND CBD

CBD (short for cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) belong to a group known as cannabinoids, and they are derived from the cannabis plant – either hemp or psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”). There are over 100 different cannabinoids, but CBD and THC are the most dominant substances in cannabis, making them responsible for most of the effects that marijuana is famous for.

A seated person stirs Every Day Optimal CBD Oil into a cup of tea. When it comes to chronic pain, there's no clear winner in the CBD vs. THC debate: both have their uses.

When it comes to chronic pain, there’s no clear winner in the CBD vs. THC debate: both have their uses. (Photo: Every Day Optimal)

Both CBD and THC work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which refers to a group of receptors in the body that regulate various physiological processes, including pain, digestion, mood, and sleep. Cannabis is well-known for its versatility, helping people worldwide with problems like insomnia, PTSD, and pain – and it’s all because these endocannabinoid receptors are involved in so many different bodily functions.

By far, the most notable difference between CBD and THC is that THC causes a high, while CBD does not. CBD’s lack of psychoactive effects is one of the reasons it has become so popular as of late. In fact, CBD can counteract some of THC’s psychoactive effects (like euphoria and anxiety). This is why high-CBD strains of cannabis are often popular for pain relief, since they allow one to keep a clear head.

THC is also associated with more side effects than CBD, although these tend to be mild and are temporary. Some well-documented side effects of THC are dry mouth, red eyes, and hunger. Most people who use CBD report little to no side effects, with sleepiness being the most common, especially at high doses.

CBD BENEFITS FOR CHRONIC PAIN AND INFLAMMATION

Research has established that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory, with strong evidence that it can relieve pain from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. For example, a 2017 study concluded that CBD can reduce osteoarthritis-related pain and inflammation, and prevent nerve damage.

Other studies support CBD for relief of neuropathic pain and incision-related pain. CBD’s effectiveness at relieving different types of pain has led to its popularity among people with conditions such as fibromyalgia, IBS, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.

THC BENEFITS FOR CHRONIC PAIN AND INFLAMMATION

Although there is plenty of research supporting the use of cannabis for pain relief in conditions like Crohn’s disease, chronic migraine, and fibromyalgia, less attention has been paid to the specific benefits of THC. The few studies that are available tend to be small and show conflicting results.

A recent study in Neurology found THC is effective for alleviating chronic nerve pain. A larger study, involving 177 cancer patients, found that while THC was not effective at reducing pain, the patients who took a CBD/THC combination had their pain reduce by over 30 percent when compared to placebo. Another double-blind study supported this conclusion when using THC for post-surgery pain. Meanwhile, a 2017 study found both THC and CBD, when taken alone, were effective for reducing chemotherapy-related pain in mice.

The same study also discovered that when combined, previously ineffective doses of CBD and THC could relieve pain. This relates to an important benefit of THC – it can enhance the pain-relieving properties of CBD through what’s known as the entourage effect.

HOW CBD AND THC WORK TOGETHER: THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT

Although CBD and THC are the most dominant compounds in the cannabis plant, they aren’t alone. There are dozens of other cannabinoids and terpenes that work together to provide different synergic effects. For example, the third most dominant compound in cannabis, cannabichromene (CBC) has shown anti-inflammatory benefits similar to those of CBD.

A seated man holds his glasses in one hand while wincing and holding his neck, as if in pain, with the other. Both CBD and THC can relieve symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation in unique ways, both alone and working in concert with other cannabinoids.

Both CBD and THC can relieve symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation in unique ways, both alone and working in concert with other cannabinoids.

The entourage effect refers to the benefits that one can experience by ingesting multiple cannabinoids together, including CBD and THC. In short, while CBD and THC have their own powerful benefits, they tend to be more potent when combined – especially when it comes to pain relief. An analysis of 18 studies on cannabinoids for multiple sclerosis pain found that the combination of THC and CBD was slightly more effective for pain reduction than CBD on its own.

The entourage effect is why CBD products fall into two categories: full spectrum and isolate. Full spectrum CBD products contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes that were extracted along with CBD. On the other hand, isolate CBD products remove all traces of these other substances, resulting in a product that is pure CBD.

Some people have better success using full spectrum CBD products for pain relief because of the entourage effect. However, due to the variety of cannabinoids and terpenes, full spectrum products can be somewhat unpredictable in their effects. Isolate CBD products are often favored by those who can’t tolerate any traces of THC, or need to avoid it due to drug testing.

LEGALITIES AND LIMITS OF THC IN CBD PRODUCTS

The majority of CBD products you’ll find on the market today are made from hemp, which by law can contain up to a maximum of 0.3 percent THC. This means hemp-derived, full spectrum CBD products are likely to contain low amounts of THC. There are CBD products available that are made from marijuana instead of hemp, and therefore contain a higher percentage of THC. For legal reasons, these products tend to be restricted to dispensaries.

