There’s a reason marijuana has been popular among physicians for centuries; plenty of the compounds found in the plant — called cannabinoids — have medicinal benefits, but we’re only going to talk about the two most popular and prevalent: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These cannabinoids are responsible for providing the lion’s share of marijuana’s recreational and medicinal effects.
What are Cannabinoids?
Did you know there are three variations of the cannabis plant? They are cannabis Indica, cannabis Sativa, and cannabis Ruderalis. (Some experts believe Ruderalis is a subspecies of Sativa.) Under the umbrella of the first two species — or combinations therein — are hundreds of strains, and each contains a percentage of either THC and CBD.
Most strains contain higher concentrations of THC than CBD, though there are strains — many of the specially bred for this exact purpose — that contain high amounts of CBD.
Most people believe that these two popular cannabinoids exist in the plant from the moment it germinates, giong from seed into tiny seedling, but THC and CBD are actually by-products of acids (THC-A and CBD-A, most commonly); these precursors are broken down by decarboxylation, a process that makes the molecules more compatible with our body. Decarboxylation occurs when marijuana plant material is exposed to high heat for prolonged periods, and during the drying and curing processes after harvest.
You may have had the pleasure of discovering the unique high
of a marijuana-infused edible, but did you know that the whole plant is consumable?
Proponent Dr. William Courtney believes that, along with beneficial THC-A and CBD-A,
raw marijuana plants contain all the vitamins and nutrient’s necessary to maintain
a healthy human body. If you’re willing to endure the bitter flavor, that is.
Why are THC and CBD So Special?
Chemically, cannabinoids mimic neurotransmitters produced by our own bodies, which is why they react so readily with our endocannabinoid systems (which was discovered while researchers were studying the effects of cannabinoids on the human body). THC binds with receptors throughout the brain and body, and CBD encourages more active uptake of existing molecules. This may be one of the reasons CBD is not psychoactive, like THC, although this could also be because most receptors that accept the neurotransmitters influenced by CBD are located throughout the body and not in the brain.
The Fundamental Difference Between THC and CBD
You’ll find a lot of people, particularly those who aren’t familiar with cannabinoids and CBD, discuss THC like it’s the be all and end all of the plant. We know better, especially since over 80 different cannabinoids have been isolated and considered unique and beneficial in their own right. THC’s popularity is derived from its high concentrations and hallucinogenic properties – high doses can deliver euphoric effects, and have been known to boost mood and sociability. It can also make you feel “spaced out”, a common concern and one of the many reasons the plant as a whole has been classified as a schedule 1 narcotic in the USA. THC can cause diminished focus and mental acuity, among other things, and does need to be used with care.
This is where the usefulness of non-hallucinogenic CBD comes into play. This compound, almost always produced in much lower quantities per plant, can provide similar feelings of pain relief and relaxation without the trippy “high”. For this reason, it has become a popular option for patients and even physicians, who are more comfortable prescribing a natural medication that has little to no negative side effects and is suitable for patients of all ages and walks of life.
Although CBD can effectively block the uptake of THC when both are present, breeders have begun to take note of the medical community’s desire for products that won’t potentially result in hallucinogenic effects and are developing medical strains that contain only CBD. Case in point, Charlotte’s Web was engineered for a young girl, Charlotte Figi, who suffered nearly 300 grand mal seizures a week. It’s a pure CBD strain, most often available as a concentrated oil, that is excellent for treating muscle spasms and seizure disorders without harmful side effects or developmental damage (it’s widely known that THC consumption by those under the age of 25 can have detrimental effects on the brain). Charlotte’s seizures dropped by more than 95% after she began treatment with her namesake strain.
The Law Prefers CBD
You’ve no doubt noticed the countless articles and opinion pieces popping up all over the net regarding marijuana and its legal status. Marijuana advocates have been in favor of legalizing cannabis use (both recreational and medical) across the board, but only a handful of states have done so — with great success, we might add.
The American government is hesitant to reverse their federal position on the classified substance since there’s still a wealth of research to be done into the long-term effects of cannabis on our health.
The good news, however, is that even state-level governments strict on recreational marijuana use in the past are loosening the belt on medical cannabis use, even if some still only allow CBD-rich products (typically called medical marijuana) with little to no THC, or products derived from hemp. This serves as a stop-gap solution until more evidence is brought forward about the many benefits and clinical applications of this all natural and much-beloved plant.
When you’re planning your own cannabis garden, whether you prefer the euphoria-driven relief of a strain high in THC or the pain-relieving support of CBD that will leave you focused and ready to face the day, find the best quality cannabis seeds by shopping online with Pacific Seed Bank. We carry hundreds of popular seed strains, from traditionally recreational to potent medical, and beyond.