One of the biggest miseducations of the 20th century was that all that cannabis did was get a person high. On the contrary, there is actually an entire universe of compounds inside the marijuana plant, each one acting in an entourage with all of its other canna-compound friends.
Of this entire universe of compounds, only one cannabinoid is responsible for getting a person high. That cannabinoid is called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In fact, there are over 400 different active compounds in marijuana (that we’ve identified), 60 of which are cannabinoids.
So with THC aside, what are the other 59 cannabinoids doing? Well, CBD is one of them, and one thing it’s definitely not doing is getting a person high.
Essentially, CBD and THC operate in the body via a very complex system called the endocannabinoid system. The differences in the way these cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system are essentially the reasons that THC makes a person stoned while CBD does not.
And to be honest, we know a lot less than we think we do about the mysterious alchemy between cannabinoids and the human body!
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of the major cannabinoids in the marijuana plant – or at least one of the cannabinoids we are the most familiar with.
Among CBD, there are 59 other identified cannabinoids in cannabis as well as a plethora of other compounds including flavonoids, terpenes, and terpenoids. CBD is one of 400 different compounds that make up the cannabis plant.
Along with not getting the user high, CBD carries with it many different medical properties. It is being researched for its potential as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant and perhaps even as an antiproliferative (important in instances of cancer).
The fact that CBD doesn’t elicit any kind of intoxication means that it is becoming more and more accessible to more kinds of people, elderly and young people included. Interestingly, this non-intoxicating quality of CBD also makes it more credible in the medical world.
For better or for worse, the medical industry has reservations about substances that cause a person to feel changes at the level of consciousness, and CBD has created a bridge between marijuana as a recreational substance and the credible medical world.
What Is THC?
THC is kind of like CBD’s naughty cousin. It, too, has a lot of medicinal value according to lots of current research but it has the side effect of making a person feel euphoric, hungry or sleepy.
Now, on a chemical level, THC and CBD look slightly different, although not that different in the giant scheme of things (details we don’t need to get into for the sake of this article).
THC is arguably the chemical responsible for the fact that millions of people around the world love cannabis so very dearly – it gets them high (among other things).
The most interesting thing about THC is that it very closely resembles a neurotransmitter that is released in the human brain called anandamide.
This neurotransmitter has sometimes been coined “the bliss molecule” for the fact that it causes a person to feel a natural high, can give them increased appetite, can make them sleepy and its specialty – anandamide can cause forgetfulness.
Sounds a lot like the effects of THC, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because when THC makes contact with the human brain, it essentially mimics the behavior of this natural endocannabinoid, causing very similar effects.
What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system is like the glue that makes the whole story of cannabinoids come together. At the root, this is a non-localized biological system of the human body that is made up of cannabinoid receptors.
When we ingest THC or CBD, these cannabinoids have a direct or indirect effect on the endocannabinoid system, thereby causing the effects that they do.
As we mentioned before, the reason that THC gets you high while CBD doesn’t is entirely due to how these cannabinoids interact differently with our cannabinoid receptors.
Before we continue on, a fun piece of trivia worth knowing is that we would never have discovered the endocannabinoid system had it not been for the study and isolation of THC and CBD.
And this is a big deal, because what we know how about the endocannabinoid system is that its job is to maintain homeostasis between the other systems of the body. Big job for a system we didn’t know about until the 70s, right?
Basically, THC was isolated in the 60s by Israeli chemist, Raphael Mechoulam. The discovery begged the question about why we had a receptor that responded so enthusiastically to THC, which led to the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor, anandamide and the rest of the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors all over the brain and the rest of the body. They are just about everywhere, to be honest, from dotted on our genitals to covering the central nervous system (the brain).
These receptors are called CB1 and CB2 depending on where in the body they are located and what their exact function is.
The endocannabinoid system can affect a whole variety of things in the human body, from neurotransmitter release to hormone regulation. In short, THC excites the CB1 receptor while CBD works in more peripheral ways.
We’re going to go into more detail about this when we talk about the effects of THC and CBD in the following paragraphs.
What Are The Effects Of CBD?
In terms of the immediate effects for the user, CBD has the following characteristics:
It is for these properties that CBD is often used as a medicine. It is sometimes even used as a sleeping aid because, at high doses, CBD can make a person drowsy.
