“So happy together!” Yes, just like that classic Turtles song, sometimes CBD and THC work better together than they do apart. It is very common to hear people say that CBD is medicinal, while THC’s just for fun. We are going to explain how this is an inaccurate generalization and how CBD, THC and other cannabinoids work perfectly well together.
Together, cannabinoids and terpenes have better performance in our bodies than they do as isolated compounds.
In today’s post, we will introduce the concept of “whole plant medicine”, commonly known in the cannabis medical community as the Entourage Effect. Scientists have found that when it comes to medicine, cannabis works better when all of its compounds work as a single unit. With the increasing interest in CBD, many users have set aside THC only for recreational purposes. But even in these cases, adding a little CBD to your THC will make your experience so much better.
Before diving into the Entourage Effect and “whole plant medicine”, let’s take a quick reprise on the medicinal benefits of both THC and CBD.
What is CBD and what are its medicinal benefits?
There are hundreds of cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of them. It is the most abundant cannabinoid in the plant, representing up to 40% of the chemical compounds. Cannabidiol is not psychoactive, which means that this chemical compound won’t get you “high”. Furthermore, CBD has a broad range of medicinal benefits. This is why CBD has become very popular when it comes to treating certain conditions. It won’t get you high and it helps you deal with a lot of ailments.
But how exactly does CBD work in our bodies? Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t interact directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors. This is why cannabidiol doesn’t make you feel “high” like THC does. However, CBD interacts indirectly with these receptors. Why indirectly? Because even though CBD cannot bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors, it activates our Endocannabinoid System. CBD can boost our bodies to produce more endocannabinoids, cannabinoids produced by our own bodies, such as anandamide.
CB1 also has the intriguing and amazing ability to bind with other non-cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Consequently, this cannabinoid interacts with parts of our brain related with pain and other ailments.
CBD can help with:
- Chronic Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
Impressive, right? Now that we know, in a very superficial way, how CBD works, let’s see what it’s funny brother has to offer besides the giggles.
What is THC and what are its medicinal benefits?
Most people think that THC is only psychoactive while CBD is the medicinal cannabinoid. That is not entirely true. Although THC has a psychoactive effect, it also has medicinal properties. In other words, THC can do so much more than just get you high.
Tetrahydrocannabinol was first discovered by Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam during the 1960s. Dr. Mechoulam and his team in Tel Aviv discovered that THC can bind with specific receptor in our brain: CB1 and CB2. Later, what we explained above was discovered, that CBD cannot directly bind with this receptors. When unlocking this receptors, THC unchains a series of chemical reactions that eventually get you “high”. When THC enters your body and those chemical reactions start, you will experience relaxation, sedation, pain relief, drowsiness, dry mouth and even laughter.
On the contrary, THC can sometimes produce some negative feelings or reactions. Some examples are increased heart rate, anxiety and paranoia. But it also has a lot of medicinal benefits. Since Dr. Mechoulam synthesized for the first time, scientists all around the world started exploring and diving into its complex chemical composition.
Some of the medicinal benefits of THC can be applied to:
- Neuropathic and chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Appetite loss
Sounds familiar? Take a quick look at some of the medicinal benefits of CBD. Some of them are actually the same. As a matter of fact, they do complement each other. And the cannabis plant as a whole is far more powerful than its separate compounds. This is what is known as the Entourage Effect.
What is the Entourage Effect?
The cannabis plant has multiple chemical compounds such as cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) and terpenes. The entourage effect is known as an interactive synergy between the chemical compounds present within the cannabis plant to create a more powerful effect.
Dr. Ethan Russo, cannabis expert, explains it in a very easy and musical way:
“For example, cannabidiol treats pain. But there are other ingredients in cannabis that also treat pain or may limit the side effects of other components. So it is sort of like an ensemble of musical instruments where you might think if THC as the soloist with an important part provided by cannabidiol, but you also have these other components producing a harmony that really increases the overall effect and makes hopefully the best possible medicine”.
The concept of “entourage effect” was first introduced in 1998 in a scientific research from the The Hebrew University Medical Faculty, Jerusalem, Israel. One year later, Dr. Mechoulam continued the research. In his study, he concluded that: “in some cases plants are better drugs than the natural products isolated from them”.
Based on this, let’s try to make a recipe for chronic pain based on the medicinal properties that we know from terpenes and cannabinoids:
- Linalool: A terpene found in lavender and laurel with a sedating and calming effect.
- Caryophyllene: A terpene found in basil, oregano and pepper.
- CBC: cannabichromene, a cannabinoid that binds with receptors TRPV1 and TRPA1, linked to pain perception
- CBN: Or cannabinol, helps with pain relief.
- Last but not least, THC and CBD
Obviously is not that easy. You will have to be careful with how much of each component you add to the recipe. But just imagine the thousands of possibilities of medicinal properties that can be derived if we understand cannabinoids and terpenes.
How CBD and THC complement each other
CBD and THC, because of the entourage effect, can become a really good power couple. It turns out that medicinal benefits of both compounds can be enhanced. In that same way, some effects can also be canceled out.
Have you ever felt anxious or even paranoid after smoking marijuana? These are some of the effects than THC can produce, such as anxiety and increased heart rate. But if you recall the text above, one of the medicinal benefits of CBD is dealing with anxiety. So, what happens if you add some CBD to your THC? Well, CBD can mitigate or diminish some of the effects of THC. This means that, in this example, you won’t feel so much anxiety and your heart rate won’t increase. In other words, you get a less psychoactive experience.
In the book Smoke Signals, author Martin A. Lee explains how THC and CBD can create a very different experience: “Cannabidiol balances the buzz and softens the euphoria – or, in some cases, the dysphoria – induced by THC, which, in concentrated form, can make people feel very loopy and weird. CBD is the yin of THC’s yang.”
But taking a closer look, the notion that CBD can mitigate THC intoxicating effects means that it could also enhance its medicinal properties. This is explained by Dr. Ethan Russo in a 2011 research: “Scientific evidence is presented for non-cannabinoid plant components as putative antidotes to intoxicating effects of THC that could increase its therapeutic index”.
Medicinal benefits of combining CBD and THC
If you look at what the cannabis market has to offer in terms of CBD and THC strains, you can have three types of doses:
- THC dominant: The “chosen one” for recreational smokers. Contains High THC and low CBD levels.
- Balanced THC and CBD: Will not give you not such a psychoactive effect as a THC dominant.
- CBD dominant: Non psychoactive cannabis, with high amounts of CBD and low amounts of THC. Hemp, for example, is a CBD dominant species.
The most significant medicinal benefits in a balanced CBD and THC strain are anti-inflammatory and pain treatment. Jessica Peters, founder of Moxie Meds, told Leafly how CBD together with THC is the best treatment for pain: “The range of the volume of THC in relation to CBD will feature different properties. An equal amount of THC to CBD for example is often the best pain reliever”. Because CBD and THC act on different receptors in the body, the effects can be broadened.
The best proof of how CBD and THC work better together for pain relief is a cannabis medications approved by the FDA: Sativex.
Sativex was the first prescription medicine based on the cannabis plant. It is composed of a 1:1 ratio of both CBD and THC. Administered orally by a spray, Sativex is prescribed to treat conditions like spasticity in multiple sclerosis, cancer pain, and neuropathic pain.
In conclusion, understanding cannabis as a “whole medicine plant” can unlock hidden benefits. Combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids with different ratios can result in hundreds of medicinal possibilities. Whether it is to lessen the psychoactive effects of THC or to get the most powerful strain for pain relief, CBD and THC can no longer be considered to be opposite parts of the plant.