Cannabis contains 113 cannabinoids. Two of the most common are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD flower is simply a cannabis plant that has a high CBD content and low THC, such as hemp. THC flowers are high in THC and low in CBD.
When ingested, THC and CBD act on the endocannabinoid system in the body via the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and the central nervous system. These receptors regulate the psychoactive effects of cannabis. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body in the immune system. These receptors play an important role in the regulation of inflammation and pain.
Similarities between CBD and THC
If you were to look at the structure of both of these molecules, you would find that they are remarkably similar. They both contain 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, giving them the exact same chemical formula. However, the atoms in both of these molecules are not arranged in the same structure, causing them to interact with the body in different ways, resulting in differing effects.
What is the key difference between THC and CBD?
THC and CBD have different effects on the body when consumed. The main difference between these two cannabinoids is that THC produces the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis by acting on the CB1 receptors, whereas CBD does not cause these effects.
Advantages of CBD Flower
CBD has been shown to have anxiety-relieving effects. It is thought that CBD interferes with the secretion of cortisol—the main stress hormone—thereby reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, for some people, anxiety may be caused by low serotonin levels. CBD is a partial agonist of serotonin receptors. This means that CBD molecules act on the serotonin receptors in a similar manner to serotonin molecules, regulating mood and reducing anxiousness.
Research suggests that CBD may be a potential treatment for anxiety. However, this research is still limited. If you are experiencing anxiety and you are concerned about it, you should speak to your doctor.
Opioid receptors are important in pain regulation. Opioids—such as codeine and morphine—act on these receptors to reduce pain. CBD is an allosteric modulator of opioid receptors. This means that when CBD binds to these receptors, it alters how the receptors respond to the pain stimulus, ultimately reducing pain.
It has been shown that patients who suffer from chronic pain tend to experience pain relief as a result of CBD use. CBD is safe to use as a long-term treatment for chronic pain. This may be an important alternative for patients with chronic pain as other treatments that are often prescribed—such as opioids—can have many negative side effects, may be addicting, or should not be used for long-term treatment.
CBD is a wake-promoting agent. It does not cause drowsiness that is sometimes associated with cannabis use. Instead, it increases wakefulness and may give an energy boost. This drowsiness may be caused by cannabis containing high THC concentrations. Research suggests that 15 mg of CBD is enough to increase wakefulness in young adults. It is thought that CBD may increase protein synthesis in certain areas of the brain that are involved in wakefulness resulting in a more alert state.
One of the main uses of CBD is to reduce inflammation. When the immune system is activated—whether by the flu, allergies, pathogens, or other illnesses—part of the body's response causes inflammation. Symptoms of inflammation include pain, redness, and swelling. CBD reduces these symptoms of inflammation by binding to the CB2 receptors throughout the immune system. This causes the immune system to reduce the effects of inflammation.
Several animal studies show CBD may have antidepressant effects. Depression can be caused by insufficient levels of serotonin. Similar to its role in reducing anxiety, CBD acts on the serotonin receptors in the body of animal models as serotonin would. This may reduce the feelings and symptoms of depression. More research is needed on CBD as an antidepressant in humans.
Epileptic seizure treatment
CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for epileptic seizures. CBD may block certain calcium channels in the body which have an important role in epileptic seizures. Alternatively, CBD may cause dysregulation of the brain neurotransmission responsible for seizures. However, at this stage, research on these mechanisms is scarce.
CBD does not produce the “high” or psychoactive disturbances associated with cannabis as it does not bind the CB1 receptors in the brain as THC does. Whether this is a benefit or not depends on what you are wanting to get from cannabis use. The lack of psychoactive effects may be beneficial if you need relief from pain, depression, anxiety, or inflammation during the day or in situations where you need to focus.
Advantages of THC flower
Unlike CBD, THC produces the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use. THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, causing the “high” or psychoactive effects. This would be beneficial if you are wanting to experience the high feeling. It would not be recommended to consume cannabis with a high THC concentration in situations where experiencing the psychoactive disturbances may be inappropriate—such as at work.
THC is thought to have sedative effects, although the mechanism behind this is not fully understood. This may be beneficial if you struggle to fall asleep at night. However, this may not be an advantage if you are using cannabis during the day.
THC is thought to have pain-relieving effects. THC may interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to reduce the sensation of pain. If pain relief is required at night, THC flower would be ideal as it also provides a sedative effect. However, if pain relief is required during the day, it may be best to use CBD flowers.
Research suggests that THC flowers can be used as an antiemetic—a medication that reduces nausea and vomiting. THC binds to and activates the CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system to elicit this anti-nausea effect.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that regulates fear. In many patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) the amygdala is overactive, causing feelings of fear when there is no external fear stimulus. Research has shown that THC reduces fear-related amygdala activity and may provide relief from the symptoms of PTSD.
Research has found that THC interacts with receptors on the hypothalamus that release a hormone called Ghrelin. When released from the hypothalamus, Ghrelin stimulates feelings of hunger, increasing your appetite. This is why people often experience the “munchies” when using cannabis.
This increase in appetite may be beneficial for people who suffer from a loss of appetite or struggle to eat sufficient amounts of food. However, if you are struggling with eating it is important to see your doctor.
UV-light, smoking, pollution, radiation, and some health issues can be causes of oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress can cause damage to cells and DNA. This may result in the appearance of aging as well as increase the likelihood of developing illnesses such as cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. Research has shown that THC, as well as other components in cannabis, are potent antioxidants. This means that THC works to prevent oxidative stress in the body.
The bottom line
THC flower or THC-rich cannabis may provide relief from stress, anxiety, depression, and pain as well as cause the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use. CBD flower, or CBD-rich cannabis, may provide similar benefits, only without the “high” or psychoactive effects.
Some of these effects, such as pain relief, are thought to be strongest when THC and CBD are used in combination.
Whether CBD flower or THC flower is right for you depends on your needs and what you are looking to get out of cannabis use. If you want relief without the psychoactive effects, CBD flower may be the best option for you. However, if you wish to experience the “high” feeling, you would benefit from THC flowers.