CBD and THC – What are they and how do they affect your health?

You’re probably familiar with the words CBD and THC, but do you know what they are and how they can affect your health? Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two compounds found in members of the cannabis plant genus. They’re just two of many compounds called cannabinoids found in the plant.

While they both come from the same plant, they have vastly different effects and benefits. Knowing the differences between the two and learning as much as possible about the two compounds prior to use can help you see the potential health benefits and risks of each. Start by knowing what they are, followed by their risks, side effects and potential healthy uses.

What is THC?

THC (the abbreviated name for tetrahydrocannabinol) generates many of the psychological (or high) effects the body may experience when using marijuana. It is only one of a great deal of compounds in the cannabis plant, but it can have a range of psychoactive effects.

THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the human brain. The body’s cannabinoid receptors — associated with memory, pleasure, thinking and motor skills — are activated when THC touches them. This leads to some of the impairments in memory, senses and time perception associated with the compound. 

Per an in-depth report by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the combination of all the changes in your system creates the high and causes it to differ from person to person.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, colloquially known as CBD, is another cannabinoid that comes from the cannabis plant. It tends to reduce or  neutralize effects of THC, based on the amount of each one a consumer uses. Mostly consumed oil form, it’s readily accessible to those interested in using it for its health benefits.

Perhaps the most significant difference between CBD and THC is that CBF does not have any psychoactive properties. CBD is ideal for taking advantage of the plant’s healthy benefits without getting high or experiencing any psychoactive effects.

Risks and side effects

There are a few risks and side effects associated with both compounds. 

Per Harvard Medical School, CBD can cause nausea, fatigue, irritability or potentially increase the level of a blood thinner called coumadin within your bloodstream. Knowing the proper dosages to use is also not exact, as CBD is more often sold as supplement (which the FDA does not regulate) rather than a medication. Studies show it may be effective for treating epilepsy and inflammation, but using the compound may make you tired, decrease your appetite or experience some gastrointestinal issues within the first few weeks of use. There is also some concern via the FDA that taking unapproved CBD with other medicines could affect your body and they warn taking it with alcohol could cause some damage.

THC is difficult to measure and could result in the risk of stronger than intended dose especially in regard to edibles. THC can also affect memory and may affect a decline in general knowledge or cause some respiratory issues later in life for those who smoke it often.

The medical benefits both CBD & THC

As more time passes, anecdotal evidence from users is assessed and studies on their effects are conducted, the medical benefits of both CBD and THC are slowly becoming apparent. 

CBD is used to help mitigate and alleviate some medical conditions including inflammation/pain, bowel disease, seizures, depression and anxiety (among others). It may also help a person fall (and stay) asleep. CBD has a strong legacy of helping ease these conditions and more studies are conducted each year to further explore its benefits and medicinal uses.

THC on the other hand is typically used more for pain, glaucoma, muscle issues, insomnia, nausea and a lower than normal appetite.

Additional learning resources

Education is always the best route to understanding and you can learn more by exploring a number of additional resources both online and at your local library if possible. The FDA, WHO and CDC are good sources of information, along with dedicated online resources like WeedMaps, where you can learn more about CBD vs. THC today. 

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