THC and CBD are the two rockstar cannabinoids that are often the center of discussions on the functionality of cannabis. But they’re very different beasts. THC is psychoactive i.e. gets you high, while CBD doesn’t have that effect. So what makes them so different?
It all has to do with your CB1 receptors. You have these all over your body as part of your endocannabinoid system which regulates bodily functions such as appetite, mood, hunger, and sleep. THC mimics one of the chemicals that binds to your CB1 receptors: anandamide.
Anandamide is associated with feelings of pleasure, appetite stimulation, and even the “runner’s high” people can get from exercising. It’s also involved in reward, motivation, memory, and pain. Think of THC as a key that’s the same shape as the anandamide molecule, mimicking its effects. Thus, when you ingest THC you get feelings of euphoria, pain relief, and an overall feeling of satisfaction.
CBD doesn’t bond well to the CB1 receptors. Instead, it’s what’s referred to as a CB1 antagonist. This means that it doesn’t interact with the CB1 receptors but instead works to suppress some of the ways in which THC activates the CB1 receptors.
This is an example of what’s called the “entourage effect” where one or more elements of cannabis such as THC, CBD, and terpenes interact with one another. When THC and CBD are used in juncture CBD suppresses some of the undesirable effects of THC such as paranoia or getting “too high”.
So essentially, these two elements of cannabis work together to create the high you get from consuming them. The higher concentration of CBD compared to THC the more mellow the high. A lot of patients find a 1:1 ratio to be the perfect balance of pain relief and euphoria.
Though these two elements of cannabis are very different from one another, they’re both an integral part of the therapeutic use of cannabis.