In the on-going debates that still rage around the world over CBD, THC, cannabis, its legal status, medicinal potential and health benefits, there seems to be only one factor that all sources agree on, and that is the fact that CBD does counter the THC high in cannabis. Both the pro and anti-camps in the cannabis struggle seem to accept the presence of a balancing act function between the two compounds.
CBD Cannabidiols and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most active of more than one hundred cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high”. The two appear to see-saw: If the content of one is high, the other is low, and which cannabinoid has the highest concentration depends on what the plant is grown to produce.
The manipulation of cannabis plants for different uses is nothing new – Some believe cannabis growers have over centuries manipulated the cannabis plant from the same original species to encourage certain results. According to the particular result cultivators wanted, farming methods and approaches were developed to meet the required outcome. As the offshoot varieties from the original cannabis sativa species continued to be developed, the CBD and THC balance varied too.
Meeting the needs
The prime example is industrial hemp that has been refined over centuries into a plant even more suitable for the purpose of hemp foods and hemp fibre production, but not for recreational use. It is planted and cultivated differently to recreational cannabis (marijuana), also a cannabis plant. The THC content of the industrial hemp plant is minimal (and has to be by law) and the CBD is high enough to meet increasing demand from consumers wanting to buy hemp seeds or hemp oils for their nutritional value.
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Chasing the high
When people realised the flower heads of the same cannabis sativa plant could produce a psychoactive “high” when smoked, besides producing fibre, fuel and food, the same cannabis subspecies was developed in a whole new direction. For recreational use, the obvious requirement was for a high THC content – one with low THC and high CBD would be considered a failure as the required high would not be there. Strains were cultivated and categorized accordingly.
Health and medicinal CBD
The strain, “Charlotte’s Web” was renamed after young Charlotte Figi, who was given it when her seizures had reached unmanageable proportions. The same strain was originally known as “Hippies Disappointment” and wasn’t popular with recreational users because of its High CBD content and Low THC.
It did not supply the high, but according to anecdotal reports, reduced the seizures. Many parents moved to US states chasing CBD relief for their children after the apparent success of her treatment. The strain was specially chosen because Charlotte’s parents were desperate for relief, and it was felt to be safe for her to try it. Her parents’ decision and, it appears, the result of the treatment, hung on the fact that the CBD was exceptionally high and the THC very low.
Looking at cabbanoids from both sides
A rise in interest in the medicinal qualities, and nutritional and health benefits of cannabis ensured, eventually resulting in the legalisation in several US states of the use of medicinal cannabis. This has led to the balance between THC and CBD becoming a major focus in studies because of public’s confusion between the medicinal advantages of the CBD in cannabis and the fear of the psychoactive effects of THC.
Both cannabinoids have medical benefits. The American Cancer Society cites studies that have shown that cannabis may help in the treatment of chemotherapy induced nausea; neuropathy pain caused by damaged nerves and HIV patients’ food intake as well as decrease the need for pain medication. Two drugs have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat the vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy as well as the appetite and weight loss problems in AIDS patients. Both contain THC. Dronabinol contains actual THC, while Nabilone is synthetic.
For the most part, however, focus has been directed towards CBD’s medicinal uses and its use as a nutritional supplement in seed, protein and oil forms. CBD users do not report psychoactive effects, but CBD appears to help with anxiety, chronic pain and inflammation, muscle convulsions and spasticity.
Attention is being paid to seeing whether optimum results would be achieved if the two cannabinoids were made to work together, as it appears CBD can extend the effectiveness of THC medicinal benefits. Studies have been undertaken to investigate this.
In the pharmaceutical field, Nabiximols (Savitex) a mouth spray using cannabis plant extracts, has so far not received FDA approval in the US though it has received approval for the treatment of multiple sclerosis spasticity in other areas of the world. This spray includes both THC and CBD in almost equal proportions, putting the two cannabinoids at balance on the see-saw.