Perhaps the biggest health craze of the last two decades, cannabidiol oil derived from cannabis, or CBD, has swept the nation’s pharmacies, co-ops, marijuana dispensaries, and grocery counters alike.
CBD oil first broke onto the scene as a seizure aid for children with rare forms of epilepsy. Today, the chemical has proven therapeutic benefits that range from fighting inflammation, curbing anxiety, and even helping ease cancer related pain. Cannabidiol oil has gained rapid acceptance in large part due to its non psychoactive nature.
In comparison with marijuana’s most famous chemical, THC, CBD does not induce a mind altering “high.” Instead, CBD oils produce their therapeutic effects without THC’s accompanying euphoria. This non psychoactive quality makes CBD especially advantageous for young sufferers of epilepsy whose parents don’t want intoxicated.
But are we missing something when we leave out THC? The hubbub surrounding CBD may improperly limit it’s actual therapeutic potential, as recent whole plant cannabis discoveries suggest that THC and CBD work best in synergy, and using both may amplify CBDs desired benefits.
Populated by a series of receptors, and endogenous, body made chemicals, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, can be found in all humans and some animals. The ECS acts like a regulatory network, modulating important activities that take place in the body, like pain sensation, memory, hunger, and even mood.
The accomplish this, the ECS produces chemicals called endocannabinoids.
Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the two most well known endocannabinoids. Like an endorphin, anandamide is involved in natural pain relief. When released, anandamide and 2-AG bind to and block certain CB1 and CB2 receptors that make up the ECS. These many combinations act in a sequence throughout the ECS, effectively regulating bodily processes, like sleep, sperm production, and even orgasm.
Cannabis chemicals, especially CBD and THC, interact with the same ECS receptors, suggesting they may help improve ECS functioning. In particular, CBD and THC block fatty acid amide hydrolase, or FAAH, a body made chemical that metabolizes anandamide. Think of FAAH like a brake. When present, FAAH absorbs anandamide, cutting its effects short.
Studies show that cannabis related chemicals like CBD and THC will bind to your CB1 receptors, blocking FAAH. When blocked by CBD and THC, FAAH won’t absorb anandamide, lengthening its analgesic effects, which may help explain CBD’s efficacy for inflammation, pain relief, and so on.
Scientists studying cannabis and the endocannabinoid system often investigate the ECS found in animal models. These models help investigators better understand how cannabis chemicals interact with the human ECS, because they allow scientists to conduct investigations they couldn’t with human participants, like experimental designs were the ECS is manipulated.
The ECS helps demonstrate that CBD and THC do not simply work in isolation, but in coordination of one another.
Although the first CBD derived medication, Epidiolex, wasn’t FDA approved until 2018, researchers have known about it and other cannabinoids potential as therapeutic substances as early as the late 1990s.
The National Institute of Health patented CBD and THC as antioxidants in 1998. Antioxidants reverse a bodily process called oxidation, which may damage living cells if left unchecked. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation by fighting and breaking down damaging free radical substances that daily activities, like eating food or receiving sunlight, produce. The most well known antioxidants are vitamin c and e.
According to the patent, CBD and THC are valuable antioxidants, with strong efficacy as neuroprotective substances, which may limit neurological damage following stroke, or in the treatment of degenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as HIV related dementia. This suggests that CBD and THC interact with each other as they commute across the ECS.
However, they don’t simply interact. The action of THC amplifies the action of CBD, and vice versa, in something called the entourage effect.
In their 2005 investigation, A Tale of Two Cannabinoids, Russo and Gray provided a therapeutic rationale for combining CBD and THC. They found that cannabis oil with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC produced an augmented effect that has been found to be efficacious for treating things like insomnia, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions that CBD cannot treat alone.
In a similar fashion, CBD also helps aid THCs effects. In their UK based investigation, Johnson JR et al investigated CBD and THC for their potential as an analgesic for 177 cancer patients. The patients were placed in experimental medication groups. One group received CBD+THC oil, another received oil with only THC, while a control group received a placebo.
Compared to the THC group, those treated with the THC+CBD oil showed significant improvement on a numerically rated pain scale. The THC only strain showed results similar to that of placebo group, suggesting that CBD helped amplify and work in synergy with THC to provide pain relief.
By working together, CBD and THC interact with your ECS and amplify each other’s effects. This improves CBD’s overall qualities, which is why the cannabidiol oil revolution should expand to include higher THC levels, so we can take advantage of all the medical properties CBD has to offer.
About the Author
Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for Schenley.net. His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, sports writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time. Follow Chris on Twitter – @PghMatich