“So happy together!” Yes, just like that classic Turtles song, CBD and THC work better together. It is very common to hear people saying that CBD is medicinal while THC is psychoactive. We are going to explain how this is just a myth and how CBD, THC and other cannabinoids work perfectly together. Together, cannabinoids and terpenes have better performance in our bodies than isolated compounds.

During this 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 left THC only for recreational purposes. But even in this cases adding a little CBD to your THC will make your experience so much better.

Before diving into the Entourage Effect and the “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, it’s 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”. Even more, CBD has a broad range of medicinal benefits. This is why CBD has become very popular to treat certain conditions. It won’t get you high and it helps you deal with a lot of ailments.

But how exactly works CBD in our bodies? Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t interacts 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 bound 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 benefits

  • Inflammation
  • Chronic Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy

Almost nothing, 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 that good old laugh and joy. 

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 as a giraffe.

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 it would be discovered what we explained above, that CBD cannot directly bind with this receptors. When unlocking this receptors, THC unchains a series of chemical reactions that will 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 increase 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

  • Neuropathic and chronic pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Migraines
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • 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 even more, the cannabis plant as a whole is far more powerful than separate compounds. This is what is known as the Entourage Effect.

What is the Entourage Effect?

cannabis entourage effect. Cannabis plant showing 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[1].

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 a continue 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
  • 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 benefits and THC benefits. CBD and THC working together

CBD and THC, because of the entourage effect, can become a really good power couple. It turn out that medicinal benefits of both compounds can be enhanced. In the same way, some effects can also be canceled. 

Have you ever felt anxious or even paranoid after smoking marijuana? This are some of the effects than THC can produce, such as anxiety and increase heart rate. But if you go again to 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 of in a balance 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 multiplied.

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. Weather is to lessen the psychoactive effects of THC or to get the most powerful strain for pain relief, CBD and THC can no longer considered to be opposite parts of the plant.

[1] https://www.projectcbd.org/dr-ethan-russo-cbd-entourage-effect-and-microbiome


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