If you’re just starting your educational journey into CBD products and their uses, this may be one of the many questions you’re considering. With so many different cannabinoids (more than 100 have been discovered so far!), how can you know which one to try?
Sure, CBD may seem like a good place to begin because it’s currently winning the cannabinoid popularity contest...but is it really effective on its own?
Before we can get to those questions, we have to establish baseline knowledge about cannabis and where these cannabinoids originate. There are so many different names for cannabis, it’s easy to get confused.
Different Names. Different Effects. Different Regulations.
Grass. Hemp. Weed. Marijuana. Pot. Ganja. Mary Jane. Green. Cannabis. Herb. In modern culture, these names are often used interchangeably to reference the same thing. However, there are real differences. Some of these are official nomenclature for the plant, some are slang terms, others are names for preparations of the plant.
Cannabis is the official name of plants in the Cannabaceae family. There are three primary species in this family: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. They each look a bit different, having leaves that are more or less full. The important thing to note is that CBD is typically extracted from Cannabis Sativa.
While cannabis is the overarching name for the entire plant family, marijuana and hemp are terms that were created to classify different types of cannabis. There are both hemp plants that are Cannabis Sativa and marijuana plants that are Cannabis Sativa. The difference between the two is in the cannabinoid concentrations.
Hemp refers to varieties of cannabis that contain as little THC as possible. To be exact, hemp will have 0.3 percent or less of THC. Because THC is the cannabinoid that causes users to feel “high,” hemp is typically described as non-intoxicating cannabis.
Marijuana is the opposite. It refers to varieties of cannabis that contain more than 0.3 percent of THC. In fact, marijuana can contain up to 30 percent THC. Because of the higher THC levels, marijuana will deliver a high and all the accompanying psychotropic effects.
Hemp and marijuana differ in their THC levels, but both can produce high levels of CBD. And here’s the headline: CBD is the same regardless of what plant it comes from...but CBD oils made from hemp are likely to contain much less THC than oils made from marijuana.
This is the major difference. Because hemp and marijuana contain vastly different levels of THC, the CBD products derived from each will produce different results. Hemp-derived CBD is much less likely to get you high.
For this reason, cannabis and cannabis products are regulated differently depending on whether they are derived from hemp or marijuana. Hemp and hemp-derived products are not considered controlled substances, while marijuana is. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has compiled comprehensive responses to common concerns regarding this distinction.
So what does CBD do and what does THC do? Read on.
Why Use CBD or THC?
Let’s ignore the psychotropic properties of THC and CBD for a moment, and focus solely on the medicinal properties of each. Both have different health-related uses and side effects.
CBD has been known to help with issues such as inflammation, nausea, seizures, migraines, various mental health concerns like anxiety or depression, and pain associated with different diseases and ailments. While there are many potential benefits, some of CBD’s possible side effects include fatigue, changes in appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and dizziness.
THC has been used to help with issues such as glaucoma, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, muscle spasms, pain, and low appetite. It’s relaxing effect is helpful in many of these situations. Yet it also comes with side effects, including red eyes, slowed reaction times, dry mouth, memory loss, increased heart rate, anxiety, and issues with coordination.
Both CBD and THC have shown promise as treatments and therapies for chronic illnesses. Yet, like any medicinal solution, there are potential side effects. The question for each individual user is whether the remedy outweighs the side effects.
If we add the psychotropic properties back into this discussion, THC will also produce a euphoric or somewhat sedated effect. Depending on how your body reacts to THC, you may need to use it at a time when you can remain in one place with less required focus. For this reason, THC may be a less desirable option than CBD.
CBD and Healing through the Entourage Effect
Although CBD has great medicinal and therapeutic potential, its effectiveness has more recently been thought to be increased when combined with other cannabis compounds. This is known as the entourage effect.
Did you catch that? Some people think that CBD is most effective for some ailments when it’s surrounded by friends. That’s right. CBD might be most effective when it rolls with an entourage. To be at its best, CBD needs a crew. A posse. A squad.
So even though you may want the healing benefits of CBD without the high of THC, you actually don’t always want pure CBD.
It’s possible to extract CBD directly from a cannabis plant, and use that CBD to make products like CBD oils, tinctures, lotions, and pills. Those products may be helpful with whatever medical or health-related problem you’re having. But they’re even more likely to be effective if the CBD wasn’t directly isolated from the plant.
CBD products that are made from the entire cannabis plant will have all the other properties, including other cannabinoids (not just THC but others like CBN or CBG), terpenes, and flavonoids. Each of these other components have their own unique health benefits, and are thought to increase the overall health benefits when present with your CBD.
The bottom line here is that if you’re finding your CBD isn’t as effective as you’d like, you might want to avoid products marketed as either pure CBD or CBD isolate. Instead, opt for products marketed as either full spectrum, broad spectrum, or whole plant, and see if they help you more.
To ensure that your CBD rolls with a posse, look for (or ask about) the certificate of analysis. This is a document that shows the results of tests run by a third-party lab to verify the ingredients in CBD products.
The certificate will show you the amount of other ingredients in a product, allowing you to check the amounts of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids, as well as whether there are any harmful chemicals or pesticides detectable in the product.
If you’re unsure how your body might react to other cannabinoids, the certificate of analysis will help you to select a product with extremely low amounts of other cannabinoids. In that case, you may want to select a CBD isolate that is sourced from hemp plants.
Why CBD Can Be Effective Without THC
I hope I haven’t confused you with what I just explained about the entourage effect. CBD and THC are separate compounds with their own properties, and they can be used successfully in isolation.
While many believe there is increased benefit from the entourage effect, and specifically when you add THC to CBD oil, neither of these cannabinoids need the other to be active. The health benefits of each mentioned above are true with the cannabinoid is used alone, and may be enhanced with additional benefits if combined.
There are many reasons why someone may want or need to avoid the effects of THC. If you need to be highly alert and engaged after dosing, products with THC may not be the best option. Also, you should likely avoid THC if you’ve had issues with THC in the past, or have a condition like anxiety or paranoia that THC may exacerbate.
In these cases, you’ll want a CBD product with less than 0.03 percent THC. It could be a CBD isolate or a full spectrum product. Checking the certificate of analysis mentioned earlier will help you identify products that meet this standard.
One final note of caution on this subject is to be familiar with the local laws in places where you may want to use cannabis-derived products. Restrictions on THC may also dictate which type of CBD product you can use.