CLOSING THOUGHTS ON CBD VS. THC

As you can see, there isn’t a simple answer for whether CBD or THC is better for chronic pain. Both compounds bring their own benefits to the table, and in regard to chronic pain, there is evidence that they’re more effective when taken together due to the entourage effect.

Either way, it’s clear that cannabis has plenty to offer for chronic pain patients, and cannabis products can vary widely in effectiveness. So if you don’t have success with one product, don’t give up; try something new, whether it’s a different blend of cannabinoids, or a different potency.

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Other Cannabinoids: There’s More Than Just CBD & THC In Hemp & Cannabis

You’ve heard of CBD and THC, but how well do you know cannabinoids like CBG, CBN and THCV? In this article, we investigate 3 other cannabinoids and their potential healing benefits.

You’ve heard of CBD and THC, but how well do you know cannabinoids like CBG, CBN and THCV?

The miraculous benefits of hemp are all the rage these days! With this huge surge in popularity for CBD and all it has to offer, it seems that everyday we are now learning about new cannabinoids that also show potential health benefits.

In this article, we’re going to touch on four of those cannabinoids, their unique medicinal benefits and their full spectrum properties in both industrial hemp and marijuana.

Since cannabinoids work better synergistically, rather than individually, it’s important to take the time to learn about all the different ways the compounds in hemp and cannabis work together.

A scientist studies a hemp plant in a field. Preliminary research into other cannabinoids reveals a host of possible healing benefits to naturally occurring chemicals like THCV and CBG.

The three we’ll discuss below are CBG (cannabigerol), THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), and CBN (cannabinol). Keep in mind that cannabinoid research is in its preliminary stages, but what we’ve already discovered is extremely promising.

So, let’s jump in!

CANNABIGEROL (CBG)

The first up in our study of cannabinodis is CBG (cannabigerol). Like CBD, CBG does not produce a “high” like THC does.

In fact, both THC and CBD start out as cannabigerol. It’s an interesting process. Basically, cannabis plants produce cannabigerol acid. Specific enzymes in the plant then breaks down the CBGA into the the acidic form of THC and CBD (known as THCA/CBDA). Next, THC and CBD form  as the acid burns off via decarboxylation.

CBG works by increasing anandamide levels. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, a naturally occurring cannabinoid found throughout our bodies, that helps regulate biological functions including appetite, sleep, and memory.

CBG Benefits:

  • Cannabigerol stimulates bone formation and healing. In a study published on pubmed.gov, “Age-related osteoporosis is characterized by reduced bone formation and accumulation of fat in the bone marrow compartment. Here, we report that the type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1) regulates this process.” Results showed they could stimulate bone marrow stem cells by regulating osteoblast (bone formation) and adipocyte (fat accumulation in connective tissue) differentiation in marrow stromal cells.
  • Slows tumor growth! CBD, CBG, and CBC were all shown to slow the progression and growth of tumors and cancer cells. In a study published by cannabisinternational.org, CBG and other cannabinoids seem to have anti-proliferative/pro-apoptotic effects.
  • CBG has shown to have anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties, which make it a candidate for antifungal and antibacterial treatment. Some scientists believe CBG could be part of an effective treatment against MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), a highly prevalent antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria.
  • CBG is also showing promising results for treating overactive bladder, Psoriasis skin treatment, Glaucoma, depression and anxiety, and neuroprotective effects

TETRAHYDROCANNABIVARIN (THCV)

Next up is THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin). The THCV compound makeup is very similar to the infamous THC cannabinoid, but it affects the body differently.

Both THC and THCV are psychoactive and will cause the user to get “high.” When THC binds to the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors it activates them initiating the “high” effect. At low doses THCV also binds to those same receptors, but it does not activate them, behaving more like CBD. At higher dosages, THCV will activate the CB1 receptor much like THC and will produce a psychoative “buzz.”

Preliminary research into the various cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis reveals that there's more to healing than just THC & CBD.

Preliminary research into the various cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis reveals that there’s more to healing than just THC & CBD.

The feeling THCV produces seems to come on faster than THC and fades out faster as well. Users report a more clear-headed and stimulating high.

THCV Benefits, according to Leafly’s Bailey Rahn:

  • THCV may have anti-convulsive properties and can raise the seizure threshold for those with epilepsy. As a result, they experience fewer seizures.
  • Researchers are studying THCV’s ability to stimulate bone growth as a potential treatment for osteoporosis and other bone conditions.
  • THCV counteracts feelings of anxiety and shown to be effective in PTSD treatment.
  • Improves motor control, reduce tremors, and lessen the effects of brain lesions caused by Alzheimer’s disease. However it’s important to know that research is in the early stages and much more information is still needed.
  • Researchers believe THVC blocks the rewarding sensations we experience when eating, especially the unhealthy, comfort foods.