However, the effects of CBD on the endocannabinoid system are quite complicated. As we briefly mentioned, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a very different way than THC does.
It does not have a binding affinity for CB receptors, meaning it doesn’t act directly on the cannabinoid receptor. Rather, what it can do is dampen the cannabinoid receptor activating qualities that other things in the body can trigger.
Let’s have a look at the specific example of the use of CBD to treat anxiety or depression. Rather than causing a lift in the mood (which is what THC does), CBD causes the breakdown of anandamide to slow down. Remember that anandamide is the natural bliss molecule that exists in your body.
There are enzymes in the body responsible for breaking down anandamide when it is in circulation. When CBD is ingested, it inhibits the enzymes that break down anandamide, making it more available to the brain and the body.
So as you can see, the effects of CBD are really hard to pinpoint. For the user, there might not be an immediate, directly identifiable effect as there is with THC.
However, inside the body, CBD is affecting very intricate patterns of metabolism, causing some of the medicinal properties that we love about it.
What Are The Effects of THC?
Contrary to CBD, THC is psychoactive. This means that the user gets an onslaught of psychedelic experiences as well as the intricate internal behavior of THC. The following are effects that users can expect from THC:
- Short term memory impairment
- Increased appetite
In terms of medicinal effects, THC can be used for the following:
- Antiemetic (anti-nausea)
- Sleeping Aid
- Increase the appetite
The reason that THC causes such a myriad of effects at the consciousness level is that unlike its cannabinoid cousin, THC loves the CB1 receptor. These cannabinoid receptors are found all over the central nervous system (in the brain) and are especially concentrated in the areas that deal with memory, appetite and decision making.
THC fits into the CB1 receptor as a hand fits into a glove. This receptor also happens to be the same one that is activated by anandamide, hence why THC is said to be an exogenous version of this endogenous cannabinoid.
With all of that being said, that doesn’t mean that a person should choose to use THC or CBD. The fact that THC makes a person high has given THC a bad reputation and undermined it as a remedial compound. But this simply isn’t the case.
For some people, it might be beneficial to use a single-cannabinoid product.
But the truth is that these compounds work best when they are working together. Scientists have coined this phenomenon the “entourage effect”, where the effects of each individual compound are amplified when they are in conjunction with the rest of their teammates.
So for that, there’s no such thing as a good or bad cannabinoid. And ultimately, they work the best when they are together.
The Research On CBD
Unfortunately, because of the prohibition on cannabis and cannabis products, there simply isn’t a huge body of research about CBD or other cannabinoids. However, with the signing of the new Farm Bill in 2018, this is expected to change and we hope to see some leniency in permission to do research.
With that being said, it doesn’t mean that there has been no research at all. There have been some randomized clinical trials applied to non-human subjects, and results have been overwhelmingly positive.
Aside from the body of scientific research on CBD, there is much anecdotal evidence around. Many people testify to the ways that CBD has affected their lives. This information is completely accessible online to anybody who cares to go looking for it.
How Is CBD Oil Made?
In order to make CBD oil, a company or person must first extract the cannabinoid from the hemp plant. The reason CBD is extracted from the hemp plant is that there is no need to isolate CBD because, for the most part, hemp has very low THC concentrations.
However, to extract hemp from marijuana requires some very sophisticated laboratory equipment, as this requires isolating it from all of the other cannabinoids in marijuana.
Extraction is usually performed with a solvent such as butane, alcohol or carbon dioxide. Some options are safer than others and some are also more expensive. Once the extract has been obtained, it is dissolved in an oil and is then distributed as CBD oil.
Does CBD Have Side Effects?
One of the beautiful things about CBD is that there are little to no side effects. If CBD is taken at higher doses, it can cause drowsiness or some intestinal upset. However, this is unlikely if a person is taking the recommended dose or is only taking minute amounts.
This is what makes CBD a very appealing alternative to those on pharmaceutical pain medication or otherwise taking drugs that cause nasty side effects.
Will CBD Oil Get You High?
So, after a very long winded explanation – no! CBD will not get you high. CBD will excite your body and brain in much more subtle ways than THC, and for that, the user will almost never experience some sort of “high” or “stone”.
Rather, CBD is something like a nutritional supplement that can assist the body with its natural processes and even enhance them.