Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to simply as CBD, is everywhere, and with good reason. It’s been proven to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, inflammation, pain, and many other conditions. But when it comes to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), things get a little quieter. Since this is the psychoactive component in the cannabis plant (the cannabinoid that produces the “high”), people tend to demonize it and overlook its medical potential. However, a recent study indicates that THC might have even more therapeutic benefits than CBD.
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is special because it’s grown to be synonymous with cannabis (formerly known as marijuana). When most people think of cannabis, they think of THC and the euphoric high that it causes. THC is the most abundant cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Because of the intoxicating effects of THC, cannabis is federally illegal in most countries. In the U.S., it’s still listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic.
THC does a lot more than just get people high though, it has some sound medical benefits of its own. Well, if you go to a dispensary in the United States, the selection will consist almost entirely of THC flowers, concentrates, edibles, and like.
In 1964, THC was isolated for the first time by Israeli chemist and Professor, Raphael Mechoulam. It was the very first cannabinoid to be isolated from the plant. This breakthrough led to the discovery of other cannabinoids and compounds, as well as the human endocannabinoid system, and marked the beginning of an era of cannabis research.
The Endocannabinoid System
The reason CBN and other cannabinoids work for such a diverse range of conditions is because of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a network of receptors that can be found throughout the bodies of all mammals. We naturally create cannabinoids in our bodies – called endocannabinoids – which bond to these receptors to regulate different processes in our bodies and maintain homeostasis.
So far, researchers have been able to identify two separate endocannabinoids: 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA). 2-AG is a full agonist of both the CB1 and CB2 receptors but it has a more direct association with the CB2 receptor. Because of this, 2-AG is thought to have a substantial influence over the immune system. In addition to immune function, the ECS helps manage things such as appetite, sleep wake cycles, pain response, and the list goes on.
There is also a condition referred to as ‘cannabinoid deficiency’, when our bodies become destabilized and no longer function optimally. It’s theorized that many illnesses stem from the inability to produce endocannabinoids. This is where supplementing with plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) comes into play.
Is THC Better Than CBD?
From a medicinal standpoint, both cannabinoids have numerous benefits. When it comes to the mainstream though, many people associate CBD with health and THC with getting high, and while there is obviously some truth to that, the issue simply isn’t so black and white. Yes, THC produces psychoactive effects that can range from mild in some people to very intense in others, depending on their tolerance levels. THC has been used therapeutically for centuries and it can treat a diverse range of conditions including pain, glaucoma, nausea, and depression.
This particular study, conducted by Psychology Associate Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil and Economics Assistant Professor Sarah See Stith from the University of New Mexico, compared come common ailments treated by cannabis. They looked specifically at which cannabinoid offered more effective symptom relief, THC or CBD. The research was published on Tuesday, February 26, in the Scientific Reports Journal. According to their research, “THC exhibited the strongest correlation with therapeutic relief, compared to the more socially acceptable chemical found in cannabis, CBD (cannabidiol).”
They measured 27 different symptom categories ranging from depression to seizure activity and found that dried cannabis flower high in THC provided immediate symptom relief in most of the cases. Overall, smokable high-THC flower was the most commonly used product and showed greater symptom improvement than other methods of consumption. They gathered this information through the Releaf App, the largest database tracking medical cannabis use in the country.
“Despite the conventional wisdom, both in the popular press and much of the scientific community that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits. In our study, CBD appears to have little effect at all, while THC generates measurable improvements in symptom relief. These findings justify the immediate de-scheduling of all types of cannabis, in addition to hemp, so that cannabis with THC can be more widely accessible for pharmaceutical use by the general public,” said Vigil.
While it may seem like groundbreaking news – and in a way it definitely is – this is something that cannabis users have been saying for a very long time. Although there are risks of impairment and the therapeutic effects might not be the same for everyone. However, this speaks volumes to the fact that THC (or rather, all legitimate products and compounds related to the cannabis plant) can have many benefits and should be legalized and studied.