There is an informative article on THCV by Northwest Leaf called “THCV: A potent, rare and promising cannabinoid.” It’s a great read.

CANNABINOL (CBN)

The third cannabinoid to share is CBN (cannabinol). This is an interesting cannabinoid as it is produced when THC is heated or exposed to oxygen. Unlike THC, Cannabinol does not bind well to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Scientists classify CBN as non-psychoactive. CBN is not an abundant cannabinoid. The CBN content found in the cannabis plant on average will be less than 1 percent.

CBN Benefits:

  • Bone tissue growth. Studies show that CBN causes an indirect recruitment of mesenchymal stem cells that surround bone marrow. These stem cells are able to turn into bone and other tissues making it a possible candidate for healing bone fractures. The Journal of Neuroimmunology offers more information on this subject.
  • Like other cannabinoids, CBN is an anti-inflammatory cannabinoid that also has pain relief properties and preliminary research shows promise that CBN combined with CBD may prove to be an effective treatment for burns.
  • Sedative. According to a Royal Queen Seeds article, research shows that CBN can sometimes be as effective as pharmaceutical sedatives.
  • Scientists are also studying CBN as a possible sleep aid, an appetite stimulant, and as an anti-convulsive agent. CBN seems to work best symbiotically with CBD and THC.

CANNABINOIDS IN INDUSTRIAL HEMP VS PSYCHOACTIVE CANNABIS (‘MARIJUANA’)

Now that you have some knowledge of these cannabinoids, it’s important to understand how their profiles differ between industrial hemp and marijuana.

Both hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis plant, but different varieties and different growing methods differentiate high THC psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) from industrial low THC hemp plant. Both plants produce flower buds and both plants’ buds contain cannabinoids, but are the cannabinoids the same in both hemp and marijuana? The short answer is yes!

According to Franjo Grotenhermen, former Chairman of the International Association For Cannabinoid Medicines (2000-2003), “CBD is CBD.”

“The human body does not care where the molecule comes from,” Grotenhermen said.

A gloved scientist with a vial of CBD and a hemp leaf. 'Full spectrum' extracts contain more cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial chemicals found in hemp & cannabis.

A gloved scientist with a vial of CBD and a hemp leaf. ‘Full spectrum’ extracts contain more cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial chemicals found in hemp & cannabis.

Yet, there are distinct differences between the two. For example, psychoactive cannabis contains a high amount of THC, flavonoids and terpenes that hemp just doesn’t have. Marijuana also contains a higher concentration of cannabidiol than most forms of hemp.

‘FULL SPECTRUM’ MEANS MORE CANNABINOIDS, FLAVONOIDS & TERPENES

When consumers buy CBD that’s refined from industrial hemp, as in the majority of CBD products on the market today in the U.S., we always recommend purchasing a “full spectrum” extract. Full spectrum means that all of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes found in the plant have been extracted and used in the CBD or hemp oil. Psychoactive cannabis can also be made into a “full spectrum” extract.

When a consumer ingests full spectrum oil, many scientists believe that it takes advantage of the “entourage effect.” This effect means that all cannabinoids, flavonoids, fatty acids, terpenes, and other plant compounds are working in concert with one another to maximize their benefits.

It is important to know that not everyone agrees that there is an entourage effect. According to Scientific American, “many scientists see the whole thing as a pipe dream. The idea that botanical marijuana creates synergistic chemical effect … is highly contentious.”

In general though, cannabis consumers and experts report a more satisfying, better healing experience from full spectrum products.

THC and CBD are the two most active cannabinoids in marijuana. They share a special synergy that contributes most to the entourage effect. While many people report benefits from low-THC, hemp-derived CBD extracts and full spectrum hemp oils. Others find they need the presence of THC for maximum effect.

CBD products made from hemp should be legal in all 50 states, while only portions of the U.S. currently have access to recreational or medicinal marijuana. We recommend trying everything that’s available to you to find out what works best for your needs.

THE SCIENCE OF CANNABINOIDS IS JUST GETTING STARTED

In conclusion, the study and research of cannabinoid compounds is still fairly new. While scientists have already made huge leaps forward, even bigger leaps into the cannabinoid world still await. As the United States slowly changes its cannabis laws and the popularity of CBD increases, it can only be uphill from here!

In the meantime, if you’re suffering from chronic pain, PTSD or other mental illness, or even osteoporosis, exploring other cannabinoids might offer additional relief. As with any treatment, please do your own research and consult a doctor.

 

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